BMW stepped into the luxury limousine segment in 1977 with its first generation E23 7 Series sedan. Back then its biggest rival was the Mercedes-Benz S-Class that had been around for a long while. BMW had been making the 5 Series executive luxury sedan for five years before launching the 7 Series and it would take ground breaking technology if it really wanted to shake the king of the segment. The 7 Series since its launch has been neck and neck with the S-Class, while adding a new dimension to the segment, of all round dynamic performance.
1. E23 BMW 7 Series (1977-1986)
The first generation E23 7 Series featured advanced chassis technology, speed-sensitive power steering, electrically adjustable ORVMs, the world’s first electronic speedometer and something called Check Control that consisted of an electronic data unit which would tell the driver about engine oil level, brake oil level, coolant level, windscreen washer level, the status of the tail lights and even the thickness of the brake pads. In 1980 BMW introduced the world’s first onboard computer in the 7 Series.
Launched in 1977, BMW offered the 7 Series in two variants, the 728 with 172PS of power and the 733i with 199PS of power. BMW’s expectations with the 7 Series sedan were nowhere near that of market demand. Surging demand left the Dingolfing plant struggling to keep up. By the end of 1977 BMW had sold 20,000 units of the 7 Series.
In 1979 BMW gave the 7 Series a slew of engines to cover a wide range of power outputs and keep sales on an upward graph. The carburetted engines were replaced by economical and advanced injection units.
The 728i succeeded the 728 and the 733i was usurped by the 732i whose engine electronics were unique to the industry. BMW also introduced a more powerful 3.5-litre 735i that generated 221PS of power. In 1980, BMW introduced the range topping six-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled 745i that made 255PS of power.
When the production run for the first generation BMW 7 Series ended in 1986, a total of 2,85,029 units of the luxury limousine were sold.
2. E32 BMW 7 Series (1986 – 1994)
The second BMW 7 Series featured technical and aesthetic enhancements over its predecessor.
With a broad kidney grille, harmonious lines and L-shaped tail lights, the new 7 Series marked a design hallmark that BMWs of the future would follow. And for the first time, BMW introduced a long wheelbase version of the 7 Series.
Under the modern exterior, BMW had implemented innovative chassis control systems for sporty handling. The most significant technological enhancements included the ASC traction control system with electronic accelerator and drag torque control.
Powertrain options for the second generation BMW 7 Series included six-cylinder engines in the BMW 730i and BMW 735i developing 186PS and 213PS of power respectively.
Then in 1987, the second generation BMW 7 Series became the first car to be powered by Germany’s first post-war 12-cylinder engine. The unit was an all- aluminium 5-litre V12 with separate injection, ignition and catalytic converter systems for its two banks of cylinders. But the most astonishing part about the engine was that despite developing 304PS of power and 450Nm of torque it could run on standard petrol.
In 1992, BMW introduced two V8 engines for the 7 Series in the new BMW 730i and the BMW 740i to close the gap between the six cylinder engines and the range topping V12.
BMW later introduced the Adaptive Transmission Management (ATM) on the 745i.
In its eight-year lifespan the second generation BMW 7 Series has sold around 3,11,000 units across the globe.
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