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History of BMW 3 Series

BMW first launched the 3 Series in 1975. It''s a compact executive model designed to be a successor to the BMW New Class. The 3 Series is now in its sixth generation, with five different body styles available throughout its lifespan. BMW has called the 3 Series its best selling model, with it accounting for 30% of BMW''s annual total car sales. It has won a number of awards, including What Car? Car of the Year 2006, World Car of the Year 2006 and Best Executive Saloon at the Scottish Car of the Year awards in 2012.

The 3 Series BMW was a strong model for the German carmaker, with reviewers praising its great combination of performance and economy as well as its strong handling capabilities. It also boasts the spacious and luxurious interior that many have come to expect from BMW. 

First and second generation BMW 3 Series (E21 and E30) (1975 - 1993)

The first generation 3 Series was unveiled in 1975, following the 1973 oil crisis. It was designed to be a two-door saloon model, with a factory-authorised cabrio version built by Baur. The interior design of the E21 model signalled a change for BMW to a new design concept, with the centre console angled towards the driver. This then became a regular feature in BMWs for many years. BMW also opted for rounded edges and elements within the cabin to give a softer, safe feel. At launch all models used the BMW M10 four-cylinder engine, until 1977 when the BMW M20 six-cylinder engine was added. 

BMW released the second gen E30 model in 1982. It was sold as a coupe until 1991, with a four-door saloon available from 1983. The Mk2 came with four-cylinder or six-cylinder petrol engines, with a six-cylinder diesel option added later in 1985. The first all-wheel drive 3 Series was produced in 1986, called the 325iX. In the same year BMW also launched an estate body style. This generation saw the first iteration of the BMW M3, as the E30 M3 coupe. It was released in 1987, using the S14 four-cylinder engine. 

Third and fourth generation BMW 3 Series (E36 and E46) (1991 - 2006)

BMW released the Mk3 3 Series in 1991, with four-cylinder or six-cylinder engines and a twin cam M50 six-cylinder to replace the single-cam engine previously used. BMW used Z-axle multilink rear suspension on the four-door saloon version they initially released, with a coupe added in 1991 and a cabriolet added in 1992. The touring estate version was added from 1994. BMW replaced the M50 six-cylinder engine in 1996, replacing it with the M52 six-cylinder, boosting maximum displacement to 2.8 L. The E36 was named in Car and Driver magazine''s 10 Best Cars list for every year of its production, unlike the previous E30 which never made the list.

The fourth gen model was introduced in 1998 as a saloon only. Estate and coupe models were added in 1999, with a convertible and M3 option added in 2000. The Mk4, known as the E46, was available with four- and six-cylinder engines. When the E46 M3 coupe was released in 2000 it used an S54 six-cylinder engine, giving owners the option of an automated clutch SMG gearbox. A convertible M3 was then added in 2002, which was the highest selling year for the E46 worldwide. As with its predecessor the E46 was named in the 10 Best Cars list in Car and Driver magazine for every year of its production.

Fifth and sixth generation BMW 3 Series (E90 and F30) (2005 - present)

The Mk5 3 Series was unveiled as a saloon (E90) and an estate (E91) in 2005, with the coupe (E92) and retractable hard-top convertible (E93) models released later in 2006. The E90 was available with either a four- or six-cylinder engine, or a V8 engine used on the E92. A record number of more than 550,000 vehicles were sold in 2007, making it the seventh most popular car in the United Kingdom. Many reviewers found the Mk5 model the best generation out of all that had come before it.

The latest F30 Mk6 model launched in 2011 in Munich, before going on sale the following year. It was first available as a saloon, followed by the Touring estate model and the Gran Turismo option in 2013, a smaller version of the 5 Series GT hatchback. These models replaced the 3 Series convertible and coupe vehicles, which were no longer available. Many of the six-cylinder engines previously used were replaced by turbocharged four-cylinder engines, with the top of the range model receiving an inline-six powertrain. A hybrid model of the Mk6 was also introduced in 2012, known as the ActiveHybrid 3.