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BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series
Manufacturer BMW
Production 1975–
Body and chassis
Class Compact executive car (D)
Predecessor BMW 2002

The BMW 3 Series is a compact executive car manufactured by the German automaker BMW since May 1975. Successor to the BMW New Class, it has been produced in six different generations and in five different body styles. It is BMW's best-selling model, accounting for around 30% of the BMW brand's annual total sales (excluding motorbikes).[1] The BMW 3 Series has won numerous awards throughout its history.


  • Generations 1
  • E21, First generation, 1975–1981 2
  • E30, Second generation, 1982–1993 3
  • E36, Third generation, 1991–1998 4
  • E46, Fourth generation, 1998–2006 5
  • E90, Fifth generation, 2005–2013 6
  • F30, Sixth generation, 2012– 7
  • M version 8
  • Awards and recognition 9
  • Racing 10
  • Production and sales 11
  • Notes 12
  • External links 13


BMW 3 Series – from the old to the new, through E90
E46, E36, E30

BMW released its E21 in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis, nearly doubling BMW's worldwide auto sales figures in three years. The 3 series has also maintained BMW's racing heritage. The M version of the 3 series, M3, debuted in 1988.[2]

There have been six generations; their respective chassis codes are:

  • BMW E21 – (1975–1981) 3 Series
  • BMW E30 – (1982–1991) 3 Series
  • BMW E36 – (1992–1999) 3 Series
  • BMW E46 – (1999–2006) 3 Series
  • BMW E90 – (2005–2011/EUR, 2006–2011/US) 3 Series Saloon
    • BMW E91 – (2005–2011/EUR, 2006–2011/US) 3 Series Touring (Sports Wagon)
    • BMW E92 – (2007–2012) 3 Series Coupé
    • BMW E93 – (2007–2013) 3 Series Convertible
  • BMW F30 – (2012–) 3 Series Saloon
    • BMW F31 – (2012–) 3 Series Touring (Sports Wagon)
    • BMW F34 – (2013–) 3 Series Gran Turismo (Coupé)

E21, First generation, 1975–1981

Production 1975–1981
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door cabrio
Layout FR layout

The first generation was a two-door saloon model only. A factory authorised cabrio version was also built by Baur.

The cockpit design of the E21 marked the introduction of a new design concept for BMW, with the center console angled towards the driver. This feature has become part of BMW’s interior design philosophy for many years. As a sign of passive safety, all edges and control elements within the interior were rounded off and padded.

Initially, all models used the BMW M10 four-cylinder engine. In 1977, the BMW M20 six-cylinder engine was added to the lineup.

E30, Second generation, 1982–1993

Production 1982–1991
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door convertible
4-door saloon
5-door touring
Layout Front engine, rear-wheel drive / All-wheel drive
Related BMW M3
BMW 318i (E30) 4-door sedan (Australia)

The E30 was sold from 1982 through 1991 in coupé form, 1983 through 1991 in saloon form, and through 1993 in convertible form. Four-cylinder and six-cylinder petrol engines were used, with a six-cylinder diesel added in 1985. In 1986, the first all-wheel drive 3-series was produced, called the 325iX. The E30's introductory price was nearly double that of the E21 just seven years earlier.

Initially released as a two-door coupé, the four-door saloon body style was added to the 3-series lineup in September 1983. In 1986, the station wagon ("touring") body style became available.

The first BMW M3 was the E30 M3 coupé, which was released in 1987 and uses the S14 four-cylinder engine.

E36, Third generation, 1991–1998

Production 1991–1998
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door convertible
4-door saloon
5-door touring
Layout Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Related BMW M3
BMW Compact
1992 BMW 318is (E36) coupe (Australia)

The E36 was produced from 1991 - 1998. It was available with four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines, with the twin cam BMW M50 six-cylinder replacing the single-cam engine used in the E30. Rear suspension was the "Z-axle" multilink suspension, as used in the Z1.

Initial sales were the four-door saloon, with the coupé version added in 1991 and the cabriolet version in 1992. Finally, the station wagon ("touring") version was produced from 1994.

In 1993, VANOS variable valve timing was introduced on the DOHC I6 (inline 6-cylinder) engines. In 1996, the M50 six-cylinder engine was replaced by the M52 six cylinder engine, and maximum displacement was increased from 2.5 litres to 2.8 litres.

The E36 M3 uses the S50 (or S52 in North America) six-cylinder engine and was the first M3 available as a four-door saloon.

Unlike the E30, which never made the list, for every year of its production, the E36 was named in Car and Driver Magazine's "10 Best Cars" list (see Car and Driver Ten Best)..

E46, Fourth generation, 1998–2006

Production 1998–2006
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door convertible
4-door saloon
5-door touring
Layout Front engine, rear-wheel drive / All-wheel drive
Related BMW M3
BMW Compact
2002 E46 saloon Facelift

The E46 was introduced in 1998 as a 1999 model, in saloon version only. In 1999, the station wagon ("touring") and coupé models were added. The convertible and M3 were released in 2000. The E46 was available with four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines. All-wheel drive was introduced as an option in 2001 (for left hand drive markets only).

In 2000, the M54 six-cylinder engine replaced the M52 and maximum displacement increased from 2.8 litres to 3.0 litres.

Also in 2000, the E46 M3 coupé was released. It uses the S54 six-cylinder engine and the option of an automated clutch SMG gearbox. In 2002, the convertible M3 became available.

The highest selling year for the E46 was 2002, when 561,249 vehicles were sold worldwide.[3] For every year of its production, the E46 was named in Car and Driver Magazine's "10 Best Cars" list (see Car and Driver Ten Best).

E90, Fifth generation, 2005–2013

Production 2004–2011, 2006-2013 Coupes, Touring only
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door convertible
4-door saloon
5-door touring
Layout Front engine, rear-wheel drive / all-wheel drive
Related BMW M3
BMW 320i (E91) Touring Wagon (Australia)

The fifth generation 3 Series debuted as a saloon (E90) and touring (E91) in March 2005, while the coupé (E92) and a retractable hard-top convertible (E93) went on sale in August 2006 as 2007 models. The coupé/cabriolet body was now its own design and no longer derived from the saloon/touring (unlike its predecessors). The retractable hard-top convertible, meanwhile, was a first for the 3 Series.

The E90 was available with four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines, and the E92 M3 used a V8 engine. The first turbocharged petrol 3-series was the E92 335i, which uses the BMW N54 straight-six. The N52 naturally aspirated inline-six engine features a lightweight magnesium/aluminum construction, electric water pump, and Valvetronic variable valve lift. In 2007, a record total of more than 550,000 vehicles were sold and it was the seventh most popular car in the United Kingdom.[4]

The 335i models using the N54 3.0 Liter twin-turbo engine notably had issues in the US with the high pressure fuel pump (HPFP), which many owners had to replace due to failure. BMW eventually issued a recall on the HPFP for replacement.

F30, Sixth generation, 2012–

Production 2011–
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon
5-door touring
5-door hatchback (GT)
Layout Front engine, rear-wheel drive / all-wheel drive
BMW 320d Touring (F31) (Germany)

The F30 debuted on 14 October 2011 in Munich and went on sale in February 2012. The first model to be produced was the saloon (F30), which was followed by the Touring (F31) in May 2012 and Gran Turismo (F34) in June 2013, a smaller variant of the 5 Series GT hatchback.[5] 3 Series convertible and coupé models were no longer available, as they have been included in the 4 Series lineup.[6]

A large portion of the six-cylinder petrol engine selection of previous generation models have been replaced by turbocharged four-cylinder engines, with only the highest model designation being equipped with an inline-six powertrain. The F30 is also the first model of the 3 Series to be available as hybrid, sold as ActiveHybrid 3, which was introduced in 2012.

M version

Awards and recognition

The 3 Series has been on Car and Driver magazine's annual Ten Best list 22 times, from 1992 through 2014, making it the longest running entry in the list.[7] In their December 2009 issue, Grassroots Motorsports magazine named the BMW 3 Series as the second-most important performance car built during the previous 25 years.

The E90 was named "Best New Sports Sedan" in the 2006 Canadian Car of the Year awards. Also, it was awarded the World Car of the Year at the New York Auto Show in 2006. What Car? also awarded the E90 2006 "Car of the Year". The E90 was also awarded Japan's Import Car of the Year for 2005/06. BMW emerged as the brand winner at the International Engine of the Year Awards for 2007 with its award in the 2.5- to 3.0-litre segment won by the 3.0-litre twin turbo engine, which is found in the BMW 335i.[8] The BMW 320d EfficientDynamics Edition was nominated as finalist of the 2011 World Green Car of the Year, and the winner will be announced at the 2011 New York Auto Show.[9]

The 3 series won the Best Executive Saloon from the Scottish Car of the Year 2012 held at Glasgow on 14 October 2012.

The 320d Touring was named "The Family Car of the Year 2012" by Top Gear (magazine).

In 2013, the BMW 320i won the award for best medium car over $50k at the 2013 'Australia's Best Cars' awards for the second consecutive year for its 'best in class' fuel consumption. [10]

The BMW 325i was titled the Best Premium Medium $45 - 100K at the 2009 Wheels Gold Car Star Wards for best ownership experience.[11]


The E36 320d won the 24 Hours Nürburgring in 1998, after the M3 had won in the previous years.

The World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) is one of the FIA's four World Championships (along with Formula One, World Rally Championship, and World Rallycross Championship). Andy Priaulx and BMW Team UK won the ETCC in 2004, and continued the winning form in WTCC in 2005 in an E46 3 Series, while the E90 3 Series repeated this feat in 2006 and 2007.

The 3-Series cars in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) and other touring car championships have been penalized under racing rules for being rear-wheel drive and thus having better grip than its front-wheel drive competitors. For example, the 320si has been penalized in the WTCC in previous seasons in order to keep the sport competitive with the rest of the grid (Ford Focus, Chevrolet Lacetti, SEAT Leon, Alfa Romeo 156). Despite these ballast weight penalties, the 320si's of the British, German and Italian/Spanish teams continually win races and points. However, in the middle of the 2002 European Touring Car Championship (ETCC) season, FIA changed the handicap rules to add an extra 15 kg (33 lb) ballast to front-wheel drive cars (such as the Alfa Romeo 156) and the ballast in rear-wheel drive cars (including BMW) was reduced by 15 kilograms (33 lb).[12] Today, the WTCC series has a rolling start to eliminate the benefit of better grip that rear-wheel drive cars have from a standing start.

The BMW 3-Series is currently used in both the SCCA Pro Racing Speed World Challenge Touring Car Series and the Grand American Road Racing Association Series. In the final 2006 Grand Am standings, BMW finished second in the manufacturer's standings in both the Grand Sport and Street Tuner classes, while E46 BMWs prepared by Turner Motorsport won the driver's and team championships.

Production and sales

Calendar year Total production US sales
1995 54,720[13]
1996 50,248
1997 337,800[14] -
1998 376,900[14] -
1999 454,000[14] 77,138[15]
2000 509,007[14] 89,681
2001 533,952[14] 103,227[16]
2002 561,249[14] 115,428
2003 528,358[14] 111,944[17]
2004 449,732[14] 106,549[18]
2005 434,342[14] 106,950[19]
2006 508,479[14] 120,180
2007 555,219[20] 142,490
2008 474,208[21] 112,464
2009 397,103[22] 90,960[23]
2010 399,009[24] 100,910
2011 384,464 94,371[25]
2012 406,752 99,602[26]
2013 500,332[27] 119,521^[27]
2014 142,232^[28]

^ includes 4-series


  1. ^ "2010 BMW Group Annual Report" (PDF). BMW AG. 
  2. ^ "BMW 3 Series". 22 January 2009. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  3. ^ "Successful 2003 Financial Year for the BMW Group". The Auto Channel. Retrieved 24 July 2006. 
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ BMW 3 series Gran Turismo
  6. ^
  7. ^ "2009 10Best Cars – 10Best Cars/Best/Worst Lists/High Performance/Hot Lists/Reviews/Car and Driver". Car And Driver. 23 March 2008. Archived from the original on 29 June 2009. Retrieved 12 June 2009. 
  8. ^ "New BMW Series Reporting". New BMW Series. Retrieved 23 October 2009. 
  9. ^ Eric Loveday (9 March 2011). "Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, BMW 320d make World Green Car shortlist".  
  10. ^ "BMW a Double Winner in Australia's Best Cars 2013". 
  11. ^ "BMW Group Dominates 2009 Wheels Gold Star Car Awards". 
  12. ^ [ 275 – 26 Jun 2002 FIA WORLD COUNCIL APPROVES ETCC RULE CHANGES [ 275 ] – 26 Jun 2002 FIA WORLD COUNCIL APPROVES ETCC RULE CHANGES] . Retrieved 5 February 2008. 
  13. ^ "BMW Ends Best Year Ever By Shattering 100,000-Vehicle Luxury Automotive Sales Barrier in the U.S. – Free Online Library". Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j
  15. ^ "BMW Delivers Strongest Sales Success Ever in 2000. – Free Online Library". 3 January 2001. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  16. ^ "BMW Group Ends Best Year Ever With Record Month; December Sales Up 43 Percent; Year-to-date Sales Up 20 Percent. – Free Online Library". 3 January 2003. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  17. ^ "BMW Group Shatters All Past Annual Sales Records in 2004". Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  18. ^ "BMW Group Sets All-Time Annual Sales Record, Highest Sales Month Ever in 2005". 4 January 2006. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  19. ^ "BMW Group Reports 2006 – Strongest Year Ever". Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  20. ^ "Annual Report 2007". BMW Group. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  21. ^ "Annual Report 2008". BMW Group. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  22. ^ "Annual Report 2009". BMW Group. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  23. ^ "BMW Group U.S. Reports December 2010 Sales – WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J.". New Jersey: PRNewswire. 4 January 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ "BMW Group Achieves Second Best Sales Year Ever in the U.S. - WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J., Jan. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/". New Jersey: Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ a b
  28. ^

External links

  • Official BMW 3 Series
  • BMW 3 Series at DMOZ
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