1999-2001 BMW 7 Series: Once top of the line BMW, now top choice of used cars
Just a short 5 years ago the 2001 7 Series (E38) was the top of the line, best BMW you could purchase. If you had between $70-100,000 available cash to purchase a new car. The 750iL, V12 with every BMW option started at around $95,000 without one of the few options such as sport package, or the bullet proof protection package. This 5. 4 Liter V12 engine was based on a similar engine block as can be found in the million dollar Mac Laren F1, although only produced 320HP. Only The 2001 750iL's option list was jam packed with goodies such as full leather interior (everywhere), comfort seats, that were all heated and had massage pads for the front passengers, and even reclined for the rear passengers. It was also loaded with the top of the line safety devices such as ABS, Dynamic stability control, Electronic Dampening control suspension, driver, passenger, front and rear side curtain, front and rear head protection air bags. The electronics were loaded with technology such as Park distance control, Satellite navigation system, voice control of navigation and cellular phone, on-board computer, Digital signal processor with 14 speakers and more. To top it the 750iL came with concierge service, where the dealer would come pick up your car and drop off a loaner for you if you ever had an issue. That was then, this is now.
Today as we near 2007, a 2001 750iL with low miles and perfect condition sells for just over one quarter of it's new 2001 price! If you ask me, it is the best bang for the buck if you love the cars with all of the safety features, good looks and gadgets. And, as for gadgets, the 7 Series is blessed by the simple fact that it's smaller brother the 5 series was born with a taller twin, the BMW X5. To explain what I mean by this will get a little technical in the way the 7 series on-board computer system works.
BMW as a smart manufacturer designed the 3, 5, 7 Series car's computer system essentially the same. A number of technology components where shared across different lines, and a number of engines were shared across different lines. The 5 Series and the 7 Series essentially use the same technology. For example a 540i and 740i have the same engine, similar electronics ect. The best part is that the technology such as the navigation system and on-board computer functions are the same. To take this a little further, the X5 is basically a tall 5 series with all wheel drive. So in theory, some of the 2006 model year X5 technology can be put into the 7 Series as far back as the 1995 7 Series. Since I am focusing on the 2001 for the moment, let's step back from that thought, but just so that it is known the 1995 7 series can be retrofitted just as easily as the 2001. I am a technology nut. I like all of the bells and all of the whistles in cars. To me, it is the biggest selling point. So when I purchased my 2001 750iL, I wanted to figure out how to make this great car with 2001 technology operate just like the 2006 X5.
The first step in my upgrade path was to swap out the navigation display. BMW started making the 2001 model year 7 series in March of 2000, and until August 2000 they were using a 4:3 aspect ratio CRT display for the navigation. Knowing that a widescreen 16:9 version was available, my first step was to swap out the 4:3 to the 16:9 widescreen. In the E38, this swap out was a simple 45 minute task of just removing some trim pieces and replacing the display. The new display worked fine with the old MK2 CD based navigation system, although being a techno nut, my next upgrade was the 2006 X5 MKIV navigation computer.
The MKII navigation computer operates on a 28mHz (?) processor. It is a slow and frustrating task to use it unless your trip was very short and quick. The new navigation computer BMW MKIV is over 4 times as fast and uses a single DVD for all of the US and Canada. In addition to being faster, support for 3D map viewing and including more POI information, the MKIV also has the software support to display some of the new features in the 2006 X5 navigation system such as BMW Sirius, and BMW MP3 CD changers. 3D map viewing is for starters a huge upgrade for the dated BMW navigation system, and the support of these new features means that I was only a short distance away from having new technologies fully integrated into the car. I just needed to figure out what are the other components that would complete the solution.
As it turns out, in order for a BMW to be Sirius sat ready, it needs a radio that supports the switching of the CD changer audio input to Sirius. In the nav equipped BMWs the Radio is a small silver box in the trunk. Upgrading the radio was a challenge at first as the connectors in the 2001 are based on an Alpine design and the 2006 X5 Becker radio is based on a square pin MOST connector. Initially I just made my own adapter harness that converted the wires from old to new, but I have since learned that there is a BMW old to new adapter harness available on тынц Once the radio was upgraded to the new 2006 X5 version, my 2001 7 series was fully BMW Satellite ready. Installing the BMW Sirius satellite receiver was a simple as plugging in the connector that originally went from the radio to the CD changer directly to the Sirius receiver, which then had a connector that daisy chained to the original CD changer. In doing this Sirius installation there were only a couple new wiring harnesses that were needed to complete the installation. Once Sirius was installed, whenever I pushed the mode button on my navigation display, I am presented with Sirius as an option and full song title channel information and control on the navigation screen. In addition this new radio provided me with an Auxiliary audio input connector for ipod and support for the new BMW X5 CD changer that plays MP3s.
The BMW CD Changer that plays MP3s and displays ID3 Audiotext was launched by BMW starting 09/05 and although it is not the same size as the 7 Series CD changer, the electronic connection is the same once you upgrade the radio. The CD changer operation functions just as it should with steering wheel controls and navigation controls, plus it displays ID3 Audiotext on the navigation display while playing a song.
One feature that was not available on the US model 7 series was television. Now, I am not one for watching television while driving, but this system is quite nice, especially with the support for BMW reverse backup camera. The BMW TV video module is a simple plug and play installation as long as you purchase the retrofit harness that connects to the navigation harness in the trunk of the car. The backup camera is a great feature as it really helps avoid accidents especially couples with the BMW part distance control sonar system already part of the 750iL package.
In 2001, the 7 series was equipped with a single band digital cellular phone, normally a $2,500 option at no extra cost. Unfortunately, this phone became obsolete within a couple years and carriers would not activate the phone on any network due to an FCC requirement for E911 capability. Again drawing from the 2006 X5, a Bluetooth system can be easily retrofitted in the 2001 7 series that allows you voice control of your navigation system, and voice control of your Bluetooth cellular phone. Bluetooth is a crazy name for a cellular cable replacement technology, which basically means that you can have your Bluetooth cellphone sitting in your pocket and take an incoming call without taking your hands off the steering wheel. All you would need to do is press the phone answer button on the multifunctional steering wheel. And to call a number, you can just press the same button and using voice command speak a name and number and the system will transfer the call on your cellular phone over the car speakers and car microphone. BMW's Bluetooth system has come a long way since it was launched in 2002 in parts of Europe. The original Bluetooth system (1st gen Bluetooth module) was problematic and had poor hand-free voice quality. In the last 4 years the system has been drastically improved and now even supports the viewing of phone SMS messages on the navigation display (if supported by the cellular phone carrier) Currently I am running the 10th generation ULF module and it works perfectly. The Bluetooth system was built by Visteon and is similar to what the new Jaguar and new Aston Martin cars are equipped with (also by Visteon)
To sum up my entertainment upgrade, I have basically taken a 2001 BMW with all of the great styling, security and features and upgraded the in-cabin electronic technology to that of the 2006 X5. I think this car, especially in the upgraded state, is the best bang for the buck on 4 wheels. It is incredibly safe, with copious airbags, great breaks, a superb crash record and a solid and pretty much impervious passenger cabin. Now, a cynic might say that I will pay out the nose for any major repairs on the car, while a brand new Honda costing the same price will have relatively inexpensive maintenance. At this point with all of the great DIY information available on websites such as тынц and my two year track record of having very few issues with the car, I think I will take my chances. Plus at over 300 HP, in a gorgeous car full of the finest napa leather, with every option available, who would want the Honda?