In July 1986 BMW introduced the second generation of the 7 series, known as the BMW E32 which was set to be the high end of the luxury car market. The cars were built from 1986–1994 in which time 311,068 cars were built. The car offered some of the latest innovations in automotive technology at the time and beginning in 1987 a new ‘top-of-the-line’ V12 engine. The E32 750i was the first car adhering to BMW's speed limit of 250 km/h.

The cars were offered with the following engines:

Straight-6 3.0 L and 3.4 L engines, V8 3.0 L and 4.0 L engines and the V12 manufactured with a 5.0 L engine.

German tuning company Alpina manufactured 3 main models based on the BMW E32 series. Those were the B11 3.5 with a range of 3 engine versions, the B11 4.0 and B12 5.0. In addition to these finely tuned engines and suspension they were distinguishable by bodykit and pin striping and trademark Alpina mag wheels. The E32 cars were offered with 5 different petrol engines.

The 730 and 735 used the straight-6 M30 engine, while the 750 featured the all-new M70 V12 engine which produced 300 bhp or 224 kW.

In 1992, a new 32-valve V8 engine was introduced and labeled the M60. The 730i got this engine in a 3.0 litre version, while the new 740i got the 4.0 litre version. Both versions were coupled to a new, 5-speed automatic transmission made by ZF.

In some countries there were problems with the M60 engine because of excessive sulfur amount in gasoline, causing corrosion problems to its Nikasil cylinder linings. The lining were electroplated with Nikasil which would quickly wear, causing pitting and eventual peeling. The engine would eventually lose compression resulting in rough idling and eventually the engine would fail to start.

The BMW 'kidney' grille indicated which engine was fitted under the bonnet as all 6-cylinder models had the narrower grille and all 8 and 12 cylinder engine models had the wider version grille.

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