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BMW 8-Series (1989-1999)

Published: 3rd Nov 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

BMW 8-Series (1989-1999)

Fast Facts

  • Engine: 3982cc/8-cyl
  • Power (bhp/rpm): 286/5800
  • Torque (lb ft@rpm): 295/4500
  • Top speed: 150mph
  • 0-60mph: 7.8sec
  • Fuel consumption: 20mpg
  • Transmission: 5-speed auto
  • Length: 15ft 8in (4.78m)
  • Width (inc mirrors): 6ft 1in (1.86m)
  • Weight: 4169lb (1895kg)
  • Books: BMW 8-Series road test compilation. Brooklands Books, ISBN 1-855-205558-0
  • Clubs:,
  • Websites: BMW Car Club,
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Some cars are destined for greatness from the moment they’re unveiled. Revered by all, they’re a classic from the outset. And then there’s the BMW 8-Series, otherwise known as the E31. Often criticised when new for its awkward styling, costly price tag and – in most cases – not especially sporting dynamics, the 8-Series is one of the most misunderstood GTs ever created. As a result, the 8-Series depreciated heavily, ensuring ready affordability thanks to low resale values. But while running costs can be high, find a decent specialist to look after it for you and the 8-Series makes one of the great GT bargains of recent years.

What to look for

Any signs of corrosion means the car has been damaged then poorly repaired; just walk away. Panels are costly and even the chin spoiler fi tted to some models is expensive, so check everywhere for damage. The interior is hard-wearing too; there’s no soft-feel leather here. Headlinings can sag, so look for signs of the covering coming away as putting things right can be very fi ddly. Also check that all the equipment works; it’s generally reliable, but the in-dash computer screen can play up.

The V12 engines are ultra-smooth and very reliable, as long as they’ve been maintained properly; a variable servicing system usually fl ags up a pit stop every 9000 miles or so. When new, some 4-litre V8s suffered from premature wear of the Nikasil bore lining, which destroys the engine. The 4.4-litre units are fi ne and many 4-litre cars have had new liners fi tted already, so it’s worth seeking one of these out.

The mechanicals are very tough, but proper servicing is essential. If the oil isn’t changed on schedule in a manual gearbox, wear is guaranteed. Automatic transmissions are very strong though, and because the units are the same as those in contemporary 5 and 7-Series, there are lots of used bits about.

There’s little to worry about with the steering, although there’s a rear-steering linkage on the 850CSi and the pipes that feed it can corrode. Replacement means dismantling the subframe, adding to the costs. Meanwhile, dampers tend to leak while rear bushes often wear. The extremely strong brakes are usually trouble-free, but watch for worn tyres as well as corroded alloy wheels; both are common ailments - as well as cheap tyre substitutes.


Not all 8-Series are right-hand drive, so you can expect to pay up to £1000 less for a car with left-hand drive. The entry-level model is the 840Ci, which starts at £3000 for a 150,000-mile example, while V12 cars cost from £4000 or so – that sum nets you an 850i. A decent 840Ci Sport is priced from £5000 while an 850CSi – if you can fi nd one – will set you back upwards of £10,000. Low-mileage cars (typically under 70,000) are generally worth around £2,000-4,000 more than these prices. There was also an Alpina version offered too, the B12. Just fi ve right-hand drive examples were built; if you can fi nd one, expect to pay at least £15,000 for it – but that’s still a heck of a lot of value.

Driving one

The 8-Series is a grand tourer rather than a sportscar, but some versions are more sporty than others. The 840Ci is the pick of the bunch if you’re a driving enthusiast, while the 850Ci is also worth a look. But if you like a white-knuckle ride each time you drive, you’re best avoiding the 8-Series altogether. Instead, buy one for the effortless torque, super-smooth auto box (few cars are manual) and superb refi nement. And because even the lowliest 8-Series comes with unbelievable amounts of standard kit, you can expect to be cosseted every inch of the way.



The 850i arrives with a 300bhp 5-litre V12 and auto box only


There’s now a manual option for the 850i.


The ultimate 8-Series appears; the 850CSi, packing a 380bhp 5.6-litre V12. There’s also a new entry-level model, the 840Ci, with a 286bhp 4-litre V8 and an automatic gearbox only.


The 850Ci is an 850i with electronically controlled suspension, traction control and four-wheel steering.


There’s now a six-speed manual option for the 840Ci.


The 840Ci gets a 4.4-litre engine and no manual transmission option. There’s also a Sport option for the 840Ci, with M Sport steering wheel, suspension, wheels, seats and bodykit.

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