The E32 BMW 7-series (1986-1994)
The interior: electric dream
Gordon Gecko express
When the E32 BMW 7-series was released in mid 1986 it was a huge leap forward from its E23 predecessor. Here was a car for the 80s, 90s and beyond. Order books were being filled long before its release as plush-seeking executives yearned for the innovation, quality and driving pleasure that the patriarch of the BMW model family could provide. At the time it was almost like something out of a science-fiction movie. It was the car with "more computer technology on board than existed in the entire world 30 years ago", had an onboard computer that warned drivers about black ice, electric seats with memory - and all possible creature comforts of this era. Coupled with BMWs tried and tested servica interval computing technology the 7 was a real tour de force. It was touted as the car that would never need major servicing in its lifetime, according to a British motoring review. Many motoring magazines were openly sceptical of the car prior to release but when it came, motoring journos couldn't help but gush, as one CAR Australia journalist did: "when you put your foot down the seat gives you a sharp nudge between the shoulder blades" going on to describe the thrill of being in a limousine slash sportscar. Indeed the 7 had the potency of cars half its size, with BMW's now-trademark handling adeptness and roadholding. Its major competitor, the Mercedes S-Class, looked very dated in comparison.
Unfortunately the preceding E24 looked a little bit like a dinosaur when compared to the E32, which could partially explain why BMW Australia went into cost cutting in the last year of the E24's life. They knew what was coming. With the E32, gone were the cracked and dry buffalo hide seats (I suspect these were purely concocted for the US market), no more chrome and flush windows completed a supreme package. In 1990 Wheels asked many top executives in motoring companies which car they nominated as the best car of the 1980s - you guessed it, the E32 BMW 7-series topped this vote. It was simply a package far ahead of its time, a package which Japanese manufacturers used as a template for modern motoring.
The E32 never faded, it was merely replaced when the time came around by the slightly-dull E38 7-series. To many enthusiasts, the E32 will be remembered as the car which outsold Mercedes and established BMW's superiority in the super-luxury stakes.
Buying one now
Unless it is an award-winning concourse car I wouldn't recommend it. These cars even when new were VERY expensive - at the time topping $120,000 for the base model. In today's money this would be around $300,000 so, logically, anything that goes wrong in this car will cost dearly. They benefited at the time from vast computerised electronics; today this can be challenging financially in terms of replacements. Consider a nice 5-series or 3-series as they are far less complex and considerably less expensive to keep on the road.