The BMW The 7 Series has been the German manufacturer’s most luxurious sedan since its introduction in 1977 model has come a long way since the 7 Series E23with each generation being a technological leap over the previous one.
The 7 Series has been powered by a range of engines over the years – from inline-4s to straight-6s, V8s and V12s, both naturally aspirated and turbocharged. The model also saw the addition of many new safety systems over the years, as well as the world’s first driver assistance and infotainment systems. The styling ranged from following the general BMW design language as in the case of the E38 to controversial elements that tested the market with the E65. BMW has always kept up with the Mercedes S-Classthe leader in the luxury executive sedan segment – all while being more attractive and sportier to drive.
The 7 Series is now in its 7th generation with the unveiling of the G70 7 Series and i7 – introducing the 7 that goes all-electric for the first time. So, before the i7 completely steals the show, here’s every generation of the BMW 7 Series.
7 Fourth generation (E65)
The E65 7 Series was a disappointment and by far the worst generation of the 7 Series† The pre-facelifted model was a mess of a design that proved too controversial for buyers. BMW solved most problems with the LCI (Life Cycle Impulse) refresh, but the E65 was already infected by then. As with every new 7, the E65 introduced new features, including the most important of all: the iDrive system.
Like the exterior, the interior was a departure from the BMW standard. The center console mounted gear lever was moved to the steering column and to make room for a cup holder, the parking brake was changed to a knob and moved to the dashboard. The E65 also did away with BMW’s traditional driver-angled center cluster. Like previous models, this car was available with a range of i6s, V8s and a world’s first direct injection V12 engine. So not all bad.
6 First generation (E23)
The BMW E23 7 Series was the first in the long line of executive BMW sedans† The E23 was introduced in 1977 and was built to replace the BMW ‘New Six’ E3 sedans of the early 1970s. The E23 had many firsts for BMW, including an on-board computer, service interval indicator, a ‘check control panel’ and a complex climate control system.
The E23 also featured a number of driver assistance systems, such as anti-lock brakes and front airbags. The entire E23 range was powered by inline-6 petrol engines, with displacements ranging from the 2.5-litre in the 725 to the 3.5-litre in the 745i. The European versions of the 745i used a 3.4-liter turbocharged engine that produced 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, while the South African 745i used a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter M88 engine – a version of the engine of the M1 supercar.
5 Second generation (E32)
The E32 Generation 7 Series was a leap in terms of technology and engineering† Introduced in 1986, the E32 featured traction control, active suspension, two-zone climate control and was available in two wheelbases for the first time. The model also featured projector-lens headlamps, double glazing and Xenon headlamps as firsts for a production car.
The E32 7 Series was originally available with inline-6 engines and a V12, but a V8 engine was added later. This model also saw the first instance of BMW’s famous L-shaped taillights – a design element that would be incorporated into many models over the years. The E32 was also one of the first cars redesigned by the tuning company, Alpina, to be even faster and more comfortable.
4 Fifth Generation (F01)
BMW played it safe with the F01 7-series, choosing to simply create an evolution of the E65 LCI’s design. The F01 was also the first BMW model to not have an internal ‘E’ code. The F01 was the first BMW available with a hybrid powertrain, an 8-speed automatic transmission, a turbocharged V12 and all-wheel drive in the form of xDrive.
The F01 was available with rear-wheel steering and radar cruise control, as well as rear seats with posts. The car also had cameras all around to make parking easier. The base model came standard with an inline-6 in the 730i, which evolved into a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 in the 750i and eventually a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 in the 760i. The ActiveHybrid7 was initially equipped with the V8, but it was downgraded to the i6 in favor of efficiency.
3 Third Generation (E38)
The BMW E38 7 Series is one of the best luxury sedans ever made† It was styled to match the design language of the era and the model was actually completed and approved 36 months before the planned start of production. The E38 7 Series introduced many new technologies, such as automatic leveling headlamps, tubular side airbags, electronic damper control, electric sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, and electronic seat and steering wheel adjustment.
The E38 was available with a range of inline-6 engines, as well as a V8 and the usual V12. The E38 was also the first 7 Series with a diesel engine and the last with a manual gearbox. This model was one of the first cars in Europe to receive satellite navigation using a series of discs on which maps were stored. The E38 had a multifunction steering wheel that controlled the audio, radio, television and other communication systems, as well as a special control system called the I-bus – a precursor to BMW’s iDrive. The BMW E38 7 Series is highly regarded for its design, driving dynamics and athleticism, making it one of the best BMW models ever.
2 Sixth Generation (G11)
The G11 7 Series saw yet another internal code change. The G11 was unveiled in 2015 and has been in production ever since† For the first time, the 7 Series passenger cabin is made of CFRP (Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Polymer), tensile steel and aluminum. This reduces the overall weight of the car and adds structural rigidity. The model also has self-levelling air suspension, automatic damper adjusters, an active anti-roll system and four-wheel steering on the xDrive models.
The G11 is the first 7 Series to feature a 4-cylinder engine in the base model 730i, as well as the lower end of the 740e plug-in hybrid. A 3.0-litre turbocharged i6, 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 and a mighty 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12 are available. The top spec of the G11 7 Series is the M760Li, which will be named ‘The Final V12’ in 2022, marking the end of the BMW V12 engine.
1 Seventh Generation (G70)
The BMW G70 7 Series and i7 were recently unveiled and caused quite a stir — with some praising the exterior design, and some loathing it. Either way, the new G70 will be a tech feast of driver assistance and entertainment. Highlights of the unveiling include the addition of an all-electric version, Cashmere seats and the absolutely huge theater screen for the rear passengers.
Engines in the US include two versions of the 3.0-liter i6, as well as a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8. All internal combustion 7 Series versions will receive mild-hybrid systems, with the ‘e’ suffixed versions being true hybrids. The top-end (for now) will be the M760e, which has a 3.0-liter inline-6 and a pair of electric motors, which together will produce 571 horsepower. The i7 xDrive60 will have twin engines producing a combined 544 horsepower, but BMW has confirmed a high-performance version of the i7 M70 that will have 660 horsepower. The new G70 7 Series and i7 promise to be the best flagship model yet.
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