Fancy a luxurious, distinctive and powerful GT car for less than the price of a new Ford Fiesta? The 840Ci could be the car for you.
The 8-Series, or E31 for the BMW geeks out there, was launched in 1989 after a long and expensive development period that started in the mid 80’s. Although it replaced the 6-Series as the flagship coupe it was a lot more expensive, competing with cars such as the Porsche 928 and Mercedes SEC. It was launched initially with a 5.0 litre V12 with the option of a smaller V8 a few years later.
The first thing you notice as you approach the car is the sheer size of it, this is a big luxury coupe that occupies a lot of road space. As you duck down into the low set cabin, you are greeted by huge multi adjustable leather seats along with more buttons and digital displays than you can shake a stick at. The cabin is of a high quality but very 90’s and Germanic (read very, very black), thankfully the interior is lifted in this example with yellow piping on the seats. The 8 may be a 4 seater but not a spacious one, I’m 5’ 4” and just about fit comfortably in the back.
On turning the key you are treated to a deep chested V8 rumble, helped on this car by a full stainless steel exhaust which also releases a few more ponies. A manual gearbox was available but most, including this one, were automatics. As you shift into drive and get onto the road you realise that this is totally in keeping with the character of the car. Even on low profile rubber the ride is comfortable while the engine has plenty of low down torque to allow you to mooch around effortlessly if not discreetly. The combination of loud exhaust and even louder paint mean you’ll be getting plenty of stares from passers-by.
If you want to up the ante, you can move the gearstick over to manual mode. Instead of the car gently slurring its way to as high a gear as possible, you can hold gears to let the engine rev. Do this and you reveal a whole different side to the 840. Suddenly this luxury coupe starts to feel a lot more interesting, going from feeling brisk to pretty bloody fast. On paper it’s slower than many a modern hot hatch (0-60 in around 6.5 seconds) but on the road it always feels plenty. You’ll also get a much better soundtrack thanks to that V8, the engine developing a much harder almost NASCAR style exhaust note as it approaches 6000 rpm.
Flick a switch on the transmission tunnel and the dampers stiffen to give much tighter body control, sharper turn in and less roll around corners. Couple this to accurate steering and you’ll soon find yourself carrying more and more speed around bends, helped by the width of the delicious 3 piece BBS wheels. Don’t confuse this for a sports car though, the steering while precise is lacking in feedback and you always feel the not inconsiderable weight while braking and turning. This is not a B road blaster.
Prices today start at less than £4000 although the very best can command over £20,000. The stunning yellow example you see here is a later V8 engined car with 4.4 litres giving 286 bhp. Although less powerful than the V12 models, the lighter weight means performance is very similar unless you find a super rare 850CSi which came with nearly 400 bhp. One big plus point of the V8 is that the engine is a lot less complicated and so cheaper to repair. A repair bill in excess of £1000 isn’t unheard of though, there’s plenty of complicated electronics to go wrong and the early 4.0 litre V8s can suffer from serious engine issues.
The good news is that classic insurance is cheap and values are on the up. Buy one today and as long as you look after it, you’ll probably be able to sell it for as much or more than you paid. Choose carefully and you’ll have a handsome, fast and luxurious GT that can cover huge distances comfortably. I guarantee you’ll never get bored of playing with the pop up lights either.