BMW is one of the few automotive brands with an absolutely massive catalog of fantastic, historic cars. It seems like every decade since the turn of the century the Bavarians came out with something that changed the game, even slightly. But it can be hard to keep track of and remember all of the historic greats in the brand’s history. So here are five BMWs every enthusiast needs to know.

If you were to write an introductory handbook for the new BMW enthusiast, which cars would you add first? Which five Bimmers would you say are necessary for all enthusiasts to know? We’ll give you our five and then you can add to the list in the comments below.

BMW 2002

The BMW 2002 is an icon. While it wasn’t the first car to be part of BMW’s “Neue Klasse” line of cars, it was the most famous and, frankly the best. When it debuted in the late 1960’s, the BMW 2002 immediately sprung the brand into super-stardom. Until the 2002, the Bavarian brand was well known in Europe but not so much in North America. After the 2002, and the now-famous review by David E. Davis of Car and Driver, BMW became an icon of small sports car performance. So all enthusiasts need to know about the 2002.


It was BMW’s first ever official M Division car (although we did just recently learn about the M Division’s first unofficial car in South Africa) and it has possibly the most fascinating story of any BMW. While a brilliant car, it almost seemed doomed from the start. Financial problems at Lamborghini — who was supposed to build the car — to its racing series being a bust, to it being far too expensive for customers to want to buy made the BMW M1 a failed project. Still, it was designed by Giugiaro, so it’s gorgeous, and it had an all-time great engine. Plus, it was really the world’s first everyday mid-engine supercar.

BMW M5 “E28”

While the BMW M1 was the brand’s first ever official M car, the E28-generation BMW M5 was the first M5 and the first widely known M Division car. It was also an astonishing achievement for its time, with a ton of rumors surrounding its development. It used an M88/3 engine, which was a variant of the BMW M1’s M88/1 engine, and it made a very healthy 278 hp, which made it more powerful than a Ferrari 328 of the era. It was also the fastest sedan in history when it debuted, setting the tone for the lunatic speeds that we have in sedans now. While it’s not widely known outside of BMW fans, the E28 BMW M5 is an absolute legend.

BMW M3 “E30”

Again, a first for the M Division. The E30-generation BMW M3 was the first M3 ever made and we now know how popular M3s are among car enthusiasts. Not only was it the first M3 but it’s widely considered to be the best M3 of all time. It was built as a homologation touring car and it was an absolute riot to drive. Its buzzy little 2.3 liter four-cylinder engine loved to rev, its steering was as alive as the person holding the wheel and the chassis loved to dance. It’s still regarded as one of the greatest driving machines of all time and it created a segment that’s more popular now than ever before.

BMW i8

The BMW i8 isn’t very loved outside of BMW enthusiasts. Hell, there are a lot of BMW enthusiasts who are lukewarm to the i8’s charms. Still, it’s an extremely important car for the brand. Not only is the i8 BMW’s first mid-engine car since he M1 back in the late ’70s, it’s the brand’s first ever plug-in hybrid sports car. It also looks like nothing else on the road, is basically made from carbon fiber and packs a turbocharged three-cylinder engine. So it’s cool looking, funky, futuristic and, at least when it first came out, revolutionary. Sure, it’s not that impressive anymore but it’s still an amazing achievement and really helped push the Bavarian brand toward the future.