This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest BMW 7-Series Saloon review.

Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

Should you buy a BMW 7-series E38?

You must manage your expectations here, as some of the earlier vehicles are getting quite elderly and the list of look-out points is by no means exhaustive. That said, they tend to wear the years well and the build quality quite easily surpasses most of its direct rivals, notably an equivalent vintage Jaguar XJ. In good fettle they are staggeringly smooth and quiet with an ability to knock off the miles as effortlessly as snoozing in a candlelit bath. Even the cloth interior cars feel plush.

Avoid the lower rated diesel engine and absolutely anything that has below par service history. Also, don’t ignore the 2.8 litre petrol – with 190hp it can still clip along well and its very DIY friendly under the bonnet too.

Many cars are still with their original owners and on the whole prices are temptingly cheap. Steer clear of bomb-site traders selling worn out tripe and galactic mileage chauffeur cars and half your battle is already won.

The E38 7 Series is a lovely carriage that’s a tough as tank and still oozes charm with teutonic restraint. It’s all the car anyone could possibly need, although it does not exude the same kind of imposing opulence as a Mercedes-Benz S Class.

Despite its size, it looks lean, lithe and purposeful, even elegant. It’s the luxury car for bosses who like to do the driving themselves, rather than sit back and let the chauffeur take over.

There is a long-wheelbase version with extra rear legroom if sitting in the back is your thing, but that misses the point of the 7. Luxury, after all, doesn’t mean that a car can’t be enjoyable to drive. If all Europe’s plutocrats owned a 7-series, the chauffeur would be an endangered species.