Seventh Heaven

These two 7 Series models are 33 years apart, but surprisingly have much in common.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
These two 7 Series models are 33 years apart, but surprisingly have much in common.
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Classic cars fascinate me because unlike new cars, old cars have histories. They each have a story to tell, and sitting inside one is probably as close as you’ll get to being in a time machine.

In my case, I travelled 33 years back in time when I got behind the wheel of a first-generation BMW 7 Series, codenamed E23.

This particular model, a 1983 745i, is a lot smaller than its modern counterpart, the 2016 750Li, codenamed G11. In fact, an F10 5 Series is actually larger than an E23.

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Although the 745i looks dated and boxy, there’s something to be said about its simple and clean lines. I also like its “face”, which seems to have a friendlier expression compared to the sleeker and more aggressivelooking 750Li.

The 745i’s cockpit, however, wasn’t as simple as I thought it would be. It was a cinch to operate the air-con and radio, but seeing many buttons labelled in both German and English was bewildering.

Even more confusing was the panel to the left of the steering wheel, which had lots of German labels. I was told that it served to warn the driver of specific faults in the car. This was very advanced for its time.

Far easier to comprehend, on the other hand, were the oil change and service indicator lights on the instrument panel. These, too, were high-tech features for a car, even a luxury model, in 1983.

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As a reflection of its era, the 745i could be specified (as this test car was) with six cassette tape holders, which were conveniently located below the hi-fi system.

In comparison, the 2016 750Li is a lot more intuitive. There are no controls labelled in German, and the dashboard’s layout is tidy. There’s nothing analogue here – everything is fully digitised and electrically powered, from the seats to the parking brake.

For music, you can insert CDs, utilise Spotify or plug in a thumb drive filled with your favourite songs. Either way, there’ll be no shortage of tunes on road trips.

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The car’s more complex features are accessed using iDrive, BMW’s infotainment system. With satellite navigation and an available concierge service, the 750Li’s owner literally has the world at his fingertips.

And when it comes to performance, the 750Li’s driver will also have plenty to smile about. Beneath that long bonnet is a turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 that delivers 450bhp and 650Nm – figures that propel 1.9 tonnes of modern Munich sheet metal from zero to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds.

The 745i’s
backseat is
cushy and
roomy, while
the 750Li’s
rear bench is
a luxurious
lounge on 
The 745i’s backseat is relatively cushy and roomy, while the 750Li’s rear bench is a luxurious lounge on wheels.

The 750Li was effortless. Even without setting the Driving Experience Control to Sport or Sport+, this limousine pulled away with ease in response to every flex of my right foot.

This particular test vehicle was equipped with xDrive (BMW’s allwheel-drive system), which makes it more surefooted than rearwheel-drive 7 Series models.

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Indeed, the rainy weather did nothing to dampen the car’s performance. The 750Li always felt amazingly light on its feet, and despite its size, was agile enough to take on any corner that came its way.

The classic 745i, on the other hand, went about its business in an equally refined but gentler manner. It may only have 252bhp and 380Nm, but in 1983, those numbers were pretty darn healthy, especially for a car weighing just under 1.6 tonnes.

The engine responsible for these outputs is a turbocharged 3.2-litre inline-6. It wasn’t as quiet as the 750Li’s V8, but what it lacked in refinement, it made up for in character.


The 750Li’s
V8 is more 
refined than 
the 745i’s
inline-6, but 
the older
motor has
a lot more
The 750Li’s V8 is more refined than the 745i’s inline-6, but the older motor has a lot more character.


BMW’s inline-6 motors have a reputation for smoothness and this 3.2-litre unit was no exception. For a 33-year-old powerplant, it certainly didn’t mind constantly being stretched past 4000rpm.

At any rate, I had to keep revving it to get a move on, since the turbo would only kick in when the tachometer needle swung past the 3000rpm mark. At that point, the inline-6 would sound deliciously throaty.

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When I was just cruising on the highway, I felt like I was sitting in an old cushy armchair. Surprisingly, for such an upright and boxy car, there was very little wind noise, even at 120km/h.

Just as surprising was the fact that the 745i only has three forward ratios. But since the ratios are so tall, it never felt like I needed more.

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Tackling mountain roads in the 745i was an interesting experience. The car was so softly sprung that it felt like a battleship cutting through huge waves as I charged into corners.

I kept reminding myself that this was how limousines handled 33 years ago. The 745i didn’t have adaptive dampers or a sporty suspension setup. It was tuned to tackle real-world conditions, where comfort, not sportiness, is what counts.

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Besides, having to twirl that wide-diameter steering wheel, which is linked to a helm with plenty of slack, was also a challenge in itself.

The faster I drove, the quicker my arms had to work. For a limousine, the 745i was a very involving drive.

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The 745i and 750Li are engineered to impress drivers with their performance and cosset passengers with their refinement. As flagship models, they are also equipped with the most advanced features of their era.

These cars are 33 years apart, but believe me, you’d be in seventh heaven if you drove either one. 

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