Review BMW 840Ci Vs 850CSi

“Tahmid and Kiron Haque have built up a menagerie of desirable BMWs, and, while we’ve already featured their E31 850CSi, the acquisition of a matching Oxford Green 840Ci presented a rare opportunity for comparison…” 

Review BMW 840Ci Vs 850CSiBMW’s E31 generation 8 Series is arguably the quintessential Grand Tourer. While it   may harbour sporting pretensions – particularly in deep-lunged 5.6-liter CSi guise –   it’s very much the sort of car that would effortlessly waft you from one end of the continent to another in one torquerich leap, allowing you to ooze from the   cockpit in stylish unruffled form and casually amble to the bar to slip into a dry Martini. A car which is sumptuously appointed and fabulously refined, that also happens to be magnificently powerful and unexpectedly agile. Almost Rolls-Royce-like, in fact – everything you need to affirm your solid life choices, backed up by the sort of deep swells of power you may well never even require.

Naturally the E31 doesn’t just exist as a single entity. A high-end niche it may have been, but nevertheless there were strata to ascend, different power and trim options to consider. And laid out before you today, like some glorious glitch in the Matrix, we find minty-fresh examples of the two key markers of the breed: resplendent in Oxford Green, they may appear identical at first glance, but these still waters run deep. The N-plate car should be familiar to regular readers – it’s the full-fat 850CSi, as featured in our August issue.

The R-reg motor enjoys less swept volume and fewer cylinders, being an 840Ci. But let’s not fall into the simplistic trap of assuming that bigger is better and there’s a predetermined hierarchy here… each car has myriad charms and, as they’re both part of the same collection owned by a father-and-son team, we’re in a handy position to explore these differences in detail from a firsthand perspective. But before we   get into all that, perhaps a little scene-setting is required. Developed at enormous cost to carve out a new luxury GT niche in the model range, the E31 was CAD-designed and extensively wind tunnel tested to ensure that it was as slippery as a buttered eel – after all, with such massive and thirsty engines planned, and the idea being to create a desirable machine for long-range road-tripping, maximizing the aerodynamics of the fundamental shape was key so as not to use up all the Earth’s natural resources in one fell swoop. At launch, buyers were offered a 5.0-liter M70 V12 in the form of the 850i; with 296hp, it was available with a 4-speed auto or a 6-speed manual – the first time the latter had ever been mated to a V12 in a road car. Later came the option of a 4.0-liter V8 engine in the model badged 840Ci, which offered a robust 282hp thanks to the M60 motor shared with the 540i and 740i. In mid- 1995 this engine was usurped by the 4.4-liter M62, which boasted an identical peak power figure but this time backed up by improved fuel economy thanks to its greater torque. By this time the launch-spec model was being badged ‘850Ci’ (the extra ‘C’ bringing the nomenclature in line with other BMW coupés), and was now running a 5.4-liter variant of the M73 engine – something shared with the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph. So the intention was clear, and with popularity rising the scene was set for the fresh new range-topper: the 850CSi. This used a 5.6- liter evolution of the V12 which was sufficiently different to earn its own code – S70B56 – and, packing a meaty 375hp, the platform was treated to stiffened and lowered suspension, a 15 percent reduced steering ratio, redesigned bumper aero, upgraded brakes, an oil cooler, and a diff oil cooler. And yet, in spite of all these changes, the 850CSi is still remarkably similar in appearance to the 840Ci, isn’t it?

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So what manner of person would own both, and why? The answer to this is actually quite simple: Tahmid Haque and his father Kiron are essentially the most eager pair of BMW enthusiasts we know. They’re very much aware of their favoured era – in general terms, we’re looking at the sporting and luxury models of the mid-1980s to late-1990s – and, being in a position to invest in the cars they’ve always dreamed of, they’ve become ruthless and astoundingly efficient in tracking down impeccable examples of the cars they feel are appropriate for this growing collection. But this is no cynical static exhibition. These cars were built to be used, and used properly, and the duo has no qualms about piling on the miles with these sublime machines. It’s all about living in the moment and making dreams come true, they aren’t strictly acquired as investments. These fellas aren’t just speculators, they’re fans. So without further ado, let’s find out why they’ve got both 8 Series in the collection today…

BMW Car: Who owns which car – or do you both own the collection jointly?

Tahmid Haque:
“The collection is built up together, we both drive all of the cars we own. We bought the 850CSi in February after searching for a year or so; an opportunity arose and we jumped on it – not many come up for sale, and when they do they’re usually snapped up instantly. And the 840Ci Sport was bought around April – we owned another very low mileage 840Ci Sport which was absolutely mint; however, we thought it would be nice to have a matching pair of 8s!”

Review BMW 840Ci Vs 850CSi 1BMWC: Yes, you’ve had a number of 8s haven’t you? So the idea of a matching pair was what brought these two together?

TH:
“That’s right, we thought it would be cool! So we set out to find an Oxford Green 840Ci Sport. I’d only seen a handful before, they’re extremely rare to come by. I’d seen an advert for one which had no photos and the description read as ‘documented mileage, 95 percent perfect paint, no known faults, green, three owners’. It stated mileage of 45,000- miles and a price. That was all! I thought I’d give it a few days and check back, maybe some photos would be added. A whole month later, I stumbled across the advert again and it’s still there, no photos, no info. So I thought, why not just take a chance and call? I called, but no answer. I sent an email asking to ring back if it’s still available, and that evening received a call from the owner, an elderly gentleman who lived out in the woods with very bad signal. I couldn’t hear a word of what was said! I asked for some photos and his response was ‘It’s an 8 Series, you know what they look like, that’s what it is – if you like it then buy it’. What a peculiar response! I asked what shade of green it was, thinking it would be the less desirable Barbados Green, and he responded with Boston Green. This piqued my interest, as it was similar to the 850, but not the same… he then rang me back with his landline, and I could see it was a local number. At that point, it was worth just going to view the car.”

Kiron Haque:
“The next morning we drove together to see the 840 – it was only twenty minutes away. We took the 850CSi, and when we pulled up on the driveway there it was: another Oxford Green 8 Series! I lifted the bonnet to confirm, and right there it said ‘Oxford Green’. We couldn’t believe our luck. After two hours of negotiating, we agreed a deal and came back the next day to collect. To think we bought the car from an advert with virtually no detail and zero photos!”

BMWC:
It sounds like an incredible result! So, aside from the engines, what are the key differences between your two cars?

TH:
“In my opinion the 840 is more of a Grand Tourer, very smooth and comfortable. The 850 is much more of a beast, plenty of power and pulls like a train with no end in sight! The 850 also benefits from the AHK system (fourwheel steering) which was very advanced   for the ’90s. There are also some subtle differences in trim, for example on the door cards – if you pay close attention you’ll notice the 850 has more of a quilted look compared to the 840, something I didn’t realise at fi rst.

BMWC:
We know you like to use your cars properly. How much use have these two had so far?

TH:
“With lockdown, there weren’t many places we could take the cars, but we did drive them to some local meets and tours. There were plans to go to the big shows, but these have been postponed… although I do plan to take the 850CSi to the Classic Motor Show at the NEC. This would be the third year in a row with our cars on display.”

KH:
“In August we hosted an E31-only meet at my restaurant – Taj Barming in Maidstone. Somewhere between 20-30 8 Series showed up in all different colors, it was a sight I had never seen before – truly remarkable! The meet was followed by some tasty food and then a nice drive down to Margate.”
BMWC: Ok, which one’s better to drive?

TH:
“My father and I usually agree on most things, but here is where our opinions differ! I prefer the 850CSi as it has plenty of power and, in my opinion, drives like the car the 8 Series should be. Our custom-made stainless exhaust also gives the 850 the raw note and grumble all of them should have. It makes the car a lot more fun, and I can’t help but drive it in a spirited manner through the rev range.”

KH:
“I prefer the 840 – it’s a more refined drive. The 4.4 engine is extremely smooth and perfect for cruising along, forgetting that you are in a 20-plus year-old car. The automatic transmission is my gearbox of choice as it gives me a much more relaxed drive and a sense of luxury too. The 840 also has the stock exhaust which is quiet and refined. It’s not too imposing, and makes the experience very pleasant.”

TH:
“Both cars are great in their own way, of course! Although they look the same, they’re worlds apart. I prefer the 850, but I certainly wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to own more 840Ci Sports…”

KH:
“Yes, the 840 is more pleasant and luxurious, but I wouldn’t turn down another 850 as they’re rare and only going up in value!”

BMWC:
Is there anything you dislike or would change about either car?

KH:
“BMWs back in the day really were ahead of the game, they knew how to build the ultimate driving machine. The 5.6-liter V12 coupled with the pillarless windows is a match made in heaven. The only dislike would be the MPG on both cars! It would be nice for them to reach at least double figures, but that’s not what these cars are about. It’s about the experience.”

BMWC:
Which would you choose to take on a pan-European road trip, and which is better for pottering around town? Or are they both decent all-rounders?

KH:
“For a pan-Euro trip it would have to be the 850. Both cars have plenty of space and are perfect for road trips, but to really enjoy those long winding roads the power of the 850 is the car of choice. Around town, however, is a different story! The 850 feels like a much bigger car at first due to the manual gearbox – something perhaps difficult to understand unless you’ve driven one. I remember driving the 850 out of the London Classic Car Show in February on a Sunday evening around 7pm in the dark, and driving through the narrow streets of London you’re really aware of the car’s dimensions. The 840 definitely is much more of a pleasant and smoother drive for the towns, and more discreet with the factory exhaust.”

BMWC:
Let’s say somebody calls you up and says ‘We’re putting on a car show, and we want an 8 Series on display’ – which one of yours would you take?

KH:
“That’s a no-brainer – the 850CSi! Being number 149 of 160, and the last one ever built in Oxford Green and fitted with this interior, it’s quite special to say the least. And with not many left on the road or even in existence, it’s nice to give an opportunity for other enthusiasts to see.”

TH:
“To that end, I also have a social media page for the cars, @M635BMW – I share pictures of all the cars we own and the experience of owning them. Fans seem to love seeing our collection, we’ve got around 14,000 followers now.”

BMWC:
OK, here’s the big question: if you could only keep one of these cars, which would you choose?

KH:
“I think we’re in pretty clear agreement on this one! It’d have to be the 850CSi.”

TH:
“Yep, definitely the 850. As much as we love the 840, the 850 is just such a rare car and we had to really chase to own it. It’s a keeper, for sure.
Our dream is to build up a collection of all the iconic classic M cars; the E24 M6, 850CSi and Z3M Coupe are already part of the collection, and the E28 M5 and a Macau Blue E30 M3 are still out there to be hunted down…”
This keen-as-mustard father-and-son team are among the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable BMW fans we’ve met in quite some time, and they evidently have very clear goals in sight to make all of their Bavarian dreams a reality. What’s most impressive of all is that we get to glean insights from them about ownership and comparisons that would otherwise be impossible.
Who else do you know with a pair of nearidentical but differently-engined E31s? It’s   not just a posterity collection they’re building, but a kind of public service for all of us. Long may the obsessive collecting continue.

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SPECIFICATION BMW 840Ci SPECIFICATION BMW 850CSi
ENGINE: M62B44 4.4-liter V8
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed auto
CHASSIS: 17” Style 5 wheels
EXTERIOR: Oxford Green
INTERIOR: Grey leather
ENGINE: S70B56 5.6-liter 24v V12, custom stainless steel exhaust system,
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
CHASSIS: OE stiffened/lowered suspension, 15% reduced steering ratio, staggered 17” ‘Throwing Star’ wheels
EXTERIOR: Oxford Green
INTERIOR: Silver-Grey part-nappa leather trim

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