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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For It’s a fine-driving, hi-tech luxury car with a big interior and refined cruising abilities

Against Its looks are 'distinctive' at best, and the iDrive system annoys a lot of drivers

Verdict The 7 Series is powerful and refined, but its appearance isn't to all tastes

Go for… 730d

Avoid… 760i

BMW 7 Series Saloon
  • 1. Gearboxes and electrics need watching
  • 2. The air conditioning has a nasty habit of packing up, so check it's in full working order
  • 3. The cabin is huge and lavishly equipped
  • 4. The iDrive rotary control system can give irritating levels of trouble - check it all works
  • 5. The boot release mechanism is known to fail on some cars, so check it carefully
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BMW 7 Series Saloon full review with expert trade views

This was the first BMW to usher in the make’s new-age styling. Some praised its boldness but to others it just looked weird. BMW responded by softening its lines for the 2005 model year.

It’s a very big car, particularly if you go for a long-wheelbase version. In both, the cabin is huge and lavishly equipped, and the boot is enormous but awkwardly shaped.

Many of the gadgets are controlled using the iDrive system, which is operated by twirling and clicking a big silver dial between the front seats and following menus on a screen set into the dash. It’s complicated and has won few fans.

The speed-sensitive steering is accurate and body lean is well controlled without impinging on comfort. It makes the Seven a refined cruiser, but it can be jerky in stop-start traffic and there’s some mechanical clatter at speed.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Older models will sell, but highly price sensitive, 730i SE or Sport best

James Ruppert
Used car guru

We’d go for the 730i petrol or 730 diesel, although you’ll pay a fair bit more for the diesel because demand outstrips supply in the used market.

Other than these, there are three more petrols to consider: a 740i, 750i and 760i (the model number denotes engine size), but each costs more to own without bringing much more to the party.

Each model is available in standard form or long-wheelbase, which adds even more space in the back of the already big cabin. LWB models (badged Li) also have standard self-levelling suspension.

Auto gearboxes are standard, while the lavish spec of every Seven includes leather seats, climate control, cruise control and parking sensors. SE models gain bigger alloy wheels, a built-in phone and sat-nav.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Above average reliability - one of the better big executive cars

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

It shouldn’t pose the same threats to your wallet as the super-costly Audi A8, but there’s plenty to go wrong as the car enters its mid-life. What’s more, its second-hand value falls steeply over the first couple of years from new, so buying an ex-demo at only a few months old is expensive. Two- and three-year-old examples make better sense.

Servicing is expensive but, despite the cost, it’s best left to main dealers during the early years, because a full set of stamps in the service book will keep the car's resale value up in the future.

The lowest insurance costs come with the 730 diesel, which is in group 17, while the petrol 730i and the 740i are group 18. The 750i is group 19 and the 760i, group 20. Fuel economy runs from up to 34mpg for the diesel to 21mpg for the 760i.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Older models will sell, but highly price sensitive, 730i SE or Sport best

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The oldest cars’ engines and running gear seldom give trouble but the gearboxes and electrics need watching. In fact plenty of owners have reported nagging electrical faults early on.

The iDrive system contributes its share to the troubles. The air conditioning also has a nasty habit of packing up, while the electronic boot release mechanism jams, so make sure you check all of these when you test out a potential buy.

According to the What Car? Reliability Index, older 7-Series are reliable by the standards of luxury cars go and repairs are affordable, at an average of £350. Another thing in the Seven’s favour is the broad network of non-franchise garages that specialise in BMWs, offering good work at knockdown prices, but it's worth knowing that BMW main dealers often discount parts and labour by up to a third for cars once they reach four years old.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Above average reliability - one of the better big executive cars

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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