The 8 Series; innovative, stylish, luxurious, and the BMW flagship of the 90s. A true legend for all BMW enthusiasts, and we got our hands on one for the day to see what all the fuss is about.
Produced between 1989 and 1999, and initially launching with a 12 cylinder 5 litre power plant, the 8 Series cost upwards of £60,000, or close to £100,000 in today’s money. Reception to the 850i in the early 90s was tepid, with many potential buyers feeling they could get a lot more for their money than what this bulky Grand Tourer was offering. Although equipped with a huge V12 giving it 295 horsepower, it also had to lug 2 tonnes of German metal off the line, giving it a 0-60 time of 6.8 seconds and a top speed limited to 155MPH. BMW listened, and in 1992 they rejuvenated their line-up, adding the 850CSI and the 840CI. The CSI came armed with an upgraded 5.6 litre V12 and 375 horsepower, whilst the 840 was equipped with a 4 litre V8 producing 282 horsepower, with the later models being quicker to 60 than the early 850s. No surprise then that both of these cars proved to be just what the market needed.
We got our hands on this fantastic 840, first registered in 1996 and finished in Bright Red, one of the most striking features of this car. It has a respectable 76,000 miles on the clock, and has been kept garaged, but regularly driven, for the last 15 years.
Sliding into the cockpit, surrounded by a wealth of buttons, it was clear to see why this car was considered revolutionary in the nineties. A single cassette-deck to mark the era, and an auto-box below with economy, snow, and sport modes. You can guess which one it stayed in for our drive. The throaty V8 came to life with a roar and we pulled away gingerly.
Although wide, it cruised through town with ease, the automatic transmission doing all the hard work between the sets of lights. Cruising at low speeds was a joy, and the striking looks gained a lot of attention from passers-by. Once we got it out into the countryside however, it was a different beast. With the slightest touch of the accelerator we dropped down a gear and it was ready to go, anticipating our next move. We appreciate this is a weighty car, but put your foot to the floor and you wouldn’t know it, it absolutely takes off. The handling through the corners was sublime despite its size, whilst the engine noise and exhaust note were on point throughout.
It took the A-roads in its stride with the advanced aerodynamic features minimising cabin noise, and even at motorway speeds in sport mode it was always raring to go. Cruising back towards the garage we took a look at the on-board computer which had many of the toys and gadgets you’d expect from today’s executive saloons. Fuel range, temperature, MPG (best to avoid checking that one), a CD changer and more. Even today this car could easily serve as an everyday long distance cruiser, but we’d hate to see that mileage add up!
Take a look at the video below from our day with the 8 Series.
We absolutely loved our day with the 840, and were gutted to have to return the keys back to the grateful owner, but onto today. Why would we consider this Bavarian beast as a potential investment?
Overall 30,621 were made worldwide, with just 3,040 of those finding their way to the UK. Numbers on the road have been steadily decreasing over the last five years, with just over 1,000 remaining today in the UK, so it’s fair to say they’re becoming harder to spot these days!
One of the most appealing things about this car is the way it looks – an absolutely timeless masterpiece. It’s enormous wide body, low slung nose and sweeping silhouette still commands such a presence on the roads today.
BMWs are not known for their cheap parts, to be perfectly honest. But, to make things slightly easier the 8 Series does share many of its components with the E32 7 Series, of which there were over 300,000 produced worldwide. Generally the 8 Series is considered reliable considering the type of car it is, providing it has been looked after through the entirety of its life, and the majority of replacement parts shouldn’t cost you a great deal more than you’d pay for other BMWs of a similar age. One problem that is often mentioned is the nikasil issue found in earlier models. Fortunately its unlikely to be a concern if you’re buying an 8 Series nowadays, as in reality any engines affected have been and gone many years ago. A storm in a teacup? We think so.
Price When New
Absolutely! Many considered it too expensive at the time, and that only adds to its exclusivity now. Good news!
As you may expect, this car certainly has an impressive following across the world. There is a dedicated owners’ forum, 8er.org, and regular meet-ups and events organised by BMW Car Club GB.
An astronomical amount was spent on development of the 8 Series, over 1.5 billion Deutsche Mark in fact, which brought to fruition a number of revolutionary features that ultimately influenced future generations of BMWs and other luxury sports cars. The introduction of dynamic stability control, seatbelt fixtures attached to the driver and passenger headrests allowing for a sleek pillarless body shape, along with various other aerodynamic features, all contributed to what made this car a game changer.
Pop-up headlamps! OK a bit of a gimmick, but it’s something we don’t see any more, and who doesn’t love them?!
Time to Buy?
Yes. Collectors have been buying these cars for years and prices have slowly started rising over the last four or five, but there’s still plenty of headroom. To pick up a clean example with reasonable mileage you’d be looking at around the £12,000-£15,000 mark in today’s market, with prices for immaculate examples upwards of £20,000.
We absolutely loved this car and it was incredibly fun to drive. In fact, the owner had to prise us out when it was time to give it back! The sleek body shape turns plenty of heads when driven alongside the generic Euro-boxes of today, and prices are only going to head one way. If you’re in the market for a 90s GT with a huge presence on the road then we’d certainly recommend you take a look at the 8 Series, it really is unforgettable!