When you have a long family history like that of the BMW 7 Series, it can be difficult living in the shadow of some of the greats. That’s the struggle for this new 7 Series and its all-new design. The G70 7 Series is likely going to be the most luxurious car in its family’s history but its design is a polarizing one. Enthusiasts seem to be arguing about whether its boldness is exciting or disgusting. So we thought it would be good to look back at all generations of 7 Series, to see where this new one ranks among its predecessors.
There are now seven generations of 7 Series, dating back all the way to 1977, so you can imagine its design has changed quite a bit over the last 45 years. Due to the drastic change in fashion over the course of four decades, it’s hard to judge a car now with a car from the ’70s. However, it’s important to look back at its lineage, to see where it ranks. So let’s check them all out, in order from worst to best.
I honestly struggled with this one, going back and forth between the E65 7 Series and the new G70. The reason I ultimately chose the E65-generation is because of the pre-LCI version. Because we have to judge each generation in its totality, including both the pre-LCI and post-LCI facelift versions, the E65’s initial look is just too shocking. Its blobby headlights and disjointed taillights are just a mess, even today, and haven’t aged well at all. Which is a shame because the post-LCI car is actually looking pretty handsome these days and has aged well, as with most Bangle-era designs. However, the pre-LCI is just rough.
Going into this, I honestly thought I’d rank the G70 higher than second-to-last, because I honestly don’t hate it. But after seeing each generation of 7 Series side-by-side, I honestly struggled to see one that was worse looking. If it weren’t for the E65’s blobby headlights, the G70 would have ended up in last place. It’s not horrific or anything but it just isn’t good looking. I get why it looks the way it does and I honestly don’t hate it but there’s nothing about the new G70 that makes me think “yes, that’s a nice looking piece of design.” The split headlights work but only because everything else is so shockingly large. I’d prefer that weren’t the case and it could use normal BMW headlights. Also, its taillights put me to sleep.
The F01-generation 7 Series is like four-wheeled Ambien. There’s nothing interesting about the way it looks, in any way, at all. It looks like it could be a Grand Theft Auto car, just a generic blob of German luxury. There’s nothing particularly ugly about it, even if the taillights do look a bit weird, but it’s just not particularly good looking either. It’s just sorta there and, honestly, I forgot it even existed until I wrote this piece. So bottom/middle of the pack seems about perfect for it.
I have a soft sport for ’80s German cars but the E32-gen 7 Series was never one that spoke to me. Again, much like the F01, there’s nothing really wrong about its design and it isn’t ugly, it’s just boring. And it even lacks the sort of Teutonic strength old ’70s and ’80s German cars had. It’s just a pretty standard looking three-box sedan. Even its Hofmeister Kink, one of BMW’s signature designs, is super soft and lame. But it beats out the F01 for at least being a cool ’80s car.
I remember when the G11 7 Series first debuted and everyone called it boring, myself included. Boy, do we wish BMW would give us boring now, right? Looking back at the pre-LCI 7 Series, it’s a really handsome car. Okay, so the hockey stick trim is a bit silly but the rest of it looks really good, with the benefit of hindsight. Its kidney grilles are perfectly proportionate, its headlights are slim and pretty, and even its taillights look good, with the little bar of trim that connects them. In M Sport trim, with the more aggressive front fascia, it looks extra good. Admittedly, the LCI sorta ruined it, with obnoxiously large kidney grilles but you can always just buy a pre-LCI car instead, so it ranks high on this list.
When I think of ’70s and ’80s German cars, the E23 7 Series is the sort of design that I love. At first glance it’s just a simple three-box sedan but there’s so much more character to it than that. The slight sharknosed grille, upright windows, sharply creased Hofmeister Kink, and the aggressively tapered rear end all make it so interesting looking. It’s simply but stylish and seems both sporty and elegant. I haven’t given the E23 a good look in a long time but looking back at it now, it really is a looker and one of the very best 7 Series designs yet. The original still looks good.
C’mon, was this even up for debate. The E38-gen 7 Series is almost universally loved for its near perfect luxury sedan design. While some enthusiasts will claim it’s the best looking luxury sedan in history, I don’t know if I’ll go that far, as there are some genuinely beautiful Bruna Sacco-designed Mercedes’ from the ’70s and ’80s that really stand out too, but I’d argue there hasn’t been a better looking luxury sedan since.
The E38 debuted in 1994 and it was an instant hit. Its design is timeless, with perfect proportions, simple but crisp lines, perfectly sized kidney grilles with almost matching headlights, and a stance that says it’s every bit as sporty as it is luxurious. Short wheelbase models with the M Sport package, and M Parallel wheels make my knees weak. Just gorgeous.
So there it is, there’s our official 7 Series design ranking and the new G70 doesn’t do too well when ranked among its predecessors. Now, if we did interiors, it’d be an entirely different ballgame. Maybe we’ll have to do that one next.