I'd wanted to own an E38 7-Series ever since I used to lust after the 740i Sport owned by the landlord of my local pub. Initially, I couldn't afford one, so I owned a couple of E32 730i models, which were nice, but not the E38 I desperately wanted.
When I finally got my hands on one in 2005, I was not to be disappointed. Once I'd allowed the gearbox to learn my driving style (takes a good month) and found the perfect position for the electric seat (takes at least a day - ALWAYS save it to the memory), life with BMW's biggest saloon was - and still is - great.
Plus points are many and varied. The key highlights are interior comfort and ambiance, stonking performance from the 4.4 litre V8 petrol engine, how the car looks from the outside and the ride & handling - both exemplary.
Negatives are few and far between, though a car this big with an engine so large is always going to have one big blot in its copybook. Fuel consumption. Since owning the car, I have averaged 21-point-something miles per gallon, which can prove rather pricey at fill-up time. On the plus side, I can confirm 21 mpg is a realistic figure, as I do like to drive quickly (though not like I stole it). I would imagine that if one were to drive the car as if a priceless Faberge egg is lodged beneath the accelerator pedal, then 25 mpg might be achievable... But where's the fun in that?
Other downsides - not, thankfully experienced by me - are expensive parts should something big go pop. For instance, I paid £2,200 for my car - a replacement gearbox comes in at around £3,000.
My advice would be to purchase a V8-engined 7-Series from 1996 onwards (Nikasil cylinder lining problems were sorted at the end of 1995), with as much choice equipment as possible and with a fat wad of bills and as near a perfect service history record as your budget will allow.
If you're spending between £1,500 and £2,500, buy the car to enjoy it and be fully prepared to throw the car away at the first sniff of a repair bill over £500.
If you're spending upwards of £2,500, be more choosy, and be prepared for some big bills (not happened to me, but it could happen to you).
Let's say I was buying my first E38, all over again. I can honestly say I wouldn't change a thing. Take a budget of £2,000 and bag yourself one of the world's best kept large sports saloon secrets.
I sincerely hope you'll have as much fun with yours as I have (and am still having) with mine.