They Roam At Night

Be indoors by nightfall… 

Aaarrgghh! (Author’s image)

In 1997, then Tory Party MP, Ann Widdecombe was asked whether she would endorse former Home Secretary, Michael Howard’s bid to become the leader of the UK Conservatives. She refused, stating in the House of Commons that there was “something of the night about him.”

It was a nice line in waspish put-downs and one which is believed to have scuppered Howard’s leadership ambitions, but given Ms. Widdecombe’s reactionary and somewhat unpleasant views on, well, just about everything really, there was a strong whiff of pot and kettle about it. In reality however, the phrase probably served both politicians’ purposes – Howard later going on to achieve the high office he sought and Widdecombe becoming a minor (heaven help us) celebrity following an appearance on a BBC ballroom dancing competition.

Meanwhile, this has been a week of nocturnal encounters for your correspondent: first we espied the new Mazda 3, and latterly, while innocently out for a late evening stroll, this appalling vision reared into view. And while the quality of the lead image can largely be ascribed to it being taken on my phone (which isn’t very good), it could equally, given the circumstances, be put down to fright.

The new BMW Siebener has been described upon these pages in sufficient detail to render any further explanation or exposition moot. Furthermore, we have also made our views about the Veirzylinder’s newfound ascendency in the German prestige grille wars clear as cristal. But having come face to face with the result of the 7er’s grilloplasty, is there enlightenment or edification, or even plain old simple clarification to be found?

One certainty is that in facelifted form, the G11 7-Series can no longer be ignored. This car has presence, in a manner that its immediate predecessors palpably did not. In this regard, it is perhaps more redolent of something from Detroit circa-1958 than Munich-Milbertshofen circa-2019. And if a visual receipt is what you require for the rather large sum of money you have lavished upon this symbol of earthly success, Dingolfing now provides it in abundance.

In many ways, the Siebener models we enthusiasts recall and revere were aberrances; the E32 and E38 being more sports saloons in the Jaguar idiom than the rather brutal E23 that preceded them, or indeed the lumpen E65 which came after. Therefore if anything, this surgically augmented G11 is more of a 7er than those more self-effacing outliers, for all of their Ultimate Driving Machine goodness.

But to my surprise, I found the facelifted Seven to be on one hand, as risibly offensive as I had envisaged, yet on the other, somewhat less so. Far from making sense, it made instead a for strangely coherent form of nonsense – and while it was tempting to simply give it both barrels and be done, I simply couldn’t summon the ire.

Daylight offers little respite. (c) caricos

Because what we seem to have here (much akin to all current BMWs), is a collection of seemingly unrelated styling details in search of a cohesive theme; a car design which ultimately achieves little, and whose primary purpose is to preview the forthcoming-generation model.

With the winds from Munich-Milbertshofen blowing the way they are at the present moment, it appears that this car, due around 2022, will be offered in long-wheelbase form only and will if anything, offer an even greater sense of ‘arrival’ for those emerging market plutocrats who are likely to form the core of its customer base.

The fragrant Ms. Widdecombe’s barb struck home in 1997 largely because for most people, there was indeed something about the deeply unpopular Mr. Howard that lent the former Home Secretary a somewhat sinister mien. Whether there is also something of the night about Munich’s latest Siebener, I leave for you decide. Just be careful if you’re out after dark.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

21 thoughts on “They Roam At Night”

    1. Good guess, but not correct. It’s Cork, but not Cork – if you know what I mean, like….

  1. “…given Ms. Widdecombe’s reactionary and somewhat unpleasant views on, well, just about everything really…”

    Good morning, Eóin. I know we’re meant to avoid political comment on DTW, but your characterization of the crazy old dingbat, now a Brexit MEP, made me laugh out loud, so thank you for that!

    Your comment on the history of the 7 Series generations is right on the mark. The E32 and, especially, the E38 are distinctly different in character to the models that preceded and succeeded them. The E38 in particular had a lithe, athletic appearance that still looks great today. It was one of those “below the radar” cars that was at the time either overlooked, or dismissed as an XXL 3 Series. That really was a shame, because it is emblematic of a time when BMW was proud to cut its own furrow and not try to ape Mercedes-Benz’s rather more corporate and corpulent image. The E38 briefly found fame in the otherwise humdrum James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies” but otherwise faded into obscurity, to be replaced by the shocking Bangle E65.

    Here’s a couple of photos of the E38. The rear three-quarter aspect is particularly handsome, emphasising the low waistline and unusual shallowness of the lower bodysides, emphasised by the black painted sills:

    Just lovely and, as you say, quite Jaguar-like in its elegant and spare stance.

    1. Hi Daniel, I’m still running my 2001 e38. I agree it slips a little under the radar but I still absolutely love it. Mine is a 728i but is the same colour (Aspen silver) and same shadowline trim as your first pic. I also think the rear three quarters view is best. It is the perfect family car. Loads of space and just enough poke to keep me happy. It can be expensive to run as it chews through pricey tyres and suspension components surprisingly quickly and with the ridiculous tax bands here in Ireland it’s got a €1600 a year tax bill. I’m lucky to get 20mpg in city driving although 30mpg is easily doable on the motorway. Still in my book it’s worth it and I hope to keep it for the foreseeable future. I’m glad others still like it too.

    2. Mick, glad to hear you are enjoying your E38.

      I think that ’28’ engine was a honey – the updated ’30’ straight six had more torque but was thirstier, my E39 Tourer would never get close to 30mpg. On the other hand, you could drive it like you stole it and it would never dip below 20mpg either, so it was at least predictable.

      Finding a good garage with proper laser wheel alignment kit can help keep the tyres and suspension etc in good shape, as the alignment can get knocked out easily by pot holes and the like. Unfortunately, you need to do it quite regularly.

    3. Hi Mick, great to hear that there’s an E38 in capable and appreciative hands out there. In design terms, it’s simply in a different league to the lumpen and frumpy current 7 Series. Long may it continue to give you good service.

      Jacomo, you’re right about the interior too. Here’s a nice image, and a reminder of the time when BMW did peerless driver-focused dashboards and beautiful, simple instrument displays with restful red backlighting Lovely!

    4. Just for the sake of provication you could see it exactly the other way round.
      BMW had a family of lean and airy cars with the 02, E3 and E9 which were extremely attractive sports saloons

      These were replaced by the heavy and plump E12/21/23 and BMW returned to form with their bold E32/34. E38/39 were insecure and were followed by disaster with monstrosities like E65 from which BMW has not yet recovered.

    5. Well, you’ve provoked me with that comment! Perhaps the E38 was a touch too self-effacing after the more assertive E32, but I still love it. The E39 5 Series is lovely!

      Actually, I had tended to dismiss the E32 as a bit lardy, but it’s still a handsome beast:

      No argument about the E3 and E9 though: absolute beauties, both.

    6. Yes Dave, that thought occurred to me as I was writing the piece, but took the approach I did on the grounds that the E3 was not strictly speaking a Siebener (although it did occupy a similar section of the market) and the E9 was strictly speaking a Coupé. But I do accept your point.

  2. I was roaming the halls of the Geneva motorshow with a designer who happened have worked on the rather shapely Pininfarina Gran Lusso – and whose views I generally value. Eventually, we approached the BBQ 7 series, which obviously elicited a grin, before he went on to explain that, like it or not, the facelifted design had gained a presence and expressiveness that had hitherto eluded this generation of the model. About that he’s right, I must hesitantly admit, as this 7 series at least cannot be mistaken for anything else on the road (as is the case with the X2, X1 and 3 series, if one ignores the kidney grilles).

    Incidentally, the next-generation Seven will be the one and only offspring of the Jozef Kaban era at BMW design.

    1. BBQ 7 Series? I initially thought that was a bit of autocorrect nonsense, but then I got it…very droll!

      Incidentally, Honest John has put on Youtube this morning a video review of the new X7. Worth watching, especially for the reaction to the grille!

  3. Thought experiment: if the next 7 is only available in LWB form, is it still LWB, or merely a very big car?

    1. It’s definitely a car focussed on China and the US.

      We’ve been here before, incidentally. The Mercedes W140 was originally intended to be available in LWB format. The shortened SWB version was decided on rather late during the development process.

    1. That’s rather good. And if the shoe could be said to have fitted Mr. Howard, the same applies equally here, one might suggest. [Other opinions are available, by the way…]

    2. She actually embraced the nickname and claimed that she’d occasionally answer phone calls with a terse “Karloff!”.

    3. If there’s one thing more disturbing than “nasty” Ann Widdicombe, it’s “nice and jolly” Ann Widdicombe

  4. Regarding the 7, I also came across one in the metal while cycling home yesterday, and came to a similar conclusion i.e. that it makes sense, in a perverse kind of way.

  5. You could have at least warned me! The “fragrant” Ms Widdicombe, you say? I just searched for her images and yes, better encountered at night, I should think, preferably lumbering in the opposite direction.

    As for the BMW Siebener, they’re not going to sell many of those in North America or its bigger replacement three years hence. If it’s not an SUV, it won’t sell, so all that’s left is the Chinese market. With BMW struggling to cut costs, the price for developing a new 7-Series must be a constant niggle in the sides of the book-keepers, considering the tiny returns it’s likely to generate due to low volume.

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