Its successor, the 8-Series, on the other hand was greeted with confusion: in typical BMW style the firm decided to push upmarket and replaced the nimble six-cylinder 6-Series with a V12-powered GT-style coupe which was much larger, much heavier and much, much more expensive. In technical terms the 850i was far more advanced than the 6-Series which dated from the early-’Eighties but it was more of a cruiser than a sports coupe and sales were slow.
BMW Motorsport worked its magic to create the 850CSi which was a credibly capable car but the eyewatering 80 grand price tag made it a rare beast. It all came good though with the addition of BMW’s excellent V8 engine into the 8-Series, making it the car it should always have been. In 840Ci form, it was at last a worthy successor to the 6-Series and tolerably affordable to fuel too. Performance is on a par with the earlier V12s and parts supply for the V8 – shared with both 5- and 7-Series saloons – is excellent.
They’re affordable to buy right now but they do still carry the running costs of a £55,000 car in some respects which means it’s crucial to buy one which has had the money spent in the right places. Brakes and suspension can be particularly costly (the struts are unique to the 8-Series) while the electronics, although complex by the standards of the day are actually old technology today and any competent independent BMW workshop with the right kit can solve any problems you might have.
This two-owner car which has spent most of its life in the West Midlands, it’s a late example of the 840 which means it comes with BMW’s Steptronic automatic, giving ‘manual’ control by tipping the lever sideways and nudging it back and forth. Twin airbags, climate control and ABS are also on the menu, as are the M3-style mirrors and the impressive 8×17 front and 9×17 rear split rim wheels. This example has also been fitted with an expensive aftermarket audio and sat nav setup.
Those wheels are notorious for corroding when water gets under the lacquer and the nearside rear one here is looking in need of a refurb but luckily a spare wheel was supplied by the previous owner. The inside is particularly good – the beige leather and contrasting piping would have been an expensive special option when new and is in nice clean condition.
ON THE ROAD
These cars drive beautifully when they’re up together and feel much more nimble than their bulk would suggest. The 4.4-litre, quad-cam V8 knocks out a useful 286bhp which is enough to shift the 840Ci to 62 mph in just 7 seconds while top speed is an electronically limited 155 mph. Supercar stuff, in other words.
The BMW V8 always sounds rather muted in the firm’s big saloons but in the 8-Series it sounds appropriately tuneful through the quad tailpipes and suits the car’s character nicely. Icy roads and a 155mph car aren’t always the best mixture but the 840 is modern enough to benefit from electronic traction control and is very civilised indeed even under full throttle on a damp road. The onboard check control warned us new brake pads might be needed soon but it’s the suspension which can get expensive on these cars and this one felt good, with no error messages from the switchable dampers and none of the dreaded thumping and shimmying which larger BMWs tend to exhibit when the bushes are worn.
This is a mighty aristocrat of a car for less than the price of a tired hatchback and with the 8-Series still in a no man’s land between expensive old car and modern classic, now is definitely a good time to buy. At £4995 this is a lot of car for the money and won’t need much more than some bodywork tidying to make into a really nice example. If you really want an 8-Series and you want to be able to use it too, then this is the model to buy.
Engine: 3982cc quad-cam V8
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-60 mph: 7.1secs
Fuel consumption: 18-20mpg
Gearbox: five-speed automatic