The BMW 8-series
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General information

From 1990 until 1999 BMW had another twelve-cylinder automobile available in their program. The 8-series coupé: a luxurious 2+2-seated sports car.
The BMW 850i was the continuation of a great tradition and a new beginning at the same time: a new model series, technical novelties, optimizing all aspects of modern car design and the fact of living up to the highest standards created the coupé's unique aura.
Unfortunately, the 8-series was introduced in a difficult time for cars of its kind, so sales figures were below expectations. In fact the situation was so bad that the decision was made not to produce the top-of-the-line model, the M8, as there was no market for a super sportscar. So the 850CSi marks the upper end. Because the number of sold units dropped rapidly, production of the 8-series, which was assembled in Dingolfing (GER), ceased quietly by the end of 1999.

The following amount of 8-series cars has been manufactured from May 1989 until May 1999:

Type830i840Ci850i850Ci850CSi850sTotal 8-seriesAlpina B12 5.0Alpina B12 5.7

The Alpina B12 5.0 and 5.7 coupés are tuned versions of 850is and 850CSis and do therefore not add to the total of 8-series cars built.

A far more detailed list of production figures and an overview of how many cars have been sold to which countries can be found in the Model Section.

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The ultimate driving machine
Driving a BMW 850CSi is relaxing as in no other car. The knowledge about the tremendeous power of the twelve cylinder engine does keep you cool. Overtaking is a piece of cake and if you had to brake again on the motorway, you just accelerate to cruising speed - and be it 155 mph (250 kph) - the car simply does it. The engine itself is barely audible. No roaring, no screaming, just a soft, pleasant hum.
And should there be a critical situation, you can rely on the unbelievable brakes and the grip of the tyres.
The two-ton-monster wriggles around corners so that the automatic stability control is almost unnecessary.
But not only the driving experience makes the car special. It is nearly more fun to look at the car than to drive it. The 850CSi looks rather elegant not aggressive. But the front and the rear let you guess what's beneath the bonnet...
On the Autobahn (the german motorways, sometimes without speed limit) you really seem to be something special. Like it is natural, other cars are going out of your way, even if you are still far away. They are also waiting before beginning to overtake when a 850CSi is spotted in the rearview mirror. Drivers seem to back away respectfully of the flat, wide and possibly red something behind them. Because of the appearance of the BMW 850CSi you won't need the flasher at all. As a driver of a 850CSi you feel sorry for those driving an M5. They are just as fast - in theory - but are underestimated dramatically by others and get stuck behind them.
Very special indeed is the space offered. The boot is enormously big for a car of this type (320 liters) so that people won't laugh for long about it. The back seats allow persons of up to a little over 5 feet (1.70 m) to feel comfortable. And even fully loaded the driving experience is almost the same as with an empty car. The BMW 850CSi is a complete car for everyday use.
The car doesn't lack a luxurious equipment. Not at all! In fact a new category called 'luxury sports car' should have to be invented for the BMW 850CSi because you can get all the extras you want. Electric seats, electric sunroofs, electric shutters and many other gimmicks normally not to be found in sportier cars.
A car that's sporty, safe, luxurious and practical all in one - you cannot want to have more, because there is nothing more!
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The reality...

Engine power

Unfortunately one gets used to the performance of the car in normal life, such as driving in high gears at low speed. Only after driving a normal 120 hp car again, you'll be really aware again of the 850CSi's potential and know what you've got.
Pushing the throttle provokes no reaction at all in other cars and around 55 mph (90 kph) you are looking desperately for a sixth gear. Even middle class cars seem somewhat fragile, starting with the clutch that offers no resistance in an average car. Then there are the indicators which are in constant danger of being ripped off or the gearstick which in the 850CSi makes a lovely (but not metallic) noise when shifting gears.
Impressive is that the engine runs so smooth that a german five-Mark-coin placed upright on the running engine will stay upright!
Something like a disandvantage in city traffic is that the engine has its maximum torque at relatively high rpm. But the impression of the car being not so quick at low rpm is really just an impression. You involuntarily compare it to the inferno that happens above 4000 rpm. At 45 mph (70 kph) in top gear you are as quick as a normal car in normal gears!
Passengers have said that the 850CSi accelerates at 125 mph (200 kph) even better than their cars do at the traffic lights. And that says it all!
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Fuel consumption

The fuel consumption differs quite a lot, depending on standards and interpretation. 15 litres of unleaded super per 100 kilometres are used in real life, mostly even less. On empty country roads fuel consumption can sink below 12 litres - if you don't play around with the throttle, of course. In city traffic, however, only the sky is the limit. Fuel consumption over 26 litres are absolutely normal.
On the german Autobahn, where the 850CSi feels really at home, the car uses about 17 and 18 litres. Using more than 20 litres is already quite difficult (because of speed limits and building sites). But if there are no limits and the autobahn is straight you can exceed of course 25 litres per 100 kilometres.
But even if you're trying to drive carefully and economically, you have to practice first. Common rules for driving at low consumption rates are not applicable to vastly powerful twelve cylinder engines. It says: "Shift into high gears early and use as much engine power as possible." Applying this strategy to an 850CSi will leave you with staggeringly high consumption. You should still shift as early as possible into higher gear but driving at full throttle shouldn't be done at all!
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Sports car...?!

After all that has been said here, it should be made clear that the BMW 8-series is no sports car and was never intended to be one.
The 850CSi ist closest but still a Grand Tourismo, a car with a huge front engine, luxurious without compromise and with even weight playing a minor role. This car should never be an ultra high performance car (and the older it gets the less it can be), it should get people from A to B. And this task is fulfilled so perfectly like barely another car is capable of.
Don't be a fool, nothing that weighs two tons and has an engine on the front axle will ever match a true sports car. You are able to annoy mid-engined Ferraris or rear-engined Porsches, but to beat them will only be possible if the other driver is not as good as you are.
But in being what it was intended to be, the undisputedly most italian of all german cars is after even more than ten years still top of the line: It's a car with a tremendeous shape, it is outstandingly comfortable and features superior dynamics and handling. It's simply a feast for your senses.
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