Bring a Trailer Bargain of the Week: 1998 BMW 740iL

Despite what some may claim, affordable used BMWs aren’t necessarily headaches waiting to happen. And in some cases, older BMWs don’t give up much compared to their modern counterparts. That’s especially true if you’re looking more for luxury rather than sheer performance. However, this week’s Bring a Trailer bargain car, a 1998 BMW 740iL, has a bit of both.

The E38 BMW “might be the best driver’s car in the history of the 7 Series,” Car and Driver says

A silver 1999 E38 BMW 740i in a European city
1999 E38 BMW 740i | BMW

When it launched for the 1995 model year, the E38 BMW 7 Series was something of a turning point for the nameplate. It was the first 7 Series to offer a diesel powertrain overseas. And it was the last to offer a manual transmission, Car and Driver points out. It also arguably started the 7 Series’ focus on technology, Car and Driver muses, likely influenced by the W140 Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

While it’s not quite as sharp as the modern 7 Series, an E38 BMW is still a true driver’s car. And its handling and ride quality are “miles ahead” of its predecessor, Automobile says. That’s thanks to a significantly stiffer chassis and new aluminum-intense independent suspension.

And even today, it doesn’t feel especially dated in appearance or material quality, Autotrader reports. It’s often considered one of the best-looking sedans ever made, The Drive notes. Plus, James Bond drove one in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Initially, the E38 BMW 7 Series launched in the US with two different engines and wheelbases. The base model, the 740i, had a 4.0-liter ‘M62’ V8 with 282 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque linked to a five-speed automatic, MT reports. If you needed more room, there was the long-wheelbase BMW 740iL with the same engine. And if you needed more power, BMW offered the 750i and 750iL with a 322-hp 5.4-liter V12.

In 1996, though, the BMW 740i and 740iL received a larger 4.4-liter V8. It has the same power output as the 4.0-liter engine but makes 310 lb-ft of torque. And coinciding with a 1999-MY facelift, the V8 was updated again, boosting torque to 325 lb-ft.

The 1998 BMW 740iL on Bring a Trailer

A black 1998 BMW 740iL in a parking lot
1998 BMW 740iL | Bring a Trailer

Being a 1998 model, the 114,000-mile BMW 740iL currently listed on Bring a Trailer has the 310-lb-ft version of the 4.4-liter V8. However, for potential buyers, that’s a good thing.

The 1999 update added more standard features and safety tech, but it also gave the engine VANOS, BMW’s version of VTEC. VANOS’s reputation has arguably been blown out of proportion, but it is a system that fails over time. Not having it means one less thing to potentially break.

The gray-leather front seats and walnut trim of a 1998 BMW 740iL
1998 BMW 740iL front interior | Bring a Trailer

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Also, although it doesn’t have all the standard features later models possessed, this 1998 BMW 740iL is still fairly well equipped. In addition to leather upholstery, it has a power sunroof, power-adjustable seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, side and rear sunshades, four-wheel disc brakes, and a car phone. It also has GPS navigation; the E38 BMW was one of the first European cars to offer it.

Bring a Trailer notes that this 1998 BMW 740iL was in an accident. However, the seller reports the damage was limited to the driver’s side door and has since been repaired. More to the point, this 740iL underwent a full refurbishment in 2010 that included replacing the speakers as well as the door, trunk, and sunroof seals.

The engine bay of a black 1998 BMW 740iL showing the M62 4.4-liter V8
1998 BMW 740iL M62 V8 | Bring a Trailer

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This BMW 740iL also has a new wheel speed sensor, a strut-tower brace, and stainless-steel brake lines. And apart from some dead pixels in the gauge-mounted digital display and underbody surface rust, it appears to be in excellent shape.

It’s a fun-to-drive well-restored luxury car bargain

The rear 3/4 view of a black 1998 BMW 740iL in a parking lot
1998 BMW 740iL rear 3/4 | Bring a Trailer

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As of this writing, this 1998 BMW 740iL is listed on Bring a Trailer at $2500 with three days left in the auction. That’s fairly low for an E38 BMW: the average BaT price hovers in the $10,000-$20,000 range.

As with any used car purchase, we recommend potential bidders get a pre-purchase inspection. However, it’s worth noting the E38 BMW 7 Series is one of the most reliable used BMWs available. And as noted earlier, this 740iL doesn’t have VANOS, eliminating one potential failure point.

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Plus, the seller notes in the BaT ad comments that the 2010 refurbishment included changing the valve and timing chain gaskets. Both often fail on older M62s. The seller also notes the timing chain guides and tensioners didn’t need to be replaced.

In short, this 1998 BMW 740iL has the makings of a classy, reasonably sporty luxury car bargain. And it’s one that you can still maintain mostly on your own without too much worrying over old electronics.

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