If you thumb through old automotive magazines, you’ll come across ads and reviews of cars in their heyday. It’s interesting because you not only get to see pictures of the cars looking extra shiny, but you also learn what the original retail prices were. Cars such as the BMW 840ci were very expensive with a starting price of nearly $80,000 two decades ago. When cars like this change hands to budget minded owners, they tend to fall into states of disrepair due to unexpected upkeep costs. Finding a clean 8-series nowadays is like an Adam Sandler movie getting at least a 3-star rating; not impossible, but very unlikely.
Our friend Taylor who was featured previously (see Bavarian Bomber), had decided to show us that an 8-series can still make an impression on today’s roads. The car he brought along is his family’s 1994 BMW 840ci. Around 15 years ago his father, Richard, came across the 8-series when it was a trade-in at the dealership where he worked, so he bought the car for his wife as an upgrade for daily driver duties. During that time, the car received a whole host of maintenance. One thing that has kept this car running strong is that the engine block was replaced with the Alusil variant during the craze when the sulfur in gasoline was destroying Nikasil engines. It has needed a few radiators replaced over the years due to plastic end tanks cracking, but any BMW of this era is subject to the same Achilles heel. Otherwise this particular 840 has been a solid runner.
The 840 reminds you that it was built for long blasts down the Autobahn, thus the miles are eaten up before you know it.
It’s hard to believe this car is over 20 years old now, because the fit and finish is superb. With 216k on the clock, the car has hardly a squeak or rattle. All the upholstery has held up exceptionally well with routine cleaning and conditioning. You can certainly tell this was the flagship car for BMW in the 90’s, as there’s leather trim almost everywhere, and the switch gear still feels solid even today. No costs were cut when building this car.
Open the doors to the 840 and you immediately notice that they’re heavy and shut with a thud of authority. Roll down all 4 windows and you’ll see that the cabin has great ventilation due to the pillarless window configuration. The front seats are extremely comfortable despite having a sporty profile. The rear seats are more of a decoration than anything, but can be used if necessary. Insert the key into the ignition and the car fires up smoothly and rather quietly. It’s the same 280 HP m60b40 engine as used in Taylor’s 540i, but this time with a 5 speed auto. The exhaust system is also configured differently as to be more subdued.
Around town, the 840 is fairly easy to maneuver. For being a bigger coupe, the steering is surprisingly responsive and doesn’t deter itself from tighter parking. The suspension is supple for rough roads, but not so floaty that you think you’re driving a Coupe de Ville. Should you decide take a corner more aggressively, the car remains very composed with minimal body roll. The city manners might be great, but it’s the open road where e31 was meant to be.
Accelerate onto the freeway and you notice throttle travel is much longer than other BMW’s, but the car gets moving with relative ease. At over 4000 pounds, the 840 is anything but a featherweight, but it collects speed with little drama. The acceleration may even be considered uneventful due to how smooth everything operates. By 80 mph, you can tell this is where the car is most comfortable. As speedometer sweeps its way towards the 12 o’clock position, the car’s dimensions and steering effort feel well matched for each other. The 840 reminds you that it was built for long blasts down the Autobahn, thus the miles are eaten up before you know it.
The e31 8-series is undeniably a good looking car, even 27 years after its 1989 debut. Nearly every angle on the car is photogenic. The lines are crisp but with a muscular flair. The interior is a wonderful place to be, and the leather has the trademark smell that is specific to older BMWs. Once the sun goes down however, look down the hood from the driver’s seat and watch the pop-up headlights spring into action. It’s the details like this that make the 8-series stand out from the crowd.
While cruising through the streets of San Francisco to get photos, we couldn’t help but notice the car turns a lot of heads. You’d think the middle finger would have made several cameo appearances, but most of the stares were out of enthusiasm or intrigue. Perhaps it’s the unique front end, but whatever it may be, the 8-series carries an aura wherever it goes. While most cars fight traffic to get where they need to go, the 840 simply points and the rest of life moves with it. Typically I’m a fan of nimble cars that require you to drive with momentum, but the 840 makes me toss all those desires out the window. Every move the car makes while driving is deliberate, yet never appears rushed. It’s all about the journey with this car. If you don’t feel like a million bucks on the way to your destination, you’ll without a doubt set the scene once you arrive.
- Year: 1994
- Color: Sterling Silver
- Drivetrain: RWD
- Engine: 4.0 V8 (M60B40)
- Power: 280 hp
- Torque: 295 lb/ft
- Weight: 4100 lbs.