Seven generations of the BMW 3 Series Seven generations of the BMW 3 Series


The history of the new BMW 3 Series Saloon.

Discover how the six generations of the BMW 3 Series Saloon have evolved over time and, in doing so, created one of the most iconic BMW driving experiences.

BMW 02 Series BMW 02 Series

BMW 02 Series, 1966 - 1975.

More inspiration, less generation.

Before there was a BMW 3 Series, there was the BMW 02 Series. It can’t technically claim to be a generation of the BMW 3 Series, but it did serve as the inspiration for what would be become the original E30 BMW 3 Series. This is where design elements such as the elongated hood, an upright A-pillar and shorter front overhang were first seen.

The Original BMW 3 Series The Original BMW 3 Series

The original BMW 3 Series, 1975-1983

With a relatively steeper A-pillar and an increase in size from the BMW 114, the first BMW 3 Series (E21) was a bold statement and was quickly regarded as a car with sporty flair. Notable design features that we still know and love today are the double round headlights, the iconic twin kidney grille and the Hofmeister kink.

E30 E30

E30, 1982 - 1993

The second generation BMW 3 Series adopted several design features from the predecessor, such as the three-box design and the elongated hood. New features include the choice of a 2-door and 4-door saloon, as well as the convertible and touring models.

E36 E36

E36, 1990 - 1997

Thanks to a greater leaning towards a coupé-like design, the third generation BMW 3 Series was seen as a huge leap for the brand. Standout developments include the chrome covered kidney grill and glass-plate covered headlights.

E46 E46

E46, 1998 - 2005

With fresh interpretations of some classic design elements, the BMW 3 Series E46 has a distinct look and feel. Overall, the fourth generation is less rigid in its design language, while being slightly larger than previous models, with a raised roofline for increased headspace.

E90, 2005 - 2011

In 2005, BMW launched a new design philosophy that would lead to a giant leap in form and function for the BMW 3 Series. Contoured elements were introduced, which were inspired by the BMW Z4, but applied in a manner befitting of a saloon.

F30 F30

F30, 2011 - 2018

The sixth generation of the BMW 3 Series boasted a modern interpretation of the three-box design. The iconic kidney grille and headlights were merged together to create a strong visual front, which complemented the more contoured bonnet, while double crease lines added a sense of movement to the side profile.

G20 G20