TIMM'S BMW E38 BUYING GUIDE
Straight 6 (M52) fitted to 728i
M52TUB28 with double-Vanos fitted to a 2001 728i Sport V8 (M60 and M62) fitted to 730i, 735i and 740i The smallest engine in the range is fitted to the 728i. The first version (M52B28) was manufactured using the Nikasil process and had inlet- only variable valve timing. However, this was a very different engine to the older M30 fitted to the E32's. This was a light-alloy engine with  twin overhead-cams, 24 valves, sequential fuel-injection and 6 coil-over-plug ignition units which produced 186BHP. The early engines (1996 - 1998) proved exceptionally robust but suffered from Vanos problems that caused an uneven idle. In September  1998 the M52TUB28 was introduced, the Nikasil process was dropped and twin-Vanos was introduced. This provided better fuel-economy  and flattened the torque-curve which made the later models more driveable. The 728i is not a fast car but it certainly isn't sluggish, it is quite urgent from a standstill but starts to run out of puff quite quickly. However,  these are all relative terms expressed in comparison to the rest of the E38 range; against the majority of cars on UK roads the 728i is pretty  fast, especially at motorway speeds where the grunt of the M52 is most noticeable. The 728i has the lightest engine of the E38 range and  that makes this car pretty agile, even at just under two Tons in weight the 728i will embarrass most sports cars. The Sport variant is slightly  quicker due to the high stall-speed torque converter and slightly lower final-drive ratio. It is a great cruiser and gives excellent economy  (37MPG) on long runs. M62TUB44 with electronic throttle body and twin-Vanos V12 (M73) fitted to 750i All the engines in the V8 range were ahead of their time with quad overhead-cams, 32 valves, sequential fuel-injection and 8 coil-over-plug  ignition packs. The first E38 V8's retained the engines from the E32 (M60) with the 730i and 740i having the 3.0Ltr and 4.0Ltr M60  respectively. The M60 engines were manufactured using the Nikasil manufacturing process and command much lower resale prices in respect  to the M62 engined cars. In 2008 the 'Nikasil problem' is old news and these engines have the same longevity as it's successor. In 1996 the M60 engine was replaced with the M62, at the same time the engine capacity was increased to 3.5Ltr and 4.4Ltr for the 735i and  740i respectively. These engines were produced using the Alusil process to harden the combustion bores. These engines are seen as more  reliable and were designated M62B35 and M62B44 with 235BHP and 286BHP. The M62B's were powerful but the power was seen at the  higher end of the rev range making the cars a bit slow off the line but quickly making up for it as the revs rose. In September 1998 the M62TUB35 and M62TUB44 was introduced. These engines were similar to the M62B's but included twin-Vanos on the  inlet camshafts. Although the BHP for the 4.4Ltr remained the same at 286BHP and the torque was increased by by a mere 20Nm, the  torque-curve was much flatter and this makes the Vanos V8's much more driveable. The inclusion of the Vanos system also smoothed the  idle and increased economy. These changes were made during the 'facelift' process and these cars command a higher price. The 730i (1994-1996) has similar performance to the 728i (see above) but uses more fuel (33MPG on motorway runs). The 735i is slightly  quicker than both, but not a great deal so as would be expected. It is a bit quicker from the lights but the pre-facelift (non-Vanos) engines  need quite a few revs to squeeze the power out. However, in Sports mode, once the revs hit 4000 RPM they can really shift. The 740i is a bit more of a brute, the M60B40 engine in the early models (1994-1996) like a few revs to achieve power but the 4 Litres  certainly give a push. The M62TUB44 fitted to the post-facelift cars (after September 1998) are monsters and can be quite intimidating to  the unwary, they definitely need the DSC switched ON in poor conditions as the back-end can snap out without warning. On long runs the  740i can return a good 33 MPG, very similar returns to the 735i. The Vanos system really makes a difference as does the temperature- mapped thermostat that allows the engine to run hotter when cruising. The 740i can be driven quietly and smoothly but that misses the  point, if you just like cruising get a 728i! M73B54 engine fitted to a 1998 750i The M73 engine is hugely reliable and this is due in no small part to its relative simplicity. While the M60, M62 and M52 have 4 valves per  cylinder and twin overhead cams per cylinder bank, the M73 retains a single overhead cam and 2 valves per cylinder. As with the other  engines there are two variants, the M73B54 and M73TUB54, both producing 326BPH and 490Nm. Unlike the other engines the major changes  between the B and TUB variants concern the control system rather than mechanical changes. Both variants retain the M70's twin coil-and- distributor ignition system and if there is a weak area the ignition system is it. The M73 is exceptionally powerful with masses of torque and this provides the major differences between the 740i and 750i. Whereas the  Vanos 740i is manic and very quick, the 750i is just as fast but much more refined sounding more like a turbine than a piston engine. The  only downside to the M73 is the fuel-consumption, slightly better on the TUB variant due to better control systems but still hardly frugal. The 750i has very similar performance to the post-facelift 740i, it just does it without any fuss. There is no substitute to normally aspirated  capacity and at 5400cc the 750i has a lot of it! You also get the kudos of the V12 badge, it really is a class act. PRE AND POST FACELIFT MODELS Exterior Pre-Facelift 1998 735i      Post - Facelift 1999 740i      Post Facelift 2000 740i The Facelift process was started during September 1998, please note that this is the production date and not the registration date as I have  seen many 1999 registered cars that are not Facelifted. The main exterior changes are to the lights, front and rear. The rear lights were originally a double-skinned plastic construction, these crazed and leaked often filling with water that could only be  removed by drilling holes in the lenses. The 1999 models had rear clusters that were of glass construction but still retained the amber  indicators. The 2000/2001 models are of glass construction and have clear indicators. The front lights and indicators also changed during the Facelift process. Not only did the front indicators change construction (going from  plastic to glass) but the vertical height also reduced meaning that changes were also made to the front wings. The headlight units were  remodelled making the lower portion sculpted rather than the pre-Facelift straight edge. The internal construction of the headlight unit  remained almost identical but conversely the front face of the lights changed from glass on the pre-facelift to plastic on the post-facelift. Pre-Facelift 1998 735i   Post-Facelift 1999 740i  Post Facelift 2000 740i Although the rear clusters can be upgraded quite simply (they are held on using four nuts) the front lights cannot due to the decrease in  indicator size. Replacing the headlight unit but retaining the indicators leaves a gap between them as the facelift indicators abut inboard of  the bonnet gutter. Changes can be made to the wings to accept the facelifted indicators in a bodyshop or by cutting pieces off the original  indicator and spraying it with the body colour. But with the exceptionally low prices for facelifted E38's this certainly isn't economical. Mechanics / Electronics The facelift process also saw many changes to other parts of the E38 with a greater push towards integrating the many additions across the  model years. Major changes were made to the ABS (anti-skid braking system)/DSC (dynamic stability control)/ASC (anti-slip control)  systems which started as separate components. On the 740i these components were integrated into a single control unit that was fitted to  the ABS pump. The cruise control, idle valve and ASC throttle were all integrated into the electronic throttle system (EML), the 750i had  this as long ago as 1988 on the E32. Other engine changes have been discussed in the previous section. INTERIOR OPTIONS Seats There are three basic seat types with numerous options including ventilation, active (massaging) and heated: Standard seat              Comfort seat             Contour (Sports) seat Centre Console/MID/On Board Monitor There are three basic configurations for the centre console: MID console               4:3 Monitor               16:9 Monitor                MKI and MKII                           MKIII                           MKIV         The standard seats  are very comfortable as would be expected, but supply little lateral support. They can be supplied with heating but this  does not come as standard. The adjustments available are quite sufficient in normal use. The comfort seats  have additional adjustments for lumbar (lower back) support which can be moved both horizontally and vertically. The  back of the seat can be adjusted for rake in the upper half in respect to the lower half. The contour seats  have the same adjustments as the comfort seats but have additional adjustment of the thigh support which can move  horizontally away from the seat base. These seats are fitted as standard to the Sports models and offer the greatest amount of support and  adjustment. Heating was optional  on all seat types. The active option consists of two fluid-filled bags under the surface of the seat base. The fluid is  moved between the two bags every few seconds and this slight unbalancing of the seat causes the driver to shift position slightly and  reduces back stress. It is an acquired taste and can be quite disconcerting to the unwary. Ventilation  was also available as an option, this keeps the seat cooler in the summer months and is quite an unusual addition. The On Board Monitor is the hub for a number of options, Sat-Nav, television, telephone and Trafficmaster, without the monitor these  options (apart from basic telephone use) are not available. A few years ago it was financially viable to retrofit the 4:3 screen to an E38  that only had the MID option. Presently, with the cheap availability of E38's with monitors already fitted it isn't such a desirable prospect,  especially as the retrofit of these options is extremely complicated. The retrofit of a 16:9 monitor in an E38 already fitted with the 4:3 monitor is much less involved. It also requires a change of the video  module (fitted in the boot) to get full use of the features. Both the 4:3 and the 16:9 monitors come in LHD and RHD versions, make sure  you get the right version for your car. Sat-Nav The E38 was supplied with 3 versions of Sat-Nav: MKI, MKII and MKIII. The MKIV was only ever retrofitted but is now quite common as  the retrofit is extremely simple and the DVD-based MKIV is much faster. The  MKI  was an option in the early models and had a male voice, it was a complicated system with a head unit, GPS unit, magnetic  heading unit and an antenna. It was pretty slow and often failed to track the car's position. The  MKII  was a slightly faster and the magnetic heading sensor was replaced with a gyro sensor that was integrated into the head unit. It  still had a separate GPS unit and antenna. The MKII was introduced around 1998 and the integration into the cars information system  caused a few problems with the complete system freezing and locking the use of any monitor functions. The  MKIII  was introduced on the 2000 models and is quicker again. The GPS unit is integrated into the head unit and requires only an  antenna to operate. This version does not suffer from the freezing and lock-up that the MKII did. All three versions of Sat-Nav can be  brought up-to-date by purchasing later versions of operating system and maps. When used with the 16:9 screen the MKIII can be run in  split-screen mode with directions and map on the same screen. The  MKIV  is a DVD - based system and is much faster than the previous models. The map DVD's also cover Europe whereas the CD's used  on the earlier systems only cover one area. You can also get a bird's-eye-view (perspective view) on the MKIV SPORTS - INDIVIDUAL - HIGHLINE MODELS Sport Models Ebay is full of 'Sports' E38's but they are rarely the real thing. The true Sports models have two items that define the marque, a high stall- speed torque-converter and a lower-ratio differential, the correct option number for this is S204A. These two items are extremely rarely  retro-fitted whereas the M-Parallel wheels and M steering wheel are quite often stuck on standard models. The Sport 740i is 0.1 second  faster to 62MPH than the standard 740i but feels a lot quicker. The Sports models had a basic price  £ 3,900 higher than the standard  model. Although this car has 18" M-Parallels, M-Steering wheel, body-coloured skirts, is de-chromed and has S-EDC, the lack of an Anthracite headlining and Sports/Contour seats means that this is not a Sports model NON-SPORT SPORT Individual / Highline Models The E32 Highline model was real head-turner with great expanses  of wood trim, picnic tables, rear vanity lights and often a  refrigerator in the rear. There was not an E38 Highline model,  however the E38 option list included most of the Highline elements  including the wooden picnic tables. The first question is what constitutes an Individual Model? The  simple answer is a car that was ordered with options that could not  be taken from the standard options list. The Individual options were  more expensive than the standard options which increases their  resale value, however as the Individual options were entirely at the  whim of the original buyer some colour combinations were not to  everyone's taste! Click here for an example customer order. Identifying an Individual model is quite easy as shown on the right.  There has been some discussion regarding Individual models that  do not have the sticker on the strut-mount, it might be possible on  cars that only have interior options rather than an Individual  exterior colour. The Individual door treads (rocker covers) were an  option (at  £ 100 per door), the lack of them does not mean your car  is not an Individual. Below are a few of the Individual options: Champagne full Nappa leather with piped seats, matching carpets, stitched dashboard and centre console The true Sports models have a few identifying features: • M - Parallel 18" Alloys • Shadowline / Bodycolour exterior • M Steering wheel • Anthracite headlining (only in UK) • S - EDC (see options) or Sports suspension • Contour seats/Sports seats The correct torque-converter and differential are difficult to check, the only definite method is to contact BMW Customer Services to obtain  the original specification. However, the presence of an anthracite (black) headlining is a good visual clue as these are extremely difficult to  retrofit. There are many E38's that have most of the other options that are not Sports models. Recently I looked into a method for discerning  between a 740i and a 740i Sport, the following method will ensure, at least, that the correct final-drive unit is fitted: Use OBC hidden function 8 to display KPH; set cruise to 123KPH on a level road (the speedo will show 80MPH/128KPH as it over-reads by 4%) Use OBC hidden function 7/2 to show RPM A non-Sport model will show 2305 - 2310 RPM A Sport model will show 2475 - 2480 RPM  Alternatively, without using any hidden functions: Set the cruise so that the speedometer shows exactly 80MPH when in 5th gear. The instruments will look like this: Inlaid wood trim  Picnic tables and rear vanity mirrors  Mora Metallic paintwork VARIOUS STANDARD OPTIONS There are numerous options available on the E38, some are very useful, some are a complete waste of time, nearly all of them add value  to the car. Click here for the full list. Here is a selection of options and what they do:  S - EDC gives variable damping to the suspension. Whereas the standard suspension can be a little soft and the Alpina  Sports suspension tiring on bad road surfaces, the S-EDC option automatically adjusts the damping to suit the driving style.  It can also be switched manually to Sports Mode to stiffen the damping. The system is quite complicated and includes  numerous acceleration sensors and steering-angle sensors. The ride is adjusted by electrically-controlled dampers which  have three hydraulic valves to adjust the ride in three stages. A  £ 1,300 option it is quite sought - after and a standard option  on the Sports models. Identified by the S-EDC button in the centre console.  PDC or Park Distance Control is a very useful option on the large E38. It consists of four sensors in the rear bumper and  four sensors in the front bumper that detect the distance to solid objects. Warnings are made by sounders at the front and  rear in the interior of the car. The beeping increases in frequency as the car gets closer ending in a constant beep when the  car is within 12" of the object. The sensors often fail but are easily replaced.  Hydraulic Boot. All E38's have a soft - close boot which pulls the boot down into the locked position and releases the lock.  However, the hydraulic option fully opens and closes the boot by remote control. The serene glide of the lid opening when  you are still a few yards away is a joy to behold. Especially when you are laden with shopping which can be placed in the  cavernous boot whilst the Mondeo driver is placing his shopping in a deep puddle. While he his lifting the dripping bags into  the boot my boot is gliding back down as I get in the car and start the engine. This is one of my favourite options and was  one of the cheapest at  £ 390. Extremely difficult to retrofit, if you want this option, buy a car with it fitted. Once you have  one of these you will wonder how you ever did without it. Exceptionally high Kudos points.  Tyre - Pressure - Control (RDS). This option can be a bit of a nuisance and really was only useful where run - flat tyres were  used. Unlike the 'Tyre Failure System' which utilised the ABS sensors to detect a deflated tyre, the RDS system uses a  complicated system of pressure and temperature sensors fitted to the road-wheels complete with batteries and radio  transmitters, receivers fitted to the wheel arches and a control unit integrated to the Check Control system. It is very  complicated. One of the problems is that the batteries fitted to the road-wheel sensors fail after seven years which stops  the system working. A new set of sensors (the batteries cannot be replaced separately) will cost around  £ 300. The sensors  are quite often removed when tyres are replaced and all you get is a warning message after a period of driving and when  the ignition is switched OFF. The system often gives the 'Check Tyre Pressures' warning when the pressures are good.  Electrically - Adjustable Steering Wheel. An obvious part of the memory system that should have been fitted from the start  of the series. Later models have the steering wheel lift upwards automatically when the ignition is switched OFF.  Electrically - Folding Mirrors. If you need to park is small spaces get a smaller car! A 7 - Series should always be parked away  from other cars, although you may find smaller cars are attracted to the safe presence of a quality vehicle. A useless  option.  Trafficmaster. The usual display is the one shown below....expired! The Trafficmaster system is a nationwide network of  ANPR cameras that communicate with a central control centre. The number-plate information is used to calculate the  average speed on major trunk-roads and this data is received by the Trafficmaster unit in your car. The display system is  extremely clunky and old-fashioned. The TMC option on the Sat-Nav system works a lot better and comes free with the  later versions of the system. Another useless option that cost  £ 1,300 when originally fitted.  Electric Rear - Blind. More useful for the rear passengers or if the car behind has not dipped their lights and you don't have  electrochromatic mirrors. Usually supplied with manual blinds on the side windows and quarter-lights.  Moonroof. A glass sunroof in other words. Usually causes excessive wind - noise but does open the car up to more light  without a howling wind. I'd rather have less noise.  Voice - Control. If you do not have Bluetooth then this is quite useful for the telephone and a few other functions on the Sat Nav and 'Notebook' recording facility. It works quite well but the commands are not obvious and easily forgettable. Limited  value but a desirable option.  DSP Sound - System. You get 4 extra speakers on the rear parcel shelf and a 7 - band graphic - equaliser with echo and room  reverberation effects. Each of the 14 speakers is driven by a separate amplifier within the DSP unit and the sound-levels  can get pretty high, especially for back-seat passengers who are seated just in front of the 4 sub-woofers. The graphic- equaliser can be a bit fiddly to operate, especially if you are driving at the time, but fortunately the simple 'Tone-Control'  screen is still available for broad changes in bass and treble. The sound is pretty impressive on CD tracks that have heavy  bass but the 40Hz roll-off on the rear speakers and the 80Hz pickup on the door speakers leave gaps in the sound  spectrum. Still, it is better than the standard system and carries high Kudos points. A desirable option.  Electrochromatic Mirrors. The interior rear - view mirror contains two light sensors, the forward - facing sensor measures  ambient light-levels and the rear-facing sensor measures light levels from behind. When the rear-facing sensor measures  higher light-levels than ambient (when a car behind has not dipped their lights) the mirror reduces its reflectance. The  control signal from the interior mirror is also routed to the exterior mirrors which also reduce their reflectance. Compared  to the on/off nature of the older 'auto-dip' mirrors  on the E32, the electrochromatic mirrors are continually variable and  work exceptionally well. The exterior mirrors can sometimes come a cropper (as shown) but overall this is a very useful  option.  Rain - Sensitive Wipers (AIC). The BMW system works quite well and uses a control - unit that is sited in front of the rear - view mirror. The windscreen has lenses bonded to the inner surface which focuses IR light transmitted from the control unit  to the outer surface of the screen. A dry screen reflects the IR light back to a receiver in the control unit whereas any water  on the surface of the glass scatters the rays reducing the light seen at the receiver. The stalk-control has a sensitivity  adjustment and when working correctly the system is very effective. Unfortunately, they quite often fail and the AIC setting  just produces a 10-second interval and no sensitivity to rain. Can be repaired by replacing the control unit ( £ 83) very  simply.  Third 3 - point Rear Seatbelt. At  £ 100 this was a cheap option but rarely seen and awkward to retrofit. A very useful safety  addition. The straight lower-edge of the headlights denotes a pre-facelift model 16" Turbine alloys were an option on the pre-facelift 735i's Pre-facelift M62B35 engines retained the throttle, cruise-control and ASC cables The standard steering wheel gives better instrument visibility compared to the Sports version 1998 pre-facelift 735i with factory-fitted standard options Colour 303 Cosmos Black Upholstery N6TT Grey Leather Ordered Options : Alloy Wheels-Radiating Comfort Seats+Memory Park Distance Control On-Board Monitor  GSM Car-Phone  Top Hi-Fi Speaker System Standard Options: Servotronic Steering Remote Control Alarm Electric Steel Sunroof First Aid Kit & Triangle Polished Burr Walnut Trim Smoker Package Headlamp Washer System Park Distance Control BMW Professional Radio BMW 6 Disc CD Changer Hi-Fi loudspeaker system 18" Multi-spoke alloys were an ordered option on the post-facelift 740i's Amber indicators were standard on 1999 models but were of glass construction 4:3 LCD monitor and hands-free phone were options in 1999 The post-facelift M62TUB44 used an electronic throttle-body and lost all bowden cables 1999 post-facelift 740i with factory-fitted standard options Colour:        Biarritz Blue Metallic Upholstery:  Sand Beige/Dark Beige Montana Leather Ordered Options : Multi-Spoke 32-8/9Jx18" Navigation-system Professional GSM Telephone - Fixed telephone M Steering Wheel Standard Options : Servotronic Steering Remote Control Alarm Electric Steel Sunroof First Aid Kit & Triangle Polished Burr Walnut Trim Smoker Package Headlamp Washer System Park Distance Control BMW Professional Radio BMW 6 Disc CD Changer Hi-Fi loudspeaker system 18" Multi-spoke alloys were an ordered option on the post-facelift 740i's Amber indicators were standard on 1999 models but were of glass construction 4:3 LCD monitor and hands-free phone were options in 1999 Body-coloured skirts and sills were standard (except on the 728i) in 2000 The standard tailpipes are hidden behind the valence, these are after-market units (Cobra) As an Individual option, the door cards, carpets and piping could match or complement the exterior By late 2000, the widescreen (16:9) monitor was a popular option The late 2000 models had a Motorola mobile rather than wired telephone and wide-screen monitor Ordered Options: BMW Individual Option -  Burr walnut trim Electronic Damper Control Tyre Pressure Control Auto Boot lid Operation De-chroming Climate Comfort Screen Electric Glass Sunroof Sunblinds for side and rear windows BMW Individual Upholstery: Champagne full nappa leather Door capping & dash in black A B C Pillars & headlining in beige Amethyst Piping on seats Amethyst carpets and floor mats Voice Control System Third 3-Point Rear Seat Belt M Steering Wheel Active Front Seats Hi-Fi Sys Prof DSP Parallel 37M-8/9.5J alloy wheels Standard Options: Front Centre Arm Rest Lumbar support - front Front Seat Heating Headlamp Washer System Park Distance Control Xenon Headlamps Radio Signal Clock On-Board Monitor with Television Navigation-system Professional Prep for Motorola V50 BMW 6 Disc CD Changer CD Preparation Auto-Dim Int + Ext Mirror Auto-Dim Interior Mirror Polished Burr Walnut Smoker Package Comfort Seats - Electric Elect Fr Seats + Driver memory White Indicator Lenses First Aid Kit & Triangle Steptronic Paddles Dynamic Stability Control Servotronic Steering Elect Steer Column Adjustment Remote Control Alarm Body Coloured Bumper Late 2000 post-facelift 740i with factory-fitted Individual options and Cobra exhaust Colour:        BMW Individual Paint Special - 359 Mora Metallic Upholstery: BMW Individual Upholstery