BMW 3 Series Sedan Models/Series Timeline, Specifications & Photos

Generations: 10
First production year: 1982
Engines: Mild hybrid diesel, Gasoline, Hybrid gasoline, Mild hybrid, Diesel, Hybrid
BMW 3 Series Sedan photo gallery

After a little over three years on the market, the seventh generation of the BMW 3 Series received an update, or LCI (Life Cycle Impulse), as the carmaker named it.

The 3 Series was the most successful model in BMW's history, selling over 16 million of them between 1975 and 2021 in seven generations. Moreover, between October 2018, when the seventh generation was introduced at the Paris Motor Show, and May 2022, when the car received an LCI, it was sold in over 1 million units, making it the best selling generation compared to its predecessors. Still, the German carmaker decided to keep the sales figures up and refreshed the range.

With its refreshed front fascia, the 3 Series sedan looked even sportier thanks to the reshaped headlights and the enlarged "kidney-grille" at the front. Moreover, as an option, the carmaker added adaptive LED headlamps. Last but not least, the aggressive design could have been enhanced even more with the optional M Sport Package and M Sport Package Pro, the latter being available for the first time in the 3 Series.

The interior went through a significant upgrade with the introduction of the BMW Curved Display, which featured the 12.3" instrument panel in front of the driver and the 14.9" infotainment screen atop the center stack. Both panels were covered by the same piece of glass, creating a flowing sensation as a unique wide display.

Under the hood, BMW installed a wide choice of engines, ranging between 148 hp (150 PS) and 369 hp (374 PS), with either four or six cylinders fed by gasoline or diesel. Moreover, a plug-in hybrid version was also available. Depending on the engine version and options, the power went to the rear or in all corners via a manual or an automatic transmission.

full description and technical specifications
BMW 3 Series Sedan (G20) photo gallery

The German automaker BMW introduced the seventh generation of the 3 Series in 2018, continuing its streak of successful models in the compact executive sedan segment.

BMW produced over 15 million units of the 3 Series since the model's launch in 1975, and it was the money-maker of the family. As a result, the carmaker had to meet its customers' high expectations for the G20, and they didn't. It was a completely new vehicle that carried over just a few elements from its predecessor, the E90, and more from its bigger sibling, the 5 Series (G30), with which it shared its CLAR platform.

With a design that followed the idea of its predecessor, the 3 Series G20 featured narrow headlights and a slightly larger kidney grille. Besides the base models that featured bi-xenon headlights, the automaker offered a full-LED package with high-beam assist. Depending on the options and packages, the 2018 3 Series featured an elegant bumper with slim and horizontal air intake flanked by small scoops. Those who opted for the sports package got the car with a more aggressive stance featuring triangular-shaped air intakes that cooled the front brakes. From its profile, the long hood was followed by the greenhouse, which was extended towards the back of the vehicle in a cab-rearward design. Thanks to its short deck at the back, the 3 Series G20 offered a sporty look for its customers. The taillights were full-LEDs and were extended from the quarter panels to the trunk lid, thus improving the car's visibility from the rear. Under the bumper, the carmaker installed either one or two exhausts, depending on the engine version and options.

Inside, the automaker offered options for either a digital or an analog instrument cluster complemented by a touchscreen for the infotainment system placed atop the center stack in a free-floating position. On the center tunnel that separated the front occupants, BMW installed the gear stick or the selector for the automatic transmission, several buttons for driving modes (ECO, comfort, sport), parking sensors, and an electric handbrake. In addition, the iDrive infotainment's system rotary dial was also housed there. Customers had the option to buy the car with either bucket seats or high-bolstered ones that provided better support during high-speed cornering. There was plenty of legroom for two passengers in the back on the split-folding bench seat, although the tall transmission tunnel limited comfort for a middle-seated one.

Under the hood, there was a wide range of diesel and gasoline powerplants mated with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic. Like in the previous generation, most versions could've been bought with either a rear- or an all-wheel-drive system. In addition, a plug-in hybrid system was on offer.

full description and technical specifications
BMW 3 Series Sedan (F30) LCI photo gallery

The German automaker introduced the refreshed version of the 3 Series' fifth generation in 2016, adding subtle exterior changes but, more important technological upgrades.

When BMW introduced the fifth generation of its 3 Series in 2012, and it had to improve it in just a few years to comply with Euro 6 emission standards. While it silently did some of the upgrades in 2014, the facelifted version broke covers in 2016. And, as usual, the German automaker didn't call its refreshed models "facelifted" but as LCIs or Life-Cycle Impulse.

The car's exterior boasted a redesigned front fascia that incorporated the radar for the Adaptive Cruise Control and AEBS system behind the lower grille when fitted with that. In addition, depending on the trim level and options, it featured larger or smaller side scoops, the latter being used for the M-Package version.

The interior boasted a new center console that featured a sliding cover for a pair of cup holders, which was mostly used to store mobile phones, though. Inside the instrument cluster, BMW installed a four-dial panel with a clean design and a small display at its bottom for the onboard computer.

BMW had to upgrade its entire engine lineup to comply with stricter Euro 6 emission standards. That led to a completely turbocharged engine lineup, regardless if they were fueled by gasoline or diesel. Moreover, another significant addition to the range was the 330e version, which was a plug-in hybrid.

full description and technical specifications
BMW 3 Series (F30) photo gallery

The sixth generation of the BMW 3 Series Sedan, the world’s best-selling premium car, sets new benchmarks in terms of sporting prowess, elegance and comfort. The pioneering history of the 3 Series serves as inspiration for the new sports sedan, whose powerful styling represents a fresh interpretation and conscientious development of traditional BMW design cues. The new BMW face, with flat headlights reaching along as far as the BMW kidney grille, emphasises the elegantly dynamic design of the new BMW 3 Series.

The sixth generation of the 3 Series has grown in size compared to its predecessor, with its wide track (front + 37 mm, rear + 47 mm) particularly prominent, and the car’s increased length (+ 93 mm) and augmented wheelbase (+ 50 mm) also accentuate its sporting silhouette. Inside the new BMW 3 Series Sedan, the noticeable increase in space benefits the rear passengers above all. And the BMW 3 Series range is now also available in a trio of trim and equipment variants – the Sport Line, Luxury Line and Modern Line. Each presents its own individual take on the character of the sports sedan, with exclusive, high-quality material combinations and unbeatable build quality underlining the premium ambience of the new range.

REVIEW: 2016 BMW 320d xDrive   full description and technical specifications
BMW 3 Series (E90) photo gallery

BMW upgraded the 3-Series lineup in 2008 and made it ready for the Euro 5 norms that became mandatory starting with January 2009.

After four years on the market and a successful career, the German carmaker had to improve its engine lineup. As usual, it couldn't refresh only the drivetrains, and it had to work on other areas as well.

At the front, the main difference was seen in the company's "kidney" grille design, which featured rounded interior edges instead of the clear-cut style used before. BMW also included the grille's chromed top rim in the front fascia, not on the hood as it was on the pre-facelifted version. The lower bumper area received a smiling cut instead of the straight one. Further modifications followed in the rear, where the new LED taillights featured smaller reversing lights.

Inside, the most visible change was for the automatic transmission selector. On the 2008 model, BMW adopted the joy-stick system used on the bigger brother 5-Series instead of the classic, linear style with a side gate for the manual mode. The optional iDrive system featured voice-controls and a set of buttons used for short-cuts to the menu.

Under the hood, the German carmaker offered a vast engine choice and started it with a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated gasoline unit that provided 136 hp, seven more than its predecessor. For turbo-diesel versions, BMW introduced a fuel-efficient 115 hp unit paired with a 6-speed manual. The all-wheel-drive versions were named as xDrive instead of xD or xI as before.

full description and technical specifications
BMW 3 Series (E90) photo gallery

The BMW 3 Series was the best sold model in the German’s producer history, with its production starting in 1975.The 5th generation of the BMW’s 3 series, also known as the E90, has a timeless design. The E90 was produced in four body options: sedan (E90), break (E91), coupe (E92) and cabrio (E93).

The optional features available were xenon headlamps, automatic climate control, parking sensor, power-adjustable seats, satellite navigation, glass sunroof, heated front seats, Bluetooth and USB audio input. Different packages were available as well, such as the Premium Package with leather seat, auto-dimming mirror, auto-folding exterior mirrors, BMW Assist w/Bluetooth, etc.

The Cold Weath er Package included headlight washers, heated front seats and folding rear seats with a ski bag. The Sports Package and Technology Package were also available with different features – different seats, steering wheel, sports suspension, keyless entry, electronic damping control.

The 3 series were available with run-flat tires, but these were not equipped with a spare tire. The sedan and the tourer were designed by Joji Nagashima, while the coupe and the convertible by Michael Markefka.

In September 2008, the facelift version was released and it included both design changes as well as mechanical. The front and rear bumpers were refreshed, as well as the wing mirrors, headlights, taillights, trunk lid and wider kidney grilles.

The AWD models became the “xDrive” models, the before facelift AWD labeled as “Xi”. The interior got slight improvements, the resolution of the display was increased and the “Professional navigation system” was updated.

full description and technical specifications
BMW 3 Series (E46) photo gallery

The fourth generation of the BMW 3-Series came on the market in 1998 and rocketed to the top of the sales charts in the premium compact segment. In 2000, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class overtook it.

As usual, BMW knew that that was going to happen and as soon as it launched the 3-Series, it's engineers started to work on the facelifted version, which was introduced in 2002. It wasn't an easy job to do, but the results exceeded the expectations.

From the outside, there were minor changes to the bodywork. The distinctive new look of the headlights, with a double curved line on the bottom, matched the new bumper. In the back, a new set of taillights was installed. From the sides, there were little differences between the facelift and non-facelift versions.

Inside, a new steering wheel with paddle-shifters was installed for the vehicles equipped with the automated (SMG) transmission. Other than that, most of the base models remained the same, with minor changes to trims. The infotainment unit was upgraded.

The most important change was for the drivetrain, where a new engine lineup was introduced. The base model was a 1.8-liter unit, named 316i, which offered 115 hp. The most popular version was the 318i, which offered a 2.0-liter unit rated at 143 hp. It was the first 2.0-liter with four cylinders installed on a BMW since the first generation. Top of the range version was the 231 hp 3.0-liter unit, which could have been mated to a 6-speed manual, with rear or all-wheel-drive system. All versions were available with an automatic, 5-speed transmission.

full description and technical specifications
BMW 3 Series (E46) photo gallery

After three generations of the 3-Series, in 1998, BMW introduced the fourth generation. It wasn't the big visual leap between the second and the third generation, but it was an important technical evolution.

The design of the new generation E46 started in 1993 just three years after the previous generation was introduced to the market. In November 1997, BMW send the press release for their new vehicle and, in April 1998, it started the sales and deliveries.

The new design featured clear headlights cover over the lamps and a downward shaped turn-signal on the corners. The hood comprised the “BMW-kidney” grille design. To cool the engine, the bigger grilles were on the lower side of the bumper, under the foglights. The flared wheel-arches were no longer reserved for top-spec models, but for the entire range of the car.

Inside, the car featured all the important information for the driver. The instrument cluster featured the five standard dials in most of the 3-Series since the introduction of the E30: coolant temperature, speedometer, tachometer, fuel level and, on the lower part of the rev-counter, the instant fuel dial. The dashboard was no longer that much tilted toward the driver so the passenger could enjoy or adjust easier the audio controls.

The technical modifications of the E46 were important. It was the first 3-Series that offered engines with more than 100 hp even on the base engine. The E46 also marked the return of the all-wheel-drive system, which was used on the E30 but lost on the E36 generation. It also saw the introduction of a new, 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine. The car was available with 5- or 6-speed manual transmission and 4- and 5-speed automatic.

full description and technical specifications
BMW 3 Series Sedan (E36) photo gallery

It was hard to replace such a success story as the BMW 3-Series E30 that moved the company on top of the heights in the compact premium-car market. But it had to be done and, in 1991, the replacement was shown.

When the second generation of the 3-Series was launched, the straight and simple lines were trendy. But that was more like the '70s design language and in the early '90s it was already considered as obsolete. New technologies were discovered and new trends followed.

The design looked like it was a scaled-down 5-Series. It was longer, wider and taller than its predecessor. With a front fascia covered by the headlights and the widened “BMW kidney” grille, the car was more aerodynamic than its predecessor. It featured a drag coefficient of 0.29, compared with the previous 3-Series that had a 0.33. The longer engine compartment allowed a much bigger space for the engines and a crumple zone. In 1993, the car received a mid-life cycle refresh that changed some of the engines and brought some others.

Inside, the legroom was better than the one offered by the E30. It now featured standard power steering and brakes for all the range. The interior featured optional amenities such as four power windows, air-conditioning or climate control, on-board computer, airbags for the driver and front passenger, sunroof, and a premium audio system.

Under the hood there was a wide range of engines starting with a 1.6-liter unit and up to a 3.2-liter for the M3. For the diesel versions, there was a 1.8-liter and a 2.5-liter unit, both turbocharged.

full description and technical specifications
BMW 3 Series Sedan (E30) photo gallery

BMW introduced a new generation of the 3 Series in 1982. It was an important step forward compared to its predecessor, especially since it also came in the highly-demanded four-door shape.

The first generation of the 3 Series was a blast to drive for those times. It was a sports coupe vehicle that charmed close to 1.4-million customers worldwide, and it could have been even more successful if it had a four-door version. However, that problem was fixed with the introduction of the 3 Series' second generation, the famous E30.

One of the most coveted features of the first-generation 3 Series was the quad-headlights design, and the carmaker decided to make it standard on the entire range. Its black grille with horizontal slats and the kidney grille that adorned the center of the front fascia were easy to recognize. It was an advanced design for its time, with body-colored bumpers adorned by black rubber strips to protect it from small scratches. The chromed trims around the windows were specific for the pre-facelifted model, which appeared in 1987. Even though it sported a four-door bodywork, the sedan shared the same wheelbase as its coupe sibling.

Inside, the dashboard featured a driver-oriented center stack, with the HVAC controls placed under the stereo. Worth mentioning that not all versions came fitted with an AC unit. Also, not all versions featured a tachometer. BMW installed bucket seats for the front passengers and a center console that subtly divided the driving area from the rest of the car. At the back, the carmaker placed a bench for three, although the one seated in the middle had to share their legroom with the transmission tunnel.

Under the hood, BMW placed a wide engine range, sending their power to the rear wheels via a manual or an automatic transmission.

full description and technical specifications