Since becoming Captain of the 8 Series register in 2018 I have seen the popularity of the E31 model grow and the age range of owners change as well. At our meetings as well as the existing, mainly older owners who were driving when the car was first introduced in 1989, you will find a large number of younger, enthusiastic and very knowledgeable owners becoming very interested in making the model much more visible both in the classic car world and on social media, with Facebook and Whatsapp group exchanging advice, tips and technical knowledge regularly.
We have always owned BMWs but the 8 Series has definitely been the most exciting to drive. Depending on how you drive them they can be either a Grand Tourer and just eat up the miles on a long trip or a sports car as the hunker down and stick to the road when needed. The model range with both V12 and V8 engines have seen values increase over the past couple of years and with the rarer, top of the range CSi model commanding high prices in the market now is the time to treat yourself to a true BMW classic.
“Arguably the most beautiful BMW ever made. Ownership means you will get lots of attention wherever you go.”
The BMW 8 Series (chassis code: E31) is a V8 or V12-engined Grand Tourer built by BMW from 1989 to 1999. While it did supplant the original E24 based 6 Series in 1991, a common misconception is that the 8 Series was developed as a successor. However, it was actually an entirely new class aimed at a different market, with a substantially higher price and better performance than the 6 Series. It was BMW’s flagship car and had an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.
The 840Ci exists with two different engine packages. The first used the 4.0-litre M60B40 engine with 286bhp and was produced from mid-1993 to late 1995. From mid-1995, production phased in the newer 4.4-litre M62B44 engine, which had better fuel economy and more torque, though power output remained unchanged.
The 840Ci was available with a 5-speed automatic transmission, though European cars were given the option of a 6-speed manual transmission. The only external features distinguishing the V8 model from the V12 models were the quad round exhausts, which were square in the V12 models. The 840Ci stayed in production until May 1999.
This was the first model launched in 1990 with the 5.0-litre M70B50 V12 engine producing 296bhp. It was available with either a 4-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual gearbox.
There is some confusion over why and when the 850i became the 850Ci. The change happened around the introduction of the 850CSi and it is believed that BMW decided to include the “C” in the model name that denotes ‘Coupe’ just as two-door 3 Series cars alongside the 8 Series read 323Ci, 328Ci and so on. The confusion starts when BMW installed the new M73B54 engine in the car. This was not an immediate changeover, and indeed both the M70 and M73-engined cars rolled off the production lines side-by-side for about nine months in 1994, both named 850Ci.
As the capacity of the M73 increased to 5.4-litres and the compression ratio went up, the power output rose to 322bhp.
As a top-of-the-range sports tourer, the 850CSi took over from the prototype M8. The 850CSi used the same engine as the 850i, which was tuned so significantly that BMW assigned it a new engine code: S70B56. The modifications included a capacity increase to 5.6-litres and power increase to 375bhp.
The 850CSi’s modified suspension included stiffer springs and dampers and reduced the car’s ride height. The recirculating ball steering ratio was dropped 15% over the stock E31 setup. The model also sported wider wheels, with the option of forged alloys. The front and rear bumpers were reshaped for improved aerodynamic performance. Four round stainless steel exhaust tips replaced the square tips found on other models. The 6-speed manual gearbox was the only transmission option. In Europe the 850CSi came with four-wheel steering (AHK – Aktive Hinterachs-Kinematik).
Production ended in late 1996 because the S70 engine could not be modified to comply with new emission regulations without substantial re-engineering.
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Technical material and resources
From the Straight Six archive
Models in Series: 840Ci, 850i, 850Ci, 850CSi
Oldest Models: 1990 – 850i
Newest Models: 1999 – 840Ci
Rarest Specific Model: 850CSi – 153 were registered in the UK
Smallest Engine: 4.0 litre V8 M60 – 286bhp
Largest Engine: 5.6 litre V12 S70 – 375bhp
Fact: BMW made a prototype M8 with a 6.1 litre version of the S70 engine producing 550 bhp but it never went into production as it was deemed too powerful. The estimated top speed was 198mph. It is now located it he BMW Museum in Munich.
Most Difficult Repair Job: Anything electrical, there is a lot of technology for a 30 year old car.