BMW 7 Series for sale

With timeless styling, unmatched dynamism and Hollywood fame on its side, the E38-generation of BMW's flagship 7 Series is viewed by many enthusiasts as being representative of BMW at the height of its powers. We take a superb example of the flagship V12-powered 750iL for a spin.


Year and Make/Model: 1997 BMW 750iL (E38)

Engine: 5.4L V12-cylinder petrol

Transmission: 5-Speed Automatic

Mileage: 236 506km

Colour: Burgundy (Canyon Red)

Location: Cape Town

PRICE: R199 900

I remember my first E38 experience vividly. As a young motoring journalist at CAR magazine I was sent to collect a light metallic blue 740i from the brand's provincial offices, then located in the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. It was 2001, and this would be the last hurrah of the E38, with the upgrade bringing a few cosmetic and features tweaks.

As I nosed the hefty machine through Cape Town's twists and turns, I remember marveling at the car's ability to both "waft", like a Rolls-Royce, yet still offer precision and superb body control. I loved the high-tech bits of the cabin (that telephone between the seats), the multitude of buttons and when I parked it that night at my humble apartment, I will admit that it turned my head, more than once. 

The E38 today

Fast forward to 2022 and E38s can be picked up very cheaply, though great examples are increasingly hard to find. I lost out on a 740i earlier this year, so have been severely tempted by this 1997 750iL for some time. After, all, here's a flagship E38 with twelve cylinders, a seemingly flawless history, and one that has had a lot of money (in excess of R60 000, with the slips to prove it) recently spent on preventative and general maintenance. 

BMW 750iL for sale

Of course, one of the reasons why folks are scared of older cars like this is because of their perceived complexity and the cost of parts/fixing. That is why this example in particular is so appealing...

As the big burgundy (Canyon Red, to be exact) machine pulled up in front of our offices, I knew I was in trouble. I have looked at a few E38s in the past years, and while this one has a few scars on its paintwork here and there, it presents superbly and wouldn't take much more than a professional detailing service to look near new-showroom ready once more. 

BMW 750iL

At over 5m long, it still has significant presence, but it is a stately, elegant car that doesn't shout or attempt to shock, like later BMWs. Designer Boyke Boyer's simple, elegant lines have certainly stood the test of time. It stands in stark contrast to the E65 "Dame Edna" that followed, a car which was almost universally damned for its design.

BMW 750iL boot

Under the bonnet is a M73 5.4L V12 engine that was also used in the E31 8 Series and the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph. When people hear V12 they only think about exorbitant maintenance costs, but the M73 is supposedly not too temperamental - obviously a good service record is a must. The engine is relatively simple, being a single-overhead cam, naturally aspirated powerplant without VANOS. It delivers 240kW and 490Nm of torque, with power going to the rear wheels via a simple 5-speed automatic transmission (no flappy paddles here).

BMW 750iL

It is a silky smooth engine (see video featuring a R5 coin balancing on this car's engine below) and delivers its sizzling performance in a very smooth way, yet with enough of a subtle rasp to remind you that there's a V12 underneath that long bonnet. You should be able to get to 100kph in 6.5 seconds and the top speed is 250kph... impressive stuff for a 2-tonne limo dating from the end of the previous century.

And I don't use the word "limo" lightly. Its extended wheelbase affords rear passengers stretch-out space in their own electrically adjustable seats, and even footrests. For extra privacy there are roll-up sun blinds for the rear doors as well as an electrically operated rear window blind. The windows are double glazed and there's a sunroof, too. 

BMW 750iL

This particular car has an all-leather, sand-coloured interior which has worn surprisingly well given the light hue. Dark wood and a brown leather upper facia provide some lovely contrasting. A good detailing, as mentioned before, will elevate the impression it makes even more. The car is packed with features including a TV-capable navigation screen that also doubles as the infotainment "centre". The multifunction steering wheel is electrically adjustable for rake/reach.

BMW 750iL

Settled in, it was time to hit the road. You can tell a car has been taken care of when, even if the odo reads 236 506km, there isn't a rattle or a creak to be heard. In fact, it's a whisper quiet machine, with only that slightly raspy engine sound under acceleration breaking the silence. There's a magnificent delicacy to the car's major controls (steering, braking, throttle inputs) that makes the car feel much smaller and lighter than it really is. Switch EDC (Electronic Damper Control) to Sport and it is noticeably firmer and flatter in the corners. A car that can be hustled, then...


BMW 750iL

More than anything else, this drive has convinced me that I need to own an E38 one day. Why not now? And why not this particular car? It's, to be honest, a case of "right car, wrong time" for me personally, but I truly hope it goes to a caring home. It's a stunner.

If you are interested in this car, please see the listing here and submit an enquiry. The vehicle is based in Cape Town.

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