The E38 7-series is perhaps the last classically handsome BMW. Its conservative, purposeful design has aged well and serves as poignant reminder of how things used to be, before the advent of Chris Bangle’s fussy futurism. Plutocratically expensive when new, today you can buy an early, high mileage, rough-around-the-edges example for a mere couple of grand. But the question is – would you want to? A $2k car that cost nearly $100k new is bound to be a ticking time bomb of wallet-rending catastrophe. To get a nice one you have to spend a little (but not too much) to get a lot (quite a lot, in fact). Around $10k will buy you a nicely sorted example – still not a lot of money, when you think about it – and just a smidge more will put you into a Sport model, like this one.
I don’t think BMW has produced an attractive 7-series since the E38, offered between 1994 and 2001. Sure, later versions of BMW’s flagship sedan are more impressive in other ways: larger, more powerful and more technologically advanced. But they aren’t what I would call classically beautiful. The E38 on the other hand, with its conservative, angular styling, graceful proportions and purposeful stance, is an extraordinarily handsome car. Because of depreciation, you can pick one up for relative pennies these days. For example, I wrote up an early model 740iL a few months ago advertised for just $3,800. But a car that cheap is bound to have expensive repair needs lurking beneath the surface. In truth, if you want a nice E38 that is mechanically sound, you have to spend a bit of money up front to save on potentially exorbitant costs further down the road.
On the surface, the themes were very similar; two movies staring action superstars playing above-the-law criminals with an amazing ability to extricate themselves from seemingly impossible conditions against improbable odds driving large, fast executive cars. Despite this, the movies Ronin and The Transporter couldn’t be more different. I watched the former on the edge of my seat, captivated by the mystery, floored by the incredibly filmed stunt scenes, the attention to reality and detail, and the staggeringly awesome lineup of cars. The latter I struggled to get through at all; I managed to make it about half way through before giving up. To this day, I still haven’t seen the ending of the first movie, and nothing more than trailers of the second. Is there a third? I’m sorry, I’m sure it made a gazillion dollars in the box office but frankly when I watched the clip of the Audi A8L W12 corkscrewing through the air to miraculously remove a bomb from the bottom of the car on a perfectly placed scrap-metal magnet hanging in mid-air I lost all interest. I can suspend my belief for a movie like Ronin because there was an air of reality to it; the characters were flawed and mortal. Sure, there were problems with the plot and even some of the stunts – I mean, they don’t show Jean Reno standing in line at the DMV to register the 450SEL 6.9, for example. But in terms of reality, it was on this planet at least, while The Transporter seemed to be set in some alternate Japanese-live-action-anime reality I’m not sure I want to understand. Nevertheless, the central plot to both is about cars and driving (at least a bit), and today you can purchase just about all of the cars featured in these films for around $10,000 – so which would you have?…
A few weeks ago, Paul wrote up a low mile 1995 740i, always a favorite of ours here at GCFSB. Also a favorite is the D2 S8. Together, they represent in our minds the pinnacle of large executive designs – fast, comfortable, quiet, and with enough presence to draw respectful looks without being overstated, showy or brash. We also think that these two executive sedans are better looking than the multiple generations that have replaced them. While performance and luxury have increased in both BMW and Audi, in our opinion both of these cars are the high-water marks for their respective brands. So, which would you rather have? Let’s start with the S8:
Two weeks ago I wrote up executive showdown which featured an A8L against a 745i and S500. The general consensus was that while most wanted the Audi, the Mercedes-Benz (though maybe not that particular one) was the better long-term purchase. Personally, I think Audis of this generation sometimes get an unwarranted reputation, but regardless few people really wanted any of these cars as almost all found some earlier generation more appealing. So, run the tape again, this time with the “Greatest Hits”! Let’s start with the Audi:
Engine: 4.2 liter V8
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Mileage: 108,572 mi
2002 Audi S8
4dr All-wheel Drive Quattro Sedan 4.2L
Type: Premium unleaded..Cylinders: 8..Horse Power: 360..Variable Valve Timing..Max RPM: 7,000..Torque: 317..Max Torque RPM: 3,400..Compression Ratio: 11.00 : 1..Size: 4.2..Valve Gear: DOHC..Total Valves: 40..Engine Configuration: V..Displacement: 255..Vehicle Emissions: Federal
Number of speeds: 5..Manual / automatic: Automatic..Automatic type: Automatic
Head airbags: Curtain 1st and 2nd row..Passenger Airbag: Yes..Traction control: ABS and driveline..Stability control: Yes..Child safety locks: Yes..Rear center seatbelt: 3-point belt..Seatbelt pretensioners: Front and rear
Cruise control..Power steering: Speed-proportional power steering..Steering wheel: Tilt and telescopic..Audio controls on steering wheel: Audio controls..Cupholders: Front and rear..Remote trunk release: Power..Door pockets: Driver, passenger and rear..Seatback storage: 2..Cargo net..12V DC power outlet: 2..Retained accessory power..Universal remote transmitter
I can’t deny that I have a serious love affair with the S8. It just looks sooooooo right. This particular example looks splendid in the quite rare Irish Green Pearl and has the preferred look 18″ Avus wheels in good condition from the look of the photos. Interior also looks great, and mileage is low to average for the market. Timing belt service should have been performed so look for that to have been done, and also it appears there is front bumper damage (not uncommon on the low-slung S8), but at below $10,000, this car looks like the best bang for the buck in this group.…