please study the following carefully, inwardly digest and, if possible, try to fathom out whether you are reading a) a sculpture exhibition catalogue or b) an extract from Private Eye’s Pseuds Corner.
“The shape, intended by the designer to create in the viewer a desire to caress, is characterised by the smooth, rounded contours of the stretched bonnet, fluid transitions between surfaces and a high waistline rising towards the compact rear end.” The word ‘bonnet’ gives the game away. This rather fanciful prose is part of BMW’s attempt to convince the world at large that its eye-catching 8-series has sufficient architectural merit to justify its price. And even the latest addition to the range, the 840 Ci, is listed at £52,950. It may be a whole 325i cheaper than the 850 CSI (road tested in November 1993’s MOTOR SPORT), but it’s still not exactly what you’d call an
‘entry level’ option, is it? The 840 Ci is an amalgam of BMW’s gorgeous (and no matter what you may think about such a car in this day and age, it has a singularly stunning silhouette) flagship coupe and the four-litre V8 that also serves in the 740 and 540 models. The result is actually a touch sharper and more sensible than the VI 2-propelled 850 Ci. It’s around £15,000 cheaper, for a start, and there’s precious little difference in terms of performance. While the 850 is in its element on motorways, it handles like a ship in a Force 10 gale on more tortuous routes. The 840 isn’t a whole lot better it’s still far happier on the M6 than the B4140 but it is a touch lighter, and nimbler as a result. On dry roads, it is a mild understeerer; in the wet, the standard electronic traction control keeps everything nice and tidy. Whatever you may think about the value of such
devices, it is surely best to keep a 286 bhp, 1830 kg car on a tight rein? If you disagree, there’s always the option of the ‘off’ switch . Though it may not have entirely sporting manners, the 840 is blessed with an impressive set of statistics. Prodigious torque (294 lb ft at 4500 rpm) helps to push it from rest to the 60 mph benchmark in less than seven seconds; top speed is, like most German-built performance cars, 155 mph (artificially governed to keep the influential Green Party happy); in general use, prudent drivers will be able to achieve almost 25 mpg. Useful items on the standard equipment list include the aforementioned traction control, driver’s air-bag, leather upholstery. ABS, remote anti-theft system, air conditioning, rechargeable glovebox torch and I 2-speaker radio/cassette. Less worthwhile is the ski bag. Surely a more
important consideration would have been some rear leg room?
There is no question that the 8-series’ biggest drawback is its packaging. Its ratio of cabin space to length is ludicrous.
In BMW’s defence, it is only aiming to sell 100 840s annually. Their target audience can only be those who wish to acquire a genuine status symbol, for you can have a BMW badge on an M5 or an M3, both of which have the 800-series models’ touring ability, mated to superior handling and, a more practical advantage, usable rear passenger space. As a statement of engineering prowess, the 840 Ci is every bit as impressive as its senior brethren, but if you’ve got this sort of money to spend then the subtler M5 makes a lot more sense as a truly practical supercar, rather than what is merely a super looking car. S A