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      03-01-2013, 12:29 AM   #1
Jason
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Lightbulb BIMMERPOST Review: 760Li V12 and 25 Years of BMW V12s

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BIMMERPOST Review: 760Li V12 and 25 Years of BMW V12s
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A quarter century of superiority

By Matthias Knödler and Jens Meiners


A quarter of a century ago, BMW turned the hierarchy in the luxury segment upside down: In March 1987, the second-generation 7 series (E32), itself a marvel of technology, got a range-topping V-12 engine. Rated at 296hp, it utterly humiliated the Mercedes-Benz W126 S class. The Stuttgart competitor managed to reach this level of power only with a non-catalysed version of the 5.6-liter V-8 - an engine which was lacking the smoothness of its 4.2-liter and 5.0-liter siblings.

It wasn't BMW's first attempt at a V-12. In fact, two prototypes had preceded the engine that finally made it into production. As early as 1972, BMW set out to create a V-12 from two six-cylinder engines. The 5.0-liter engine, code-named M33, made 296hp - but it was way too heavy at 694 lbs: The project was stopped in 1974; shortly thereafter, work commenced on another V-12, the M66, this time based on a lighter, new generation of i-6 engines. A 3.6-liter V-12 and a 4.5-liter V-12 was built; the latter one made 271hp and weighed 606 lbs. Prototype engines were built, but due to an unfavorable political and economic climate, BMW went on to build a turbocharged 3.2-liter i-6 instead. It was offered in the E23 745i and later upgraded to 3.5 liters of displacement. At the time, BMW ran elaborate advertisements explaining why a turbocharged six was the preferable choice compared to a V-8 or V-12.

But in 1982, the engineers went to the drawing board again. This time around, it was decided to start from scratch, instead of trying to elaborately weld together two existing six-cylinder engines.

The M70 was created - a marvel of technology that weighs a mere 529 lbs and is so compact that it would fit into a current 1 series. Made from aluminum, it used two identical cylinder heads, it made 296hp at 5200rpm and 450 Nm lb-ft of torque at 4100 rpm - while providing a silky-smooth soundtrack that is not dissimilar to an in-line six and infinitely more delicate and sophisticated than a V-8.

Down the road, BMW toyed with nuew different concepts, including a V-16, and actually built a prototype. A reaction to the 408 PS Mercedes-Benz 600 SEL? The M70, of course, made it into the 8 series; it was used in racing, and in heavily modified form, it powered the McLaren F1. BMW also built an X5 with a high-powered V-12; this engine was supposed to go into an M8, but it was decided the car was "too extreme".

In its original form, the V-12 propelled the E32 7 series from standstill to 62mph in just 7.4 seconds; top speed was a governed 155mph. "We could have reached around 168mph," recalls an engineer, "but the tires weren't ready back then." There's another reason which is at least as worthy, and which is still sensitive today: The German auto industry's voluntary agreement to cut off top speed was agreed upon in order to avoid a discussion on a speed limit.

The 750i was distinguished from the 730i and 735i by its wider kidney grille and according hood contour; there was a rectangular dual exhaust that recalled not only the kidney grille, but also the jet engines of the Concorde supersonic airplane; and there were specific, almost fully covered wheels. As the subsequent 7 series models with V-8 engines received the same grille, and as more commonplace wheel choices were added, the 750i and iL lost their visual edge.

We got some time behind the wheel of an almost pristine 750 iL E32. It still fires up with a beautiful, sonorous sound. The interior styling oozes functionality and "German-ness". Most definitely a driver's car, its biggest letdown is the four-speed automatic which seems inadequate today. And truly comfortable it isn't, at least not with the unusually large wheels and tires on this example from BMW's historic collection.

The E38 7 series, by contrast, still feels competitive today. More plush than the E32 yet beautifully restrained, it received an upgraded engine that makes 322hp from 5.4 liters of displacement. It is fast, precise, quiet and immensely gratifying behind the wheel.

BMW did not provide an E65 760i for comparison, but we have vivid memories of a behemoth that was plagued with electronic overkill that culminated in the counter-intuitive iDrive system, a lack of a driver-oriented interior, and and an oversized body that discouraged dancing through twisty roads. Its direct-injected, four-valve N73 6.0-liter V-12, rated at 431hp, serves as the basis for the Rolls-Royce Phantom's 6.7-liter V-12. In the E65, it couldn't sparkle.

We did get time behind the wheel of the current F02 760 Li - and, compared to the E38, it has completed the transformation from a driver's car to a plush sedan to be chauffeured around in. At 537hp, the twin-turbocharged N74 6.0-liter V-12 is ridiculously powerful, but the car is so big and heavy that you don't get much enjoyment from driving it outside of its natural habitat, which is the autobahn. The ultra-low effort steering and the playful electronic instrumentation did not endear it to us, either.

The V-12 was most successful in its first iteration: Up to one sixth of 7 series production was equipped with the range-topping engine. That number has plummeted into the low single digits. Nevertheless, BMW remains committed: The V-12 has a future, we are assured by company executives. We can only applaud this commitment. "Efficient dynamics" is necessary, but not sufficient.

F02 7 Series

E66 7 Series

E38 7 Series

E32 7 Series

25 Years of V12 7 Series




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      03-04-2013, 07:19 AM   #2
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V12 or not, the E38 is the last 7-series I would consider superior to the contemporary S-class.

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      03-04-2013, 07:35 AM   #3
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^^I agree. The e38 was such a nice car. BMW should have used the project Gold-Fish V16 motor back then. Maybe they will in a future up coming model. ?
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      03-04-2013, 07:54 AM   #4
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I am not a fan of the new 7 series headlights. Maybe it looks better in person.
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      03-04-2013, 08:15 AM   #5
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E38 is a Legendary car! . . . Nearly every wealthy family owned an E38 !

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      03-04-2013, 08:30 AM   #6
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As bad as the E65 was in terms of electrical issues, BMW still sold more of them than any other 7.
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      03-04-2013, 08:55 AM   #7
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that e66 just looks so odd compared to the rest. Glad the new 7 has the bigger kidneys
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      03-04-2013, 08:56 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by b33g33 View Post
V12 or not, the E38 is the last 7-series I would consider superior to the contemporary S-class.

I wholeheartedly agree! BMW cars from that era, 3, 5 and 7 series were some of the best looking cars of the time and vastly superior than their competitors. The E38 is more pleasing to look at than the E60 and F02.

Also loved the BMW films starring Clive Oven.
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      03-04-2013, 09:28 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wdeerfield View Post
that e66 just looks so odd compared to the rest. Glad the new 7 has the bigger kidneys
I think the E65/66 were revolutionary at the time. I remember driving down the highway in 2004/05 and saw the E66 about 5 car lengths in front of me and how it looked so different and fresh... weird thing was that there was a W220 S class right in front of me and I failed to notice it.

Also, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the E65/ 66 interior. It looks like a $80K car interior. The one on the F01/02 is just plain horrible. I mean I get the same interior on a 48K 528 that I can get on a 130K 760. That is just plain terrible
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      03-04-2013, 10:09 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EmPower View Post
I think the E65/66 were revolutionary at the time. I remember driving down the highway in 2004/05 and saw the E66 about 5 car lengths in front of me and how it looked so different and fresh... weird thing was that there was a W220 S class right in front of me and I failed to notice it.

Also, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the E65/ 66 interior. It looks like a $80K car interior. The one on the F01/02 is just plain horrible. I mean I get the same interior on a 48K 528 that I can get on a 130K 760. That is just plain terrible
Agreed 100%.

It wasnt a perfect car, but they sold a lot and they stood out in a crowd.
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      03-04-2013, 10:17 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EmPower View Post
I think the E65/66 were revolutionary at the time. I remember driving down the highway in 2004/05 and saw the E66 about 5 car lengths in front of me and how it looked so different and fresh... weird thing was that there was a W220 S class right in front of me and I failed to notice it.

Also, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the E65/ 66 interior. It looks like a $80K car interior. The one on the F01/02 is just plain horrible. I mean I get the same interior on a 48K 528 that I can get on a 130K 760. That is just plain terrible
Do you mean F10 528? if so, no true. The F01/02's interior is much better than F10. Plus it has more color availability.
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      03-04-2013, 10:21 AM   #12
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Great cars when working properly. They will bleed you dry through maintenance though.
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      03-04-2013, 10:31 AM   #13
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E38 was so fantastic. How is reliability on those?
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      03-04-2013, 10:37 AM   #14
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E38...still the best 7-Series
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      03-04-2013, 12:41 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zadjali View Post
E38 is a Legendary car! . . . Nearly every wealthy family owned an E38 !


+1. This is my favorite 7er!
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      03-04-2013, 12:54 PM   #16
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My father has an E38. The car has suffered every issue under the sun, but keeps on going. From bad MAF sensors (both), Waterpump failure resulting in loss of entire cooling system, 2 alternators, transmission failure, intake manifold gasket issues, several window regulators, E-CAT issues, defective ABS pump (several instances). And then you have the dreaded front end shimmy that resulted in the replacement of every major front-end suspension component, only to return again a few years later. Not to mention the electrical gremlins.
That being said, the active seats and EDC suspension, along with the gobs of torque from the M73n always seem to put a smile on my face.
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Last edited by greekcs; 03-04-2013 at 02:59 PM.
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      03-04-2013, 02:06 PM   #17
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I haven't noticed a single F01/02 V12 on the road and I only saw 1 or 2 E65 V12s. The E38 750i wasn't quite so rare but these V12s definitely seem to be dying out. With the power per liter of displacement that we're seeing in newer turbocharged engines, you would need 6 wheel drive to begin to put down the power you could make from a 6.0L V12.

Hell, those numbers listed from BMW V12s through the E38 were laughable. BMW's next iteration of 4 cylinder engines will put down more power.
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      03-04-2013, 03:47 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by b33g33 View Post
V12 or not, the E38 is the last 7-series I would consider superior to the contemporary S-class.

I agree, its so beautiful. I dont know what happened with the models that came after it. E38 is the most beautiful 7 series ever.
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      03-04-2013, 04:39 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by b33g33 View Post
V12 or not, the E38 is the last 7-series I would consider superior to the contemporary S-class.

Not last, only. There's no way the one prior was better than the W126 Benz, as the W126 was probably top 5 cars benz ever built and solid as a rock.
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      03-04-2013, 06:12 PM   #20
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I don't know why they don't do something to make the 760 look special. Even the S600 has some distinct features, let alone the beautiful (and very expensive) S65.

Also, I remember the 760 being one of Car and Drivers most expensive cars to own per mile. It cost like $1.50 to drive per mile due to its insane depreciation rate. And the high end of the their scale topped out at around $0.85, so you know something is wrong there.
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      03-05-2013, 12:29 AM   #21
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The E38 is simply timeless. Ours still looks like new despite its 200,000+ miles and ridiculously expensive maintenance order. Although we now have many newer cars in the household, the E38 never fails to put a big smile on my face.
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      03-05-2013, 09:38 PM   #22
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My Mom had one of the first 1988 750iL's in the United States. It was a fantastic car. Black with natur interior. I remember either the brochure or the owners manual that stated an unrestricted top speed of 184 mph. Does any one else remember that or have the original?
My Mom then had a 1990 750iL, a 1994 750 iL, a 1996 750iL and a 2000 750iL. All fabulous cars and I should have been arrested in each of them.
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