BMW 3 Series Overview
To some, the BMW is just a status symbol. To enthusiasts, the BMW is a complete, immersive, and rewarding driving experience. To commemorate BMW’s 100th birthday, Carsforsale.com is taking a look at the history of the BMW 3 Series through the years, one of the company’s most popular and iconic cars. The BMW 3 Series is more than a single, simple vehicle model. This legendary performance car has spanned a huge range of models in nearly every body style. The 3 Series stays true to the driver-focused BMW approach, being praised for its performance above all else.
BMW 3 Series Through the Years
1st Generation (1975 – 1983)
- BMW created the 3 Series to replace the BMW 2002 during the oil crisis.
- The first generation was only available as a 2 door sedan.
- During 1977 model year, the BMW 3 Series was introduced to North America in the form of the 320i.
- The first engines were 2.0L 4-cylinders, followed by a 1.8L 4-cylinder in 1980.
- This car was an immediate success in the US.
2nd Generation (1984 – 1991)
- BMW optimized aerodynamics.
- A 4 door sedan was available in 1985
- The new 325e featured a 2.7L inline 6-cylinder engine.
- The 4-cylinder 318i was dropped from the lineup.
- In 1986, BMW introduced a station wagon (touring) model.
- In 1987, the 325Ci convertible was introduced.
- The 325ix model with AWD was introduced in 1988
3rd Generation (1992 – 1998)
- Exterior design shifted dramatically, as the BMW 3-Series grew larger and took on rounded sculpting and traditional, boxy headlamps.
- The coupe model wasn’t available until 1993, and the convertible was delayed until 1994.
- A 318ti hatchback model with a 1.8L 4-cylinder engine was sold in North America instead of a wagon, and was discontinued after the 1999 model year.
- 5L 6-cylinder engines were replaced by 2.8L 6’s in the 325i and 325is. They were then referred to as 328i and 328is.
4th Generation (1999 – 2005)
- This car continued to grow, as BMW increased the wheelbase and overall length.
- 4-cylinder options were discontinued in the US.
- The 2.8L engine made 193 hp and the 2.5L produced around 180 hp.
- A wagon version of the 323i joined the US lineup.
- Power was increased slightly across the lineup in 2001.
- BMW made a few cosmetic changes in 2002, with an updated grille and different tail lamps.
- 2003 offered DVD-based navigation.
- Power moon roof was standard across the lineup by 2005.
5th Generation (2006 – 2011)
- An exterior redesign offered more modern and rounded sculpting, revised fascia, new headlamps, and more.
- In 2006, every model was powered by a 3.0L 6-cylinder engine producing either 215 hp or 255 hp, depending on the model.
- In 2007, the BMW 3 Series offered its first retractable hardtop.
- A twin-turbo 6-cylinder engine was added to the lineup in 2007, offering around 300 hp and 300 lb ft of torque. ‘
- This car received a minor facelift in 2009.
- BMW put a greater emphasis on fuel consumption and emissions throughout the generation
6th Generation (2012 – )
- The low-shouldered 6th generation BMW 3 Series has a base 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder engine, producing 240 hp.
- A 3.0L inline 6-cylinder engine is also available, producing around 300 hp.
- A hybrid 3 Series was introduced in 2013.
- The 3 Series Gran Turismo was added in the 2014 model year, which borders between a hatchback and a sedan.
- A plug-in hybrid version is coming to dealerships in spring of 2016.
- Notable features available today include auto-dimming heated mirrors, keyless ignition, adaptive sport suspension, automatic wipers, real time traffic info, retractable headlight washers, heated rear seats, side and top view cameras, and more.
BMW 3 Series Owner Spotlight