I’ll just start by stating the obvious, the E31 BMW 8-series is one of the best designs ever to come out of Bavaria. Indeed, in your author’s opinion it’s one of the best designs ever. Klaus Kapitza’s design is still every bit as sleek and stylish today as it was when he penned it in 1986 and when it was released to the public in 1989. Fortunately for us, the beauty goes beyond skin deep.
Klaus’ Resume is odd for someone that designed something as timeless as the E31. For starters, his two big credits seems to be this and the BMW Z13, there’s almost nothing from the guy besides that. The BMW Z13 by the way, was a small concept powered by a mid-mounted motorcycle engine. Then he went to Porsche for a while and now he works as a design consultant. Something you probably feel like a moral duty to do when you’re the designer of one of the best-looking vehicles on the planet.
While Wikipedia will swear that the 8-series is a replacement for the E24 6-er, in reality it was all just an incredible feat of timing The E31 was never intended as a replacement for the E24. It’d take quite a few years and a Chris Bangle to make a real replacement for that.
The interior may have been snug bordering on unusable for the rear passengers. But the front passengers were spoiled by the goods that the cockpit had to present. The driver centric center-console featured a trip computer and the instruments were very simple white-on-black dials. Useful when the Polizia stops you on the Autostrada and you need to know in just how much trouble you are. Later models would keep the interior paired with the one you’d see on a 7-series. Still a nice place to be while going at Mach 2 to the racing week at Monaco.
Speaking of which, in the skunkworks of BMW’s M Division lives a very special 8-Series. Imagine, if you will, a BMW 8-series that was tuned to be a sports car rather than a touring car. To that extent they’ve added a widebody kit and new tires. The hood, the doors and several other body parts have been replaced with lighter carbon fiber. Under the hood? An early version of the V12 engine that would later power the McLaren F1 to the fastest production car record, here producing 550HP and a ludicrous amount of torque? Meet the BMW M8.
Now say goodbye as they couldn’t make a viable business case to bring the M8 into production and remained an interesting oddity to be shown on very rare occasions. It was already supposed to be a very low-volume halo car as reflected by the sales numbers. Between 1989 and 1999 only 31,062 8-series were produced, the bulk of them being the V8-powered 840i models. Put into perspective, BMW has sold 37,530 BMW 6-series coupes and convertibles since the current model’s introduction in 2011. That’s not counting the 4-door Gran Coupe’s, that’d be cheating. After 1999 it ceased production and the 507-inspired BMW Z8 took over halo car duties.
This lovely 8-er was uploaded to the Cohort by LeSabretooth Tiger, proudly showing it’s pilarless roof design, something you can really only get these days on the Mercedes S-Class coupé. To this day BMW has not tried to replace the 8-series, with the closest thing being the current BMW i8 sports car. Designed to be equal parts fun sports car and halo car for BMW’s new i division, it features a three cylinder turbocharged engine, like a Geo Metro, and electrical wizardry to make it perform on par with vehicles such as the Porsche 911, unlike a Geo Metro. Now if they only made a 12 cylinder version of those.
Curbside Classic: BMW 850i and 840Ci – Nineties Icon Or Technological Overkill?
This is the best looking BMW hardtop I’ve seen.
Gorgeous car, always liked them. If I had my druthers, I’d take a later model 840.
I have personal experience with these cars as a used car tech, and also because a neighbor had one. The back seat is completely useless except for infants, pets, and groceries. These cars have so many electronic gizmos that they’re equipped with TWO batteries to keep everything going, and even then both batteries will go stone cold dead if you let the car sit idle for longer than than three days.
The early 850s had rather ponderous handling due to not only the tremendous weight up front, but also the small 16-inch tires. And watch for the early version of the V8 as well, with their self-destructing Nikasil engine blocks.
Its nose reminds me of the 1978 BMW M1.
That front end had a long life before it was put in serious production. Paul Bracq penned that face already in 1972. But it took them more than fifteen years before they put it on the 8-series…
Beat me to it. This is what the M1 should have looked like (without the rear wheel covers).
When I first saw the BMW 850 I knew the 90s weren’t going to be as good for car design as the 80s and I right. Here is a short list…
’84 C4 Corvette replaced by C5
’83 Mercedes 190E replaced by C-class
’86 Ford Taurus replaced by egg Taurus
’80 Fleetwood Brougham replaced by bubble Brougham
’84 Carrera (OK 60s) replaced by 996 with fried egg headlamps
Everything got so rounded and dull. Ask a group of people to sketch an 850 and no one will get it right except for the headlamps. There was no redemption in the drive either. The car was ridiculously heavy and felt like it too. Another foreshadowing of the future.
Sir, you nailed it. I’ll add one more:
Countach by Diablo.
S4 Lotus Esprit
S4 Aston Martin Lagonda
I had both a 750 and an 850 and the 850 was a real enigma, it was decontented (no wood inside, no center armrests, 4 way seat on passenger side) and it was, as I remember actually 50 lbs. heavier than the 750, thus no faster. However, it did things German, like raise all the windows and close the sunroof if you went over 90. It was fun and kept you awake.
It was smoooooth, but no smoother than the Lexus V8. As good as the 750 was (a Fleetwood with the performance envelope of a Porsche), the 850 always remained (to me) the answer to a question that no one ever asked.
That was always my reaction as well: Beautiful styling, so much promise, but ultimately an odd and not really satisfactory compromise — kind of BMW’s answer to the Opel Calibra. (Although I think you could buy the entire Calibra lineup for the price of one 850i.) As attractive as the 8-Series is, it seems like a hard sell over the sedans.
Nice but I’ve never had the nerve to buy one in my price range(I just know a £4000 BMW 840 is going to be a painful experience).
The 8-Series is a very under-appreciated BMW. I’ve always loved it since I got my first Maisto 1/18 scale model of it when I was about 4 or 5. I’ve probably seen less than ten of them in the metal throughout my life thus far.
Ideal proportions, powerful engines, and a luxurious interior made this one of BMW’s best supercars ever. I love that slanted center console. By comparison, the 8-Series makes the 2003-present 6-Series seem like an overweight duck. A shame they never made a true successor to it.
I think the current 6-series is pretty sharp, actually. I think they hide their bulk very well.
It would look ok if the headlights and taillights weren’t melting into the bodywork like all post bangled beemers. Looks like a Hyundai.
I like them but it’s way out of my price range,I don’t get all the hate for them.
Isn’t the Mercedes E-Class coupe still pillarless? The previous (C209) CLK was, and I though the C207 was as well.
The E-Class coupe has the tiniest of a fixed rear window. the OCD in me can’t call it pilarless on good conscience.
Heh, fair enough.
The V-12s had a habit of self-destructing, and cost about $40k to replace.
Always loved the looks of these, but like the Porsche 928 ( another fave), there is always the sense of a very expensive hand grenade about to go off, at least in the price range I could ever afford.
Toyota Supra thanks.