BMW has been around as a company since 1916 and making automobiles since 1928. Millions of cars have come off the German manufacturer’s assembly lines in those 80-plus years, which is why it can be quite helpful to understand exactly how they are named.
If you count yourself among those confused by the system that BMW uses for its luxury autos, don’t worry—you are not alone. A lot of people aren’t sure of the distinctions between a BMW 740iL and a 318ti, so The Haus is here to help you get a grasp on all the naming conventions that BMW employs.
Series and Models
There are 10 groupings that BMW utilizes for their vehicles. Here they are:
- 1 series – small, convertibles, coupes, and hatchbacks
- 2 Series – small, two-door convertibles and coupes
- 3 Series – small, four-door sedans and sports wagons
- 4 Series – small, two-door coupes and convertibles, also available as a 4-door Gran Coupe
- 5 Series – mid-size, four-door sedans
- 6 Series – mid-size, two-door coupes and convertibles, also available as a 4-door Gran Coupe
- 7 Series – full-size, four-door sedan
- BMW i – electric and plug-in hybrids
- M Model – stands for “Motorsports”, BMW’s sports cars
- X Model – SUVs and crossovers
- Z4 Model – roadsters
BMW vehicles follow a certain nomenclature, which is usually a 3 digit dumber followed by 1 or 2 letters. The 1st number represents the series number and the next 2 numbers traditionally represent the engine displacement in cubic centimeters divided by 100. This has changed in recent years though to use the 2 numbers as a performance index such as 116i, 118i, and 120i (all are 2.0 gas powered engines) that share the same engine block while adjusting engine power through turbo-charging and set up.
As if the numbers weren’t tricky enough, BMW throws another wrinkle into their naming conventions with fuel letters. Fortunately there aren’t too many to keep track of and they represent which fuel the vehicle takes. You need to know the following:
- i – fuel-injected, gasoline
- d – diesel
- There was a recent break to this trend, with BMW using ActiveHybrid to signify a hybrid engine
Now that you know what BMW uses i and d for, it will be easier to note the remaining letters and what they stand for. Some are no longer in modern use, but here they are:
- L – long wheelbase
- C – coupe or convertible
- ti – Touring International (hatchback)
- T – Touring (station wagon)
- e – eta/economy engine (smaller and less powerful, more fuel efficient)
- x – all-wheel drive
- g – biofuel
- s – sport
- es – eta sport
sDrive vs xDrive
This is fairly straightforward, with sDrive meaning that it is a 2-wheel drive vehicle and xDrive representing 4-wheel drive. xDrive and sDrive is fully spelled out to avoid confusion with the X model of SUVs and crossovers.
BMW offers a number of lines that add further customization options for customers to choose on their vehicle. These include:
- Sport – more powerful, upgraded wheels, steering, seats and more
- M Sport – even more customization options and power to the sports line
- xLine – enhanced wheels, rails on the roof, steering and more
- Luxury – upgraded luxury wheels, steering, trim and more
Within each series there are unique models, such as the below:
- Gran Turismo – four-door sedans with wagon trunk and raised roofline
- Gran Coupe – four-door coupe
- ALPINA – a separate, BMW-owned company that makes upgraded versions of certain models
Still feel overwhelmed? Want to understand your BMW better or get advice before purchasing? Give The Haus a call today and speak with one of our expert technicians. Better yet, stop by the shop in Sherman Oaks, California with your luxury European auto for a free inspection.
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