One of the German automaker's most recognizable vehicles, the BMW 3-Series is a compact luxury car that first made its way onto roadways in the late ‘70s. Since its arrival, the 3-Series has become one of the leaders in its field and is often one of the first BMW models drivers seek out. The model officially appeared on the US dealer lots as a 1977 model year vehicle. In Europe it debuted two years earlier, in 1975. The first generation 3-Series replaced the 2002 in the BMW lineup. Offered strictly as a two-door, the compact 3-Series presented a sportier image than its counterparts thanks not only to its size, but rather its bevy of smooth lines and advanced accessories. Under the hood there was a variety of four-cylinder engines, namely 316 (1.6L), 318 (1.8L), and 320 (2.0), which belied the model's trim. Eventually, the 323i was introduced and the 320/6 swooped in to replace the 320.
The first generation of the BMW 3-Series lasted until 1982. Second-generation versions of the model arrived a year later. Dubbed the E30, a new six-cylinder engine and a four-door body style were the main highlights. In 1985, two higher-performing variants, the 325i and 325is, joined the lineup, showing off up to approximately 170 horsepower thanks to a 2.5L six-cylinder configuration. A touring version of the 3-Series made its way onto the roster in 1985 and across the board, all trims of the car were updated. By the end of its second run, BMW made a convertible 3-Series available for the first time as well. The third generation E36 was released in 1992. Available as a sedan, coupe, convertible, and even for a short time as a hatchback, the 3-Series also presented a smoother look than in previous years, offered more options, and revised underhood parts. At the bottom of the lineup was a 1.8L four-cylinder engine, while the top-level engine was a bolder six-cylinder good for 190 horsepower.
Fourth generation models appeared in 1999 (sedan only) before the coupe, convertible, and wagon variants joined the party a year later. Designed with a more aerodynamic body shape, a stiffer suspension, and improved steering, the 3-Series was lauded right away by critics and drivers alike. Initially, the 323i versions were given a 2.5L inline-six cylinder, while a 2.8L inline six-cylinder was installed in the 328i. But by 2001, the 325i punched in with a 2.5L configuration rated at 184 horsepower. The biggest of the bunch was the 330i's 3.0L 225-hp motor. When the fifth generation debuted in 2006 as the E90, it was once again presented in two trims - 325i and 330i, just like the end of the previous generation. This time around, the 330i showed off 255 horsepower, an increase of 30 horsepower from the original output. 2007 saw the coupe become equipped with all-wheel drive but few other updates were to the 3-Series. In 2009, a 335d (diesel) version made its way into the fold and xDrive became the nomenclature used for all-wheel drive models.
How do you define luxury? Comfort and power? Handling? Exterior design? The truth is, there are many words that drivers use to define the word luxury, but there are only a few cars that truly put meaning behind it and BMW's well-received 3-Series is one that holds this distinction. Superior technology and engineering, as well as advanced BMW 3-Series parts are just two reasons this model has catapulted into the spotlight. Lavish interior comfort combined with a sleek outside appearance which give the essence of elegance have made the 3-Series what it truly is - a Hall of Famer.
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