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What Might Have Been: The BMW 840Ci

August 19, 2011 by Matt

BMW E31 840Ci 850i 850Ci 850CSi

This one’s a bit dissimilar. In the case of the ’94-’99 BMW 840Ci range-topping GT, it’s not one, but two decisions I wish the automaker had made differently: They should have made the 6-speed manual transmission available with the V8 engine option in the US, and they should have trimmed at least 500 lbs from the car’s curb weight. Actually, the last wish really should have been something built into the car from its inception—4350 lbs (an even 4 grand for the V8 car) is ridiculously overweight for anything short of a Bentley with pretenses of sporty capability.

I’m well aware the market for big coupes was incredibly soft in the mid-late ’90s. Unlike the previous installment in the What Might Have Been series, where the alternate course of action I laid out made a certain degree of business sense, my desire to see a lighter, 6-speed 840Ci make it to our shores isn’t really driven by a regard for BMW’s bottom line. Rather, it’s borne out of a longing for a true E24 6-series successor—something the E31 intentionally was not. Even though it would have likely flopped in much the same way as the actual car did, a more downscale BMW E31 variant would provide an additional buffer of sorts between the much-missed E24 and its “official” successor, the perilously hideous E63. In other words, the E31 had the styling chops to follow the E24 (and how!); it just didn’t have the moves, a deficiency a manual tranny and a diet would have handsomely rectified.

BMW E31 840Ci 850i 850Ci 850CSi Interior

For what it’s worth, the E34 and E39 540i shared the 840Ci’s M60/M62 V8, and could be had with 6-speeds in the US, so in theory, a manual swap is very possible (if pricey). Also, the early V12-powered 850i was offered with a manual on our side of the pond, but the extra 4 cylinders added even more weight, the extra poundage being more than enough of an issue to excise for its lesser stablemate.

Again, I know full well the desires of enthusiasts frequently make little sense from a financial perspective, especially when the entire E31 program was a dubious investment in the first place. And truth be told, BMW actually did briefly consider a further downmarket expansion of the 8-series with the 830i, before having second thoughts and scrapping all but a single prototype. Still, the idea of a lighter, more driver-oriented BMW in the jaw-droppingly gorgeous E31 shape is an appealing one.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting key decisions I wish automakers had made differently, for divers reasons. Read the other installments here:

Filed under: BMW, What Might Have Been


  1. Bob says:

    Article about a base 840Ci. Image of a top of the line 850CSI.

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