1995-2002 BMW 7 SERIES
WHEN it comes to luxury cars, Mercedes-Benz rules the roost. Its S-Class has been the benchmark for all comers, including BMW’s 7 Series, for years.
Benz has moved down the classes over time, but it is still defined by the cars at the pinnacle of its range.
BMW, on the other hand, began with small and mid-sized prestige cars. It is still best known for its 3 and 5 Series, but the 7 Series fights for a place on the luxury podium.
BMW has built some of the best-looking cars to grace our roads in the past 30 years.
The 5 Series, in particular, has perfect proportions and seamless lines. The E38 7 Series was a grown-up version of the wonderful mid-sized model.
Underneath, the big BMW had a strut suspension at the front and multilink independent at the rear.
It handled well, but it wasn’t as sporty as the rest of the range. That’s not surprising given its role was to provide smooth-riding comfort, which it did.
Engines were 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5-litre V8s and a 5.4-litre V12. The V8s ranged in output from the 160kW and 290Nm of the 3.0-litre V8 to 210kW and 400Nm in the 4.5-litre V8. The V12 produced 240kW at 5000 revs and 490Nm at 3900 revs. All were linked to five-speed automatic transmissions. As expected of a car costing $200,000, a new 7 Series came with everything that opened and shut. Alloy wheels, automatic airconditioning, cruise control, 10-speaker CD sound, leather and wood trim were included.
Sunroofs, power seats with memory settings, navigation systems and a power rear blind were some of the things added in models up the pecking order.
After the GFC shock, buyers turned away from big cars such as the 7 Series and as a result they are going relatively cheaply.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
As in all BMWs, the radiators are a problem. The plastics used in the tanks deteriorate and eventually fall apart.
Electrics can be a problem, and the 7 Series is packed with them. Check all the car’s systems, including windows, which commonly cause trouble.
LCD instrument read-outs fade and eventually fail altogether.
Find a service specialist to look after your car, otherwise you will be paying plenty to a factory dealer. Specialists usually can find less expensive parts.
Engines, gearboxes, drivelines and suspension are all robust and give little trouble.
The 7 Series was packed with the latest technology, such as anti-skid brakes, traction control and electronic stability control. It also had front, side and curtain airbags.
Add its mass and the 7 Series had almost everything going for it.
At almost two tonnes and with its power provided by a V8 or a V12, a 7 Series was no fuel miser. Expect 15 to 16 litres/100km from a V8 and even higher from a V12.