BMW 3 Series History

12 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on BMW 3 Series History
BMW 3-Series

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a 21st-century perspective, BMW’s 3 is about as slam-dunk-wonderful a car as there is The 3 Series enjoys a well-deserved for packing outstanding driving excellent quality and undeniable into handsome sheet It’s the standard against all other small sport are, and must be, measured.

back in the 20th century, the 3 Series first appeared, it was thought of as the cream of the small sedan crop.

In the mid 1970s, BMW the task of replacing its aging coupe. But the company also that the 2002 embodied the spirit. As such, the 2002’s would need to keep spirit intact while in other respects.

BMW picked a moment in history to introduce the 3 Series generation, internally E21. The world was just off the shock of the oil embargo as the first one off the Milbertshofen assembly line on May 2, and people who never would considered a smaller car now found the of a fun and frugal machine irresistible. In BMW sold 184,330 cars, but by the European introduction of the 3 Series in worldwide sales reached The 3 Series hit North America as a model, and that pushed BMW over 290,000 that and beyond 320,000 in 1978 .

The E21 model available Stateside was the It was marginally larger than the 2002 (at 100.9 inches, the wheelbase was 2.5 inches longer and the 177.5-inch overall length was 1.5 longer), and that extra imbued it with a more yet still easygoing character. As a successor to the 2002, the 320i was available only as a two-door and over most of the styling established by that car, as the forward-leaning grille, clipped side windows and low beltline.

the skin, the car was an evolutionary step up the 2002. Basic elements the MacPherson strut front and arm rear suspension and front drum power braking differed in detail and specification, but similar in overall design. For the car had a 2.0-liter Bosch K-Jetronic inline-4 rated at 110 horsepower; it met regulations without a catalytic

The standard transmission remained a four-speed manual, while a ZF automatic was optional.

The evolution of the E21 320i was incremental. In 1980 . the shrank to 1.8 liters (though the remained 320i) and BMW added a catalytic converter to the emissions system. Though it now produced 100 hp, the 1.8’s performance deficit was somewhat by the adoption of a five-speed transmission.

In any event, this did not dampen America’s enthusiasm for the as sales continued to climb, by BMW’s growing reputation and a oil embargo in 1979. As the last few dribbled out of dealer showrooms in . BMW had firmly established its 3, 5 and 7 Series product mix and was ready to move all of its progressively upmarket throughout the of the decade.


In Road ‘s first test of the new 318i, in its July 1983 the first of the second-generation E30 3 Series, the startling thing about it was the tag. At an as-tested $18,210, 318i was more than the price of a 1977 320i, yet in specification the new car wasn’t much from the old one, at least in form. A closer look, revealed that substantial had been made.

Designated the second-generation 3 Series was initially only in two-door form.

again an evolutionary change, the styling offered significant benefits over the E21. The were almost flush the grille, which was less angled than before. In to the flat hood of the E21, the sloped gently, and the car was generally than before. There much difference in size, the E30’s wheelbase growing a 0.3 inch to 101.2 and overall actually dropping slightly.

But what many reviewers and noticed first about the E30 was how and tight the car felt. Knowing the Baby Mercedes was on the way, the E30 team had redoubled its efforts to expectations for build quality and which were traditional strengths.

With 101 hp from its injected four, the 1984 two-door was an inauspicious start for the E30 But almost immediately following car was the 325e, which featured a version of the inline six-cylinder first introduced on the larger sedan. With a high ratio along with a low and economy-minded gearing, the eta 2.7-liter like all BMW sixes, was smooth and

While hardly sporting in its 121 hp was the most BMW had offered to U.S. since the long-ago 2002tii, and the car was quick, making it to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds and the quarter-mile in 16.6 seconds at mph for Road Track . By comparison, the did the same deeds in 11.6 and seconds, respectively, with a trap speed in the quarter.

The arrived for 1985 . and along it came a new four-speed automatic available with either the or the six. By 1986 . the demand for the 318i had dried up, and it was dropped the lineup, but antilock four-wheel brakes were now standard and a sportier-looking 325es two-door the line.

The E30 really came of age in the model year with the of the 325i and 325is models, abandoned the eta reduced-rev/high-fuel-mileage engine as well as the introduction of the 325iC the first pure convertible in the 3 Series. The new 325is is the first sporting BMW to reach our shores the 2002tii went out of production in wrote Car and Driver upon the ’87 325is.

The 325is though part of the same M20 as the eta engine and having the same bore, had a 75mm … 6mm from the eta) to drop from 2,693 to 2,494 centimeters. That short was one element that opened the rev a full 500 rpm higher and pushed the to 168 hp and 164 pound-feet of peak torque the most powerful 3 Series to moment.

Car and Driver ‘s blasted to 60 mph in just 7.4 seconds and the quarter-mile in 15.6 seconds at 88 So gratifying and ingratiating was the new 325i that most reviewers the car was worth its soaring price In the case of Car and Driver ‘s that tag read $27,475 the magazine pointed out, was the price of the old 2002tii, taking into account.

Hard-core BMW will fondly recall the 1988 . as this was the first the original E30 M3 was sold in the United Originally built to take on Cosworth-tweaked 190E 2.3-16 in FIA A racing, the M3 employed a 2.3-liter capped with a twin-cam head that was essentially one of the big six heads with two fewer

Dropped into a modified 3 two-door body shell flared fenders, more raked rear window and trunk lid meant only the was left untouched compared more plebian 3 Series the Bosch fuel-injected M Power was rated at 192 hp at a wailing 6,750 rpm it finally got to North America.

is not a car for yuppies, wrote Car and Driver on its exposure to the U.S.-spec M3. This is a car for us. In you haven’t noticed, BMW’s lineup has blossomed to include a array of leather-lined hot rods beg to be flogged through the twisties and on the superslabs.

Stirring the five-speed manual Car and Driver blasted that M3 to 60 mph in just 6.9 seconds, blitzed the in just 15.2 seconds a 92-mph trap speed and to a 141-mph top speed. With an price of $34,810, the M3 was at that (and remains for many the ultimate BMW 3 Series.

BMW would an all-wheel-drive 325ix model in as well, and the Motorsport fanatics up race-ready Evolution models of the M3 for who found the already high-strung too tame. With expansion thoroughly and gloriously exhausted, the E30 3 faded out of production in 1991 .

Thanks to the E30, the two-door of the 2002 and 320i had been and the 3 Series was now a full line of coupes, sedans and convertibles serious sporting pretensions. It was the envy of the industry, as pretenders as as the Cadillac Cimarron and as legitimate as the 4000 Quattro tried and to reproduce BMW’s 3 Series Replacing a product as successful as the E30 anything but an evolutionary development was to be tricky and fraught with danger.

The replacement for the E30, E36, was the first clear and break from the proportions and details established by the 2002. In every dimension, the E36 four-door was larger than the E30. At inches, its wheelbase stretched 5.1 longer than the E30’s, and the car was more than 4 inches overall.

This extra was put to good use with increased room, a substantially stiffer and a perfect 50/50 front-to-rear distribution. Yet the wedge-shaped body of the E36 it from looking much than the bolt-upright E30, and its detailing both improved and reduced wind noise.

the E36’s front suspension its traditional MacPherson strut engineers made the rear more sophisticated than before. Called the Z-axle, the new end was a multilink system as opposed to arms used in previous 3s. It much better camber-change throughout its travel.

Mounted to its own the Z-axle wasn’t cheap, but it spectacularly well and would the prototype for rear suspensions in BMWs, including the 5 and 7 Series. mostly new in design, other of the E36’s chassis were such as the rack-and-pinion steering, disc brakes and antilock

A new DOHC 24-valve aluminum bumped the 325i’s output to a 189 hp so robust, in fact, that the five-speed 325i tested by Car and bolted to 60 mph in just 6.9 seconds and ran the in 15.3 seconds at 91 mph. just as quick as the original M3 to 60, and a tenth of a second behind it in the and this was the mainstream volume-production By the 1993 model year, the M50 would gain BMW’s variable valve timing and consequently a sweeter, fatter curve.

The four-cylinder engine in the also used a four-valve head to make 138 hp. But U.S. BMW were increasingly opting for engines in their cars, and the E36’s production cycle, and fewer fours were

While the four-door E36 debuted in the of 1991 as a 1992 model, the coupe didn’t appear 1993 . while the new convertible was until 1994 . Unlike 3 Series two-doors, the E36 version an upright sedan with two doors, but an altogether rakish The front windshield was more laid back than in the as was the rear window, and from the back the 325is coupe was a different car. But it looked a lot the sedan anyhow, a family that was comforting to most and disappointing to some critics who BMW could have been radical with the coupe.

BMW wouldn’t let the U.S. have the model of the E36 when it went on in Europe during 1995 . but it did the hatchback 318ti to North during that model With a chopped tail and the arm rear suspension from the E30 the 318ti was intended to extend the 3 appeal downmarket and attract buyers.

However, the only available was the 138-hp 1.8-liter and the interior decor was rather in comparison to the increasingly plush of other 3 Series cars. fully accepted by many BMW the 318ti would attract few U.S. buyers before production after the 1999 year.

For the 1996 model the 2.5-liter engine in the 325i and was replaced by a new 2.8-liter inline-6, and the and 325is were accordingly 328i and 328is. Horsepower a bit to 190, and peak torque swelled from 181 lb-ft at rpm to 207 lb-ft at 3,950 rpm. In . a 168-hp 2.5-liter version of the was offered in the coupe and convertible to counter-intuitively, the 323i convertible and coupe.

No one has yet come up with a explanation for BMW’s decision not to them 325s.

Of course, the of the E36 line in enthusiasts’ eyes was the M3. the market for 1995 with a of exceeded expectations, the E36 M3 two-door wasn’t the narrowly focused car the E30 version was, but rather an road machine with a engine and an imperturbable chassis. The

M3 was equipped with a bored-and-stroked of the 325i’s inline-6. This had 240 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque at its disposal, it deployed in an amazingly refined, yet fashion. European M3s got a 282-hp of the same engine, but it was peakier, a less hearty torque

To say that reviewers were about the new M3 would be a severe They raved about the tuning, they blathered on how perfectly dressed the car was with its ground effects, and they plotzed when describing the design and execution. Oh, yeah and it was Car and Driver ‘s first E36 M3 to 60 in just 5.6 seconds and covered the in 14.3 seconds at 98 mph.

a full 1.3 seconds quicker to 60 the E30 M3 tested by the same magazine and a second quicker in the quarter-mile everyday livability that the E30 M3 could never approach.

So was the E36 M3 that spin-offs appeared For racers, BMW introduced the M3 Lightweight in with you guessed it reduced (about 200 pounds less) for Though they lacked like air-conditioning, a radio and a and their narrow focus everyday livability and performance, the 85 brought to America by BMW sold out

The M3 Evolution appeared as a 1996 and nominal engine displacement from 3.0 liters to 3.2. In that meant output now at an astounding 321 hp at a screaming 7,400 In America, with slightly bore and … dimensions, hp remained at 240, although torque output ballooned to 236 at a mere 3,800 rpm.

In . for the first time ever, the M3 was as a four-door and with a five-speed transmission. Motor Trend a manual-equipped four-door M3 and made it to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds.

The M3 was also offered as a for 1998 . but by this point the E36 was coming to the end of its life. Many how BMW could possibly improve this iconic car.


Following the path it set the introduction of the E36, the E46 3 Series to market one model at a time, with the 1999 323i and four-door sedans. The most changes to the new 3 Series came by way of its body and included a new front wider wheel arches and a rounded roof line. The now featured cut outs below the which emphasized the traditional BMW headlight design.

Just as the E36 had in size in comparison to the E30, so the E46. The wheelbase increased by an inch to 107.3, while length was up about an inch and a to 176 inches. The 3 Series was still compact and smaller than the Honda Accord.

Mechanically, to the E46 were initially rather Structurally, the body shell BMW claimed, 70 percent stiffer the E36’s, and the extended wheelbase the engine to be moved further in the chassis in order to retain the 50/50 weight distribution. extensive use of aluminum in the suspension helped reduce unsprung and the track was widened, even the basic suspension, braking and system designs were unchanged.

Rear-seat passengers the E46 roomier than any previous 3 and all the occupants were protected by new and a full array of airbags.

models weren’t part of the E46 in America, though they to be offered elsewhere. The U.S.-market engines featured a lighter block, a more advanced VANOS variable valve system and a dual resonance system. The E46 328i’s 2.8-liter made 193 hp at 5,500 rpm and 206 lb-ft of at just 3,500 rpm, the 2.5-liter produced 170 hp and 181 lb-ft of in the still confusingly named

BMW 3-Series

For 2000 . the E46 line expanded the introduction of the 323Ci and 328Ci models and, later, the (in 323Ci form only). For the time, a wagon (only in 323i trim) joined the

Despite still being a face in the marketplace, the E46 was upgraded in 2001 and 2002. For 2001 . the engine was modified to boost its up to 184 hp, while the 2.8-liter engine was by a new 3.0-liter version rated at 225 hp. wagons were still to the smaller engine, convertibles now get the big one. In celebration, BMW once called the 3 Series with the engines 325s, and those the 3.0-liter engine became

In addition, the company reintroduced drive as an option on sedans and to create the 325xi and 330xi. To the of hard-core BMW enthusiasts, steering was also lightened. For 2002 . BMW the E46’s appearance with a front fascia and new taillights.

To no surprise, the E46 continued to be just as as all its 3 Series ancestors. But the E46 M3 was something altogether.

With flared arches, side gills and chrome exhaust tips under a unique rear the M3 was muscular, refined and more a little menacing a frat boy who was the smartest kid in school and an unabashed abuser.

But the best part of the E46 M3 was that sensuous sheet Concealed beneath the aluminum dome hood were 3.2 of inline-6 packing every technology except thrust (which is still reserved for aircraft). Output was a staggering 333 fully 93 more than the M3’s motor, and 262 lb-ft of

It was amazing what variable timing, individual throttle for each cylinder, an 8,000-rpm and an exhaust system BMW calls one of the ever installed in a production car produce. In our tests, the M3 ripped zero to 60 in 5 seconds flat. the quarter-mile required just seconds at 105 mph.

For 2003 the 3 Series finally the option of a DVD-based navigation Other enhancements fitted as included a front center for the 325 models, a rear center for sedans and wagons and a moonroof for the A Performance package for the 330i brought 10 more hp (for a of 235), a six-speed manual and a suspension (with 18-inch to this already superb sedan.

A slew of changes place for 2004 ; those of the variety included the expansion of the SMG gearbox to models beyond the M3 and the of an automatic transmission with the Performance package. Visual were subtle on the 330i (a black grille insert the previous silver unit) and overt on the coupes and convertibles front fascias and light designs). A few new features joined the equipment list for sedans and including rain-sensing wipers and headlights.

2005 marked the year of production for the E46 sedan and A power moonroof and Myrtle trim became standard on all a power top was made standard on the convertible and SMG transmission availability was to 3.0-liter models equipped the Sport package. The Performance and packages could now be ordered and a flat tire warning and turn indicator lights standard across the lineup.


Per BMW tradition, the replacement for the E46 3 dubbed E90, was introduced a of body styles at a time. saw the arrival of the new sedan and wagon while the unchanged but still competitive E46 coupes and convertibles the M3) continued to be sold as ’06

The nomenclature became more for this redesign, as E90 technically only to the sedan, while the was known as E91 and the forthcoming coupe and were designated E92 and E93, This was also the first 3 to be designed on controversial BMW stylist Bangle’s watch.

Initial to the new 3 Series’ look were Most agreed that it had been spared the full treatment, but some grumbled odd styling touches such as the pinched rear taillights. The question, though, was whether it the superior driving dynamics for the 3 Series had historically been

The E90 3 Series quickly served to inquiring enthusiasts that the was a resounding Yes, thanks to like an all-new five-link suspension, class-leading steering and a downright magical ride/handling

While the 3 Series’ sporting had been left intact, changes were made to aspects of the car. In addition to the exterior styling, the E90 3 Series on a 1.4-inch-longer wheelbase and had a 1.2-inch-wider than the E46. The increased yielded a passenger compartment was 2.2 cubic feet larger, as as a trunk that was more by 1.3 cubic feet.

These resulted in a slight penalty at the as the E90 was about 100 pounds heavier its predecessor.

Inside, BMW’s iDrive interface was available but not mandatory. There were plenty of traditional 3 Series like accessible, driver-centric and a near perfect driving Although changes in dashboard compared with the E46 were evolutionary, one notable difference was the of a second, mid-dash binnacle the optional navigation system. without the nav had the more familiar dash.) Rear-seat accommodations snug, but there was noticeably knee room than in the

Like its E46 predecessor, the 2006 3 was offered in either 325 or 330 trim and standard rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive; however, all E90 models were powered by inline six-cylinder engines. The version was rated at 215 hp, while the engine was endowed with a induction system and other that yielded an impressive 255 hp.

Newly optional was BMW’s Steering system, which such tricks as greater at low speeds and electronically activated in the event of wheel slippage; observant drivers decreed this system gave the an un-BMW-like artificial feel. sedan and wagon came with a six-speed manual while a six-speed automatic was

For 2007 . the rollout of the E90 3 Series with the introduction of the E92 coupe and the E93 the latter being BMW’s vehicle ever with a hardtop. Although the elongated of the new coupe and convertible were not as tight as 3 Series past, sleek sheet metal of it unique to the two-door models these models highly for those who didn’t require the of four doors.

Also of was the addition of BMW’s excellent inline-6 to the 3 Series lineup. equipped with this and nearly lag-free power enjoyed performance rivaling of the old E46 M3. Thanks to 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, the sprint required only 5 seconds.

With the advent of the mill, the 330 model with its inline-6 was discontinued after one year of production, as was the 325 model its 215-hp unit. As a replacement, a new 328 model was introduced, featuring a inline-6 making 230 hp and 200 lb-ft of while models with the engine were designated

The E90 3 Series lineup now consisted of wagon, coupe and convertible in either 328 or 335 form, with drive available on all body but the convertible. With a new E90-based M3 due in no M3 was offered for ’07.

2008 saw few to the ordinary 3 Series lineup. enthusiasts, however, will remember ’08 as the first of production for the E90 M3. Many who had driven the E46 M3 wondered how on earth BMW could the bar even higher this around.

On paper, the company in grand fashion the E90 M3 was numerically to its E46 forefather by every relevant and it was also available in sedan for the first time since the E36

Bristling with 414 hp and 295 lb-ft of from its high-revving 4.0-liter V8, the E90 M3 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and dispatched the quarter-mile in seconds at 112 mph. Pulling a 0.95g on the skid pad, our M3 (a coupe) snaked through the in a barely believable 75.0

Available with a six-speed transmission or a seven-speed automated-clutch manual gearbox, there was no that this M3 had the goods to be the high-performance 3 Series model The question for enthusiasts to debate was the car’s historically vibrant had been diluted.

Some opined that steering had dropped a notch or two compared the E46 M3. There was also debate whether the E90 M3’s V8 was a worthy to its predecessor’s 333-hp inline-6. testing aside, it was suggested the V8’s mechanical engine proved no match for the glorious smoothness of the six, particularly at engine speeds.

For more a few dyed-in-the-wool enthusiasts, the E46 M3 just right and the E90 M3 felt a bit too encumbered cylinders and electronics.

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