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Prestige, luxury and style: all in a compact, fashionable beamer for the people.


the E21 (1975-1984)
The first 3 series, under the class of the E21 was released in 1975. It was a four-cylinder available in four models, the 316, 318, 320 and 320i. 1977 revitalised the 3s with new six cylinder M20 engines in the 320 and the new 323i, bumping the older 320 and 320i off the production lines. In 1979, minor alterations changed the exterior of the 3 series, while 2 years later the new 4 cylinder 315 was released. The majority of the E21 3s were discontinued in 1983, bar the newer 315 which was finally axed in 1984.

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the E30 (1982-1991)
Late 1982 witnessed the birth of the E30, the 2nd generation 3 series. Typically, it was available in the larger six cylinder models of the 320i or the 323i or as the four cylinder 316 and 318i. In 1985, a newer 325i rendered the 323i obsolete, and a diesel edition of the 3 became available in the 324d. In the same year, four wheel drive was available in the new 325ix, while the convertibles, 320i and 325i were sprung upon the public. The exterior received alterations in 1987 while the last breath of the E30 class was channeled into another diesel edition (the 324td turbodiesel) and touring editions of the 3. E30 models were discontinued starting in 1985, with most being phased out between 1987-1991.

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the E36 (1990-1998)
The E36 was born in late 1990, initiated upon the market with a M40 four cylinder in the 316i & 318i or the new M50 six cylinder in the 320i & 325i.
In keeping with diesel model availability as a tradition, BMW released the 325td (1991), then later (1992) Coupe editions of the 3s. New convertibles formed BMWs 1993 line-up for the 3 series, all optioned with a four cylinder sported the new M43 engine. Also that year, the new 316i Coupe and yet another diesel sedan, the 325tds made their debut. Late 1993 heralded in the new 316i & 318ti Compact while a little later in 1994, another diesel unit in the 4 cylinder 318tds became available. 1994 also saw the 328i render the 325i obsolete and the Convertible was now available in two further options, the 4 cylinder 318i & the six cylinder 320i. In 1995, the E36 new touring editions finally replaced the tried and tested E30 predecessors while in '96, the four cylinder sedan, 318is entered the market. 1997 saw the further addition to the E36 fleet of the 316i (touring edition) and the 323ti Compact. The E36 was discontinued in 1998, followed by the subsequent birth of the E46 3 series.

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the E46 (1998+)
In 1998, BMW introduced the third 3 series generation, the E46. Initially it was available in the larger six cylinder editions of the 320i, 323i and 328i and the smaller four cylinder versions of the 318i and 320d. The 320d was a specific replacement for the E36 six cylinder diesel editions. In 1999, BMW extended the E46 into Coupe and Touring editions of its new 3. In the same year, BM diversified again releasing the 318i sedan and the six cylinder diesel 330d. 2000 saw more exciting additions to the E46, a new convertible accompanied by the new 330i and four wheel drive capacity in the 330ix.

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Explore the all new 3 with bmwfirst!

(Pictured Above: the 2001 E46 330ix AWD)

The E21: 3 Series
BMW's first 3 in 1975 captured a formula that still prevails almost two and a half decades later. Discover the charms of the first 3 with our in-depth profile.
The 2003 BMW 3 Series: Quick Overview
The 3-Series is BMW's most popular model combining sporty driving and luxury amenities.
A Note on Model Specific Extensions & Abbreviations

"i" refers to electronic fuel injection, and is commonly placed behind, yet adjoined to the model number, e.g. 320i

"d" refers to a diesel fuel system and engine, models with this extension are diesel editions as opposed to petrol. This extension is also placed subsequent to the model number, e.g. 324d

"td" refers to a turbo-diesel edition of the 3 series: indicated by the extension subsequent to the model number, e.g. 324td

"tds" refers to "turbo-diesel sedan", an extension used commonly by the E36 3 series type. It is placed subsequent to the model number, e.g. 325tds

"ix" indicates all wheel drive or four wheel drive capacity in certain models. The extension is placed after the model number, e.g. 330ix

The number subequent to the class designation, eg. 328i indicates the capacity of the engine in injection of 2.8 litres.

BMW E46 "Cabrio" Convertible 3



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Last Updated:
Saturday, May 19, 2007 18:41 WST

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