Typically the leader when it comes to introducing the latest and greatest BMW has to offer, the 7 Series is a line of luxury vehicles that has been in production since 1977. BMW's flagship, the 7 Series is only offered as a sedan or extended-length limo. The 7 Series tends to showcase the most futuristic technologies and design offerings before the regular lineup receives them.
Remaining true to its original character from the beginning, the 7 Series has always been the ideal choice for the wealthy car buyer in the market for a roomy and elegant sedan. Set apart from the competition, the elite 7 Series continues to deliver the refinement and power that the German automaker is always known for.
The first 7 Series Luxury offering from BMW was the 1977 E23, and the replacement to the E3 large sedan. This first-generation 7 Series was designed to directly compete with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and was the largest sedan BMW had ever built. Riding a 110.0-inch wheelbase, the E23 measured 191 inches long, 71 inches wide and had a height of 56 inches. With over 285,029 models built during its ten-year lifespan, the BMW E32 7 Series eventually replaced the E23 in 1986.
Assembled in Dingolfing, Germany, the E32 was launched in 1986 and ran until 1994. Riding on a 111.5-inch wheelbase, the successor to the E23 was 2 inches longer, 1.2 inches wider and 1 inch shorter. Weighing in at 3,790 pounds, the luxurious E32 offered exceptional luxurious like a wine cooler, integrated phone and fax machines, double-glazing and traction control system. The E32 also featured a system that kept the windscreen wipers firmly pressed to the glass at high speeds by automatically increasing spring pressure. This car was also offered in an 'L' extended wheelbase version with more rear leg room that the standard model.
Initial engine options were all six-cylinder petrol like the earlier generation, but by 1987 a V12 engine was introduced. The first V12-equipped 7 Series had a 5.0-liter engine that pumped out 296 hp. The base engine in 735i and 735iL models was a 208-hp 3.4-liter inline six-cylinder engine offered for most of the cycle. Standard was a four-speed automatic transmission while a five-speed manual was also available. In 1993 the 282 hp 4.0-liter V8 engine replaced the inline-6 yielding the 740i and 740il. Through the entire run the 750iL was offered. The
Replacing the E32 was the BWM 7 Series E38 in 1994. Assembled in Germany and now Toluca Mexico, the E38 rode on a 115-inch wheelbase, and had an increased length of 196.2 inches, a width of 73.3 inches and a height of 56.5 inches. Launched on February 17, 1994, the E38 was the first 7-series offered with a diesel engine, and the first to offer optional five-speed automatic transmission. Regarded by many 7 Series enthusiasts as the 'finest era' for the 7 Series, the third generation featured much less technology to distract the driver and focused more on the sleek classic lines BMW was famous for. In 1998 the Dynamic Stability Control system debuted across the entire lineup.
The third generation lineup included the standard-wheelbase 740i sedan, the long-wheelbase 740iL and 750iL. Powering the 740s was a 282 hp 4.4-liter V8 engine while the 750iL had a 5.4-liter V12 capable of 326 hp. All of the models came with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Showcased on the new E38 was Xenon headlights, and an integrated satellite navigation system, for the first time offered by a European car manufacturer. Making its big screen debut in 1997, the E38 750i was featured in the James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies. An E38 735i was also featured in The Transporter, driven by Jason Statham in the 2002 movie.
Introduced in 2001 was the fourth generation of the 7-Series, the E65. Proving to be the most controversial version due to its extreme styling and iDrive user problems, the E65 still broke many records and became the best-selling 7-Series model ever, especially after it's 2005 update. Considered by many to be the most radical version, the fourth generation eschewed the more traditional exterior styling cues and instead favored more aggressive devilish looks. Many BMW enthusiasts were unhappy with the look and considered it abrasive and even unrecognizable as a BMW 7 Series. A 2006 revamp certainly helped the design, but the model was definitely not winning any beauty awards at the time.
The first BMW to be powered by hydrogen was the Hydrogen 7. This fourth generation would be the first time that specific chassis codes were used for each version, with the E65 standing for the standard wheelbase model, the E66 as the long-wheelbase model, the E67 as the armored high security model, and the E68 as the Hydrogen 7l. In 2002 there was only a V8 offered, but following that year the lineup would always include a eight- and 12-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
From 2002 through 2005 the 745i and 745Li came equipped with a 325-hp 4.4-liter V8 engine while the 750i and 750Li that succeeded them came with a 360-hp 4.8-liter V8 engine. The performance stayed mostly the same for the 745's and 750s since the 750's were marginally heavier. With a capability of 438hp, the 760Li had a 6.0-liter V12 engine that was offered from 2003 on. From 2004 through 2006 BMW also offered a short wheelbase 760i version.
The interior of the fourth-generation featured an all-in-one system called iDrive, which controlled climate, navigation and audio all in a single console-mounted dial and a central display. Unfortunately the system required a steep learning curve that many drivers found confusing. iDrive continues to be upgraded throughout the years. Though its design was radical, the 7 Series of this generation still offered an excellent driving experience and offered innovative features like adaptive shock absorbers, self-stiffening antiroll bars and self-leveling air springs.
Launched in November 2008, the fifth generation of the 7-Series was a complete redesign and continues to be in production today. The first 7-series where all of the engines are turbocharged, the FO1/F02 became the first 7-series offered with an 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The only engine not turbocharged is the Asian-market 730i and 730Li variants. The five models offered this generation include the 740i and long-wheelbase 740Li featuring a twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-6 capable of 315 hp and 330 lb/ft of torque. The 750i and 750Li are powered by a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 pumping out 400 hp and 450 lb/ft of torque. Standard for the 750 models is a six-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive. The rear-drive only 760Li is powered by a 6.0-liter V12 produced 535 hp and 550 lb/ft of torque. It has an eight-speed automatic as standard.
The first 7-series to utilize an electric motor is the ActiveHybrid7. Rather than the previously chosen MacPherson struts, the front suspension is a double wishbone design.
Inside the limousine-like interior is an exceptional luxurious and spacious interior with sleek leather and rich wood accouterments. Customizable for nearly every body type the front seats are highly adjustable.
A variety of high-tech features like night-vision camera and sideview cameras make the drive as modern as possible. The Dynamic Driving Control systems features four different settings that completely alter the vehicles' driving characteristics and provide a customizable driving option.
Many consider this most current generation to be the most attractive with its sleek bodywork and slimmer trunk lid. Compared to previous editions the iDrive electronics interface has been improved over the years and made user-friendlier. The interior is now much more traditional and the gear selector has been relocated to the center console instead of the steering column. In 2010 the 760Li was debuted, the 740i the following year, and both became the first six-cylinder-powered 7-Series in over 20 years. Sources:
By Jessica Donaldson