Not all automakers can bring a car to the world along with magic infused with it. When BMW released the 3 Series in 1975, the company never expected that the model would become its best-selling unit across the globe. The release was such a magical experience not only because the model was able to touch trends, but also because of the innate beauty and sophistication of the car. Until today, the cars are still running through the assembly lines ready to capture the public with its sedan artwork.
1975 – 1981: First generation (debuting with a fuel-efficient car)
The first-generation models were tailored with the body style of a two-door sedan. In these models, BMW introduced a new cockpit design in which the center console angled toward the driver. Safety also became paramount; all edges in the interiors of the units were padded and rounded off. The first releases run with a four-cylinder engine and were available in three fuel capacities: 1.6 liters, 1.8 liters, and 2 liters. Successive changes to the fuel and engine followed, but the more important one was the upgrade in the braking system in which disc brakes were installed on the four wheels.
1982 – 1989: Second generation (focusing on performance)
In this period, the models were available in a sedan and convertible form. Also, drive could be on the front, rear, or all wheels. BMW focused on performance rather than economy, the reason why engine displacement was reduced as well as torque and horsepower. However, the revolution per minute was increased by 1,500 from the previous 5,000. The standard features included were a roof-liner, electrics package, and Basketweave wheels, while options were sports seats, a sunroof, and a leather interior.
1990 – 1998: Third generation (making a bigger, rounder 3 Series car)
These models used the Z-axle multi-link suspension for better drivability and the VANOS variable valve timing technology for better power. Front- and rear-wheel drives were available with a five-speed manual transmission. From the outside, the body looked rounder and bigger, which was due to the several active safety features installed into the cars. The weight distribution was equal and the engine was moved a little rearward. The standard features included the anti-lock braking system, driver airbags, child safety lacks on rear doors, side-impact door beams, electric windows, power steering, alloy wheels, halogen lights, and fog lamps. Some of the luxurious specifications could be had as optional additions or depending on the model.
1999 – 2004: Fourth generation (introducing a manual-automatic transmission)
In this generation, the manumatic transmission was introduced. The cars had inline-six engines with either a 2.5-L or 2.8-L engine displacement. The major facelifts included a stiffer chassis, new bumpers, and restyled headlights as well as new exterior colors, LED tail lights, and side-marker lights. However, some standard features in the previous generations were untouched, including the M-styled bumpers, mirrors, spoiler, seats, and instrument cluster.
2005 – 2011: Fifth generation (altering crucial components)
This generation included major alterations to the important components of the car, including the suspension, engine, transmission, and passenger compartment. On top of these changes, there were new technologies, features, and options offered. There were twelve engine options available, but the most notable one was the aspirated inline-six engine that was 15 percent more fuel economic and produced a more powerful yet lighter motor. The main features included HID adaptive headlamps, Active Steering, Active Cruise Control, and Comfort Access.
2012 – present: Sixth generation (beefing up on safety features)
Like in the previous generations, several body styles were offered in the new models. Naturally, some latest technologies helped beef up the cars, including a night vision, a lane departure warning system, a radar-based adaptive cruise control, a collision-mitigating automatic braking, and a system that could prevent the driver from dozing off. Power was still maintained with the aluminum four-cylinder engines that could yield 135- to 245 horsepower.