BMW’s most beloved line of cars must be the 3 Series. With more accolades to its name than Paul McCartney, the 3 Series has cemented itself into the automotive hall of fame. It’s won nearly every single competition it’s ever been placed in, it even won Car and Driver’s 10 Best over 20 years in a row. It’s also BMW’s best selling model, and has been since its introduction. So let’s take a look at where it all began — the 2002, the first sport sedan.
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In 1962, BMW developed a new line of cars called the Neue Klasse, or New Class. The New Class of cars were compact sedans and coupes which were meant to be comfortable and sporting, able to be both fun and family cars. The first car to be introduced under this new class of car was the 1500, followed by the 1800, 1600 and the 2000.
But in 1968 BMW created history, with the 2002.
The original 2002 developed 100 hp from a single carbureted 1990 cc, four-cylinder engine. This was mated to a 4-speed manual and powered the rear wheels. Eventually, an automatic was offered, in 1969. But the big news was the 2002 ti, which used a dual-carbureted version and produced 120 hp.
This was the fun model, as it was the perfect blend of power, performance, handling and comfort. But it got even better when BMW bumped power to 130 with the use of fuel injection, in the 2002 tii. After that came the 2002 Turbo in 1973, the first European turbocharged production car, and had a whopping 170 hp.
Required reading for any car enthusiast is David E. Davis’s iconic review of the 2002 for Car and Driver. I read it over again every so often, just to get that feeling of desire for the 2002 again. He expertly describes the 2002 and how much of a revelation it was in its day. It could quite possibly be the most refreshing car, for its own time, than any car in history. The only other car I can think of which comes close is another BMW, the i3. But I digress.
The 2002 managed to be faster, handle better and get far better gas mileage than almost all other performance cars of its day. On top of that, it had seating for five, a comfortable ride and was expertly finished inside and out. There was no other car at the time that could match the incredible combination of triumphs that the 2002 had.
Reading Davis’ review of the 2002, I noticed there weren’t many facts and figures in the 2,500 word article. That’s because the 2002 is so much more than facts and information. The 2002 is about how it feels and how it makes you feel. It instills passion and desire like few cars did then or do today. The modern 3 Series is lacking a bit, in terms of that same passion, these day, but the DNA is still there. The idea of having a comfortable coupe or sedan, able to seat five, and still blow the doors off of V6 Camaros and Mustangs is still very much alive in the 3er.
And we can thank the 2002 for that.