There are various headlight technologies that BMW employs in its vehicles. To literally shed more light into the subject, I thought it would be a great idea to explain the basics of the engineering behind the “eyes” of the newest BMW models. At the moment, the BMW headlights technology stands on three basic pillars:

  • Halogen;
  • “Light-Emitting Diode” or LED and
  • “Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation” or Laser

Each of the listed technologies is easily traceable thanks to the individual light signature.

BMW Halogen Lights

Halogen headlight on F40 1 Series.

Halogen lights are the basic, entry-level type of lighting technology you’ll find in most cars. It basically relies on an incandescent bulb filled with halogen gas that increases the light intensity and output of the projector.

However, even on the most basic BMWs, the halogen technology is getting slowly replaced by mainstream LED.

Currently, halogen lights can only be found in the standard equipment for the basic versions for the following BMW models:

  • F40 1 Series
  • F44 2 Series Gran Coupe
  • F45/F46 2 Series Active Tourer/Gran Tourer
  • F48 X1
  • F39 X2
  • G01 X3
  • G02 X4

For the entry-level models, the main halogen headlight is complemented by additional LED-based daytime running lights (DRL).

Standard BMW LED on low-end G20 3 Series.

It is important to mention that all types of BMW headlight technologies rely solely on LED projectors or filaments to accomplished the DRL function.

BMW LED Headlights

For the remaining models in the lineup, headlight technologies have migrated towards standard LED, extended LED, fully adaptive LED and Laser. The standard LED headlights feature a simple LED projector per each headlight.

Mainly, the standard LED headlights have no adaptive function, so the lighting will not be adapted by on your speed, the road configuration and incoming traffic.

Standard BMW LED headlight on F40 1 Series (no adaptive features).

The standard LED headlamps are available on the entry-level variants of the following models:

  • F22/F23 2 Series
  • G20/G21 3 Series
  • F32/F33/F36 4 Series
  • I01 i3
  • G30/G31 BMW 5 Series and G32 BMW 6 Series

The standard LED lights for the basic trim models are additionally complemented by certain adaptive functions, which include the cornering light and the BMW Selective Beam, that aim to optimally improve road illumination in dark conditions.

Standard BMW LED headlight with cornering function on G30 5 Series.

Other models that also get the standard LED lights are the higher-positioned trim versions for ranging from the new 1 Series (F40) up to the current 4 Series (F3x), as well as the lower X lineup (X1 to X4).

The BMW Adaptive LED, as the technology is called, is the high-end illumination choice for the following models:

  • F40 1 Series
  • F44 2 Series Gran Coupe
  • F22/F23 2 Series
  • F39 X2
  • F48 X1
  • F32/F33/F36 4 Series
  • G01 X3
  • G02 X4
  • G30/G31 5 Series
  • G32 6 Series
  • I01 i3
  • I12/I15 i8

BMW Adaptive LED Headlights

BMW Adaptive LED headlight on F32 4 Series.

Moving higher across the model portfolio, we are basically left with only the state-of-the-art light technologies, such as the fully adaptive LED headlights and the sensational BMW Laser headlamps.

BMW Adaptive LED headlight on F40 1 Series.

The BMW adaptive LED headlights rely solely on diodes for both beam phases (short and high) to illuminate the road and can actively adjust themselves depending on road conditions, incoming traffic (BMW Selective Beam) and vehicle speed.

The new G05 X5, G06 X6, G07 X7, G11/G12 7 Series LCI and G14/G15/G16 8 Series are all standardly equipped with the fully adaptive LED-based headlamps.

The X5 and X6 get an individual light signature for the adaptive LED headlamps, with flattened “eye” graphics similar to the ones seen on the G2x 3 Series models.

BMW Adaptive LED headlight on G21 3 Series.

The luxury models from the 7 Series – 8 Series – X7 triplet receive identical light graphics irrespective they are fitted with the standard Adaptive LED headlamps or specced with the optional BMW Laser lights.

The only visual sign between the two technologies is represented by the blue color applied the design of the projector, which is unique to the Laser lights.

BMW Laser Headlights

BMW Laser headlight on G15 8 Series.

The BMW Laser headlights are basically enhanced fully adaptive LED lights where the high beam is supported through Laser technology. With the help of it, the road illumination is more dense and sharp, dramatically improving visibility at night, reducing the high-glare effect for incoming traffic and ensuring an overall light spread up to 530 meters.

As said, they also incorporate all adaptive features, including the BMW Selective Beam automatic fade-in/fade-out function.

BMW i8 with Laser headlights.

It is notable to mention that the first production car to sport Laser headlights was the i8 pioneering plug-in hybrid sports car in 2014, that was afterwards followed by the G11/G12 7 Series that was launched during Summer 2015.

For the first time in history, the Laser headlights are now offered as an optional equipment for the new G2x 3 Series models. They are as well expected to make their onto the revised G30/G31 5 Series LCI, G32 6 Series and the forthcoming G22/G23/G26 4 Series.

BMW Laser headlight on G20 3 Series.

The LED and Laser technologies can also be identified with the help of letter inscriptions placed at the outer angle of the headlights: “BMW LED” (where LED is written in italic) – found mostly on newer generation models; “BMW Adaptive LED” (on the F3x 4 Series and G3x 5 Series/6 Series) and “BMW Laser” (with Laser particle written in italic) where applicable.

BMW Laser headlight on G05 X5.

Additionally, the adaptive LED technology is also easily discernible with the help of the intricate, tridimensional “angel eyes”, which the daytime running light function. A variation has been premiered on the 3 Series, X5 and X6, which involves minimalistic graphics with flattened DRL projectors.

As previously said, the Lasers are individualized with the help of blue accents on the light diodes, retaining the tridimensional DRL filaments. On the BMW X models, the blue accents is shapes in the form of the X letter.

BMW Laser headlight on G07 X7.

With respect to the fog light technology, this is now mostly based on LED for most of BMW models. As well, the LED fog lights are visibly placed onto the front bumper (in either circular or thin strip shape), with the exception of the 7 Series LCI and 8 Series which do not feature this equipment.

LED fog light on the G20 3 Series.

It might look a bit fuzzy at first sight, but the BMW headlight technology and its use across the model portfolio are quite straight-forward and simple.

Hopefully, I managed to “illuminate” you.