Buyer Guide: 2002-2008 BMW 7 Series

Photography Courtesy BMW

A late-model BMW 7 Series can offer it all: luxury, performance and great value. What was originally a six-figure investment can now be had for economy-car money. 

In the name of full disclosure, though, these E65-chassis BMWs arrived with a bit of baggage–and mixed reviews. Some said Chris Bangle’s styling ignored BMW’s traditional design language. Others said the brand had simply lost its way. 

The car also came with the most debated feature ever offered by the company: iDrive. This system used a single knoblike joystick to control many of the car’s major functions, from the sound system to the climate control. On top of that, the first cars had some mechanical issues.

By the time the 7 Series was fully baked, however, it was a complex and innovative luxury sports sedan encompassing many notable technological advances. Oh, and a V12 engine was optional. 

The 7 Series again went up against the S-Class Mercedes-Benz and forced BMW to up its ante. As a result, the 7 Series sported one BMW’s nicest interiors to date as well as great steering and the full-featured entertainment system expected in this class. 

Of course, it also needed some powerful engines in its arsenal to stay competitive. The standard powerplant was a strong 4.4-liter V8 that produced 325 horsepower and 330 ft.-lbs. of torque. It could propel the nearly 5000-pound machine to 60 mph in about 5.9 seconds.

Then there was the available V12 engine–yes, a V12. It made 436 horsepower and 444 ft.-lbs. of torque. Zero-to-60 acceleration took just 5.4 seconds. Both models were electronically limited to 149 mph.

While true technological marvels, top-tier luxury cars like this one depreciate like a stone. When new, one of these E65-chassis BMWs pulled in $76K to $123K. They may be a few generations old, but the fact that they resemble the current model means you can look rich without spending richly.

Care and Feeding

These BMWs have “sealed for life” automatic transmissions. Regardless of whether a car was always dealer-serviced, the dealer did not change the auto fluid. 

Many of these boxes are failing at around 120,000 to 150,000 miles, however. If this happens, replacing the transmission can cost as much as $6K. Luckily, a good, independent BMW specialist can change the fluid for you, allowing the transmission to last the life of the car. Ensure that the fluid is flushed out every 60,000 miles–or more, preferably–at each Inspection II. Check the records to see if this has been done on any car you’re researching.

Last Piece of Advice

If you’re still tempted to get a first- or second-year version of the car, we’ll make it plain: Do not buy a first-year E65 BMW, no matter how good a deal it seems to be. Even the later cars should be checked over by a BMW specialist, and every system must work correctly. If it fails the tests in any way, run. Run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

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View comments on the CMS forums
Nickdoc New Reader
9/8/21 4:39 p.m.

Having owned several pefectly stylish BMWs up to an E30, I would't go near any of these late big Bimmers if only for their awful looks....

(citing ".....the brand had simply lost its way."  hits the nail on its head)

wspohn SuperDork
9/9/21 10:09 a.m.

Have to agree - I'd go out and find a nice low miles 850 instead.

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