1997 BMW 8 Series 840 Ci 4.4 liter V8 from North America


Classic, distinctive design; superior performance with BMW reliability



General Comments:

Having happily put 180 k miles on my 93 535i, I was looking for a distinctive replacement. When my daughter mentioned that the BMW 8 series was her all time favorite car; my decision was made, with the idea of passing the car onto her (she's currently in a college that does not allow cars on campus). A year's net research yielded a 1997 840ci with 55 k miles, purchased from a car designer, and I felt like a lotto winner getting the last model year with such low mileage.

The 8 series was perhaps the most technologically advanced production car when it was introduced. It's a true GT car originally designed for comfortable, very stable and high speed travel across Europe, which makes it a good match to the freeways of Southern California. It was a grand gesture and the last major new car by Claus Luthe, BMW's greatest car designer. He wanted to build a car with top end performance similar to high end Porsches and Italian exotics, but with traditional BMW handling, comfort, sophistication and build quality. He succeeded, producing a barely subsonic 300 kph/186 mph top speed, with traditional BMW virtues. Here's what I've learned through a year driving the car:

Looks - The car has a complex, streamlined, air-tunnel derived shape that is flowing, elegant, and distinctive. The car's looks and character are defined however by the long, low, slightly predacious front end derived from the legendary BMW Motorsport/Lamborghini designed M1 of the 1970's. A little of the Lambo brutality lurks under the suave BMW surface here. The contrast between the elegant lines and aggressive front end move the car from handsome to striking in appearance. Designers say the front end defines the car's personality and I think the 8 series front end is the most distinctive and beautiful of any BMW introduced in North America. It's always a pleasure to see it anew.

Exclusivity - The 8 series is very rare, with only about 6000 in North America, less than a year's Porsche 911 American sales. Even in Los Angeles I go months between 8 series sitings. It is much less common than a Maserati, Bentley, or Ferrari. It is a non-ostentatious super car versus these others. It gets admiring double takes, but doesn't come across as pretentious. Most drivers don't recognize it as a BMW until they see the logo; and know it's top of the line because of the 8 series designation. Many people never knew an 8 series was offered and ask if it is a new car; which speaks well to its timeless looks.

Performance - This is a big, wide car designed for high speed stability, with a relatively wide turning radius, all of which works well on highways, but it is not as nimble as smaller BMW's on city streets. Adhesion and lack of roll in turns is striking. It has a suspension that can be adjusted for sporty handling.

Acceleration is not blinding off the line, but if you're old enough to be interested in this car you shouldn't be trying to lay rubber anyway. From 40 to up over 100 mph the acceleration can push you back into your seat. It's the only car I've driven which seems to hunker down and become more stable as speed increases.

The interior is lushly finished even by BMW standards, very quiet with large, comfortable seats and every amenity you would expect in a car costing $100K new. The lack of a b pillar makes the car almost like a convertible with the sunroof and windows open.

Purists may differ, but I think the 840 4.4 8 cylinder engine offered the last 18 months of US sales is more practical than the sexier 12 cylinder power plant with which the 8 series was introduced. The 8 cylinder offers almost identical performance, slightly better handling because of a lighter front end, and the immense advantage that it was used in other BMW's (5 and 7 series) so parts are plentiful and mechanics know how to work on it. Ditto the auto/manual transmission and adjustable suspension that were offered the last several years of the model run.

Build quality and reliability are what you would expect from a flagship BMW model; standard repairs are reasonable in price. The later models include a 100K miles no service engine. Moreover, in a ten year old car, the reliability and repair costs are far superior to a comparably rare Bentley, Ferrari, or Maserati.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 10th February, 2009

11th Dec 2010, 16:09

Great article. I agree with the timeless looks. This is the best car BMW has ever made. I had a 328is and 535i (german spec), and can't wait to purchase a 8 series. I am not sure what to get 850Ci, CSi, or 840.

11th Jan 2020, 06:23

It's great hearing your precise description of the amazing BMW 8 series.

I have a 1997 BMW 840ci that I drive everyday and have put over 254,000 miles on the car over the last 22 years. I just can't stop driving the car. It's truly a beautiful car and one of the most sophisticated and secure feeling cars I've ever driven.

I believe the 4.4 Liter V8 from the 1997 model is one of the most solid engines ever built by BMW. They manufactured thousands of them and they are inexpensive to maintain and very durable.

The car gets double-takes all the time and almost every day someone flags me down to tell me how much they love the car or to ask me if it's a new BMW.

I love this car...

13th Jan 2023, 23:32

Excellent review. I still think the 8 series is a great looking car.

1997 BMW 8 Series Ci 4.4L V8 from North America


Truly peerless combination of looks, performance and exclusivity


Bought the car with a bad camshaft sensor and a leaky radiator, as diagnosed by the dealer before purchase.

Seat adjuster cables were also broken at purchase (both of them), but not fixed yet. This is not a problem currently, as only seat height is affected, and is currently adjusted correctly.

Right hand battery died after 4 months, but was original from 1997. This was a lot of work to replace, but required no custom tools, just several screwdrivers and wrenches.

Other common issues have not come up in this car (i.e., bad pixels on computer). This car was babied by the previous owner, who is a car enthusiast.

General Comments:

Standard maintenance costs are high, but going to independent shops that you trust will typically reduce the bill by 50%. Sticking with the 4.4L V8 engine also keeps costs down, as this is the standard running gear that is in the popular 740 from the late 90s. Everyone knows how to work on the car, and parts are plentiful.

The car drives like a dream: very, very quick, responsive and stable. This car is meant to be driven fast, and you have to remind yourself to slow down, since the speed is so comfortable.

This is probably the most beautiful car ever made. I put this in the same class as the Jaguar XK8, the CL500, the 911, the Ferrari 550 and old Daytona and the modern Aston Martins. For looks, exclusivity, performance and price, the 840Ci is far ahead of any car I have ever dreamed about. The car is perfectly proportioned from every angle. The lack of chrome and sharply raked nose makes for a serious, fast look. The only visual flaws are the black gasketing/striping that runs around most of the car, and the black door handles (no matching available). A black car resolves the problem, although maroon is probably the best color for the car (black is a close second).

Although there are probably more of these where I live than anywhere else in the country (California), the car is still extremely rare. Only about 6,000 of these were ever brought to the US (that's 6,000 total over 7 years, in all colors and engine/transmission configs). Those who know a little about cars, typically can't identify the car until they see the badge and the numbers on the trunk. Those who really know about cars get pretty excited when they see it. In all cases, I get a stare, a wave, double take or someone pointing at least once per week.

These cars are hard to find, and some are in poor shape. While records are important, getting a dealer or BMW-specialty shop to inspect the car before purchase will reduce the risk significantly. Be patient and ready to travel around to find the right one. Shipping cross-country is less than $1K, and well worth it if you find a good one. Focus on '96 and '97 models; some earlier ones had bad engines, although this is easy to determine with some research (see 8coupe.com for extensive material)

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 26th October, 2006

11th Apr 2007, 20:35

I've been shopping around for my dream car, and my price range is around $30k. I could get a 97 BMW 840CI, 99-00 Porsche 996 C4 or C2, or a 91-95 Acura NSX with that kind of price range. For some reason though, even with all the speed and sport that the latter 2 offer, I can't take my mind off of the 8 series. This is definitely my dream car, despite whatever mechanical issues I might end up encountering.

15th Oct 2008, 20:29

I owned a BMW 840 c1 8 cylinder 4.0lt.

At first I did not like the car, but now I love it, all eyes are like WOW, this is a classic.

The color is aubergine. It's a 2 dr coupe. My adrenaline goes up when I hit the highways, although I do have respect for the speed.

I love this baby.

The AC does not work, just broke down.

Mileage is 201000km, got it used with 89000km.

The car is kept well, like a king.


1997 BMW 8 Series 840 Ci 4.4 V8 from North America


Absolutely love it


The windshield cracked by a flying stone chip.

Driver seat-back will not fold.

General Comments:

This car is still my favorite car of all. I own 2 BMW's (840 Ci and 330 Xi), 1 Mercedes (C230), and a Porsche (928 S4) and I still love the 840.

Everywhere I go people look at my car in admiration and sometimes actually walk up to see it up close when it is parked.

I keep the car maintained properly and it has not given me too much problems yet. I just wished that BMW would start making them again with the V12 engine with a touch of M or Motor sport.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 10th December, 2002

23rd Apr 2004, 23:48

I own a 840 BMW as well, I must admit I do love it as well, I have 7 cars and the 840 is the best of them. I can drive any where and park and not have to worry about damage, unlike my F360 in which someone left me a message on my bonnet with there key!!!. Not as fast as the F360 but now that I run nos as well it seems to keep up with the rest of them.

16th Dec 2004, 14:13

You had mentioned that you would like it if BMW made an M version of the 8 series. They never badged it as one, but the 850 CSI is a m werks' edition. They are rare, but absolutely brilliant when unleashed on some poor unsuspecting tarmac.