After 40 Years, 3 Series Shows No Signs Of Slowing Down

3-Series | May 12th, 2015 by 11
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If you haven’t been paying attention to automotive news lately, the BMW 3 Series turns 40 this year, as it debuted in 1975. That’s a …

If you haven’t been paying attention to automotive news lately, the BMW 3 Series turns 40 this year, as it debuted in 1975. That’s a very long time for one line of cars it’s one of the longest running automotive nameplates in history. That’s a tremendous accomplishment, and one BMW is, and should be, very proud of.

It takes exceptional dedication to create a specific car for 40 years and each and every year evolve it, yet keep the same core values that made the previous generations so beloved. The values of the 3 Series are as followed; great handling, comfortable interiors and great engines.

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Standard 3 Series’ engines have always been, in my eyes, overlooked by the M3’s. When people think of great BMW engines, M cars are always the go-to engines. It makes sense, as they are the highest performing of the BMW engines. But people seem to forget the beautifully fast-revving, ear-tingling, creamy smooth and bulletproof engines that have graced standard 3 Series cars for 40 years. Both four and six-cylinder engines have been used and they have been carbureted, fuel-injected and, now, even direct-injected. They have been naturally aspirated, turbocharged and even twin-turbocharged. There have been diesel 3ers and even hybrid ones. There have been a variety of different kinds powertrains to drive the 3 Series BMW yet they all employ the same aforementioned core principles.

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That’s an admirable feat of engineering, to be able to constantly keep a model’s powertrains as advanced as possible but still maintain the characteristics that people know and love. BMW has made its mark by making inline 3 Series engines almost half a century ago and they’re still revered today. There’s just something wonderful about the sound and feel of a buttery-smooth BMW I6. They rev so cleanly from idle, making a metallic scream as they near redline, doing so with a turbine-like smoothness few other engines have. And it doesn’t matter which you drive, from any year or variant, they all display those beckoning characteristics.


Many people disapprove of BMW’s ditching of the naturally-aspirated I6 in the most recent F30 3 Series, having it replaced with a turbo four-cylinder. However, many people fail to realize just how good BMW’s four-cylinder engines are. BMW made its bones on four-cylinder long before the I6 became its staple. Hell, BMW’s headquarters in Munich is in the shape of four cylinders, to signify the importance of such engines to the brand. So despite the F30 328i, and upcoming 330i, switching to four cylinders, the 3 Series is no less traditional than anyone may think. It’s actually almost poetic, that after all of these years, BMW is going back to the four-cylinder engine as its bread and butter engine. Albeit with turbochargers, this time.


Many are also upset by the future plug-in hybridization of the 3 Series, claiming it not to be what BMW should focus on. However, BMW has been focusing on future technologies since since the 3er’s inception, and at the moment hybrid technology is the future. The 3 Series will always push the boundaries of the segment and compete in the current times with technology that looks to the future.

The 3 Series has been paving the way for its segment for 40 years now, and its powertrains have always been at the forefront of that. No matter what kind of engine powers a 3 Series, you can count on it to be powerful, efficient, smooth, reliable and class-leading. BMW has been doing it for 40 years and, with the upcoming 330i, 340i and 330e plug-in hybrid, it shows no evidence of slowing down.

11 responses to “After 40 Years, 3 Series Shows No Signs Of Slowing Down”

  1. Jack says:

    Didn’t the 3 Series miss the Car and Drivers’ 10 Best for the first time since 1991? Wonder what happened.

    • jason bourne says:

      Electric steering, for one.

      The 3-Series has been getting fatter and heavier with age, just like a real person.

  2. Chris Llana says:

    Compared to the 1975 3-Series, today’s base 3-Series is 10″ longer, 8″ wider, 2″ higher, and more than 1000 pounds heavier (47% heavier), although undoubtedly faster. The 1975 E21 wore 165 SR13s.

  3. jason bourne says:

    No signs of slowing down?

    Maybe not, but it’s developed a spread around the waist and it’s putting on pounds.

    • Yes, it’s getting larger and heavier, but also faster and more efficient. All cars are larger and heavier than their decades old predecessors. The current Honda Civic is the size of an early ’90s Accord. It’s just the way of the times, cars are more luxurious, safer and quieter now. So they’re going to get bigger. I love old 3 Series’, but there’s no question that, as cars, they are improving.

      • Max says:

        Thank you, seems like you are the only person here who understands that. Customers want all these things now! If you dont like it, just buy an old one, they are still powerful! The world is not just 5 people here writing some random comments, at the end you have to sell cars to develop even better cars and invest in new technologies. The 3er is still on top of its competitors, in every possible way.

      • Chris Llana says:

        BMW still makes smaller cars. The i3 is wider and taller than the E21 3-series, but is 20″ shorter. Also a lot faster and just as nimble.

      • jason bourne says:

        Well it’s faster because it’s got more horsepower to offset the weight gain.

        But does it handle better than it’s predecessor? Perform better overall?

        There’s a reason why it failed to make C&D’s Ten Best after 20+ years…

        • I think, whether or not it handles better, is subjective. If you were to measure its handling in terms of lateral g’s, grip, lap times, etc, then yes the current 3 Series does handle better. If you were to measure handling in terms of feel, then probably not.

          It’s odd that the 3 Series is off C&D’s 10 Best because it’s still great for today’s current market. Compare the F30 with an E30 and you’ll be disappointed, in terms of feel. But compare an F30 to other sports cars of today, and you’ll be very impressed.

          You may not like the F30 compared to its predecessors, but that isn’t really a fair comparison because an E30, E36 or E46 BMW can never happen again. Cars must be as big and heavy as they are now because of the safety regulations and what not.

  4. Jeremy Snyder says:

    for a couple decades there was a horsepower war between car manufacturers… now there’s a race to achieve the best fuel economy w/out sacrificing horsepower or handling– and i think BMW is leading the charge, there, w/ their EfficientDynamics R&D… the 330i will get 35+ mpg highway… something only the 336d (diesel) was able to obtain a few years ago…

  5. […] been the absolute first sports sedan ever created, but it was damn close and it was still the best. Over the past 40 years, the 3 Series has dominated the segment it may or may not have created. There have been six […]

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