BMW models naming convention

Interesting | April 13th, 2009 by 12
bmw naming convention BMW models naming convention

Have you wondered how BMW names their vehicles, the nomenclature they follow? Even though in the past few years BMW has changed the pattern, it …

Have you wondered how BMW names their vehicles, the nomenclature they follow? Even though in the past few years BMW has changed the pattern, it is still interesting to look at past models and see the reasoning behind it.

BMW’s vehicles are named by usually a 3 digit number followed by 1 or 2 letter. The first number number represents the series number, while the next two numbers used to represent the engine displacement in cubic centimeters divided by 100. BMW’s logical model naming convention took a turn with the E39 5 Series model, which was called the 523i despite being powered by a 2.5-liter engine.

bmw naming convention 498x173 BMW models naming convention

The letters following the numbers represent different type of engines, bodystyles and platform.

  • i = fuel-injection
  • d = diesel engine
  • h = hydrogen engine
  • g = compressed natural gas/CNG
  • e = eta  – power with economy e.g BMW 325e
  • x = xDrive sytem
  • L = long wheelbase
  • C = coupe
  • c = convertible
  • T = touring/wagon
  • t = hatchback
  • s = sport

Of course, as I mentioned, the naming convention has changed, especially because of the new engines that have the same displacement, but use a different technology. The most recent ones that comes to mind  are the N53B30, a 3.0-liter engine straight six engine(328i model) and the N54B30, a twin-turbo 3.0-liter engine used in the …335i model.

Well, that’s our BMW history lesson for the day, we’ll be back with more!

  • Vincent Li

    Though the 335i is a twin turbo 3.0L, it seems to be a logical naming convention as its main competitors in this class are all 3.5L sedans. With all these cars in the 300 HP neighborhood, the 3.0L twin turbo is equivalent with the 3.5 competitors.

  • alan

    I enjoy the blog, but this isn’t the first time the your history isn’t on the mark. Fudging the model numbers goes much farther back than the e39. The most interesting numbering is probably the e23 745i. Look that up. There were plenty other number fudges pre-90.

  • Marc

    What about Tii? What do those letters mean?

  • Gord



    Touring International Injection ? (not sure)

  • Lance

    What about the BMW 325tds from the 90’s? surely the t doesn’t stand for hatchback, maybe turbo in this case? And why does th current 3 soupe not bear the ci badge?

  • Martin


    I believe the current 3 series coupe does not have the Ci badge because the old 3 series (E46) had only one code for all models (the E46) so they had to be differentiated by the Ci and so, while the current 3 series has the E90 for the sedan, E91 for convertible, E92 for coupe and E93 for touring.

  • Alan

    Gord is correct.

    td= turbo diesel

  • Damien

    Wasn’t there a european only 740 that was a 6 turbo? It was a rare but not to popular model if I remember correctly.

  • Silver

    And what does Z means on the Z4???

    • Ken

      The Z stands for Zukunft, which is German for “future”. There ya go, just a year late :)

  • Saadat11258

    what does Z stands for in Z3

  • Mike

    I have a 735iAL which just shows 735iL on the back. Documentation says iAL. What doe the a stand for?