Premium large car; Built in Germany
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door sedan
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $2,800 – $9,500*

1996 BMW 750iL

1997 BMW 740i

1998 BMW 750iL

1999 BMW 740i

2000 BMW 740i w/Sport Package

  • Acceleration
  • Build quality
  • Side airbags (later models)
  • Head-protection system (later models)
  • Exterior finish
  • Interior materials
  • Passenger room/comfort
  • Ride
  • Steering/handling
  • Control layout
  • Fuel economy

BMW builds great automobiles, no doubt about it. Then again, so does Mercedes-Benz. Which is best for you if shopping in this stratospheric league? That’s a toss-up, which should be a pleasure to ponder.


BMW’s version of the big, luxurious German flagship sedan earned a sleek redesign for 1995, not unlike the midsize 5-Series. Still rear-wheel drive, it went against the cream of the competition: Infiniti Q45, Lexus LS 400, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Part “executive express” and part technical showcase, the 7-Series came with a choice of two engines: V8 for the 740i and long-wheelbase 740iL, or V12 for the long-wheelbase 750iL. Extended wheelbases were 5.5 inches longer than the standard 740i model.The 740i went on sale first, followed by the long-wheelbase editions. Longer than before, the new model was slightly wider and lower, and about 150 pounds heavier. Beneath the hood of the 740i/iL sat the same 282 horsepower, dual-cam 4.0-liter V8 engine as before, driving a 5-speed electronic automatic transmission. The 740iL gained adaptive shift control, which changes shifts points based on how the car was driven. Exchanging its previous 4-speed automatic transmission for a 5-speed unit, the 750iL also lost its 5.0-liter V12 engine in favor of a more potent 5.2 liter edition. Horsepower rose from 296 to 322. A new “door-anchoring system” was said to “hook” trailing edges of the doors into the main body structure, for greater rigidity in a crash. Doors would be released after the impact. A new “residual heat” feature could warm the interior for 16 minutes after the engine was shut off. New 14-way power front seats with 4-way lumbar adjustment were installed (8-way lumbar in the 750iL). A new 330-watt audio system was standard in the 750iL.

Yearly Updates

1996 7-Series
Only long-wheelbase (740iL and 750iL) sedans went on sale this year. The 740iL traded in its 4.0 liter V8 for a 4.4-liter engine, gaining some torque output but retaining the same horsepower rating. A glass moonroof replaced the steel sunroof as standard on both models. Traction control became standard (formerly an option) for the 740iL. Electronic Damping Control was a new option, automatically adjusting suspension firmness based on driving conditions. An electrically heated steering wheel became standard in the 750iL. That model also gained an antiskid system called Dynamic Stability Control, using sensors for the ABS and traction control systems to detect when any wheel was locking or slipping. If so, it would reduce engine power and apply individual brakes to maintain traction and steering control.
1997 7-Series
Side-impact airbags became standard this season, as the shorter-wheelbase 740i returned after a year’s absence. Just three other notable changes marked the 1997 model year. The power-adjustable steering wheel now automatically lifted up upon opening a door, to ease entry/exit. An improved version of BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control antiskid system became standard. Finally, to please certain high-end buyers, break-resistant security glass was a new option for the long-wheelbase models.
1998 7-Series
The ’98 models debuted in June 1997, with two changes, both related to safety. Rear side airbags became optional. A new Head Protection System was installed, claimed to be a “first.” A tubular airbag inflates during a side impact, popping out from just above the front door to protect occupant heads and shoulders.
1999 7-Series
Styling revisions front and rear were mild for 1999. A new Sport Package was optional for the 740i sedan, including a numerically higher axle ratio, 18-inch alloy wheels (instead of the usual 16-inchers), blackout trim, sport suspension and rear auto leveling, and a Steptronic transmission with separate manual-shift capability. Steptronic and the auto-leveling rear suspension were standard on the costly 750iL. Dynamic Stability Control, previously exclusive to the 750iL, now was standard in all models.
2000 7-Series
All models gained rain sensing wipers this year, and V8 sedans added an onboard navigation system as standard equipment. They also gained xenon headlights and premium audio with a 6-disc CD changer, to match the 750iL. Also new for the 740s was an optional Active Ride Package that borrowed the V12 sedan’s Electronic Damping Control shock absorbers and self-leveling rear suspension. Newly standard on the 750iL and optional on its V8 mates was BMW’s Active Comfort driver’s seat, with rollers in the cushion that move periodically in an effort to minimize fatigue. Rear head-protection airbags were now part of the rear side airbag option.
2001 7-Series
For ’01, minor styling changes were made, and all models gained optional rear torso side airbags that included head-protecting side airbags. Also, the handling-oriented Sport Package became available for the 740iL. An Adaptive Ride Package with electronically controlled shock absorbers and rear self-leveling was also new this year–standard on the 750iL, optional for 740s.


longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

For its first year in this form, a 4.0-liter dual-overhead-cam V8 engine powered the 740i/iL sedan. That engine grew to 4.4 liters in 1996, producing the same 282 horsepower. A 5.4-liter V12 has been installed in each 750iL sedan. All 7 Series BMWs have a 5-speed automatic transmission.

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.0/243
Engine HP 282
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 295
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic


dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.4/268
Engine HP 282
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 310-324
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic



ohc V12
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.4/328
Engine HP 322-326
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 361
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic



Road Test

Ride quality is excellent–as it should be. That’s a benefit of the car’s sophisticated suspension design and its bump-flattening weight. Brakes are well up to the task of coping with so much heft. In fact, they’re capable of short and stable emergency stops in most any situation.

A 740 model has enough low-end muscle to accelerate briskly from a standstill and permit swift passing at highway speeds. The V8 is strong enough, and so silky, that we see little need to pay so much more for a V12.

Gas mileage is discouraging–again, no big surprise. We’ve averaged only 13.2 mpg in a 750iL, with a third of the driving on highways. Frugal it is not. A 740iL did better at 18.8 mpg overall, with more than half of its miles taking place on the highway. Another 740iL returned 16.5 mpg overall.

There’s definitely no shortage of interior of cargo space in a 740i. The long wheelbase 740iL or 750iL has more passenger room than most family sedans, as well as unusually easy all-around entry/exit. Seats are supportive and comfortable for long drives, in all models.

Other bonuses include clear gauges, controls that are strategically placed for easy access, and a multitude of standard amenities. Unfortunately, having so many gadgets means a lot of buttons and switches–and not all of them are clearly marked. Worst offender is the combination climate/audio/cell-phone display, which is likely to confuse new owners. Although it works effectively, the available in-dash navigation system, with its video screen and cryptic controls, seems sharply at odds with BMW’s no-nonsense driving philosophy.

Flawless workmanship and impressive materials are the rule in big BMWs. All models feel stout and substantial from behind the wheel. Detail finish is nothing short of exemplary throughout, though one test car suffered several rattles.


Model Tested: 2001 BMW 740iL

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 7
Fuel Economy - 4
Ride Quality - 10
Steering/Handling - 7
Quietness - 8


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 9
Room/Comfort Rear - 9
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 3

Total: 65


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
115.4 196.2 73.3 56.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.0 22.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.7 38.1 41.9 36.7
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
120.9 201.7 73.3 56.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.0 22.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.7 41.9 38.1 41.9
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 7-Series 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 124
Injury 62
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: The air conditioning may leak and one of the hoses was being replaced whenever the vehicle was in for routine service. (1995-96)
Automatic transmission
Description: The automatic transmission will malfunction, and eventually fail, if the wrong transmission fluid is added. (1995)
Dashboard lights
Description: The oil warning light may come on due to a faulty oil pressure switch. (1995-96)
Description: The trip odometer resets itself after about 650 miles. (1995-98)
Oil leak
Description: Oil and coolant leak from valley in V8 engine could be a rear main seal leaks. (1993-2001)
Poor transmission shift
Description: The transmission will not shift out of third gear if there is a difference in tire sizes caused by low air pressure, mismatched tires, etc. (1997)
Power seats
Description: The power seats fail due to wires being chafed underneath the seat. (1995-98)
Description: The Xenon headlights may not illuminate if the switch is turned while cranking engine. (2000)
Description: Using the jack bends the rocker panel on 740i models and the jacks were being replaced whenever the car was in for other service. (1995)

Recall History

Description: Lower suspension-arm mounting eye on right rear axle-hub carrier has casting flaw and could crack and break, causing loss of control.
Description: Malfunction or failure of coolant system component can result in significantly increased coolant temperature and system pressure.
1995-97 740i
Description: Plastic bushing for cruise control and throttle cables could break, causing throttle valve to remain partially open; car then might not decelerate as expected.
Description: Road grit and gravel on winter roads can damage lower front spring mounts; breakage of spring’s bottom coil could affect ride height and dynamic stability, and also cause noise.
Description: Differential pinion shaft was produced without appropriate surface hardening, which can result in premature wear; would cause noise from differential and, ultimately, failure of the shaft and loss of power to rear wheels.
1999 740i
Description: Thickness of main positive electrical cable is less than specified, making it susceptible to abrasion by attaching clip; short circuit could then occur.
1999 740i w/automatic transmission
Description: Premature wear of ring gear can occur in some cars, leading to loss of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and reverse gears.
Description: Brake-lamp switch could fail internally, remaining either in “off” or “on” position.
2001 w/18-inch wheels
Description: Tire sidewalls may have been damaged at the manufacturer. The damaged area could weaken to the point where a sudden loss of air from the tire could occur.
Description: Failure of the engine auxiliary/cooling fan motor can cause the electrical circuitry of the fan control unit to overload and fail, causing the fan to stop operating.

Equipment Lists

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Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.