ⓘ Blog | BMW 7 Series, E38 - bmw 7 series. Produced from April 1994 to 2001, the BMW E38 was the third generation of the BMW 7 Series. The flagship represented an att ..

BMW 7 Series (E38)

BMW 7 Series (E38)

Produced from April 1994 to 2001, the BMW E38 was the third generation of the BMW 7 Series. The flagship represented an attractive evolution in design language of the prior E32 generation. The new 7 was available with straight-six, V8 and V12 petrol and straight-six and V8 diesel engines. In 2001, the E38 was replaced by the E65 7 Series.

The E38 was the first car available with curtain airbags. It was also the first European car to offer satellite navigation and the first BMW to offer an in-built television. The E38 was the first 7 Series to be available with a diesel engine.


1. Development

In early 1988, development began on the third generation of the 7 Series. From 1988 to 1990 styling work was done initially under design director Claus Luthe through April 1990, taken over by Dr. Wolfgang Reitzle, when Boyke Boyers concept design was chosen and further refined into production form.

In February 1991, the final production design for the new 7 Series was approved by the board 36 months ahead of scheduled start of production for February 17, 1994. On April 27, 1993 German design patents were filed featuring a pre-production prototype as a design representation. Patents were later filed on October 27, 1993 in the United States.


2. Production

Production started on July 23, 1993 on pilot production models and US specification variants on January 13, 1994, with series production commencing in April 1994 for June 1994 domestic German launch with the 730i and 740i. US-specification cars entered production in September 1994, for November 1994 launch. On February 18, 1994, the E38 BMW 7 Series was unveiled for the 1995 model year via a BMW press release. The 750i production began in November 1994, in advance of its January 1995 launch.

The last E38 a silver 740i with a black leather interior rolled off BMWs assembly line on July 27, 2001 to make way for the replacement E65 7 Series.


3. Equipment

Safety features include ASC+T traction control, headlight washers and auto-leveling low beam xenon HID headlamps. Side tubular airbags called "Head Protection System" were fitted as standard equipment. "Active Comfort Seats" were introduced in 1998, to improve comfort and reduce fatigue for the driver and front passenger. This system uses two fluid-filled bladders which alternate in height.

Other equipment includes Electronic Damper Control called EDC III, power moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, dual zone climate control, electric drivers seat adjustment and electric steering wheel adjustment.

Double glazed windows were available called "dual pane glass". Break resistant laminated "security glass" was also available, which is known to delaminate. The delamination occurred with the Protection S357A option only, not with normal S352A dual pane windows. Bullet-resistant glass was used for the Protection model, with even thicker glass used for the Security model.

The Sport Package included a sport steering wheel, sports seats, sports suspension, "shadowline" exterior trim and unique wood trim for the interior. Some sports models also included a shorter differential ratio and higher stall speed for the torque converter. This allowed for a 0–97 km/h 60 mph acceleration time of 5.9 seconds.


4. In-car electronics

The E38 was the first European car to be available with satellite navigation, a system called CARIN jointly developed by BMW and Philips.

The in-car entertainment are part of an automotive communication system called I-bus.

A "multi-function" steering wheel, with controls for the audio, phone, cruise control and air recirculation, was standard equipment.


5. Transmissions

A 5-speed ZF 5HP automatic transmission was available on all models.

In some markets, a 5-speed manual transmission was available for the 725tds, 728i, 730i, 735i and a 6-speed for the 740i.


6.1. Special models L7

From 1997 to 2001, BMW sold an extended wheelbase limousine model called the L7. The wheelbase was extended by 250 mm 9.8 in over the "iL" models, resulting in an overall length of 5.37 m 211.4 in. Features included electrically adjustable rear seats, rear footrests, fold down rear trays, a fridge, rear television screen, video player and a fax machine.

Based on the 750iL with a 12-cylinder engine, the L7 has an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h 155 mph. The L7 was only available in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Europe, and 899 examples were built. The 2000-2001 models had an optional "privacy window" glass partition to separate the driver from the rear passengers.


6.2. Special models Protection line

The armoured "Protection Line" vehicles were built from 2000–2001 and were based on the 740iL and 750iL models. Security features include body armor, bullet-resistant glass and run-flat tyres. An intercom system is provided to communicate with people outside the vehicle while the windows and doors are shut.


6.3. Special models Security line

A High-Security version with protection up to B6/7 was also available in Europe, known internally as the 750iL S. The additional security measures brought an additional weight of 950 kg 2.094 lb compared to the normal 750iL Features include explosive cord around the windshield allowing removal of the windshield facilitating escape through it in case of a rollover crash and Hydraulically actuated windows. A gas sensor can detect irritants like CS gas and respond by turning the blower motor off closing the fresh air flaps and all windows. A fire suppression system is triggered by either a button or the detection of extreme temperatures in the engine bay or the vicinity of the fuel tank. A breathing air system is also available which delivers air from a cylinder in the trunk, up to three firearms cases designed to fit a Heckler & Koch MP5K were also optionally available as well as spherical gunports in the doors.


6.4. Special models Hydrogen 750hL

On May 11, 2000, BMW presented a fleet of fifteen 750hLs in Berlin. Its twelve-cylinder hydrogen combustion engine can be operated on both hydrogen and petrol. In operation on hydrogen, it delivers 150 kW 201 hp; 204 PS, accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h 62 mph in 9.6 seconds and slowing the car to attain a top speed of 226 km/h 140 mph.

The production of the hydrogen engine was integrated into the regular engine production at the Dingolfing plant. It differs from the conventional petrol engine essentially only in regards to the intake tract with additional injection valves for hydrogen. The hydrogen is stored cryogenically at a temperature of minus 253 degrees Celsius in a double-walled steel tank behind the rear seat back. The hydrogen tank holds 140 litres and allows an additional range of 350 km 217 mi. In addition, the 750hL has a fuel cell rated at 5 kW 7 hp; 7 PS at 42 volts. This is not used as a drive unit, but as an auxiliary power unit APU for power supply to the electrical system.

During the Expo 2000 in Hanover the vehicles were used as shuttles. From February to November 2001 the vehicles were part of the "CleanEnergy WorldTour 2001" in the cities of Dubai, Brussels, Milan, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Berlin. By November 2001 the 750hL had achieved a mileage of over 150.000 km. On the Nurburgring the 750hL recorded a time of 9 minutes and 53 seconds while powered by hydrogen.


6.5. Special models Alpina B12

Based on the BMW 750i and 750iL, Alpina introduced the B12 5.7 in 1995 and the B12 6.0 in 1999. In contrast to the cars they are based on, these models are not electronically limited to a top speed of 250 km/h 155 mph, but can attain top speeds of more than 280 km/h 174 mph and 291 km/h 181 mph, respectively. According to Alpina the B12 5.7 was the worlds first vehicle with an electrically heated metal catalyst as standard. The B12 5.7 has a 5.7 litre V12 and the B12 6.0 has a 6.0 litre V12.


7. North American model range

The models for sale in the North America were the 740i, 740iL and 750iL, and production began in the second half of 1994. The base prices in 2001 were US$62.900 for the 740i, US$66.900 for the 740iL and US$92.100 for the 750iL.

The 750iL was BMWs flagship vehicle, with a 5.4 L 330 cu in V12 engine rated at 322 bhp 240 kW; 326 PS. A long-wheelbase variant was available for all petrol models.


8.1. Model year changes 1995

  • 740i/740iL models use differential ratio of 3.15, compared with 2.92 for following years.
  • DSC III Dynamic Stability Control becomes optional on the 740i/740iL and 750i/750iL.
  • Standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control, electric front seats with a three-position memory for the driver’s seat, front-seat side tubular airbags, a six-disc CD changer, and satellite navigation.
  • V8 models use a Nikasil bore coating, which experiences failures in countries with high sulfur petrol see M60 article.
  • E38 Production begins in 1994, for the 1995 model year. Initial models were the 725tds, 730i/730iL, 740i/740iL and 750i/750iL.

8.2. Model year changes 1996

  • M62 engine replaces M60 for V8 models. The capacity on 740i and 740iL engines increases from 4.0 L to 4.4 L.
  • An S-EDC electronic sports suspension, onboard TV and satellite navigation system offered as options.
  • 728i and 735i models introduced

8.3. Model year changes 1997

  • Front passenger head airbags introduced. In late 1997, E38 7 Series and E39 5 Series became the worlds first cars available with side impact head airbags. These are known as "Inflatable Tubular Structure" or "Head Protection System", and were available as optional equipment. These airbags are designed to offer head protection in side impact collisions and also maintained inflation for up to seven seconds for rollover protection.
  • The 750iL actually a re-badged 740iL is extensively featured in the 18th James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies starring Pierce Brosnan.

8.4. Model year changes 1998 mid-life facelift

The E38 facelift also known as Life-Cycle Impulse models were introduced in the 1999 model year produced from September 1998. The major changes are:

  • Revised styling for headlights and tail-lights.
  • Sport Package ZSP option code released, including M Sport suspension, Style 37 "M Parallel" alloy wheels, Contour seats and shadowline exterior trim.
  • 728i engines upgraded to the "technical update" TU version of the M52, featuring variable valve timing on both camshafts double-VANOS
  • DSCIII electronic stability control becomes standard on all 7 Series models.
  • 735i and 740i engines upgraded to the "technical update" TU version of the M62, featuring variable valve timing on the intake camshaft single-VANOS.
  • 740d model introduced, powered by the 3.9L M67 V8 twin-turbocharged diesel engine.
  • Head airbags become standard on all 7 Series models.


8.5. Model year changes 1999

  • From March, features such as Xenon headlamps, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, headlight washers, GPS navigation, and upgraded audio became standard for US models.
  • The 750 now includes Electric Catalytic Converter, or "E-CAT", assemblies. Heating coils inside the catalytic converter assemblies are electrified just after engine start, bringing the catalyst up to operating temperature very quickly to qualify the vehicle for Low emission vehicle LEV designation. This system required the use of a two-battery system. This electric catalytic converter had been fitted since 1995 by Alpina to their B12 5.7 E-KAT saloon based on the BMW 750i, as it had been developed jointly by Emitec, Alpina and BMW.

8.6. Model year changes 2000

  • Display for satellite navigation upgraded in September to 6.5 inch 16:9 screen.
  • A radar-based adaptive cruise control called Active Cruise Control became available as an option.
  • Navigation upgraded to MKIII in September, therefore maps for satellite navigation switch to CD format.

8.7. Model year changes 2001

  • Sport package becomes available on 750iL.
  • Cosmetic changes including body-colored side skirts and bumper facias previously black, clear turn signal lenses previously amber.
  • Additional standard equipment, including a Motorola StarTAC or TimePort mobile phone, with BMW Assist telemetry system.

9. Film

Contributing to the E38s continued popularity was its appearance in several films such as Tomorrow Never Dies 750iL, Bumer "Бумер" 750iL, Enemy of the State 740iL, Invictus 740iL, Bad Santa 740iL, Fun with Dick and Jane 740iL, Valley of the Wolves TV series L7, Showtime 740i, The Transporter 735i which was a one off manual 750i badged as a 735i, Live Free or Die Hard 740i, Transformers 740iL, The Game 740iL, The Sum Of All Fears and Les Anges gardiens 740i. Even though it was the only featured car in the series to be replaced the following year, the E38 740i featured in the BMW Film Ambush which was released in fall 2001.

In the 18th James Bond feature film Tomorrow Never Dies, the sixteen E38 cars used during production were modified so they could be driven from the backseat, making it appear that Bond actor Pierce Brosnan was controlling the car using his mobile phone. The car type is actually a BMW 740iL but they were re-badged as the 750iL. One survives today and can be seen at exhibition" TOP SECRET” at Museum Industriekultur, Nuremberg. Besides the 7 Series saloons, BMW also supplied a $14.000 R1200C motorcycle. BMW received the rights to use movie clips from the film in its multimillion-dollar campaign, and during the 1997 holiday season they offered a special promotion that included the R1200C with the purchase of the 750iL.

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