BMW 3 Series

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BMW 3 Series
2012-2015 BMW 318i (F30) sedan (2016-01-03) 01.jpg
Manufacturer BMW
Production 1975–present
Body and chassis
Class Entry-level luxury car
Predecessor BMW 02 Series

The BMW 3 Series is an entry-level luxury car manufactured by the German automaker BMW since May 1975. It is the successor to the 02 Series and has been produced in six different generations.

The first generation of 3 Series was only available as a 2-door sedan, however the model range has since expanded to include a 4-door sedan, 2-door convertible, 2-door coupé, 5-door station wagon and 5-door hatchback body styles. In 2013, the coupé and convertible models started to be badged as 4 Series, therefore the 3 Series range no longer includes these body styles.

The 3 Series 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.

The M version of the 3 series, M3, debuted with the E30 M3 in 1988.[2]


3 Series generations in the BMW Museum
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.[citation needed]

The model codes for the six generations of the 3 Series are:

  • E21: 1975–1981 Sedan (2-door only) and Cabriolet
  • E30: 1982–1991 Sedan (2-door and 4-door), Cabriolet and Touring (also called Sports Wagon)
  • E36: 1992–1998 Coupé, Sedan, Cabriolet, Compact and Touring
  • E46: 1999–2005 Coupé, Sedan, Cabriolet, Compact and Touring
  • E90: 2005–2011 Sedan. E91: 2005–2011 Touring. E92: 2006–2013 Coupé. E93: 2007–2013 Convertible
  • F30: 2012–present Sedan. F31: 2012–present Touring. F34: 2013–present Gran Turismo

First generation (E21; 1975–1981)[edit]

BMW 3 Series (E21)
E21 BMW 316.jpg
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door saloon
2-door cabrio
Layout FR
Main article: BMW 3 Series (E21)
1978 BMW 320 (New Zealand)

The E21 was released as 316, 318 and 320 models,[3] to replace the 02 Series.

Most E21s were sold as 2-door compact saloons, however a Baur cabriolet was also available. Initially, the E21 was powered by a 4-cylinder engine, with a straight-6 engine added to the line-up in 1977.

Second generation (E30; 1982–1991)[edit]

BMW 3 Series (E30)
1990 BMW 318i (E30) 2-door sedan (22028060738).jpg
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door saloon
2-door convertible
4-door saloon
5-door touring
Layout FR (most models)
F4 (325iX only)
Related BMW Z1
Main article: BMW 3 Series (E30)
BMW 318i sedan (Australia)

The E30 was initially produced in the 2-door sedan body style. In following years, the 4-door sedan, convertible and estate ("touring") body styles were added. The E30 models were powered by a range of 4-cylinder and straight-6 engines, and for the first time a diesel engine was used in the 3 Series.

The BMW M3 was first introduced on the E30 platform. The E30 M3 was fitted with the high-revving S14 4-cylinder engine, which produced 175 kW (235 hp) in its final iteration.[4]

The 325iX model was the first 3 Series to use all-wheel drive.

The saloon version of the E30 was replaced in late 1990, but the estate and cabriolet models weren't replaced until 1993.

Third generation (E36; 1992–1998)[edit]

BMW 3 Series (E36)
1995-1996 BMW 328i (E36) convertible 01.jpg
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door convertible
4-door saloon
5-door touring
Layout FR
Related BMW Z3
BMW Compact
Main article: BMW 3 Series (E36)
BMW 318is (Australia)

The E36 was produced in sedan, coupe, convertible, station wagon ("Touring") and hatchback ("Compact") body styles.

The hatchback body style, known as the BMW Compact, was introduced in 1994 starting with the 318ti, being very popular in Europe but largely unsuccessful in North America. The "Touring" estate was sold in Europe from 1995, but was not available in the United States. Even though the BMW factory was producing its own E36 convertibles, the Baur "Top Cabriolet" conversion was also available.

BMW's first sequential manual transmission ("SMG") debuted in the E36 M3.

The E36 was a successful model which laid strong foundations for the E46's success in subsequent years.[5] 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). Additionally, the E36 M3 was named Car and Driver's best handling car for over $30k in 1997.[6]

Fourth generation (E46; 1998–2005)[edit]

BMW 3 Series (E46)
1998-2001 BMW 328i (E46) sedan (2011-07-17) 01.jpg
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door convertible
4-door saloon
5-door touring
Layout FR (most models)
F4 (xi models)
Related BMW X3
BMW Compact
Main article: BMW 3 Series (E46)
Facelift BMW 318i sedan (Australia)

The E46 was produced in sedan, coupé, convertible, wagon and hatchback body style.

All-wheel drive ("xDrive") was re-introduced in the 3 Series, after a break of 18 years. It was available for the six-cylinder 325xi and 330xi sedan/wagon models.[7][8]

The E46 was considered the performance benchmark of its class[9] and experienced success in many markets. The record selling year for the E46 chassis was 2002, when 561,249 vehicles were sold worldwide.[10] The main competitors during the E46's production run were the Alfa Romeo 156, Audi A4, Lexus IS/Toyota Altezza, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Saab 9-3 and the Volvo S60.

The M3 version of the E46 was powered by the BMW S54 straight-six engine. The M3 was released in 2001 and was available in coupé and convertible body styles. The transmissions available were a 6-speed manual or the 6-speed "SMG-II" sequential manual transmission.

Fifth generation (E90/E91/E92/E93; 2005–2013)[edit]

Main article: BMW 3 Series (E90)
BMW 3 Series (E90/E91/E92/E93)
BMW 320d ED (6159152529).jpg
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door convertible
4-door saloon
5-door touring
Layout FR (most models)
F4 (xi models)
Related BMW X3
BMW 320i sedan (Australia)

The fifth generation 3 Series was produced in the sedan, wagon, coupé and cabriolet body styles. Due to the separate model codes for each body style, the term "E9X" is sometimes used to describe this generation of the 3 Series.

In 2006, the 335i became the first 3 Series model to be sold with a turbocharged petrol engine. The E90 also saw the introduction of run-flat tyres to the 3 Series range. Consequently, cars with run-flats are not equipped with a spare tyre.

The E90/E92/E93 M3 was powered by the BMW S65 v8 engine. It was released in 2007 and was produced in sedan, coupe and cabriolet body styles.

Sixth generation (F30/F31; 2012–present)[edit]

BMW 3 Series (F30/F31)
2012 BMW 320d (F30 MY13) Luxury Line sedan (2015-07-24) 01.jpg
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door saloon
5-door touring
5-door fastback
Layout FR (most models)
F4 (xDrive models)
Related BMW F32/F33
Main article: BMW 3 Series (F30)
Pre–facelift BMW 320d (Sweden)

The F30/F31 has been produced in the sedan, station wagon and 5-door fastback ("Gran Turismo") body styles. A long wheelbase sedan is also available in China.

For the F30/F31 series, the coupe and convertible models were split from the 3 Series and sold as the BMW 4 Series. There are two additional 5-door body styles: a taller fastback marketed as the 3 Series Gran Turismo (F34), and a lower to the ground liftback called the 4 Series Gran Coupe (F36).

The F30/F31 was the first time that the entire 3 Series range used turbocharged engines. In 2016, a plug-in hybrid drivetrain was first used in the 3 Series, in the 330e model.[11] Also in 2016, a 3-cylinder engine was used for the first time in a 3 Series.

The M3 version (designated F80, the first time an M3 has used a separate model designation) was released in 2014 and is powered by the S55 twin-turbo straight-6 engine.

M version[edit]

F80 M3
F80 M3
Main article: BMW M3

The M3 is the most powerful version of the 3 Series, developed by BMW's in-house motorsport division, BMW M.

M3 models have been derived from the E30, E36, E46, E90/E92/E93, and F30 3 series, and sold with coupe, saloon and convertible body styles. Upgrades over the "standard" 3-Series automobiles include more powerful and responsive engines, improved handling/suspension/braking systems, aerodynamic body enhancements, lightweight components, and interior/exterior accents with the tri-colour "M" (Motorsport) emblem.

The last M3 coupe was produced in Germany on 5 July 2013, replaced by the F82/F83 M4 Coupe and convertible starting with the 2015 model year,[12][13] but the M3 name will remain in use for the saloon version.

The BMW M3 remains the only car ever to have earned more titles than the venerable Porsche 911 in Motorsport, and also is the most successful touring, and grand touring car ever to have participated in racing.

Awards and recognition[edit]

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.[14] 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.

Production and sales[edit]

Calendar year Total production US sales
1995 54,720[15]
1996 50,248
1997 337,800[16] -
1998 376,900[16] -
1999 454,000[16] 77,138[17]
2000 509,007[16] 89,681
2001 533,952[16] 103,227[18]
2002 561,249[16] 115,428
2003 528,358[16] 111,944[19]
2004 449,732[16] 106,549[20]
2005 434,342[16] 106,950[21]
2006 508,479[16] 120,180
2007 555,219[22] 142,490
2008 474,208[23] 112,464
2009 397,103[24] 90,960[25]
2010 399,009[26] 100,910
2011 384,464 94,371[27]
2012 406,752 99,602[28]
2013 500,332[29] 119,521*[29]
2014 480,214[30] 142,232*[31]
2015 444,338 140,609*
2016 106,221*

* includes 4-series


  1. ^ "2010 BMW Group Annual Report" (PDF). BMW AG. 
  2. ^ "BMW 3 Series". 22 January 2009. Archived from the original on 31 August 2009. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  3. ^ "BMW E21 3 Series specs". 
  4. ^ "BMW M3 E30 2.5i (238Hp) EVO II". 
  5. ^ "BMW Baureihenarchiv · BMW E36 · Entwicklungscode". 
  6. ^ "The Best-Handling Car for More than $30,000" (PDF). 
  7. ^ "BMW E46 3 Series". 
  8. ^ "BMW E46 3 Series Touring". 
  9. ^ MAYERSOHN, NORMAN (24 June 2009). "2006 BMW 3 Series: The Benchmark Settles Into Comfortable Middle Age". The New York Times. p. 2. Retrieved 8 July 2009. 
  10. ^ "Successful 2003 Financial Year for the BMW Group". The Auto Channel. Retrieved 24 July 2006. 
  11. ^ "2016 BMW 330e Plug-In Hybrid First Drive". 
  12. ^ "BMW M3 Celebrating 20 Years of a Sporting Legend". 2008-02-27. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 
  13. ^ "BMW M3 – The Evolution of the Benchmark". 27 February 2012. Archived from the original on 18 September 2011. Retrieved 8 April 2011. 
  14. ^ "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. 
  15. ^ "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. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j
  17. ^ "BMW Delivers Strongest Sales Success Ever in 2000. – Free Online Library". 3 January 2001. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  18. ^ "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. 
  19. ^ "BMW Group Shatters All Past Annual Sales Records in 2004". Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  20. ^ "BMW Group Sets All-Time Annual Sales Record, Highest Sales Month Ever in 2005". 4 January 2006. Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  21. ^ "BMW Group Reports 2006 – Strongest Year Ever". Retrieved 25 September 2009. 
  22. ^ "Annual Report 2007". BMW Group. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  23. ^ "Annual Report 2008". BMW Group. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  24. ^ "Annual Report 2009". BMW Group. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  25. ^ "BMW Group U.S. Reports December 2010 Sales – WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J.". New Jersey: PRNewswire. 4 January 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  26. ^ "BMW Group - Investor Relations - Financial Reports" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  27. ^ "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. 
  28. ^ "BMW 3 Series Wins 2012 Compact Luxury Sports Sedan Sales Crown, Infiniti G in Third". 2013-01-04. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  29. ^ a b LLC, BMW of North America,. "BMW Group U.S. Reports December and 2013 Sales". Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ LLC, BMW of North America,. "BMW Group U.S. Reports December and 2014 Sales". Retrieved 2016-09-15. 

External links[edit]