Aprilia, central Italy - BMW describes this hard-driven test mule as a close-to-production prototype of the new 8 Series coupé, due for world launch during 2018.

Semantics aside, the heavily camouflaged test car is currently undergoing intensive testing on a high-speed proving ground in Aprilia, Italy, specifically aimed at improving the new luxury sports-car’s driving dynamics on abrasive surfaces, where the tyres will grip tenaciously until they fall victim to the immutable laws of physics and let go without warning.

Despite the dazzle-wrap, it’s clear that the new 8 Series is very much a successor to the erstwhile 850, channeling that model’s stretched-out silhouette and strongly-marked front and rear decks, but brought up to date with the more rounded front-end treatment of the current 5 and 7 Series sedans.

This is definitely a coupé rather than a fastback, the notched C pillar forming the strongest styling element of the car’s profile.

We’ve heard nothing yet about what will be under the bonnet of the new Eight, but the test mule has two trapezoidal tailpipes that speak with a typically Munich straight-six snarl, punctuated with bad-tempered snap, crackle and popping on the overrun.

A look at BMW’s current line-up suggests that this is an early version of what is going to be the 840i, with the 2996cc B58 turbopetrol six driving the rear wheels.

High-speed oval

The Arilia proving ground, about 28km east of Rome, has a four-kilometre high-speed oval, ride and handling circuits, slalom courses and a variety of different surfaces.

Ride along as the BMW test crew put this 8 Series prototype through its paces.