Right. In order to make sense of where this model fits in the 7 Series pantheon, a very brief history lesson is in order. The first 7 Series, the E23 in BMW-speak, featured the undercut shark nose front and was built from 1977 to 1986. This was replaced by the elegant E32 generation car, still with twin round headlights on each side of its grille, built between 1986 and 1994. The sleek E38 model succeeded this car, marking a move to more complex headlamp pods, and many still feel this is the high point of 7 Series styling. That model was replaced by the bulky E65 in 2002, a car that introduced many technical innovations but was saddled with lugubrious styling, BMW smoothing away the worst excesses with a 2006 refresh.
The car we're looking at here, the F01 (or F02 in long wheelbase guise), debuted in 2008, in what might have been the most imaginative vehicle unveil I'd ever seen. A giant hourglass appeared in Moscow's Red Square, filled with 180,000 tiny metallic balls. On the allotted date of 8th July, the balls started falling through the neck of the hourglass, eventually revealing the new 7 Series. The car took a little while to appear in UK dealers, with the first British customers receiving their cars in early 2009. The economic downturn didn't do much for its sales prospects and the car was eventually replaced by a facelifted model in summer 2012. A quick look at sales for the 7 Series showed that diesel models accounted for 87% of all UK purchases.