The E38 - Does It Stand The Test of Time?
2021 marked 20 years since the last BMW E38 rolled of the production line. I purchased one to see if a car fit for 007 is still relevant today.
What springs to mind when you think BMW? The answer is probably an M4, a 1 Series or maybe an X5. These are just some of the cars that are the pinnacle of the brand today with flocks of 1 series flooding the UK roads and the M2 created for the younger petrolhead, one could argue that 7 Series has taken a back seat in the BMW lineup of today.
The E38 was in production from 1994 to 2001 and came in a range of guises. In the UK we were presented with a range on petrol engines including the entry level 728i as well as the cream of the crop 750iL that was a long wheelbase saloon powered by an incredibly smooth 5.4 litre V12 engine. The E38 was universally loved with high profile celebrities such as Tupac Shakur even owning a 750iL. The '38' was miles ahead of its time, with onboard computers monitoring the consumption and tire pressures as well as being one of the first cars with onboard satellite navigation. There was not one gadget that this car did not feature.
Before we go any further, let me first discuss my relationship with the E38. My father once owned a 'Biarritz Blue' 1997 728i. In particular a sport model with the M Parallel Alloy wheels which were synonymous with the model and made ever more popular with their appearance in "Tomorrow Never Dies". I always remember the black leather interior having a crayon like smell and sinking into the heavily padded black seats, the raspy note of the naturally aspirated straight six on a cold morning. This car was cool I just didn't fully appreciate it yet. Fast Forward to 2021, 4 years driving experience under my belt I decided that I had to hunt down an E38 for me just so I could show my appreciation for the golden 7 series.
Biarritz Blue E38 with M Parallel Alloys - Credit 'The E38 Register'
I began to hunt down the classifieds but as I did so, I discovered that in recent years the E38 had gained a huge cult following and even the most battered examples costing excess of £3000. Viewing after viewing and haggle after haggle I was still without a car. Eventually after another tiresome shift at the pub I came home and opened up my laptop. As I scrolled through autotrader, I saw it. I had found myself an E38.
I woke up the next morning and immediately called the seller to discuss the details of the car and much to my surprise the car was in my home town of Oxford. I arranged to view the car the next weekend once I was done with my university assessments to round of the year. Upon arriving, the car appeared in a relatively good condition with absolutely no rips of tears to the interior and all the electronics in the car still functioning as they should. The bodywork was clean with very little rust. The car did have 170,000 miles after all. The previous keeper had owned the car from new and all 4 original keys were present as well as heaps of service history. I purchased the car immediately. I finally had purchased my dream BMW.
The ride was second to none with speed bumps and potholes feeling non existent in my new (to me) car, with my CD's playing the only thing I did miss was Bluetooth, a staple in today's modern cars. My journey on the M40 back to London was pain free. The cars large following means that there are countless solutions avalible for Bluetooth kits and upgrades as well as a plethora of parts available within the many forums and owners groups online mean that I will have no shortage finding any spares should I need them.
On the flip side to this, the age of the car does mean there are some drawbacks. The clean air charges in many city centres and of course London mean that as a daily driver, old cars such as the E38 are living through numbered days. Although if you can afford to run a second car or are someone who does very few miles then don't think twice. If you don't mind getting your hands dirty when things go wrong, then get ready to experience champaign motoring on lemonade money.