BMW THE 8 Kyoto Edition: Automotive Meets Art
Not your average special edition, this BMW limited to 3 models in the world is the literal definition of “Art on wheels”
It is no surprise that BMW’s 8 Series is not selling well. A few Coupés and Gran Coupés roam the streets of Tokyo but we may have heard more about the 8 Series than we have seen of it. In such cases, limited and exclusive models can remedy the unfavourable situation and give it a marketing boost. Following the 8-Of-8 Edition and the Gold Thunder Edition, BMW Japan also had a word to say and revealed its very own special model: the Kyoto Edition.
The Kyoto Edition is based on an M850i model and there are no surprises there. It remains the M850i xDrive you’d normally get, with no changes to the V8 and its 530bhp. Not trying to follow the usual sporty looks other 8 Series special editions have received, the Kyoto Edition takes the opposite direction. Behind its quiet and unassuming looks, this one of three model is a true treasure chest: hidden in this German engineered luxury sedan is a never-before-seen Japanese craftsmanship gem.
From its exterior silhouette,
it takes a moment to see past the 8 Series’ luxury sedan image. The sober paint and the chromed trims bring out a traditional luxury saloon look. If this Kyoto Edition were to drive on the roads, it would pass the crowd without a single head turning... but that’s the beauty of it. As a principle in Japanese culture, beauty does not feed off ostentatiousness. Instead, it bases itself on refinement and unobtrusiveness.
Secrets reveal themselves as we take a closer look. Though named Azurite Black, the paint is not exactly your average black. Inspired by the irises in Ogata Korin’s painting, it is a BMW Individual special paint that reveals deep blue undertones. Instead of standing out, the paint blends in with the Japanese landscape (think bamboo, temples, deep green mountainous forests).
We can only truly appreciate the uniqueness of this model
once we take a look at what’s inside. Contrasting with the discreet paint, this unique interior is an invitation to a peaceful and luxurious environment that embraces the spirit of Japanese traditions and craftsmanship. In this bright and warm environment, the lacquered center console designed by renowned lacquerware artist Mr. Shihoh Okada steals all attention. Mr. Okada, who has previously collaborated with Chanel and exhibited his artwork at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, decorated the black urushi lacquer panels with raden and maki-e. As for the design, Mr. Okada found his inspiration in Japanese kimono’s obi (a traditional sash for kimono) and in BMW’s iconic slogan “Freude am Fahren” (Sheer Driving Pleasure). The vertical maki-e and raden patterns imitate the flowing wind that the driver goes through on his driving journey. It all sounds very poetic but let’s break down the technical terms.
‘Urushi’ is the name of the tree from which the sap is extracted. This urushi sap, a liquid with toxic fumes and poisonous to the touch, is then filtered and treated in order to become the varnish used for Japanese lacquerware. Small pieces of pearl shells are inlaid onto this urushi varnish and this decorative pearl shell technique is what is called ‘raden.’ Finally, ‘maki-e’ completes the design with touches of gold. Maki-e consists of patterns that are achieved through sprinkling gold or silver powder, applied with bamboo tubes and fine brushes onto the lacquer.
While the M850i itself was assembled in Germany,
the center console panels were detached and shipped to Japan for the craftsmen to be able to work directly on it. Urushi lacquer is a delicate material and as cars often endure various weather conditions from cold temperatures to harsh sunlight, the urushi lacquer used for the Kyoto Edition was treated in order to resist such weather conditions by using techniques usually applied in restoration and preservation of national treasures. Leaving the center console aside, each of the three lucky owners also receive an urushi lacquer key tray as a means to keep enjoying the car’s spirit even from their homes. Just like a piece completing a puzzle, the motifs on this key tray are in continuity of the interior’s center console.
The two tone interior made of brown and white merino leather
is a bright contrast with the center consoles. The beige alcantara sunroof completes the serene atmosphere by bringing in more luminosity. Luxurious yet minimal, this colour scheme is reminiscent of traditional Japanese rooms with brown wood contrasting with beige tatami (mats made of woven straws used as flooring) and walls. Another option worth noting is the two alcantara cushions with Japanese motifs placed on the backseats. The beauty of it is its complexity despite its simple design. Not just plainly made from an alcantara sheet, the alcantara was sliced into thin threads and was then braided and sewn together with the help of a thin blue thread. The thread itself traces flower-like patterns which embody BMW’s emblematic logo with the Bavarian flag’s blue and white colours.
It is not often we see such ideas emerge.
With BMW Japan’s will to promote luxury vehicles to the local audience, the idea for this Kyoto Edition appeared from observing the 8 Series’ center console. What if this piano black console were to be made with actual urushi lacquer? What if raden and maki-e were applied onto it? With the BMW headquarters on board, what started as an idea went on to become an ultra exclusive piece of art bringing together both German engineering and Japanese craftsmanship.
Though this is no Christie’s, artwork does come at a special price and this Kyoto Edition is no exception. Priced at ¥21,500,000 ($204,000; £157,000), this Kyoto Edition is only ¥540,000 ($5,100; £4,000) less than an M8 Gran Coupé in Japan. Add a few extra options to your Kyoto Edition and you could even get your hands on a brand new Roma… yet it somehow is a car that remains incomparable. It is difficult to wrap our heads around the idea of this car being driven as a daily but is there enough “art” to it to truly make this a collectible? Either way this remarkable and mesmerizing work marks the history of BMW, gracefully.