The BMW 8 Series - Bavaria's Grand Tourer.
The BMW 8 Series. The biggest, baddest, most powerful car to ever come out of Bavaria, catering to a higher class market of people who demanded luxury and performance in one package. It was the best car the Germans could offer at the time, combining speed, luxury, looks, handling, performance and comfort in under one body.
With the car's long nose, narrow headlights, dynamic sloping roof, muscular shoulders, pop-up headlights, paired with BMW's iconic Hoffmeister Kink and Kidney Grille, it looked truly unique and stood out from the competition, reminiscent to a shark, while remaining identifiable as a BMW at the same time. Powered by engine options ranging from a V8 all the way to a full-fat V12, you know that BMW truly meant business. The 8 is a truly unique car, and stands out from the competition by a large margin.
The 1980s and the 1990s was a booming era for the automobile. Cars were getting more technologically advanced, and were getting faster at the same time, such as Bugatti's EB110 and Jaguar's XJ220. Cars were also getting more and more luxurious, and the higher class were demanding more. They wanted a big car which had the luxury, quality and reliability of a BMW or a Mercedes, while at the same time have the performance and handling of a Porsche or a Ferrari. They demand was unbelievably strong for a no-compromise, best of both worlds Grand Tourer.
At the time, not a lot of Grand Tourers were on the market, Offerings coming from Ferrari or Jaguar didn't met their expectations, as they had issues with build quality and would often break down. Options from the Germans may satisfy their wants from a car, but they were either too big to handle, or too small for their tastes. BMW decided to jump in the Grand Touring market to fill in that hole in the market, and develop a car that would be amazing to drive, but be luxurious at the same time.
BMW did not want to upscale or base the new Grand Tourer on the existing 6 Series. They wanted it to be an entirely new model, built from the ground up. The car would have substantially greater performance along with a higher asking price compared to the 6 Series. Development for that new car began in 1981, with the final phase of design and production development in 1986. And in September 1989, during the Frankfurt Motor Show, the BMW 8 Series had made its global debut to the public eye.
The BMW 8 Series
Over 1.5 billion Deutsche Marks were spent developing the new car, and every single penny was worth it. The public loved it. It looked unique, aggressive, mean, and it meant business. It looked sporty, yet tame. It looked like nothing else on the road at the time, but was unmistakably a BMW, a design achieved using unfamiliar techniques, such as CAD tools, or computer-aided design. In a wind tunnel, the car's body would result in a drag coefficient of 0.29, a major improvement from the BMW 6 Series' 0.39.
The 8 Series was offered with a full-fat V12 engine, rated at 296 horsepower, pretty powerful at the time, mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. The BMW 8 series was one of the first vehicles to be fitted with an electronic drive-by-wire throttle, and was one of BMW's first cars to feature a multi-link rear axle, the other model being the Z1.
There were some shortcomings however, as the 8 Series was significantly heavier than the 6 Series, as expected, after all of its luxury nooks and crannies, along with its massive V12 engine were added to the car. CAD modelling allowed the car's uni-body structure to be 8 kilograms lighter compared to the 6 Series. The car's weight gain became a source of criticism from some customers who wanted BMW to concentrate on the driving experience. The 8-series had a hardtop body style without a B-pillar, which may have contributed to its weight gain.
The BMW 8 Series, code-named E31, had four variants. The base 840Ci, the mid-tier 850i, the 850Ci, and the highest spec 8 Series, the 850CSi. The Pre-1995 BMW 840Ci was offered with two engine choices, a 4.0-liter V8 producing 282 horsepower, and a 5.0 liter-V12 producing 296 horsepower. After 1995, BMW switched to the newer 4.4-liter V8 which had better fuel economy and a higher amount of torque, though power had remained unchanged. The 840Ci was available with either a 5-speed automatic transmission, or a 6-speed manual. The V8 models would have circular exhausts, and the V12 models would have rectangular exhausts.
The BMW 850i was launched in the year 1990 with an updated V12 engine, still producing 296 horsepower, available with a 4-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual gearbox. The 850i would then be replaced with the BMW 850Ci. The C in its name denotes Coupe, as BMW uses a C to denote 2-door vehicles. BMW had updated its V12 again, this time installing a newer engine in the 850Ci, with power output rated at 322 horsepower.
The highest spec 8-series that you can get was the 850CSi. The car used the same engine from the 850i, but it was tuned so significantly that power rose to 375 horsepower and torque rose to 550 newton-meters. The newly modified engine featured a new Bosch fuel injection system, with a capacity increase to 5.6 liters. Its suspension was also modified, with stiffer springs and dampers that reduced the car's ride height. Four round stainless steel exhausts were installed, replacing the car's original rounded exhausts. The only transmission option was the 6-speed manual found in all other variants.
All 850CSis came with active four wheel steering, active rear axle kinematics, uprated and ventilated brakes a new engine oil cooler, a two tone interior, sports seats, reshaped mirrors, and door handles with the badge BMW Motorsport etched on the door handles for US Markets.
Some variants of the BMW 8 Series had never saw the light of day, unfortunately. One of them, being a newer base model of the 8 Series, called the 830i. It was intended to be powered by the 3-liter BMW V8 producing 218 horsepower. Eighteen cars were produced, thirteen of which featured an automatic gearbox. Unfortunately, development was cancelled in favor of the 840Ci, and all were disassembled. Only one resides in the BMW Museum.
The 850i also had a convertible version being developed. From its inception, the 8 series had always been planned to have a convertible version in mind. Despite the 850Ci convertible being fully developed, and the green light had been given for production, it never saw the light of day, as BMW decided that it would not break even and give the company a profit.
The most unfortunate variant that had not seen the light of day was the BMW M8. Envisioned as a competitor to Ferrari, it would have been powered by a specially modified S70 engine making 550 horsepower. However, BMW decided to kill the project, as there was no market for the M8 to belong in due to the worldwide economic recession during the 1990s. BMW sealed the prototype until 2012, when it was introduced to the public during the Legends of Autobahn show in Carmel, California.
The Alpina B12
Alpina got their hands on the BMW 8 Series, and had given the car its much needed performance boost. The Alpina B12 was built from 1990 to 1994, based on the 850i variant, producing 350 horsepower. The higher variant B12 5.7, based on the BMW 850CSi, featured a modified intake, crankshaft, camshafts, a stainless steel exhaust, and an increased power output to 412 horsepower. The carbon fiber hood featured NACA ducts for improved engine cooling. The car would go from 0-100 kph (0-60 mph) in 5.8 seconds, reaching a top speed of 299 kph. (186 mph)
The 8 Series had always been nicknamed a gentleman's racer, but was never really meant to race. However, Wagenstetter Motorsport decided that the 8 Series would be the base of their new race car. Based on the 840i, its powered by the 5.0 liter V8 found in the E39 BMW M5 producing 555 horsepower, and 472 newton-meters of torque. Wagenstetter Motorsport used the race-modified 8 Series for endurance racing, participating in the Nurburgring VLN Endurance Championship.
Unfortunately due to low sales, BMW pulled the plug on the BMW 8 series in 1999. The top of the line 850CSi had to be killed early due to its S70 engine not complying with stricter emission regulations in 1996, making it one of the rarest BMWs on the road. Other factors that contributed to the death of the 8 Series were the worldwide economic recession, and the Arabian Oil Embargo.
In the year 2015, BMW announced that the 8 Series nameplate would make a comeback. Two years later in 2017, BMW released the Concept 8 Series during Monterey Car Week, and a year later, during the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, BMW released the all new 8 Series production model, alongside with its racing variant, the BMW M8 GTE race car.
The new model, code-named G15, was based on BMW's CLAR platform, with the car's design largely unchanged from the concept that had debut a year ago. The G15 8 series features double-wishbone front suspension and a rear multi-link suspension. BMW's new Carbon Core technology had also been utilized for the car, which integrates carbon fiber into its chassis. GPS navigation is used to switch gears of the new car to predict up-shifts or downshifts when approaching a junction, with telemetry utilized to determine appropriate shutdowns for the engine start-stop system.
The new BMW 840d xDrive is powered by a 3.0L inline-six turbo engine making 315 horsepower, a noticeable downsize in from its predecessor's V12, but having the same amount of power output. The new top of the line BMW M850i is powered by a twin-turbo V8 making 523 horsepower at 750 newton-meters of torque, making it the most powerful production 8 Series in history. Don't expect a V12 though, as BMW themselves had confirmed they would not make a V12 8 Series.
In November 2018, the convertible 8 Series had been unveiled, the first of its kind in the history of the 8 Series. Another variant soon to come is the BMW 8-Series Gran Coupe, a four-door variant of the 8 Series previewed by its concept unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show this year.
However the variant that we are all most looking forward to is the new BMW M8...