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If you’re looking for a BMW 8 Series in tip-top condition, we tell you what to watch out for

If the design study shown at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed survives to production, next year’s BMW 8 Series promises to be an eye-popper.

It can be no less, given its forebear, the dramatic-looking 8 Series of 1990 to 2000. Today, that model is a rising classic, although, as our ‘One we found’ (opposite) proves, you can still pick up an 850i for the price of a new, mid-spec Dacia Sandero. Too expensive? Prices for 840Cis start at around £5000.

See BMW 8 Series for sale on PistonHeads 

During its life, the 8 Series’ styling barely changed, so if you’re considering buying one, year of registration is less important than condition. People have a downer on the 4.0-litre V8 in the 840Ci but that dates back to problems with its Nikasil bore liners. It was overstated and it’s rare to find one, so buy away, because it’s the bargain in the range.

The first version to arrive was the 850i, with a 296bhp 5.0-litre V12 and a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes. The auto is reliable, but the clutch in the manual is expensive when it lets go. In 1993 the model became the 850Ci and was joined by the BMW Motorsport-developed 850CSi, still with a V12 but now 5.6 litres and making 375bhp. Incredibly, for anyone raised on multi-speed flappy paddle ’boxes, this mighty engine drives the rear wheels via a six-speed manual ’box. Lowered suspension and four-wheel steering completed the package. It’s no wonder that today this version fetches the highest prices (well north of £30,000).

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In the same year, BMW sprang the 840Ci (in manual or auto guises). In effect it replaced the 850Ci, which was dropped the following year, and was powered by a 282bhp 4.0 V8 – the one with the Nikasil problems. Don’t read too much into model names, because in 1996, the 840Ci became the, er, 840Ci with a new 4.4-litre V8, still making 282bhp but with more torque and in Steptronic auto form only. It was quicker from 0-62mph (6.8sec, the same as the old 850i) and more economical (around 21mpg).

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The 850CSi also bowed out that year, leaving the 840Ci to hold the fort until it was joined, in early 1997, by a Sport version with lowered suspension but no more power.

Away from the core models, you’ll come across so-called Individual versions of later cars with special colours and seat piping. They’re supposed to be worth a little more than standard models but the 8 Series as a whole is so rare, and good cars rarer still, that condition is the only thing worth paying extra for.

You may also catch sight of the occasional 1994-on 850Ci powered by a 319bhp 5.4-litre V12, but it’ll be an import because it never officially came to the UK.

All versions were generously equipped: dual-zone climate control, a multi-information display, heated seats and automatic stability control. It goes without saying that you should check it all works. Assuming it does, and the rest of the car stacks up, take the plunge before prices get stupid.

BMW 8 Series Past Masters review


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An expert’s view…

Chris Burton, Chris Burton cars

“It all started for me 12 years ago when I took my 850i to the local BMW dealer for some new dashboard bulbs. He wanted £4 each for the bulbs and three hours’ labour to fit them. I’m a qualified mechanic so went home and did it myself but thought: there’s a business here servicing and refurbing Eights. I haven’t looked back. Then, you could pick up an 850i on eBay for £1500. Not any more. I’ve seen prices rise and the trend for restoration really develop. You’ll hear a lot of stuff about the Nikasil problems with 4.0-litre cars but many of them have been scrapped or were fixed by BMW. It’s the bargain in the range.”

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BMW 8 Series problems


The V12 leaks oil from its sumps (upper and lower). Check the V12 and V8 don’t smoke on start-up or overrun. If it does, it could be poor fuelling, inlet manifold pressure control valve, worn valves or, worse, piston rings (an engine-out job on the V12). Timing chain tensioners need replacing at around 100,000 miles.


Check the temperature gauge needle sits in the centre and the heater blows hot air. Look for leaks from the auxiliary water pump.


The V12’s clutch is expensive and replacement limited-slip diff crown wheel and pinions are now hard to source. Auto ’box is reliable although a rebuild is about £1800.


Front shocks wear out at around 90k miles but the rears last a bit longer. (Aftermarket Bilsteins recommended.) Stick with BMW bushes, which last well. Steering can feel slack at rest but that’s natural. Front discs are around £120 a pair, rears £60.


It can rust on the sunroof’s leading edge, jacking points and lower rear wheel arches.


Generally trouble-free. Used ECUs and modules are plentiful. Check the windscreen wiper system works.


Ensure all check lights go out. Driver’s seat bolster wears but is repairable.

Also worth knowing…

Sport models have smaller door mirrors, a rear splitter and a larger, lower front spoiler that’s easily clonked on kerbs. They sit lower, too. However, check the paperwork to be sure you’re not looking at a blinged motor.

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BMW 8 Series prices


High-mileage 840Cis, frayed around the edges but runners with MOTs.


All versions except the 850CSi. Not plentiful but most in tidy condition and with up to 150k miles.


You’re into proper money now, where the pickings are rich. Good choice of sub-100k-mile 840Ci/850is.


Fill your boots: good supply of low-mileage 840Ci/850is in great condition.


Huge price jump to the 850CSi.

John Evans

Join the debate

Add a comment…
david RS 29 August 2017

At that time, it looked

At that time, it looked stunning.


Overdrive 29 August 2017

david RS wrote:

david RS wrote:

At that time, it looked stunning.

Still does.

I always hankered after an 8-series. It was a car in the fine tradition of long distance GTs and, by all acounts, what really made it good in that respect was how well it rode.