BMW 7 Series E38 Used Luxury Sedan Buyer’s Guide

The BMW 5 Series F10 model used car value today is tempting with 2010 models being advertised at a low RM65,000 before negotiations. This is why a couple of our friends in the past month have been thinking seriously about buying one and trading in their free-from-any-loan Japanese executive sedans that are not giving them any maintenance headaches.

We decided to look around the used car classifieds and the idea of a BMW E38 tickled our interest. After some research and a few phone calls to a few previous owners of this top tier luxury BMW sedan, we decided to pitch the E38 to our two friends.

The E38 is no stranger to us as just about 2 decades ago we borrowed a E38 728i to be our wedding dinner ride. Plus, in 1997 Pierce Brosnan showed us how versatile and well built the E38 was in a movie about how tomorrow never dies.  

First a little history. The E38 7 Series is widely regarded as one of the best BMW models of all time, and many enthusiasts consider it to be the high point for BMW’s luxury flagship model.

When BMW debuted the E38 7 Series back in 1994, it was more of an evolution than revolution of the previous 7 Series. It was a striking looking car, for the time, with its low, flat-nosed hood and wide kidney grill.

The previous 7 series E32, designed by Ercole Spada under the direction of Claus Luthe and launched in 1986, was already a success in Europe and in Malaysia it was admired but not completely accepted as the Mercedes-Benz branding was much stronger at the time.

BMW designers had to bring to market a rival for the Mercedes S-Class W140 and the Audi A8. Lexus was still in the shadows with their LS sedan.

Today, finding a well looked after E38 7 Series is not easy despite the fact that this luxury sedan has lost its value just like other BMW sedans from the same time. Yes, the Malaysian weather is not kind to the BMW interior when compared to a similar aged Mercedes and the electronics seem to take a mind of their own, especially the critical dashboard information.  

There were a few variants imported into Malaysia. The first batch was the 3-litre V8 with 218 horsepower at the entry level (badged as the 730i) and the 4-litre with 286 horsepower at the top of the range (badged as the 740i). Both versions were available in short or long wheelbase (the 730iL and the 740iL).

Later in 1995, the range widened with the introduction of an inline 6-cylinder engine producing 193hp and 280Nm of torque (the 728i) and from late 1998 onwards it had Double Vanos which improved fuel economy. This is also the lightest engine of the range which provides better drive agility. This 728i should be your target. This inline engine, code named M52B28 was the most reliable power-plant and owners seldom parted with their cars.

So, if you find a 728i that interests you and the asking price is acceptable, you need to thoroughly check the luxury features that came with this car. They include a high-pressure headlight washer, auto-leveling xenon HID headlamps, power sun-roof, a sound system with 14 speakers and four subwoofers as well as 6-disc CD changer and rain-sensing wipers.

Other must-have working features include an automatic climate control system with separate controls for the driver and passenger, a three-position memory system for the driver’s seat, safety-belt height, new steering wheel and outside mirrors.

In my books, the replacement, the BMW E65 did not look as handsome as the E38 and the used price of the E65 today is on par with the E38 which means it is much less desirable in the used car market. A price of between RM18k to RM25k for the E38 728i is good value.

The road tax fee for the 728i will be about RM1,600 (the 730i will be RM2,120) which is not too bad when you consider the low yearly insurance value.

So, did we manage to change two minds from the F10 to the E38? Well, nope, only one did and he is a happy owner right now. 

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  1. This contents really helps me to look for a one nice E38 in market, will go for the 728i flagship.

  2. I own year 1995 E38, 740i since 2016.
    Now aged 25, it is entitled for classic road tax.
    Also have 1984 E23, 1994 E32 & 2002 E65.
    Four generations of 7 Series Ultimate driving machines that I could afford at the moment.
    Will own F02 and the G12 when the price is right.
    I found them all from Mudah Auto
    Thank you Mudah.

  3. I have just bought one and had ot detailed and some work done
    It drives so smooth and feel solid
    When i compare ro my 740Le i wonder why did i not consider first
    So i bought another 735li e38 and now restoring it to its glory
    What a great car after 25 years it still drives so well

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