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Model designations

Here's a brief introduction to how BMW names their vehicles.

Recent models (mid-70 and newer) consisted of 3 main models, the 3-series, the 5-series and the 7-series. There's also been a 6-series and 8-series in the mix. Even numbered series are designated to sports coupés, while odd numbered series are family saloons and wagons (and also other variations like coupe). Wagons only appear in the 3 and 5-series. A higher numbered series means a larger and usually more luxurious series of vehicles.

In 1999/2000 BMW introduced the X-series which are SUVs. The "x" was previously also used to indicate 4-wheel drive in 3- and 5-series. So BMW suitably named their SUVs X3 and X5.

A Z-series also exists. Z1 is now a classic, the Z3 was the modern sportscar which is now replaced by the Z4. The Z8 is a high-end sportscar.

But to return to the more common family cars... BMW names their vehicles with 3 digits and then some letters. This usually doesn't tell the regular consumer much, but there's actually a system to this.

  • The first digit indicates the car series. 1, 3, 5, 6, 7 or 8. Remember even numbers for sedans and wagons. More commonly refered to as family cars. Odd numbers for sports coupés.
  • The second and third digit actually indicates the engine size in liters.

For instance a 318 would be a 1.8 liter (1800 ccm) 3-series. And a 525 would be a 2.5 liter (2500 ccm) 5-series.

Finally BMW adds some letters after these digits to indicate fuel injection (i), sports packages (s) and so on. Here's a short (incomplete) list of what these letters indicate:

 Aautomatic (usually just found in registration papers) 
 ddiesel engine 
 eold designation for fuel injection
 ifuel injection
 Llong version (only 7-series) 
 ssports package
 Ttouring (station wagon)
 x4-wheel drive







Of course there's existed exceptions from these rules. Though they are rare.

  • The 745's manufactured as the E23-series were actually turbo-charged 3.5 litre engines.
  • The E30 318's were actually just sports packages of the 316 with chipped engines.
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