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Used BMW 7 Series review: 2002-2013

EXPERT RATING
7
The BMW 7 Series is a large, prestigious German saloon aimed at travelling long distances while pampering its passengers with a smooth ride and near silent interior.

The BMW 7 Series is a large, prestigious German saloon aimed at travelling long distances while pampering its passengers with a smooth ride and near silent interior. It’s at its very best on motorways, though slightly out of place in Australia where our speed limits are set at low levels.

Despite its size the BMW 7 Series is a real drivers’ car, though, naturally, their greater mass makes them less nimble than their smaller brothers. Road grip is very high for such a big car. Steering is responsive and offers good feedback.

Styling was simple and elegant in the older models being looked at here, but the all-new E65 series, launched in 2002, took a radical new approach in styling. This created controversy but, interestingly, didn’t slow sales excessively. A major facelift in 2005 toned down the shape. The new BMW 7 Series that reached Australia in March 2009 carried a far more sedate shape.

BMW’s rather complicated iDrive system was intended to operate hundreds of functions, with the intention of doing away with virtually every button or switch. That didn’t happen and buttons and switches have gradually returned over the years. At the same time the operation of the iDrive has been simplified.

Most 7 Series sold in Australia have standard wheelbase bodies as they are intended to be driven by the owner. Long-wheelbase versions (look for an ‘L’ in their name) have extra legroom in the back and are often chauffeur driven – Aussies prefer to do their own driving.

Boot space is fair for a car of this size but the low, semi-sporty styling means the luggage area is relatively shallow. Part of the reason for the shallow boot is the use of rear-wheel drive. That makes for excellent overall balance on the road, but puts the differential under the rear floor.

Earlier BMW 7 Series had been famed for their straight six engines, but from the mid ‘90s these had been replaced by V8s. At the top of the engine tree are super-smooth, rather-expensive V12s. The big V12s are oriented to 200-plus km/h autobahn touring and in their older variants the torque characteristics aren’t all that suited to Australian use.

By the period being examined here they had much better low-rev torque. If you’re the sort of person who demands nothing but the biggest and best, there's nothing quite like the V12 under that long, elegant bonnet. The BMW 7-Series led the way in the move to major electronic controls of driving, safety and navigation.

The more recent the model the more computers it runs. Despite being in the field in the early days BMW didn’t really suffer from the early-adopter syndrome and we hear of no real ongoing problems. Servicing and repairs are quite expensive and the complex nature of the BMW 7 Series virtually demands that all the work be done at a BMW dealership. If you can't afford to run a car like this is makes a lot of sense not to buy it.

Repairs really should be left to experts. A good amateur mechanic will be able to do some work, but shouldn’t attempt it without a workshop manual. As always, safety items should only be touched by those who know what they are doing. Insurance isn’t cheap, hardly a surprise considering the complexity of these cars, and the cost of spare parts. While there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference between the premiums asked by insurance companies it’s probably smart to shop around. Keep in mind, though, that a long history with an insurer can benefit you if you make a claim that may be marginal.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Quite a few BMW 7-series are used as hire cars. These are generally looked after well and driven immaculately, but will have done a lot of work. If you think this is the case, look at the condition of the seats, dashboard top and rear parcel shelf as well as the carpets. Also check inside the boot.

An automatic transmission should engage gears from Neutral or Park within a second of the selector being moved. When on the move, shifts should be all but impossible to feel and hear. If the transmission remains in one gear at all times when Drive is selected it is running in its limp-home mode and needs attention - or passing up altogether.

Look over the body for repaired crash damage. If you suspect anything, no matter how apparently trivial, have it checked by an expert. If the crash turns out to be a bad one, it’s smart to follow up with a chassis alignment tested. The engine should start within about a second of the key being turned and, even on the coldest morning, settle immediately into a steady idle. Once the engine has warmed up try some hard acceleration from a standing start and look for smoke from the exhaust. Always have a BMW dealer do the final inspection.

CAR BUYING TIP

If you can’t afford to keep an upmarket car in the manner to which it is accustomed you’re probably better off without it.

Pricing

Year Price From Price To
2013 $36,300 $103,510
2012 $26,900 $81,950
2011 $26,900 $68,310
2010 $25,800 $66,880
2009 $22,500 $60,500
2008 $22,800 $55,220
2007 $21,500 $51,920
2006 $19,600 $51,920
2005 $17,700 $51,920
2004 $17,700 $45,980
2003 $17,700 $45,980
2002 $14,300 $32,010

View all BMW 7 Series pricing and specifications

Pricing guides

$23,155
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$14,300
Highest Price
$32,010

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
L7 5.4L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $23,600 – 32,010 2002 BMW 7 Series 2002 L7 Pricing and Specs
735iL High-Line 3.5L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $17,600 – 24,530 2002 BMW 7 Series 2002 735iL High-Line Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.