Premium sporty/performance car; Built in Germany
  • 2-door coupe
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $4,800 – $13,700*

1997 BMW 850

1995 BMW 8-Series

1995 BMW 8-Series

1996 BMW 8-Series

1996 BMW 8-Series

  • Acceleration
  • Antilock brakes
  • Traction control
  • Ride
  • Steering/handling
  • Fuel economy
  • Passenger room
  • Price

The 8-Series was a slow seller from the start, partly due to its being prohibitively expensive for all but the very rich. Used-car prices are no bargains, either. An 840Ci always made the most sense from a cost standpoint, because the V12 engine in the 850Ci was not far enough ahead in performance to justify its markedly higher price.


Building upon the idea of its luxurious 750iL sedan, BMW turned to a comparable 2+2 coupe for 1991. Introduced in June 1990, it served as the successor to BMW’s 635CSi coupe and cost even more than the 750iL. BMW’s familiar “twin-kidney” grille was installed, but the rear-drive 850i wore hidden headlamps, a feature never before seen on BMW models in the U.S.

Although its 296-horsepower, 5.0-liter V12 engine came from the 750iL, the new 850i was created with a more sporty demeanor. Either a 4-speed automatic or a new 6-speed manual transmission could be installed. Standard 850i features included Automatic Stability Control (ASC), which limited power to the rear wheels when wheel slippage was detected during acceleration. Models with manual shift got a different version, ASC + T, which also applied brakes to the rear wheels to restore traction. The 850i was the first model to use BMW’s new Seat-Integrated Belt system, which integrated the belt system into the seat instead of anchoring it to the floor and/or roof pillars. All 850i coupes had a driver’s airbag and antilock braking.

Electronic Damping Control (EDC III) became optional in the fall, several months after the 850i went on sale. With EDC III, suspension firmness adjusted automatically based on how the car was being driven. In addition, the driver could choose Comfort or Sport setting, using an interior switch. Rivals included the Mercedes-Benz 500SL roadster, joined later by the Lexus SC 400.

Yearly Updates

1992 8-Series
A gearshift interlock was among the few changes to BMW’s high-level 2+2 coupe in its second season, to prevent the automatic transmission from shifting out of park unless the brake pedal was applied. BMW’s optional Electronic Damping Control gained a more pronounced differentiation between its Comfort and Sport modes. Pressing the end of the wiper and turn-signal stalks now allowed the driver to scroll through the cellular phone’s stored numbers, place a call, or end a call.
1993 8-Series
BMW renamed its 2+2 coupe the 850Ci, thus emphasizing its coupe body style. A passenger-side airbag joined the original driver’s airbag, and the cabin gained maple trim. Rear seatbacks now split and folded, and contained a new trunk pass-through. Either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic could be installed.
1994 8-Series
A new V8 model, named 840Ci, joined this lineup this year. It used the same 282-horsepower, 4.0-liter V8 engine as the 740i/iL sedan, driving a 5-speed automatic transmission. Also new was a limited-edition 12-cylinder model, called 850CSi, fitted with a 372-horsepower, 5.6-liter V12. That one came with a 6-speed gearbox, sport suspension, lower ride height, and 17-inch tires. Only a 4-speed automatic transmission was available in this year’s 850Ci coupe, which added such standard features as interior wood trim, a remote control antitheft alarm, front center armrest, and 250-watt stereo system.
1995 8-Series
As the 1995 model year began, the 840Ci was the only model to reach dealerships, essentially unchanged. Later, only a few 840Ci and 850CSi coupes arrived for sale. The regular V12 engine for the 850Ci grew in size, to 5.4 liters and a 322-horsepower rating.
1996 8-Series
The high-performance 850CSi coupe was gone, leaving only the 840Ci and 850Ci. The 840Ci got a new 4.4-liter V8 engine when production began early in 1996. Servotronic variable-assist power steering was standard on both models. Maple interior trim, already in the 850Ci, was added to the 840Ci’s interior. Electronic Damping Control, adjusting suspension firmness based on how the car was driven, was standard on the 850Ci and a new option for the 840Ci.
1997 8-Series
Final versions of BMW’s biggest coupe went on sale in summer 1996, showing no significant change.


longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

Two versions of the 8-Series coupe were available, with either a V8 engine or a V12. Power ratings and engine sizes varied through the years. Initially, the sole engine was a 5.0-liter V12, making 296 horsepower. A 4.0-liter V8 went into the new 840Ci coupe in 1994. That model switched to a 4.4-liter V8 in 1996, making the same 282 horsepower but generating greater torque output. During 1995, a larger V12 engine (5.4-liter) went into the 850Ci, developing 322 horsepower. Strongest engine of the lot was the 372-horsepower, 5.6-liter V12 installed in the high-performance 850CSi. Depending on model and year, an 8-Series coupe could have a 6-speed manual gearbox, or a 4- or 5-speed automatic transmission.

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.0/243
Engine HP 282
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 295
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic


dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.4/268
Engine HP 282
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 310
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic


ohc V12
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.0/304
Engine HP 296
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 332
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
4-speed automatic
ohc V12
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.4/328
Engine HP 322
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 361
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic


ohc V12
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.6/340
Engine HP 372
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 402
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual


Road Test

Considered to be classic “grand touring” cars, close to exotic-car level, the 8-Series BMWs were fast, comfortable, stylish, and safe. They were also big, heavy, and thirsty, fitted with plenty of high-tech gear but lacking head and leg space in the back for anyone much above toddler size.

The silken V12 engine can quickly shove you back in your seat as you effortlessly overtake other traffic. It’s also so flexible you can toddle along at 1000 rpm or so in sixth gear (with manual shift), without “lugging” the engine. Performance from a V8 doesn’t lag all that far behind, but both engines guzzle fuel. The 6-speed manual gearbox shifts cleanly, but doesn’t help gas mileage much. We averaged 16.4 mpg in an early model, including a lot of highway driving.

Ride quality is good for a high-performance automobile, though the Comfort setting lets the nose float slightly over freeway bumps, whereas in Sport mode, the suspension can jitter over washboard surfaces. Steering is firm and communicative, brakes strong, cornering ability on dry pavement outstanding with little body lean. Even with traction control unobtrusively limiting rear-wheel slippage, however, taking a corner too quickly on wet pavement causes this car’s tail to slide sideways.

Fitting more than two adults inside without cramping everyone isn’t so easy. The standard sunroof limits head room for tall people in front. Cargo space also is in short supply. Gauges and controls are logically arrayed, while the standard tilt/telescope steering wheel and supportive seat accommodate a wide range of drivers.


Model Tested: 1995 BMW 8-Series

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 8
Fuel Economy - 2
Ride Quality - 4
Steering/Handling - 7
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 7
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 1
Cargo Room - 1


Value - 2

Total: 43


2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
105.7 188.2 73.0 52.8
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
11.3 23.8 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.3 34.9
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A 2-door coupe


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: The air conditioner compressor will shut down if the belt slips, which can occur after driving through a puddle and can be fixed by bypassing the A/C lock sensor control module. (1990-92)
Dashboard lights
Description: Several problems with the hazard warning lights and turn signals activating by themselves, not blinking, etc. have been traced to problems with the flasher relay or the crash-sensor control module. (1992-95)
Poor transmission shift
Description: The synchronizers in six-speed manual transmission get damaged if anything other than Dexron II automatic transmission fluid is used, causing notchy shifting. (1990-97)
Rough idle
Description: Engine idles rough due to knock sensor picking up noise from water pump chatter when transmission is in drive and the air conditioning is on. (1997)
Rough idle
Description: Engine may idle too high or run poorly (accompanied by a check engine light) due to vacuum leaks in the manifold gasket and/or leaking vacuum plugs on the fuel pressure regulator. (1997)

Recall History

1991-92 850i
Description: Airbag contact-ring locking tab in steering wheel assembly can break without warning, possibly causing wiring to break and preventing airbag from deploying in a collision.
Description: Malfunction or failure of cooling system component can result in significantly increased coolant temperature and system pressure. 1994: Remote activation device can close windows and sunroof from a distance greater than the maximum (6 meters) permitted by Federal standard.
1994-97 840Ci
Description: Plastic housing on cruise-control or throttle cable could break due to environmental influences, coupled with vibration, leading to separation; could result in throttle valve remaining partially open.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

Share this: