Buying a BMW 8 Series (1989 – 1999) – buying guide

Pushing technology and luxury to the extreme, this large coupe also boasts an incredible line. The top of the 1990s in a nutshell, but to buy with caution…

The Munich Saucer

In the early 1980s, there was a delusion of grandeur at BMW. To replace the 6 Series Coupe, the decision was made to design a more upscale, ultra-tech flagship to knock off rival Mercedes. This translates to the stunning 850i, which was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1989. Its aerodynamic line (Cd of 0.29) that evokes a spaceship is surprising, but less than… all other parts of the car, never -published, except for the engine (the impressive V12 5.0 l of 300 hp equipped with the 750i). The platform, the suspension (multi-link rear axle) and all the electronic paraphernalia (controlled damping, traction control) are modern. In addition, the equipment is particularly refined: dual-zone auto air conditioning, electric leather seats with seat belts, and this arm that carries the latter to the driver when he sits at the wheel, which used to be raised to facilitate the process. The 850i was even one of the first cars in the world to use multiplexing!

This celebration is compensated by a high weight (1,800 kg) and an astronomical price: 605,000 F, or 146,000 € today according to INSEE. But the performances are there: maximum speed limited to 250 km/h and 0 to 100 km/h in 6.9 s. In 1990, the 4-speed dual-program automatic gearbox was supplemented with a 6-speed manual: a rarity at the time, and the first with a V12! If sales were booming, the economic crisis caused by the Gulf War was quickly weighing on them. But BMW does not give up on planned developments, apart from the most interesting: the M8 has been cancelled. In the summer of 1992, the 850 CSi appeared in its place, equipped with a 5.6-liter V12 of 380 hp, sharp suspension and steering and above all AHK. This is an active directional control device for the rear wheels acting from 40 km/h, to reduce the risk of oversteer. At the same time, the 850i became the 850 Ci (and benefited from technical improvements), then, in mid-1993, an 840 Ci arrived at the entry level (4.0 l of 286 hp), cheaper and not slower than 850 Ci. This one uses a V12 5.4 l of 326 hp that was exclusively used in an automatic 5 box in 1994, while in 1995, ESP (or DSC) was introduced to the 8 Series, eliminating the ‘AHK option. In 1996, the 840 Ci went to 4.4 l (still 286 hp) and got a sequentially controlled automatic gearbox, then the CSi was dropped. The Series 8 E31 was phased out in 1999, without a replacement, produced in 30,621 units. A semi-failure that doesn’t lack panache!

Follow up

Well built, the BMW 8 Series is reliable if it is carefully maintained, which is very expensive. The 300 hp V12 is sensitive to the level of the cooling circuit, while the electronics often cause problems until 1992, a vintage in which problems become rare. The V8 is the most solid of all the blocks, the 5.0 l V12 came last, but additional elements can fail (alternator, starter, battery – duplicated -), and there, how is the invoice! Corrosion is starting to show. In other words, only opt for cars that are properly maintained and fully functional, even if it means paying more. You’ll save money later!

The edge

Gone are the days when you could find a nice 8 Series for €10,000. From now on, it is necessary to calculate a minimum of €22,000 for an 840 Ci/850i-Ci over 200,000 km. Add €6,000 for a car with 150,000 km, or even €10,000 to stay around 100,000 km. Manual versions are around €2,000 more. The CSi (1,510 units) is at a minimum of €60,000. Values ​​are for very good examples.


The measurements given are for a very good example. However, they are likely to vary depending on the condition and history of the car. A total renovation and in terms of art can justify doubling the amounts given. A very low mileage and/or a good origin will also lead to increased asking values.

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