BMW 3 Series Generations

BMW 3 Series Inventory

Even with a history spanning over 40 years, the BMW 3 Series is still the pinnacle of luxury in the used car market. However, each of its generations has its own unique characteristics. To discover which 3 Series generation will be the perfect fit for you, it’s important to know a little bit about each one before you make your decision.

Fortunately, Val-U-Line® is here with your guide to each generation of this iconic and luxurious car. Read on to learn more and contact us if you have any questions.

First-Generation BMW 3 Series

The inaugural generation of the BMW 3 Series launched a new standard in automotive luxury. In production between 1975 to 1983, its round headlights complemented the automotive style of the time. It also featured short overhangs that contributed to the sedan’s sporty and low-slung appearance. 

Under the hood, first-generation models featured one of two engines. The earliest model years offered 109 horsepower that could be paired with a 4-speed manual transmission or 3-speed automatic transmission.

In 1979, BMW swapped out the original motor and transmission options for a 101-horsepower engine and 5-speed manual transmission with overdrive.

Second-Generation BMW 3 Series

Smoother, rounder, and sportier, the second-generation BMW 3 Series—which began production in 1982—featured an updated look. It featured the brand’s iconic kidney grille and included an elongated front end for a sportier overall design. BMW expanded the 3 Series family in this generation, too, with the introduction of the 4-door and convertible body styles.

Models from this era also came with one of two engine options, depending on the model year. Older vehicles included a 121-horsepower engine, while newer options of this generation included a 168-horsepower engine.

Third-Generation BMW 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series was produced between 1990 and 2000. With a new silhouette, the third-generation BMW 3 series began to take a turn towards the modern era in both performance and style throughout the decade. On top of that, a hatchback model was available.

Adhering to the evolving performance demands of the time, the brand upgraded the model’s engine to a 189-horsepower motor. They even redesigned the body to ensure 50/50 weight distribution for a more aerodynamic drive.

Fourth-Generation BMW 3 Series

From 1997 to 2006, BMW created a full lineup of the 3 Series models that was sportier and more agile than ever before. Starting with the 193-horsepower 6-cylinder engine, the 3 Series added more zip and excitement to drivers’ experiences behind the wheel. There was also a smaller engine that generated 170 to 184 horsepower, depending on the model year.

Best of all, the fourth-generation BMW 3 Series was the first to introduce the iconic and capable all-wheel drive xDrive system for a more athletic and stable ride.

Fifth-Generation BMW 3 Series

More modern and advanced than ever, the fifth-generation BMW 3 Series—which was manufactured between 2005 and 2013—generated more power thanks to upgraded engines, like two new 6-cylinder options. One produced 215 horsepower, while the other got up to 255 horsepower when properly equipped.

iDrive also made its first appearance for the model during this generation as well as Active Steering for enhanced handling and response.

Those looking for both style and sport could opt for the hardtop convertible. In addition to its sleek and versatile exterior, it came with a 300-horsepower engine as well. Put the top down, and you could really feel the wind flow through your hair.

Sixth-Generation BMW 3 Series

2019 BMW 3 Series

Finally, we reach the sixth-generation BMW 3 Series. Produced from 2011 to 2019, this generation is all about technological advances and an athletic drive. With a wider, sleeker, and more aerodynamic design, it shows!

Its innovative 6-cylinder engine generates around 240 horsepower and works alongside TwinScroll turbocharging for a more potent performance.

Aside from performance, the sixth-generation BMW 3 Series also includes a myriad of technologies designed to boost safety, entertainment, and convenience. From navigation and connectivity systems to driver-assist technologies, this modern and cutting-edge generation has it all.

Which BMW 3 Series Generation Is Right for You?

Now that you know a little more about each generation of BMW 3 Series available, it’s time to see which one has everything you need and more for the road ahead.

For more information or a closer look at the BMW 3 Series generations, schedule a test drive at Val-U-Line®’s nationwide used car dealers today.