Car and Driver takes us back into the history of their magazine and the BMW brand. From their 1991 July issue resurfaces a review of the BMW 850i. Considered the flagship of the BMW brand at the time, the 8 Series was and remains of the most polarizing bummers one can see on the road. Prices on the used market continue to be quite high and the classic car turned collector item after initial struggles with the sales.
Under the hood, the 850i was fitted with the 5 liter M70B50 V12 engine producing 300 PS (221 kW; 296 hp) and was available with either a 4-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual gearbox. Top speed was limited to 186 mph.
The 850i included Automatic Stability Control (ASC), which limited power to the rear wheels when wheel slippage was detected during acceleration. The manual version came with a different feature: ASC + T; which also applied brakes to the rear wheels to restore traction.
The 850i was the first model to use BMW’s new Seat-Integrated Belt system, which integrated the belt system into the seat instead of anchoring it to the floor and/or roof pillar.
Between 1989 and 1992, there were 20,072 produced.
Here is an excerpt from their review:
With the 850i’s speed and silence comes annoyance, however. A sports-luxury machine as expensive as this should be as sweet as homemade marmalade to drive, even if you’re just on a run to the cleaners. But the 850i will have you talking to yourself every time you attempt to creep along in rush-hour traffic. No matter how gingerly you toe into the throttle, the engine lunges and snaps your head. Lunge-snap. Lunge-snap. It’s like having your mother shake you by the shoulders.
Our experience with the 750iL, which also comes with an automatic, suggests that it is the 850i’s manual gearbox that elicits this spastic behavior. Apparently the automatic’s torque converter smooths the initial bump of acceleration. An 850i with an automatic is a happier car for other reasons as well. The six-speed overdrive gearbox in our test car never slotted into second gear without a shudder, and the clutch required a hefty push and a full extension of the left leg to get it all the way down. Running through the gears was more work than it was worth.
You’d hope that a device for serious driving like the 850i would have sharp-as-a-knife road manners. Hell, BMW practically invented the sports sedan, so that shouldn’t be too pressing an order. But here, too, the 850i disappoints. It feels wide of beam and bulky. Its steering is loose and woozy. On anything but billiard-table-perfect pavement, it simply doesn’t know where straight-ahead is; it sniffs around like a bloodhound in search of a scent and requires constant minding just to keep it centered in the lane. Amazingly, the 850i even stumbles over the seams in the pavement when you change lanes.