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BMW's 850i was the company's style and technology tour de force when released in 1990. Apart from the 5.0 litre V12 engine, ZF automatic gearbox and the strut-type front suspension which it shared with its sibling 750i (and 750iL) sedan, the 850i was all-new from stem to stern. With it BMW introduced a whole raft of technical innovations that have since gone on to become the "norm" in the automobile industry. Included in this was a new multiplex electrical system that was derived from the aircraft industry in which multiple messages could be passed along the same conduit; a complex multi-link independent rear suspension system; six-speed Getrag manual gearbox; drop-down (by 80mm) side windows that activated whenever the door handles were used; front seats that included the seat belt mechanism; and for the first (and only) time on a BMW, pop-up headlights. It really was something at the time. Some members of the press compared the style and equipment of the 850i with the contemporary Italian coupes, so good was its performance and style. Interestingly, BMW chose to badge it 850i rather than continue with the CS and CSi nomenclature that it had used on all its coupes since the 2000C and CS of 1965. Quite why has never been explained. Initial media reaction to the 850i was positive elegant styling, strong performance allied to supreme high speed dynamics and great brakes but because of the legacy of the outgoing 635CSi and especially the hotrod M635CSi, it was felt that it had lost the dynamic edge of the 6-ers. True the 850i was much heavier but it was not a direct replacement for the 635CSi, it was more a Grand Tourer and less a sports coupe. It was a calculated and deliberate move upmarket by BMW and it has taken until now for the 850i and its siblings, the 840Ci, 850Ci and the storming 850CSi with its BMW Motorsport developed engine and chassis, to be recognized for the future classics that they undoubtedly will be if not already.
The 850i became BMW's tour de force for style and technology when it was released in 1990. Contains road& comparison tests, plus useful buyer's guide and other information. Models covered: 850, i, Ci, CSi, 840, Ci, Alpina B12 with the engines 4.0, 4.4, 5.0, 5.6 & 5.7 litre.