Mr. Regular Reviews 1991 BMW 850i

Now that BMW came up with the second generation of the 8 Series, some people suggest the original has taken a step back into obsolescence. Or has it?
1991 BMW 850i V12: Regular Car Reviews 7 photos
Photo: screenshot from YouTube
E31 BMW 8 SeriesE31 BMW 8 SeriesE31 BMW 8 SeriesE31 BMW 8 SeriesE31 BMW 8 SeriesE31 BMW 8 Series
Developed as a posher counterpart to the 6 Series, the E31 differentiates itself from the G15 through the pop-out headlamps and the automaker’s first-ever V12. The M70 is a work of wonder considering its complexity. Better still, McLaren decided on the high-performance V12 for the F1, the three-seater supercar that still holds the record for the fastest naturally aspirated production car.

Mr. Regular had a spin in a 1991 example of the breed, the 850i with the M70B50. Available with a six-speed manual or a ZF-developed four-speed automatic like this fellow here, the 5.0-liter engine used to develop 300 PS (296 horsepower) when it was brand spankin’ new.

Three decades is a lot of time in the automotive industry, which is why the 840d xDrive is much obliged to churn out 320 PS (315 horsepower) from an inline-six turbo diesel and a lot more torque than the twelve-cylinder engine of the original 8 Series. For all that, we all know which of the two models would win the beauty pageant.

When it was new, the 850i retailed in the ballpark of $101,000 in the United States. That’s $186,000 adjusted for inflation, which is a lot more than the $111,900 that BMW wants for the M850i xDrive. Rarity also favors the 850i, with production totaling 7,232 units.

As sexy and exclusive as it is, the E31 is a nightmare as far as electrical problems are concerned. On the other hand, most BMWs from the modern era suffer from electrical gremlins. The single overhead cam of the V12 doesn’t help either, not when the curb weight stands at 4,123 pounds and maximum torque (332 pound-feet) comes on strong at 4,100 rpm.

Probably the biggest chip in the history of the E31 is the M8 that never was. BMW planned to introduce the high-performance model as an answer to the Ferrari Testarossa and subsequent 550 Maranello, featuring a bored-out M70 with 558 PS (550 horsepower) on tap.

To make a long story short, the M8 never happened because of the economic recession of the 1990s and the lack of demand for such a specialized model. But next year, BMW will make ends meet by shoehorning the S63 twin-turbo V8 under the hood, packing north of 600 horsepower.

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About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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