Ads on test: BMW 850 CSI

The ultimate E31 is always worth a look – this particular one deserves rather more than one

Cost New £79,750 Price £58,995


alues for the 8 Series have been growing slowly compared to the rest of Munich's '80/'90s output. However, the one exception is the 850CSi. Over the past 12 months, it's proved to be an outstanding auction star, with the very best going for almost double the price of the one JJ tested last year.

Jay Kay's former steed went for £70k+ in November, while RM Sotheby's recent Youngtimers sale pushed the benchmark into six figures. They were mint, low-mileage cars though – so what about a car that's actually been enjoyed? That's why we've taken a look at this 87k-mile example. Despite the mileage it presents absolutely beautifully, the Oxford Green paintwork utterly unblemished by scrapes or even stonechips. The only fault we could find after extensive scrutiny of Klaus Kapitza's elegant design was a faulty sidelight, which will be sorted before the car is sold.

The alloy wheels are in excellent condition, with no signs of corrosion or kerbing, and the Continental Premium Contact 6 tyres have plenty of tread remaining.

The two-tone grey leather interior is a masterpiece in big GT futuristic design, certainly up there with the Porsche 928, and unlike lots of GTs of this age, all the lights, gauges and electrical items work just as they should.The only blemishes we could find were limited to mild bolster wear on the driver's side, minor creasing on the squabs and minor nail wear in the door handle recesses. Other than that it's hard to believe it's done less than half the mileage, let alone what it has. Under the bonnet, all the fluids were up to the maximum mark and none decided to make a break for freedom.

The service history is extensive, with plenty of receipts. It'll be fully fettled again by the vendor before sale.

On the road – sadly not an autobahn – the pull from the V12's torque is immense, as is the roar. The steering – 15 per cent tighter than a regular 850i – is accurate. We didn't feel any problems in the suspension or steering, and the brakes were sharp yet reassuringly predictable.

With lots of focus on this model on the market, this is an excellent example of why you buy on condition rather than mileage. The former is so good, the latter means you should just get out there and enjoy it.

BMW 850CSI (E31)

Year:     1996
Mileage:    87,376
On sale at:     Munich Legends

Engine:     5576cc, 12-cyl, SOHC
Transmission:    RWD, 6-speed manual
Power:     380bhp@5300rpm
Torque:     406b-ft@4000rpm
Weight:     1975kg

0-60mph:    5.8sec
Top speed:    155mph
Economy:     27mpg

Choose your BMW E31

1990: The model is launched with the 5.0-litre M70B50 V12 850i, which is good for 296bhp. You could choose from a four-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission.

1992: 4.0-litre V8 version called the 840Ci available, with 282bhp available. Same gearbox options as 850i. Around this time the 850i's engine was phased out as the M73B54, 5.4-litre V12 was introduced on the 850Ci. The new engine provided 322bhp. 850CSI launched with six-speed manual only, 375bhp and much sportier characteristics.

1995: 840Ci now has 4.4-litre V8; 850Ci gets 5-speed auto.

1999: Production ends.

Lewis Plumb