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A must-have series

The BMW 3 Series, the undisputed emblem of driving pleasure, traces its roots back to May 1975, taking over from the BMW 2002 and laying the foundations for an exceptional line of sedans and coupes. Long BMW's most compact series before the arrival of the 1 Series in 2004, it quickly conquered the market and established itself as the best-selling model in the mid-range luxury car category, accounting for almost 40 % of the brand's worldwide sales in 2005.

The history of the 3 Series reached a significant climax on September 10, 2015, when the ten-millionth unit, an Imperial Blue 320d, rolled off the production lines in Munich. Sporty, reliable and high-performance, the BMW 3 Series has embodied dynamic driving pleasure like no other vehicle for over 40 years. It's thanks to visionaries like former BMW chief designer Paul Bracq that emotion and driving pleasure have found their place in the mid-size car segment. The BMW E21 in the 1970s laid the foundations for unprecedented success, helping to make BMW the leading manufacturer of premium cars to date.

Over seven generations, the BMW 3 Series has continued to evolve, becoming an indisputable benchmark for sportiness in the mid-size segment. Attention to design, dynamics, individuality and powertrain have been key to this success. The engines, the fruit of extensive research, combine performance, economy and respect for the environment.

From the classic sedan to the Touring wagon, from the coupé to the convertible and the 3-door compact, the BMW 3 Series offers a complete range of vehicles that appeal to every generation. The exceptional versatility of these cars, combining agility, functionality and safety, fascinates both consumers and the specialist press, attested to by numerous awards. The constant evolution of the resolutely sporty character of the BMW 3 Series, refined with each generation, remains one of the major reasons for its continuing success.

First-generation 3 Series


The BMW 3 Series E21, the pioneer of the line launched in 1975, stands out as a worthy heir to the 1502, 1602, 1802 and 2002 (E10/E20) models, from which it borrows certain engines. Exclusively sporting a two-door body, this first generation was powered by petrol engines, with the option of purchasing convertible models made by coachbuilder Baur.

With its innovative design, the 3 Series E21 bears witness to the genius of Paul Bracq, who, inspired by the styling of the 5 Series E12, infuses it with distinctive exterior lines. The interior, carefully crafted in terms of habitability and ergonomics, remains a timeless benchmark. Passive safety is emphasized with crumple zones and a reinforced cabin structure, while powerful assisted braking and improved running gear underline the commitment to performance.

Early models, such as the carbureted 316, 318, 320 and the 320i with Bosh K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection, were powered by four-cylinder engines from the M10 family. 1977 saw the introduction of a new compact six-cylinder engine on the 320, expanding the range with versions such as the 320/6. The range was further expanded with the arrival of a second six-cylinder block on the 323i, delivering an impressive 143 hp.

A restyling in 1979 gave the 3 Series E21 a more aggressive look, with both exterior and interior adjustments. The most powerful models, the 320i, 320/6 and 323i, were distinguished by their four-headlight grille and other specific features. In 1980, new interior trims were introduced, demonstrating the company's attention to detail.

The 3 Series E21 also seduced customization enthusiasts with options such as BBS or Alpina aluminum monoblock wheels, a "sport" gearbox, an axle with self-locking differential, power steering, air conditioning, and many others. Renowned tuners such as Alpina, Hartge and AC Schnitzer have further enhanced the status of this series.

A total of 1,354,961 units of the 3 Series E21 were produced during the 1975-1983 production period. With its sporty looks fashioned by designer Paul Bracq, the 3 Series E21, embodying the charm of double nostrils and round headlamps, remains one of the most popular sports sedans of the 70s. Key figures, including a length of 4,355 mm, a width of 1,610 mm and a height of 1,380 mm, attest to the impact of this first generation in 3 Series history.

Second-generation 3 Series


The BMW 3 Series E30, which marked its arrival in 1982, represents a significant evolution of the legendary 3 Series. The distinctive double headlamps became a standard feature, underlining the series' iconic design. This generation enjoyed extraordinary success, selling 2.34 million units and consolidating the 3 Series' position as an undisputed benchmark.

A considerable expansion of the range characterizes the BMW E30, which sees the introduction of new configurations, including a Cabriolet and four-door version. BMW's first Touring also makes its debut, offering a station wagon option for the first time. In 1985, the BMW 325ix made its debut as the first BMW with all-wheel drive, adding a further dimension to the versatility of the 3 Series. A total of 2.34 million BMW E30s are produced in Munich and Regensburg.

The diversity of the E30 range is underlined by a variety of engines, from four to six cylinders, with power ratings ranging from 55 kW to 175 kW. The car's dimensions are also noteworthy, with a maximum length of 4,360 mm, a width of 1,680 mm and a height of 1,380 mm.

When launched in 1982, the 3 Series E30 was offered as a two-door model. Four-cylinder engines from the E21, such as the M10, power the 316 and 318i models. Six-cylinder engines, M20 in 2 L and 2.3 L versions, power the 320i and 323i with Bosch electronic fuel injection.

In 1984, a four-door body was introduced, and the engine of the 323i was increased to 150 hp. The 324d, the first Diesel model, entered the scene in 1985 with a 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated six-cylinder producing 86 hp. In 1986, the BMW 325i is introduced, with a 2.5 L six-cylinder engine producing 171 hp and also marking the launch of all-wheel drive with the 325ix.

The 3 Series E30 underwent a restyling in 1988, featuring larger rear lights and aesthetic adjustments, while a station wagon, called "Touring", was added to the range. Several mechanical upgrades were introduced, including catalytic converters on the 320i and 325i models. The diesel range is extended with the arrival of the turbocharged 324td.

1989 saw the introduction of the 318is, equipped with a 136hp 16-valve four-cylinder engine. The BMW M3 E30, designed to compete in the German DTM championship, was also launched, setting a new standard with around 18,000 units produced between 1987 and 1991. Powered by a 2.3-liter, 200 hp S14 four-cylinder engine, the M3 E30 is distinguished by its lightness and performance.

The 3 Series E30 has undergone various iterations and adaptations by renowned tuners such as Hartge, Alpina, Schnitzer and Baur, underlining its versatility and appeal. The M3 E30, in particular, has left an indelible mark on automotive history and continues to be celebrated, even in the virtual world, with its appearance in the game V-rally 4.

Third-generation 3 Series


The BMW 3 Series E36, launched in the 1990s, embodies the bold evolution of the iconic range. The distinctly sloping A- and C-pillars become symbols of the temperament and agility of this third generation. The sedan's elongated, sloping front section not only enhances cabin comfort, but also reinforces protection in the event of a collision.

The 3 Series E36 introduced a revolutionary design with a compact three-door version, shortened by more than 20 centimeters at the rear, which contributed to the model's resounding success. For the first time, the two-door sedan gave way to a distinct coupe, offering a lower, wider stance.1990-2000 production of the BMW 3 Series E36 marked a decade of performance and innovation in the automotive world.

Powered by a variety of engines, the 3 Series E36 range offers a wide range of power outputs, from 1.6 to 3.2 liters and from 60 to 245 kW, with 4- and 6-cylinder configurations. This diversity of engines meets the expectations of dynamic driving enthusiasts.

Over the years, the series has expanded with the introduction of coupé and cabriolet versions, broadening the choice for 3 Series enthusiasts. The three-door compact version and the station wagon model also enrich the variety of this generation.

The 3 Series E36 introduces a number of technical advances, including the VANOS variable valve timing system on six-cylinder petrol engines, which optimizes low- and mid-range torque without compromising maximum power.

The M3 E36, the sporty version of the series, debuted with a 3-liter six-cylinder engine developing 286 hp. It was later upgraded to a 3.2-liter displacement and the adoption of twin VANOS. Available as a coupé, cabriolet and sedan, the M3 E36 also marks the advent of the SMG sequential gearbox, a pioneer on the market.

In 1996, BMW launched a limited edition, the 318 IS Procar or ST, meeting Procar homologation requirements in the 4-door class and under 2,000 cm³. This special edition, limited to 2,500 units, boasts special equipment, exclusive design and a remarkable engine.

The BMW 3 Series E36, with its combination of distinctive aesthetics, technical innovations and dynamic performance, has established itself as a landmark chapter in the history of the 3 Series.

Fourth-generation 3 Series


The BMW 3 Series E46, the fourth generation of the 3 Series, was produced from 1998 to 2007. It marked a significant advance on its predecessor, the 3 Series E36. The BMW E46's curved roofline not only offers more headroom, but also symbolizes the model's temperament and agility.

From its launch in 1998, the 3 Series E46 introduced new engines, including the M52TU, taking power from the E36. Diesel options included 2.0-liter (136 hp) and 2.9-liter (183 hp) engines, although for tax reasons the power of the 2.0-liter engine was reduced to 130 hp. The range was extended with the addition of station wagon (Touring), coupé and cabriolet versions.

Technical improvements included the VANOS variable valve timing system, which optimized torque at low and medium engine speeds. The 3 Series E46 also saw the introduction of Valvetronic technology, enabling gasoline engines with variable valve lift to consume around ten percent less fuel than their predecessors.

The coupé version of the 3 Series E46, introduced in 1999, was equipped with a new 1.8-liter, 16-valve gasoline engine developing 140 hp. In 2000, three new six-cylinder petrol engines replaced the previous versions, offering outputs of 170 hp, 192 hp and 231 hp.

In 2001, modifications were made to the sedan and estate versions, and the 3 Series E46 welcomed the Compact, a three-door body. In 2003, the 316i received a 115hp 1.8-liter engine to replace the 1.9-liter unit. The coupé and cabriolet versions were restyled, and the coupé was offered for the first time with a 3-liter diesel engine developing 204 hp.

The BMW M3 E46, available as a coupe and convertible, introduced the SMG-II sequential gearbox with eleven modes. The later M3 CSL (Coupe Sport Leichtbau) achieved 360 hp and was designed with lightweight materials, including a carbon-fiber roof.

In 2001, BMW presented the M3 GTR, developed for homologation in the ALMS championship. It was equipped with a four-liter naturally-aspirated V8, limited to 380 hp on the road version.

The E46 3 Series marked a milestone in the evolution of the range, offering technological advances, a variety of powertrains and expanded body options, making it one of the most iconic generations of the BMW 3 Series.

Fifth-generation 3 Series


The BMW 3 Series E90, launched in spring 2005, quickly won the title of "World Car of the Year 2006" at the New York Auto Show. This fifth-generation 3 Series introduced significant changes, including a five-centimeter increase in length compared to the previous E46, giving the car a more mature appearance while retaining its sporty character.

The E90 and E91 models, the sedan and Touring versions respectively, stand out clearly from their predecessors, the coupes (BMW E92) and convertibles (BMW E93), while at the same time boasting enhanced visual autonomy. With the addition of five centimetres in length compared to the BMW E46, the BMW E90 has gained in exterior presence without compromising its distinctive sporting features.

The E90 range covers a production period from 2005 to 2013, and offers a variety of engines ranging from 1.6 to 4.0 liters, with 4-, 6- and 8-cylinder configurations. The maximum dimensions of the car are 4,580 mm in length, 1,817 mm in width and 1,421 mm in height.

The fifth-generation 3 Series was praised for its spacious 460-liter trunk. The "x" models in the range indicate the presence of the xDrive all-wheel drive system, borrowed from BMW's X3 crossover.

In 2007, all powertrains benefited from BMW EfficientDynamics innovations, incorporating features such as brake energy recuperation, automatic engine stop and restart, gearshift indicator, rational control of auxiliary equipment and active aerodynamics with air flap control.

Initially launched as a four-door sedan, the range was completed by a Touring station wagon at the end of 2005, followed by a coupé in 2006. In 2007, a coupé-cabriolet version with retractable hardtop broadened the range, and the M3, the range's sporty flagship, made its debut at the end of 2007 with a new V8 and M DKG dual-clutch gearbox.

In 2008, a restyling was introduced, bringing both aesthetic and technical improvements, including the adoption of the new iDrive system, a high-definition screen, 3D GPS, and the integration of the M3's dual-clutch gearbox on certain models. The restyling also marked the introduction of a sedan version of the M3, completing the range.

Sixth-generation 3 Series


The BMW 3 Series F30, unveiled to the public on October 14, 2011 at BMW's Munich plant, represents the sixth generation of the renowned 3 Series. This iteration embodies the innovation of Bayerische Motoren Werke, with a striking exterior design characterized by the brand's current line. The BMW 3 Series F30 is more sporty and dynamic than ever, and for the first time introduces hybrid engines, aligned with the BMW EfficientDynamics concept for reduced fuel consumption.

The production period for the F30 3 Series runs from 2011 to 2019 for Sedan and Touring models, with the addition of the Gran Turismo (GT) model from 2013. Key figures include an engine range from 1.5 to 3.0 liters, with 3-, 4- and 6-cylinder configurations, and maximum dimensions of 4,753 mm in length, 1,877 mm in width and 1,455 mm in height.

This generation, codenamed F30, takes its inspiration from the lines of the 5 Series and is 9 cm longer than the previous generation (E90). Despite this growth, the 3 Series F30 remains one of the most compact cars in its class. The initial launch offers three engines, two petrol and one diesel, with different power ratings.

Over the years, the range has expanded with the addition of several engines, including diesel and petrol versions. In 2013, the 4 Series was introduced, bringing together BMW's Coupé and Cabriolet models in the mid-size segment. The sporty M4 becomes the flagship of the range from spring 2014.

The 3 Series F30 received a restyling in 2015, marked by aesthetic adjustments such as redesigned air intakes and the option of full LED headlights. In 2016, the 3 Series GT (Gran Turismo) underwent a restyling in the same spirit as the original 3 Series. Although the seventh generation (G20) is launched, the 3 Series GT remains in the catalog until January 2020.

Seventh-generation 3 Series

BMW serie 3 G20

The BMW 3 Series G20, unveiled at the Mondial Paris Motor Show in autumn 2018, embodies the brand's modern, temperamental vision. With enlarged dimensions, improved aerodynamics, and high-quality lightweight aluminum components, the BMW G20 establishes itself as a worthy successor in the ancestral lineage of the 3 Series. For the first time, new assistance systems enable semi-autonomous driving, while self-learning gesture and voice controls set new standards in user-friendliness.

In technical terms, the BMW G20 is once again ahead of its time. The seventh generation of the 3 Series achieves a perfect symbiosis of maximum safety, innovative driving and sporty driving pleasure. From summer 2019, the tradition of sporty mid-segment station wagons continues with the BMW 3 Series Touring, also known internally as the G21. A major new feature is the introduction of the plug-in hybrid version for the Touring: the BMW 330e offers an electric range of up to 61 km with a fully charged battery.

In terms of key figures, the production period for the 3 Series G20 begins in 2019. Engines range from 2.0 to 3.0 liters, with 4- and 6-cylinder options, offering power ranging from 85 to 275 kW. The car's dimensions are around 4,709 mm in length, 1,827 mm in width, and 1,440 mm in height.

At launch, two 4-cylinder petrol engines, the 320i (184 hp) and 330i (258 hp), and three 4-cylinder diesel engines, the 318d (150 hp), 320d (190 hp), and the in-line 6-cylinder 330d (265 hp), are available. BMW has focused on optimizing driving dynamics by making the 50% chassis stiffer than the previous model, introducing a new damping system, a lower center of gravity, and a weight reduction of up to 55 kilos on some versions.

The distinctive styling of the 3 Series G20 is reminiscent of its big sister, the 5 Series G30. The Touring estate version was unveiled on June 12, 2019, while the first M3 Touring was partially revealed in March 2022 in a video celebrating 50 years of BMW M. In May 2022, BMW presented restyled versions of the 3 Series and 3 Series Touring, scheduled for release later in the year.