Cars are getting bigger and bigger. And when you think it’s not possible to make it bigger, you still add a bigger model. And BMW is no exception to this logic. For a long time no one expected that an SUV could be positioned above the X5. But it happened, and it’s called X7.
And then the company M GmbH came along and launched, on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, a 750 hp plug-in hybrid V8 model called XM. Hop there, and even bigger!
But the ranges themselves are also getting bigger, heavier and of course more powerful. Thus, a mid-range sedan like the 3 Series (G20) today is as large, as heavy and significantly more powerful than the brand’s top-of-the-range models of yesteryear. How about comparing, just to see?
The history of the BMW top of the range begins in the fall of 1968, when the E3 was launched on the market. It was the first model with the “E” in the internal factory designation and it was to conquer, as 2500, 2800 (later 2.8), 3.0 and 3.3, the clientele of what was to become the S-Class of Mercedes-Benz or the KAD range from Opel. At that time, the obsolete BMW 3200 S, nicknamed the “baroque angel”, had already been out of service for several years and it was the beginning of the era of straight-six engines, self-supporting bodies and a rather rectilinear design in Munich.
The 7 Series proper only arrived in the form of the E23, launched in the spring of 1977 and signed by French car designer Paul Bracq. It marked the end of the reorganization of the BMW range and its design was close to that of the 6 Series coupé presented a year earlier. For the first time, a BMW was fitted with the then new anti-lock braking system and all engines were additionally fitted with the electronic suction tube injection system The Jetronic the Bosch.
On the E23, only 6-cylinder engines with 2.8 to 3.4 liters of displacement were available. V8 engines with larger combustion chambers were considered too heavy and after the second oil crisis at the end of the 1970s it was decided to dispense with a modern twelve-cylinder as well. Still, the model was successful: over 270,000 examples were built up to 1986. This was an increase of around 50% over the E3, which also rolled off the production line for nine years.
Today, the sixth generation of the 7 Series arrives on our roads. It appeared in 2015 and underwent a major facelift in 2019. And things have changed a lot in recent years. Especially in terms of dimensions, weight and engines. Thus, the exclusive in-line six-cylinder petrol engine is unthinkable today. There are four-cylinders, eight-cylinders and a 6.6-litre V12 producing 585 hp, as well as numerous diesel variants and plug-in hybrid versions that complement the gasoline engine offer of the 70s and 80s, untouchable at the time. ‘era.
And Series 3? From 1975 and the E21 (before that there was still the 02, which, like the E3, is not yet attached to the actual series) to the G20 of 2019, it had seven generations in all to develop , grow, become heavier and more powerful. So what are the raw numbers if we compare the then 7 Series (E23) to the current 3 Series (G20)? For that, take a look at the table below. This is madness.
|BMW 7 Series (E23) from 1977 to 1986||BMW 3 Series (G20) since 2019|
|Length||4860 mm||4709 mm|
|Width||1800 mm||1827 mm|
|Width||1430 mm||1442 mm|
|Wheelbase||2795 mm||2851 mm|
|Unloaded weight||1530 – 1700 kg||1450 – 1965 kg|
|Engines||Inline six-cylinder gasoline engine
2.5 – 3.5 liters
|2.0 – 3.0 liter inline-four and six-cylinder petrol / Inline-four petrol
with 2.0-litre electric motor / Diesel inline-four and six-cylinder
2.0 – 3.0 liters
|Power range||150 – 252 ch||150 – 510 ch|
|Torque range||215 – 380 Nm||250 – 700 Nm|
|Acceleration 0-100-km/h||7,8 – 10,0 s||3,4 – 8,5 s|
|Maximum speed||192 – 227 km/h||220 – 290 km/h|
|Starting price||29,300 DM (728, May 1977) *||38,350 euros (January 2022)*|
* German prices
What is striking, apart from dimensions, is that the smallest model was equipped with 150 hp. In the E23, this required a 2.5-liter straight-six at the time, while in the current 3-Series G20 this only requires a 2.0-liter four-cylinder.
Acceleration up to 100 km/h can also make your head spin: the fastest 7 Series at the time (the 745i with a 3.2-litre engine) was only 0.7 seconds faster than a 318i basic today. And the M3 Competition xDrive is today more than twice as fast at 100 km/h as the top model of the time, although obviously we are comparing here what is not, 252 hp on the rear axle facing 510 hp on all four wheels.
Another important point: the weight. Even though the base version of the 3 Series today is still lighter than the entry-level 7 Series model of the 1970s, today’s mid-range PHEV models, with an additional electric motor and battery of 12 kWh, weigh nearly 300 kg more than the old top-of-the-range sedans!
In contrast, basic prices should be viewed with some caution. Of course, it looks impressive that not even 30,000 DM for a 7 Series is opposed to almost 40,000 euros for a 3 Series, and that these models are also separated by vehicle category. But 29,300 DM was a lot of money at the time and the average salary in Germany in 1977 was around 25,000 DM. If only inflation is taken into account, a Series 7 should only cost around 40,000 euros today. And so, the prices are actually pretty much the same.