A glimpse over 25 years of BMW’s finest V12s

The BMW 7 series range has always been for the discerning individual who might ought to drive his spacious long wheelbase Ultimate Driving Machine when he isn’t being wafted around in complete and utter luxury. In March of 1987, BMW debuted to the world at the Geneva Motor Show, the first ever V12 powered BMW.

Aimed at the high end luxury market in 1987, BMW subsequently introduced the already-in-production E32 with a 5.0L V12 codenamed the M70. BMW achieved this feat by coupling two 2.5L straight-six engines taken from the BMW E30 3-series. It was a single overhead cam engine that produced 300hp at 5,200 revolutions and chucked out 450 Nm of torque at 4,100rpm. Not bad by the standards of the late 80’s.

bmw E32 side shot

Not satisfied with that, BMW’s engineers retrofitted this E32 model with a 6.7L V16 engine. Yes you read that right. A 408hp, sixteen-cylinder lump that kicked out 637 Nm of torque at 3,900 rpm while weighing in at 310kg. Massive. It was dubbed Project GoldFish. Sadly that remains a topic for another day and that model never saw the light of the production line. This engine held the lime light once again, when it debuted in 1992, powering the fastest production road car at the time, the McLaren F1. The engine was reworked by the BMW M-Sport division to make 618hp and 651Nm of torque.

Manufactured from between 1994 and 2001, the BMW E38 was pride of the Munich luxury carmaker, it was fit for silver-screen royalty James Bond in the 1997 spy-thriller Tomorrow Never Dies. However, minus the machine guns and the driverless tech and we end up with a 5.4L V12 making a broadly similar output as its predecessor with 320 hp and 490 Nm of torque, an engine that went on in life to power the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph.


The 750i/Li was also loaded to the brim with technological innovations such as the e-CAT catalytic converter system, ShiftTronic automatic transmission, Xenon headlights and GPS navigation system. On the safety front, BMW had fitted the E38 with ITS (Inflatable Tubular System) and HPS or Head Protection System which are essentially multi-point deployment airbag systems. A class leading contender for it time.

The E38 was eventually succeeded by the 760i E65 model. This was the turning point in history of the 7-Series. Just to produce this car and future models at its plant in Dingolfing, BMW shelled out a scarcely believable 500 million Euros or roughly RM2 billion upgrading and retooling the factory.


BMW was also contemplating an M-Sport version to keep up with the Audi S8 and Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG. History is an indication of that decision, they opted out. However they did redesign the N73 engine that went on to power it flagship model. The engine is relative of that used in the Rolls Royce Phantom.

This 6.0-litre twelve banger came with direct injection for the first time in a 7-Series. It also featured other tech such as ValveTronic – BMW’s variable valve lift technology which helped produce 454 hp and an astonishing 720 Nm of torque and a mere 3,500 revs.


This model also came with active anti-roll bars and Electronic Damper Control- Continuous (EDC-C) for a much greater ride quality.It was also the first sedan in the world to be sold with a six-speed transmission and an infinitely variable intake manifold.

It was the first BMW to come with adaptive Xenon headlight technology and a Push/Start system. The E65 also came with a radar-based  Active Cruise Control. However BMW also fitted the tediously complicated iDrive system which was badly received by owners at the time. That being said, the E65 was a revolutionary model and not to mention, the most expensive model in the barn.


Since the prelude of this article, we’ve gone back over 25 years in time, and here we arrive at the current cutting edge uber-fast limousine, the F02. Jam-packed with tech and gadgets, the F02 also debuted the ActiveHybrid7 model with a 0.4kW battery pack paired to a V8 engine. The F02 is also the first 7-Series to feature the hugely popular ZF’s eight-speed cog-box.

BMW also debuted the new ConnectedDrive system that features a host of safety system such as Night Vision, Dynamic Light Spot, High-Beam Assistant and BMW Parking Assistant. The F02 came with other such systems like Active Protection with detects imminent accidents, then prepares the driver by automatically pretensioning the seat belts, closing the windows and sunroof while activating the post-crash braking.


The F02 featured top-end tech with the likes of Lane Departure Warning, Front Collision Warning, Pedestrian Protection and City Collision Mitigation systems. No wonder the 760Li carried a price tag of RM1,388,000, making it more expensive than a BMW i8.

At a monstrous 540 hp and 750 Nm of torque from 1,500rpm, you would be forgiven if you thought this flagship battle-cruiser is powered by a uranium-fuelled nuclear reactor. The F02 boasts a century sprint time that is 0.2 secs faster than the outgoing F10 M5 model! The addition of two turbochargers strapped to its 60° banks help give it enough grunt to make F10 owners quake in their pants. With all that power, these engines are unbelievably smooth at idle and at constant driving speed.


However, given the downsizing trend and low-volume sales, it proves harder for the V12s to stay within the limelight. But for all that it’s worth, in the 20-over years that BMW has been making them, they’ve done an excellent job in showing the world what utter performance and absolute luxury look like hand-in-hand.



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