Comments from Steve
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This page of commentary was initiated by Steve of the United States, but not specifically in connection with my 750iL, although my car and I are mentioned.   This was posted on a BMW enthusiast's Forum, addressed to all members, speaking in general of the E32 BMWs, which includes the 750iL.  I have included some of the replies to Steve's comments, as well as my own commentary.

Ready to stir up the pot. 750 iL commentary.  Well, I know that I will likely take a beating for these comments, but…

For the last year or so I have been diligently reading this column learning a great deal from the past experiences of many veteran owners of the E32. This has, in fact, been of much value since as every owner knows these cars require a special degree of TLC and patience to maintain in the top condition that I believe BMW owners expect. The experiences in how to coax or even beat the hell out of a problem area save time and headache and I greatly appreciate them.

However, I would take issue with a number of members who continually point to the superior design and craftsmanship of the E32 and, therefore, cast aspersions at those who dare to ridicule various aspects of the car. BMW made its reputation with the 2002, 3 and 5 series vehicles which have distinguished themselves for reliability, simplicity, and conservative engineering - all of these leading to many pleased owners and millions of road miles of hassle-free driving. But the E32 is anything but similar to these other series.

I have owned many vehicles in my lifetime of all makes and models, and with the possible exception of Jaguar, the E32 is the most over-plumbed, under-cooled (component wise), crapped up, cluttered design I have ever seen. The underhood of this car is reminiscent of a 70's smogmobile with many rubber lines (some containing gas and oil) in close proximity to hot surfaces. Pretty yes, but that doesn't change the impact on reliability. I have measured underhood temps in the 240+ degree range at idle which is unacceptable for the qualification life of the ECU and EML modules. Why do people think the underhood lighting relays magically unsolder themselves over time? It is ridiculous to require three relays and a general module to turn on the headlights of a car. There is similarly no margin in the wiring size, as most control and distribution wiring is 18 ga. or smaller. The long run of #4/#8 battery cable has at least a volt or more of drop under the massive accessory load, which is part of the reason the modules are so erratic.

The seating surface and wood quality is above average, but the plastic is hard and cracks easily, sending you back to the stealer for knick-knacks indefinitely. ($35 bucks for a plastic gas door hinge, bite me Basney BMW in South Bend.) The suspension is basically shared with the much lighter 5 series and is similarly spec'd as far as ball-joint and strut diameter and such. No margin there.

The dual fuel system/ redundant ECU is a good feature in concept, as it should allow you to continue to drive the vehicle with a single-failure of a component. However, a failure in the spark module or one of the primary inputs (such as TP, or something other than a complete ECU failure) will cause an EML warning and shutdown of the affected bank. But the programming places the down bank into limp and closes the throttle. The result is that the injectors keep pumping at idle mixture until the cat burns up (literally melts) from the super-lean condition of being dragged by the other bank. This is piss-poor design and why you should never attempt to drive one of these very far with an EML warning if you don't know the nature of the failure.

These are just a few of the issues with the car that appears to be an attempt by the designers to stuff as many gadgets as possible into a tight package. This was clearly a design driven by the spec sheet and not by the engineers.

And 735 owners, don't laugh. Apart from a slightly lower underhood temp and fewer modules, you're in the same boat. In fact, I would argue that the M70 is mechanically more reliable than the big 6 due to better designed cam chains, tensioners, thermography, bearing surfaces, and a beefier transmission. (though the head gasket/water passage design sucks)

Believe it or not, I'm not venting as I have had almost no problems with my 750 as of 93K. And I agree that one must be tolerable if one desires to drive what I believe is one of the most attractive automobiles ever to hit pavement- but only to a point. Sure, that guy Axel is a complete idiot. No doubt he dogged his car out and then took it to a swindling dealer where he was subsequently dry pumped over the service desk. However, I would recommend not falling into the trap of taking the other extreme and believing these cars to be fabulous works of engineering art. They are only semi-fabulous.

As I said, I have had no real problems, but I consider that to be accidental.

ps. point is that just because a car is "exotic" doesn't make it a great engineering marvel (as is touted by many members). Does someone actually think 140K is a lot of miles? That's mid-life for a Honda. Does that make the Honda a great feat of engineering? Actually yes it does. Better than the Bimmer? Depends on your point of view, I suppose.
Steve (750iL) - Michigan USA - Thursday, April 26, 2001 at 08:38:16

Axel's reply:  Well said, Steve.  I even agree that I was a complete idiot- to keep this car, in fact, to buy it in the first place.  Had I known then what I know now, I probably would have picked something else.  And I would have put the 750iL in the category of: great to try, but wouldn't want to own one, similar to how some cities are: great to visit, but wouldn't want to live there.  Not even sure what you mean by "dogged his car out," so I can't respond to it.  I don't think you are in a position to conclude that I was somehow swindled by the dealership.   Yes, they cost more than your do-it-yourself technique, but that doesn't make them crooks.

There was a flurry of comments to Steve's posting, both to refute and support what Steve said, and below is a selection of the better written replies, along with my own comments:

You definitely make some valid points, and have clearly done your homework. Your commentary was clear, cogent, and to-the-point.

Among others I've read, I think what is missing from most negative commentary about big bimemrs is a sense of perspective. You almost touched on that point when you wrote about what BMW owners 'expect'. I would take your point further by saying that BMW owners, particularly those who purchase used ones, have a skewed perspective about the marque because they expect the cars to be perfect, and remain so.

Axel represents the 'dregs' where this perspective is concerned because he adds to it the expectation that the mechanics who work on his car are perfect (read:honest) as well.

Folks, the fact that there is this much activity, commentary, concern, praise, brainstorming or talk WHATSOEVER about 12 to 15-year-old cars with nearly a 1/4 million miles on the clock is testament in itself that BMW does (did) something, something better than most other makes. For all of our furor, for all of the professed engineering problems and quirky design, these cars, ON AVERAGE, are light-years more reliable and solid than virtually any other car. Those qualities don't always meet the lofty standards set by our expectations, though.

I have owned 5 BMWs. Two of the 3-series, One 5-series, and 2-seven's. All of them were pushing 200k miles when I sold them, and the most serious repair I have ever had to perform is a driveshaft replacement on my 88' 735i. Maybe I am lucky, maybe I know more what to look out for, or maybe...just maybe...these are exceptionally well thought out, well made vehicles.

I know the bid dogs are not perfect, but there are plenty of things BMW does better than anyone else. My 735 is stuffed with dozens of convincing reasons to keep it, and keep it running...and so I shall. --CB
Crowbar  (1988 735i) - USA - Thursday, April 26, 2001 at 11:05:29

Axel's reply:  While it may appear that I foolishly relied on the dealership to cover my maintenance needs, I did shop around for repair work, and I did utilize independents on occasion.  For work that might be subcontracted, I went directly to the provider for estimates or work.  Admittedly, I did not do any major work on the car myself, but that does not mean I was totally reliant on the dealership.   I understand that dealer mechanics, while I wouldn't necessarily call them dishonest, may over-do some things that could have been fixed with less effort.   Sometimes, they even fix the wrong things- nobody is perfect, especially when it's unclear what needs fixing.  And I can't deny that someone who can repair their own car, if they have the training and skills needed, will likely do a better job of it than some guy paid by the hour.  But the 750 requires a mechanic with special skills and experience and not any mechanic can work on a 750.  Most mechanics are not qualified to work on a 750, so I'm skeptical of how many do-it-yourself owners are in fact qualified.  However, many car owners, particularly with the 750iL, are not capable, nor do they have the desire, to maintain their own car.  It should not be a prerequisite to owning any car.

The 750iL, both as masterful and inept as the engineering may be, and yes, it brought automotive engineering to new levels, the car was released to the consumer market, and it should NOT be excused from having some kind of acceptable degree of reliability, particularly when the car is marketed as "the best engineered car in the world" and the "Ultimate Driving Machine."  There appear to be 750iL cars that have made it the long haul with what could be considered normal maintenance, but there are many others that have been a disaster every step of the way.

Contrary to what you may have concluded, is not an anti-750 website, but is an attempt to bring about better awareness of the car, specifically the 750iL, share stories among owners and enthusiasts, and to allow people to make informed decisions if they are considering buying one.  Wherever possible in my replies, I have praise for the car.  I even say right on my home page, "Make no mistake- the 750iL is quite a car and I'm still impressed by it..."  Yes, I may represent one extreme, but I am not alone.  I believe I have been more than fair in my representation of all sides.  I have included everything any Forum members have had to say, even though fewer than half of the postings came from 750iL owners.  I have even now pulled in commentary in support of the car that was not posted in connection with my car!

The 750il, unlike many other BMW's,is an exotic. Number of repairs is roughly proportional to level of complexity. Superimpose age and high mileage and you need to replace many expensive and low production components to maintain original operating condition...pretty straight forward concept...also expensive.  The engineering in one word is exemplary. When I bring my big 7 up to about 100 mph, it seems to sing..or maybe that's me singing, haven't driven too many cars that are as comfortable at speed. There is a hint of a statement that BMW made for technical complexity "for complexity sake" set it apart from other mundane cars, a philosophy I decry only in degree..I personally prefer manual HVAC controls and don't like electric rear seats. In the case of my 735il, the big six, M-30 is in my unabashed opinion, the best six cylinder in the 145k, never rebuilt, pulls like a train.  If you bemoan the cost of ownership, its really pretty straightforward, buy a much simpler, low mileage car and deny yourself the pleasure of driving one of the finest and technically sophisticated motorcars ever made.  Best Regards, George 90 735il/145K too beautiful to sell.
George M. (1990 735iL) - USA - Thursday, April 26, 2001 at 14:55:13

Axel's remarks:  What you're leaving out is that many of the 750 owners I have talked to have had high maintenance requirements, even at the lower mileage levels.   My car did not suddenly need work when it hit 100,000 miles- it's been having work done on it throughout the years, fairly consistently.  And to all you people with other 7 series cars that are not the 750iL- if you think what you're driving is great, you don't know what you're missing with a 750iL (if we leave out the maintenance part of it).

Soft thinking run wild...

Please don't tell me that you think that solder melts at 240 degrees, and please don't tell me that you have not read the numerous articles written about how one relay is for each set of the three lights (seems to me that putting them all one one creates a SINGLE POINT OF FAILURE). Please don't tell me that you think that because the car shares some suspension components with other lighter models that they are necessarily under-designed. Please don't tell me that you did not check on the current carrying capability of wire in any standard reference manual and find that a 12 foot long run of #4 copper wire has a resistance of less than .01 ohms... so you'd have to be carrying more than 2 times the current capacity of the battery to drop 1 volt, especially under operating (non-starting) conditions.

If your point is that this is a complex contraption, I agree, but the way that you present the argument with so much soft thinking and anecdotal "evidence" really makes what could be a reasonable position worthy only of the designation "flaming".

I've had my fair share of problems with my 750, and have sworn at the people who designed it more than once. But as I come to understand the thinking behind the vehicle, I more often find respect not disdain for the designer. Having been an engineering manager for years, I have to disagree. This was a car that was designed not by spec sheet, but by engineers who were given 'carte blanche' to stretch the state of the art with regard to engine management and luxury features. The result are some things that in hind site seem stupid (using plastic manifold gaskets to reduce vibration in the manifold... they all leak eventually) but by-and-large the cars are masterful. Is this an elegant solution to the problem of personal transportation. No. Your examples of the 2002 fit that description much better.

I think that we'd all agree that when these cars are maintained and running properly, there is not another vehicle on the planet that matches their silky smooth, powerful engines, agility (for a 2.5 ton 5 person car) and ammenities... especially at the pricepoint (for a used one).
Kevin  (750iL) - USA - Saturday, April 28, 2001 at 10:01:14

Axel's remarks:  While I can't comment on the technical discrepancies, I certainly do agree that when a 750iL is maintained and running properly, there really is no match for it.  Why do you think I have had two and have put up with my current one for so long?!  As far as it's styling goes, my 7 year old nephew, already a car enthusiast at that early age, said it all when he saw my car for the first time.  "That's the best car I've ever seen!"  What he didn't know, is what it takes to keep it on the road, and that's what is at issue.  And please don't tell me there is no issue.

Steve posted a follow-up to the above commentary from Kevin:

Not so wild as you might think.  This may be why we at AEP don't let managers in the Control Room of a Nuclear plant. (kidding, maybe) However, the challenge of another engineering perspective is just too tempting... You are correct, melts above 240. But since it is not actually solid to begin with, it flows at much lower than melt temp. Over time the pole points which also heat due to IR losses, unsolder. The soak temp is what aggravates this and is why so many of the early Northstars with the 200F thermostats had similiar electrical problems. Lowering to 180F and redesigning insulation fixed them. #4 wire is low impedence at room temp. Not under hood and not under constant load - however,this is as you say not a showstopper. The accessory wires are the real problem - long runs of #18 between forward and aft accessory centers, #8 from alternator (in front) to bus in back, and about 6.02 x 10E23 splices. Check the print and I think you'll agree. This was done on the fly.  And don't get beguiled by the V12 smoothness monster. All of the Jap V8s (1VZ Lexus 4.0 and such) are smoother. Despite being inherently at a disadvantage due to 90 deg firing angles, their engine management is light years ahead and therefore combustion not as erratic. The V12s until 96 are batch fire, which is about one notch above a carburator. This is actually an area where GM rules with their SFI being the benchmark, aspects of which are copied even by Mercedes. Bosch continues to play catchup, and the older DME 1.2 is a dinosaur among Bosch systems. Once again, let the facts fall where they may. S-
Steve (750iL) - Michigan USA - Monday, April 30, 2001 at 16:14:23

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