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TOP 5 BMW V8 CARS YOU SHOULD BUY

Posted by Matt Bell on 29th June 2021

With the rush to electric cars and hybridisation, we decided we’d pick out our top 5 BMW V8 cars you should buy.

The motoring world as we know it is changing – turbos are now the norm, manufacturers are downsizing engines and with the announcement that from 2035 there won’t be any more new internal combustion-powered cars on sale in the UK it feels like now is as good a time as any to celebrate the almighty V8, because this is an engine that is quickly being killed off. The V8 is something truly special and while it’s not always the most powerful engine option and certainly not the most economical, it always sounds amazing and delivers an old-school muscle car feel to any BMW that no other engine can match. If you’ve ever been tempted by something with a great V8 under the bonnet this is your lucky day – we’ve picked our top 5 BMW V8 cars to suit (just about) every budget and they’re all guaranteed to put a huge smile on your face.

Top 5 BMW V8 cars

BMW E38 740i

Engine: 4.0-litre M60B40/4.4-litre M62B44
Max power: 286hp
Max torque: 295/310/325lb ft

Why?

If you want to be a baller on a budget the E38 7 Series is where it’s at. It still looks money and is arguably a far more classy prospect than the E65 Seven that followed it. It’s one of those cars that needs almost nothing to look good and it’s great value for money when you’re hunting for a V8.

What to pay

While other older BMW V8 motors have seen prices rising steadily, the E38 is yet to have its moment in the sun and, as a result of that, you can pick one up for not too much money. £2000 will get you into a 740i with around 130k miles but if you can stretch to £4000 then you’re spoilt for choice. For that money, you can grab yourself an SE with under 100,000 miles and we found a couple of examples to choose from. We also saw a 180,000-mile Sport in Imola red up for £3450 and beautiful Individual facelift car with 122k for £4950.

Our pick

We’d love a Sport for the M paras and the slightly meatier styling as well as the improved seats, but we wouldn’t pay over the odds for one as the basic car captures the essence of the 7 Series experience perfectly, and with some mods you’ll be able to spice it up anyway.

The good

Every time you drive your 7 Series you will feel like you’ve made it. It’s comfy, sumptuous, built like a bank vault and so incredibly cosseting. This is the sort of classic luxury, refinement and ride quality that is timeless. Pull up somewhere in your Seven and you will always feel like a big deal.

The bad

The M60 suffers from the Nikasil bore-wear issue, while on the M62 you need to be aware of the chain tensioners and plastic guides, and also the cooling circuit on both, including the water pump. Fuel tanks rust and leak and if the charcoal canister/vent gets clogged it will lead to the fuel tank imploding. Rust isn’t too big of an issue, but check the bottoms of the doors and the metal sunroof panel. The suspension and bushes also take some punishment due to the car’s weight so expect to have to spend some money there. Inside expect some electrical issues like the pixels disappearing on the OBC display.

Modding potential

Not huge, but you don’t need a lot to make an E38 stand out. Drop it on air, add some deep-dish splits and you’re basically there; you can get the Alpina-look front spoiler that does a good job of enhancing the front end, you might want to add the facelift rear lights, and, naturally, we’d add an exhaust to enjoy that BMW V8 but, otherwise, the best builds keep it simple and let the car’s natural class shine through.

We say

For the money, the E38 7 Series is an exceptional buy and one of the cheapest ways into BMW V8 ownership. The third-gen Seven has aged incredibly well and still looks smart and sharp, delivers exceptional levels of comfort and refinement, and just a few mods will make it look absolutely awesome. Balling on a budget has never been easier.

BMW E31 840Ci

Engine: 4.0-litre M60B40/4.4-litre M62B44
Max power: 286hp
Max torque: 295/310lb ft

Why?

Up until very recently, there was only one 8 Series and the original is still a unique and special machine. It looks quite unlike anything else BMW has ever produced and still turns heads today, and will get you attention wherever you go. If you’re looking for a unique V8 experience, this is it.

What to pay

840s start from around £8000, which will get you an M60-powered model, while £9000 will get you a 4.4-litre Sport with around 130k on the clock. If you want a tidy Sport with under 100k on the clock then you’ll need to spend around £15,000.

Our pick

If we can stretch to it we’d go for an 840Ci Sport – the 4.4-litre M62 is the better and more reliable engine and the Sport looks that much sexier. There are a handful of manual cars out there but we wouldn’t bother holding out for one, the auto suits the character of the car
just fine.

The good

It’s got pop-up headlights, which are an instant win, and it’s also a pillarless design, which just ramps up the cool factor. It looks stunning and it’s an absolutely superb GT, comfy, wafty, able to effortlessly eat up miles and look cool while doing it. Also, you probably won’t see another one so the exclusivity is a big part of the appeal.

The bad

It’s heavy, it’s slow and it’s not entertaining to drive. If you’re looking for something fun, this isn’t it. The M60 suffers from the Nikasil bore-wear issue, while the M62 is sturdy but check for leaking rocker cover gasket and failing timing chain tensioners which can lead to the plastic timing chain guides breaking, which will leave you with a large bill. Expect a lot of electrical niggles at this age, the suspension setup is complicated with a lot of components and the weight really takes its toll on all those arms and bushes, and if you get one with EDC it’s going to break and will be expensive to repair. Age and mileage are this car’s greatest enemy and can land you with some serious bills.

Modding potential

Wheels and suspension options are decent, styling less so with the Sport pretty much the best-looking setup for this car, and you can supercharge the M62, while the M60 can be perked up with an eBay chip (old-school tuning). Don’t forget an exhaust as it’s easy to get it sounding glorious. Beyond that, there’s not really much on offer, but lowered on the right wheels an 8 Series will look a million dollars.

We say

Far from the last word in driving dynamics and capable of crippling your wallet and your bank account in one fell swoop, the 8 Series is, nevertheless, hugely charming and still a sexy-looking beast. If you want to stand out from the crowd in something a bit special and can stomach some potentially costly repairs, it’s definitely worth a look.

BMW E39 M5

Engine: 4.9-litre S62B50
Max power: 400hp
Max torque: 369lb ft

Why?

You can’t possibly have a V8 buying guide without including the OG V8 M machine, the E39 M5. A legend in its own lifetime, the E39 M5 remains an incredible car to this day and delivers the perfect blend of everyday comfort with monster performance and sublime handling.

What to pay

While M5 prices have been climbing steadily over the years not all examples have been affected and, as a result of this, the price range for cars is huge depending on age, mileage and condition. The absolute cheapest cars start at around £8000, and for this you can pick up a 170k-mile car, and we surprisingly found two facelift models at this price point. Head towards the £11,000-mark and you get a bit more choice, but mileages are still high at around 130-140k; £15,000 will get you something with under 100k on the clock and the very best low-mileage examples will set you back upwards
of £20,000.

Our pick

We’d forego fancy options and concentrate on getting the best car we can – BMW was pretty stingy with standard spec so you could really go nuts with the options when the M5 was new. But, to be honest, the sat nav is going to feel very old by now, and while things like Heritage leather and Extended leather are nice it’s not as if the M5 feels cheap and low-rent on the inside anyway, and besides, it’s really all about the driving experience.

The good

The S62 is a monster engine that delivers huge mid-range torque but also loves to rev, and it makes the M5 an awesome machine, and it’s still seriously fast even by today’s standards. Then you have that chassis, which manages to deliver the perfect blend of ride comfort and absolutely superb handling, and it makes the M5 feel superb on just about any road. The steering is faster than that of a standard E39 and offers more feel and the whole package is just absolutely sublime. The E39 M5 won every group test it was in back in the day – with good reason – and it has lost none of its sparkle today.

The bad

General stuff will be age- and mileage-related so expect failing pixels on the OBC display, the heater resistor playing up, and look out for rust, especially on the sills around the jacking points, around the fuel filler cap and along the boot lid edge. The various suspension components will also have taken a beating over the years so budget to have to replace arms and bushes. The S62 does suffer from several problems that you need to be aware of, the major one being rod bearings. These wear prematurely when owners don’t allow the engine oil to fully warm up before driving the car hard, and if they fail then you’re looking at a hefty bill for some substantial engine repairs, if not a new engine. The best thing to do is to drive the car slowly and gently, keeping the revs low until the oil temperature gets close to 100°C, but with no idea of how the car’s been driven it’s definitely worth getting the bearings changed as a precautionary measure, especially at high miles. The timing chain tensioners can fail, which in turn will damage the chain guides, and the VANOS can also be problematic but it can be rebuilt and isn’t too expensive to fix these days.

Modding potential

Huge and there’s an awful lot you can do to an M5. Styling options are limited, but there are splitters and diffusers you can add, and if you have a pre-facelift car it’s easy enough to fit the facelift front and rear lights. You have loads of suspension options with some excellent coilovers to suit all budgets, plenty of wheel options and big brake upgrades as well. In terms of performance, there are a few NA mods you can do, like fitting a set of free-flowing tubular exhaust manifolds, and the obligatory exhaust is, of course, a must, but if you want some real power then it’s all about supercharging. There are a few kits available, with the most affordable of these being the ESS VT1-560 kit at around £5000, with other options available from Evolve and RMS.

We say

Prices may have been rising but the E39 M5 remains an affordable proposition, especially for such an iconic machine. Delivering the perfect blend of handling and performance with those timeless good looks, it’s an awesome package and a real driver’s car that shouldn’t be too ruinous to run and offers plenty of modding options. A true M icon that remains every bit as desirable today as it was back in the day.

BMW E9x M3

Engine: 4.0-litre S65B40
Max power: 400hp
Max torque: 295lb ft

Why?

The first – and only – V8-powered M3, the E9x remains every bit as awesome today as it was when it was first launched back in 2007. It combines aggressive, muscular styling with a razor-sharp chassis and that magnificent S65 that revs like nothing else, making this an intoxicating performance machine.

What to pay

The E9x M3 is so cheap now that, if it falls within your budget, we can really think of no reason not to buy one and question why you’d bother looking at anything else. You can pick up an E92 M3 with under 100k on the clock for just £11,500, which is kind of crazy when you consider just how much car you’re getting for the money. That will get you an early manual example and as prices creep up past £12k you’ll find saloons appearing along with convertibles and all of them will have around 100k miles or less. DCT cars start from £13,000, while £13,500 will get you a facelift manual saloon and we spotted a couple of higher mileage LCI coupés and convertibles here as well, but realistically you’ll need to spend closer to £15,000 for a facelift convertible or saloon and closer to £17,000 for a facelift coupé. The various special and limited edition models, meanwhile, tend to sit nearer the £20,000-mark and above.

Our pick

Our personal preference would be the coupé as you get that carbon roof, we’d pick DCT over the manual gearbox as it really suits the S65 so well, while EDC is nice to have but not essential, especially if you’re looking to upgrade the suspension anyway. The Comp pack, with its M359 19s, lower suspension and tweaked EDC is tempting but, again, only if you’re not looking to mod the car much in these areas. The special editions, meanwhile, can be appealing if you like a certain colour or the trim, or just fancy something a little more individual, but they are a chunk more expensive than the regular models.

The good

The E9x M3 is an absolutely awesome machine to drive and it’s a car that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The S65 is simply sensational and the way it revs all the way to 8300rpm, feeling the way the power just keeps on building, all overlaid by that howling V8 symphony is something truly special and this car is an event. It’s not too big, meaning it fits comfortably on B roads, but still has loads of space inside and is a genuinely usable everyday proposition. The chassis is sharp and the handling is exceptional, and this is a machine that can really deliver next-level driving thrills.

The bad

There’s really not too much to worry about on the E9x M3 in general. The main issues to be aware of are both engine-related; the first is rod bearing wear, similar to that on the S62 in the E39 M5. The cause is the same, owners thrashing the engine from cold before the oil is hot enough, and excessive wear will eventually lead you to spin a bearing which is obviously very bad news. As before, keep the revs low (2-3k rpm) and throttle inputs gentle before the oil gauge reaches around 100°C and if the bearings haven’t been changed budget to get them done (£1500) as a precautionary measure. There’s no set mileage at which they fail and the oil analysis tests you can do aren’t foolproof. The other issue is electronic throttle actuator failure, but they can be rebuilt for under £500 for the pair, which really isn’t bad at all. Other negatives are the small fuel tank which, combined with the thirsty S65, means a small range, and the engine does really need to be revved to get the most from it and can feel a little flat before it really gets going.

Modding potential

With a car as popular as the M3, it’s no surprise that the aftermarket is absolutely brimming with mods and there’s so much you can do. For styling, you can have anything and everything in carbon, from the smallest vents to a whole vented bonnet, there are splitters, side skirt extensions, diffusers, CSL boot lids, the works. There are loads of lowering springs to choose from as well as a lot of excellent coilover kits available for the car, some with electronic damping, and there are numerous big brake kits to choose from, meaning you’re fully sorted on the chassis front. As for power, NA tuning is a little limited, but a primary de-cat and remap to go with it can net you an additional 20-30hp, and PSDesigns’ awesome velocity stack kit not only looks and sounds incredible but will also get you around 475hp. If you want more then supercharging is the best option, with centrifugal kits available from infinitas, ESS and VF Engineering, and each company has something to suit most budgets, and around £6000 will get you around 600hp. There’s also the positive displacement supercharger kit available from Harrop; it’s a lot more expensive at around £10,000 but adds huge low-end torque along with impressive power gains.

We say

The S65 is a sensational engine and the E9x M3 is an absolutely spectacular all-round package. Problems are few so it won’t be too expensive to look after, there’s a near-limitless selection of mods to choose from and huge horsepower is easily attainable, and while the S65 does make you work for the power, that just makes it all the more satisfying when you really open it up. For the money, the E9x M3 is an absolute steal.

BMW F10 M5

Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbo S63B44
Max power: 560hp
Max torque: 502lb ft

Why?

After the V10-powered E60 M5 we all wondered where BMW could take the M5 next and the answer to that question was back to a V8, but with a pair of turbos strapped to it, and the result was explosive. The S63 made an eye-watering 560hp with a monster 502lb ft of torque and fed all that through an M DCT seven-speed ‘box; this was the quickest M5 we’d ever seen and, in terms of performance and tuning potential, this V8 monster can’t be beaten.

What to pay

Back when it was new in 2012, the F10 M5 weighed in at a hefty £73,000 and easily broke the £80k-mark with some options on board, so be able to pick one up for less than a third of that eight years on is astonishing, but the market has far from bottomed out. The cheapest M5s we found are £18,000, which we appreciate is still a fair old chunk of money, but it’s £18k for an F10 M5! These have about 80k miles, which is pretty reasonable, but chuck another £2k on top of that and you can bag yourself a 50,000-mile example. Facelift cars are about £22,000, while Competition models are around £25,000.

Our pick

There’s no such thing as a bad F10 M5 and we’d be happy with whatever we bought. The LCI changes were minor and you can retrofit the later, smaller steering wheel so that’s no big deal. At £20k for an M5 you really can’t go wrong and while the Competition pack is tempting, if you’re planning on modding the additions it brings won’t be worth the extra £5000 to you. While the options list was extensive, there are only a few things we’d have on our wish list: extended leather is nice and makes the interior feel that bit more special, the 20s are definitely a must-have as the 19s look way too small, and we’d also try to find a car with the M Sport multi-function seats as they look and feel even better than the standard seats and offer more support and adjustment.

The good

The most impressive part of the F10 M5 package is without a doubt the performance because it is truly otherworldly. 560hp is a lot, and a 0-62 time of 4.3 seconds is not but on-paper figures really can’t convey how insanely fast this car is in the real world. Seriously, we can’t tell you how quick this car really is. Beyond the performance, you’ve got the extremely impressive handling, and you won’t believe how light on its feet the M5 feels. It’s a truly exceptional package on every level.

The bad

There’s actually very little to worry about on the F10 M5 and, apart from oil pump failures on early cars and a small number of owners experience engine problems, it’s been holding up extremely well so far, with owners proclaiming it the most reliable M5 yet. Some cars suffer from high oil consumption and there are occasional problems with injectors and airflow meters, but that’s about it, really. There were some air-con failure-based recalls for the F10 platform and some cars suffer from rattles around the B-pillars and door trims, but if that’s all you have to worry about we’d say you’ve ended up with a really good car. The only other downside is the F10 M5’s sheer size – yes, it handles exceptionally well and feels light on its feet, but it never feels small and never shrinks around you and this is a car that is definitely best suited to fast, open roads rather than twisting B roads.

Modding potential

Really huge and the F10 M5 might be the best-supported M5 yet when it comes to mods. Browse any BM tuning site and you will see countless options when it comes to splitters, skirt extensions and diffusers, so you’re covered there. You’re spoilt for choice as far as wheels are concerned and there’s a decent selection of suspension upgrades available too. Of course, it’s really all about performance with the F10 M5 and huge horsepower gains are so easy to get – just a tuning box or a map will get you an increase of around 100hp and if you pair that with a set of catless downpipes you’ll have around 700hp to enjoy. Beyond that you’ll need some uprated turbos – plus the supporting mods to go with them – at which point you’ll be hitting 800hp+ without your S63 even breaking a sweat.

We say

The most powerful car on our list and the most powerful M5, the F10 is a monumental machine and the fact that you can buy one for just £18,000 is incredible. Modding potential is vast, huge horsepower gains are incredibly easy to achieve, it’s proving reliable and it’s an astonishingly accomplished car all-round. If you want to go fast, this is the V8 to throw your money at and you will not be disappointed with an F10 M5 in your life.

From Performance BMW. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Marcus Lundell, BMW, Rich Pearce, Patrik Karlsson, Matt Richardson, Matt Woods