This is a special year for BMW, as it’s the 40th anniversary of the 3 Series, BMW’s most iconic car line. It also happens to be the year that the F30 3 Series gets its LCI, or Life Cycle Update. Knowing BMW’s penchant for perfection, this doesn’t seem like coincidence. But either way, it seems like a good time to remember just how good the 3 Series really is, as sometimes we take for granted the fact that it exists.

BMW has many, many cars. It’s been busting a new niche every year for what seems like a decade now. There are so many lines of BMWs now that it’s almost dizzying. There’s even a new division, dedicated to electric and hybrid cars. But despite all of these new lines of vehicles, the 3 Series still shines as BMW’s best. It’s BMW’s bread and butter car and the one that, as a whole lineup, BMW should be most proud of.

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Yes, the i8 is a stunning achievement and the 6 Series may be the best looking, but the 3 Series is the best car BMW makes. The reason is the breadth and quality of the 3 Series lineup. At the moment, the 3 Series has a standard sedan, a coupe (if you still count the 4 Series, which admittedly is graying that line), a wagon, a Gran Turismo and an M version. There are also three gasoline engines and a diesel engine and most are available with all or rear-wheel drive. There’s literally a 3 Series for every single need and all choices are excellent.

Every variant, from the standard 320i to the M4, is either best in its segment, or damn close. And even if some cars may be better than the 3er in a specific way, like how some prefer the handling of the Cadillac ATS or the styling of the Jaguar XE, none of them are the total package that the 3 Series is. And let’s not forget that all of these other cars are just chasing the legacy that the 3 Series created. I don’t know if the same can be said for any other car in BMW’s lineup.

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As a 3 Series owner, I can honestly say that, despite the model year, there is almost no car that can blend the performance, comfort, style and innovation like the BMW 3 Series. My 3 Series is almost 20 years old and it’s still more fun to drive and feels more substantial than so many newer cars. When I test some of these newer exciting cars, I’m always reminded of just how good my E36 is when I get back in it. I realise that it can go toe-to-toe with some of these modern sports cars, in terms of fun and handling. That’s an incredible feat, that BMW is able to create cars that are able to stay fantastic even 20 years later.

So while BMW makes some pretty incredible cars, the 3 Series will always be the Bavarian’s best. It’s a car that not only defined a segment, but has defined the automotive world. Every car manufacturer has since been chasing the perfect balance of luxury and performance that BMW created with the 3 Series 40 years ago. Will the ATS be able to say that in 40 years? I doubt it.