It was 1975; the world was watching Jaws on the big screen, wearing platforms to the disco and, more importantly, being introduced to the first ever BMW 3 Series. It’s now over 30 years later and BMW is producing the seventh generation of this iconic driving machine.
Now known simply as The 3, it offers the most digitally aware driving experience yet. With enhanced connectivity through the new Operating System 7.0, The 3 has entered into a new frontier of mobility. Other innovations include enhanced noise-reducing acoustic glazing, parking assistance, the optional BMW Digital Key and Connected Music, plus the Intelligent Personal Assistant – exclusive to all M Sport models.
Discover how it has evolved over the decades and, in doing so, earned its reputation as not only a design pioneer, but also as the ultimate driver’s car.
THE ORIGINAL BMW 3 SERIES, 1975-1983.
The first generation of the BMW 3 Series quickly became known for its sporty flair. Memorable design elements included the short overhang at the front, double round headlights, the iconic twin kidney grille and the Hofmeister kink. Other innovative features such as the dashboard angled toward the driver were not only maintained by future generations but also by competitors within the automotive industry.
2ND GENERATION: 1982-1994.
Making its world premiere in Morocco, the next BMW 3 Series was a 2-door design and came with a sedan look and feel, which was later turned into a four-door sedan in September 1983. Soon after its release, the new BMW 3 Series convertible and the first-ever BMW M3 models were unveiled. With this high-performance M machine, BMW took part in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM).
Furthermore, with ambitions of diversifying the range and creating a more family-friendly take on the Ultimate Driving Machine, the BMW 3 Series Touring was made available in 1987.
3RD GENERATION: 1990-2000.
With its Sedan, Coupé, Convertible, Touring, Compact and M3 models, the third generation of the BMW 3 Series was the most varied to date. The design theme common to all variants was a much more coupé-orientated feel. The introduction of the hatchback (Compact) in 1994, 22.5cm shorter and boasting a modern rear design, was also well received – eventually becoming one of BMW’s biggest sellers within the range.
4TH GENERATION: 1997-2006.
To embrace the individual personalities found within the BMW 3 Series range, BMW evolved their approach to design. The Coupé, Convertible and Compact models now came with significant styling differences; however, there were still common design elements, such as the more pronounced curve of the roof for greater headroom. This new way of crafting a range of models evidently resonated with drivers, resulting in 3,266,885 units sold. The fourth generation of the BMW 3 Series is the top-selling BMW model of all time.
5TH GENERATION: 2005-2013.
Launched globally at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2005, the fifth generation of the 3 Series was clearly designed to maintain the athletic attitude that defined even the earliest editions. Redesigned contours on the bonnet gave it a sense of movement, even when parked. This sporty design approach, which was inspired by the BMW Z4, clearly went down well, with this BMW 3 Series being awarded the “World Car of the Year” title only one year after being announced.
6TH GENERATION: 2010 – 2018.
And then it went electric! For the first time, the BMW 3 Series range of engines included hybrid options. All of the engines were also turbocharged. New design details included the kidney grille, which now merged with the headlights, and the more muscular and contoured surfaces. The range also widened to include a Gran Turismo.
7TH GENERATION: 2019 AND BEYOND.
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