Car Review

2002-2008 BMW 7 Series: Used Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Joe Tralongo August 2012

BMW's flagship sedan has long been regarded for its intense performance capabilities, sizable cabin and cutting edge luxury amenities. Designed to go head-to-head with the Audi A8, Mercedes Benz S-Class and Jaguar XJ, the big bimmer has an edge on most of its competition in the areas of both styling and performance. With its bulbous bustle style trunk and wide flanks, the 2002-2008 7 Series design was considered radical, even unattractive, when it first appeared. But today, the 7's influence can be seen in such luxury giants as the Lexus LS and even some Audi and Mercedes products. The upside here is that a well maintained 7 Series, even one that is 10 years old, still looks fresh and relevant today, something that can't always be said of its competition.

Why You Want It

We can give you all the logical reasons to own a 7 Series. Its back seat is enormous, especially on the stretched L versions, and its trunk can swallow an entire fleet of golf bags (or Gucci luggage). The 750's V8 engine is a masterpiece of performance and efficiency, and its ride and handling are superb. Those seeking to impress clients or potential mates will find BMW's big sedan easily up to the task, so much so, that one runs the risk of playing second fiddle to the car itself. Toss logic out the window and the reasons for wanting a 2002-2008 BMW 7 Series grow even greater, topped by the available V12 in the 760 and the brilliant but rare Alpina B7 variant. Of course, there are some red flags to consider before purchasing such a car. Maintenance and repairs can be very costly, as can insurance. And, although we love the 7 Series interior layout, its stalk mounted gearshift lever and counter intuitive iDrive system may require some to relearn the fine art of operating a motor vehicle.

Notable Features & Options

Although some features formerly optional are added as standard on later model cars, most 7 Series will feature a six-speed automatic transmission, leather seating, adaptive xenon headlamps, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, electronic parking brake, active headlamps (2005 and later), auto-dimming exterior mirrors, Park Distance Control and the Logic 7 Premium Sound system (standard on 760Li, available on all others). Options are almost too numerous to count and include a V12 engine, 20-way power front seats with 3-level seat heaters and massage, an adaptive suspension, self sealing rear doors, heated steering wheel, rear climate control, adaptive cruise control, infrared Night Vision vision, heated and cooled front and rear seats, rear seat DVD entertainment system and a Sport Suspension package with 20-inch wheels. Standard safety equipment includes electronic traction and stability control, front side-impact and full-length side curtain airbags (2003 and later). Rear side impact airbags are a stand-alone option.

Model Milestones

2003 - A new V12 engine graces the equally new 760Li trim, while full-length side curtain airbags are made standard. New options for 2003 include BMW's Adaptive Ride Package, run-flat tires, ventilated front and rear seats and Active Cruise Control.

2004 - A new menu button is added to the iDrive controller while Adaptive Headlamps are made standard. Satellite radio is also added, as are power folding exterior mirrors.

2005 - Park Distance Control and Adaptive Headlights are made standard on the 745i. Keyless entry and start is added to the options list.

2006 - A new, more powerful 4.8-liter V8 engine ushers in the 750i and 750Li, replacing the previous 745 cars. Also new for 2006 is revised exterior and interior styling, as well as wider rear track, Bluetooth and a revised iDrive system.

2007 - New features for the 7 Series include 20-way power adjustable seats with three stage heated seat cushions, standard power folding side mirrors and an auxiliary audio input jack. A sport package is added bringing a sport suspension and 20-inch wheels, as well as a set of new design packages with upgraded interior color and trim. The short wheelbase 760i is discontinued for 2007.

2008 - No major changes before the debut of the all-new 2009 7 Series.

Engines and Performance

From 2002 until 2005 the 745i and 745Li feature a 4.4-liter V8 engine good for 325 horsepower. In 2006, a 4.8-liter V8 in the new 750i and 750Li pushes output to 360 horsepower, but the excellent six-speed automatic from the previous 745i remains the only transmission. A massive V12 engine that produces 438 horsepower and 444 lb-ft of torque powers the 760 models. During this time, BMW also produced a limited production performance trim dubbed the Alpina B7. Its power comes from a supercharged V8 good for 325 horsepower and 333 lb-ft of torque.

It's safe to say that even the most modest 7 Series sedan is no slouch, leaving us to describe the 745's acceleration as quick, the 750's as a bit quicker and the 760's to be just plain obscene. The 745 and 750 models can dash from 0 to 60 mph in about 6 seconds, with the 760 shaving nearly a second off the V8's posted figures. Fuel economy for the V8 is rated around 15 mpg city/20 mpg highway, with the V12 dropping about 2 mpg in both city/highway tests.

On the road, the massive 7 Series doesn't feel so massive. Its ride is as stable as bedrock and its ability to corner rivals some of the smaller BMW sedans noted for their agile mobility. About the only time the 7's girth is brought into focus is when the road narrows, at which point the 7 Series' wide body requires the driver to use a bit more caution when traveling at high speeds.

Recalls, Safety Ratings and Warranties

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has issued the following recalls for the 2002-2008 BMW 7 Series.

2002 - A recall was issued regarding a possible defect in the fuel pump that, over time, could decrease fuel delivery resulting in the engine stalling.

2002-03 - A recall was issued for a possible software glitch that could cause the engine to stall and not be able to restart.

2002-08 - A recall was issued for all 7 Series models for a possible leak in the brake booster than could cause partial or complete loss of power assisted braking.

2003 - On certain 745 models, and improperly tightened oil filter drain plug could cause an oil leak.

2003-04 - A recall was issued for possible damage to the driver's seat heating element due to excessive wear on the seat's side bolster.

2004 - Recalls were issued for possible defective software programming that could lead to engine stalling and an inability to restart the car, and for a possible defective seat sensor that could cause the driver's side airbags and seatbelt pretensioner to not deploy in an accident.

2006 - A recall was issued for a possible defective rubber mount on the rear shock absorber.

At the time of this review, an ongoing investigation is looking into reports that model year 2002-08 7 Series can experience a situation where the vehicle rolls away after being placed in park. This investigation may lead to a possible recall if the findings are sufficient to warrant such action.

Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.

As for safety, neither NHTSA nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) performed crash tests on the 2002-2008 BMW 7 Series. However, seeing as the smaller BMW 5 and 3 Series cars do well in their crash tests, it's a pretty safe bet that the 7 Series' solid build, long list of airbag and occupant protection devices, and engineering excellence would more than likely see it do equally well.

BMW offers a 4-year/50,000 mile comprehensive warranty on the 7 Series, fully transferable from the original owner. BMW also offers a Certified Pre-Owned program for late model vehicles with less than 60,000 miles. To qualify, the car in question must first pass a rigorous inspection program by a trained BMW mechanic. Once cleared, the vehicle receives a CARFAX vehicle report and is given a 2-year/50,000 limited warranty once the factory 4-year/50,000 expires. With the two warranties combined, you'll be covered for up to 6-years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. As with any warranty, standard wear and tear items such as brakes, wiper blades, suspension parts and regular engine maintenance items (belts, hoses, spark plugs, etc.) are not covered by the warranty. For a complete list of what is and is not covered, visit BMW's website at http://www.bmwusa.com/Standard/Content/CPO/Warranty2.aspx.

Word on the Web

It seems both owners and consumer sites have mixed feelings about the 2002-2008 BMW 7 Series, with most of the negative feedback focusing on the earlier 2002-2005 models. Consumer Reports looked only at the 2006-08 cars, giving them an average rating with poor marks for minor engine and transmission but better than average scores in the major engine performance, electrical, suspension and brakes. Owners at bimmerforums.com have frequent questions about engine stalling and engine computer problems, many of which were later resolved following a recall. There also seems to be more electrical and software glitches on the earlier 2002-2004 cars than on latter 2006-08. Some owners of 2006 and 2007 models report problems pairing the car's Bluetooth with Blackberry phones.

Competitive Set

Audi A8 - The A8 is a more sedate looking sedan with a more elegant interior, a softer ride and the added safety benefit of quattro all-wheel drive. It also depreciates a bit faster than the 7 Series, meaning you can pick up a comparably equipped model for less money.

Mercedes Benz S Class - The choice of bankers and Billionaires worldwide, the S-Class offers all the luxury and performance of the BMW in a slightly more sophisticated package. It's also available with a number of engine options as well as 4MATIC all-wheel drive.

Lexus LS - The LS can't compete with the 7 Series performance and handling attributes, but its luxury car credentials are nearly impeccable, as is its repair and reliability ratings and high resale value.

Auto Trader Recommendations

While we love the power and cache of the V12 760 models, the best bargain of the bunch is the 2006-2008 750i and 750Li. These models should be plentiful on the used car market, offer the best value and are the least trouble prone of the 2002-08 model run.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2002-2008 BMW 7 Series: Used Car Review - Autotrader