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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For The 7 Series benefits from a solid chassis, refined engines, and an excellent driving position

Against There are no diesel models, the low-speed ride is poor and the running costs are expensive

Verdict It gives great performance and solid build quality, and it's a wise executive car buy

Go for… 740i

Avoid… 750i

BMW 7 Series Saloon
  • 1. Problems with electrics and heating and cooling systems are reasonably common
  • 2. There's not enough room to carry three adult passengers in the rear
  • 3. From 1997, side airbags were standard, so these models are worth tracking down
  • 4. Wiper motors can be fragile - ensure they work properly
  • 5. On models from 2002 onwards, check the recall work to stop the engine cutting out was done
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BMW 7 Series Saloon full review with expert trade views

It’s starting to look a little dated now, but this car is reliable and enjoyable on the road. The V8 has enough power to make for an entertaining drive, and while the 728 can feel sluggish when overtaking, all models have an unruffled, fuss-free five-speed automatic transmission. The Seven handles positively around tight bends, and at speed this car feels rock-solid, with well weighted steering.

Later models received side airbags in 1997 and electric steering adjustment in 2001 as standard, but throughout the Seven’s evolution, the interior has always been comfortable and well put together, although the climate control is a little fiddly. Rattles and squeaks are uncommon.

The driving position is excellent, and added to that you get wonderfully supportive seating. Interior space is ample, but the middle of the rear bench is raised, which means there’s not really enough room to carry three adult passengers in the rear comfortably.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Prices for certain models like the 740 falling away, mint 728 sells

James Ruppert
Used car guru

You won’t go too far wrong with any of the models. The range was launched in 1994 with the 730 and 740 V8s. In 1996, the less powerful version was rebadged the 735, the 750 came out in 1995, and the six-cylinder 728 was launched in 1996. Then came the Sport version in 2001.

The 750i V12 offers fantastic acceleration, sat-nav and a Teletext TV mounted on the dash, but its running costs make it an unnecessary decadence. The V8s are both perfectly acceptable, although the engines are not completely bulletproof, and they can suffer bore wear. Also, don’t be surprised if repairs are needed to the running gear. The Sport models, with bigger wheels and tyres, may generate more road noise, particularly in the passenger compartment. Long-wheelbase versions also offer more space for rear passengers, and they are not quite so bouncy as the shorter models.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Above average reliability - one of the better big executive cars

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

A used 7 Series is a lot of car for the money, but none will be cheap to run. There are no diesel engines in the range, so there’s no way around the high fuel expenditure: the 322bhp V12 engine will not give you much more than 20mpg, whereas the V6 will return around 25mpg, with the V8’s fuel economy sitting somewhere in the middle.

The V6 is in group 17 for insurance and the V12 is in group 20. If that sounds on the steep side, then maybe you also need to consider the cost when the car goes wrong. BMW dealerships have comparatively high labour rates, while the 7 Series has fared poorly in recent reliability surveys, so there is a strong chance that during the course of your ownership you will have to fork out for some - possibly expensive - repairs.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Prices for certain models like the 740 falling away, mint 728 sells

James Ruppert
Used car guru

If your car needs repairs, chances are it will have problems with the heating and cooling systems. Electrical problems are reasonably common, too, so check all these carefuly before you buy. Wiper motors can be a little fragile, too.

Also, check that all recalls have been addressed: the 740i was called back because there were problems with the gearbox locking up; in 1999, BMW brought in Sevens because of worries with brake lights; in 2001, V8s were recalled following cooling fan glitches; and, in 2002, BMW issued another recall because there had been complaints of engines cutting out.

Check for service histories, and look out for evidence of repeated electrical glitches. The engine and transmission on the Seven are pretty sound, though, so although you can expect minor niggles with electricals and running gear, major repairs on the core mechanicals will be the exception rather than the rule.

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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