Welcome to #Explained, a weekly-series where we explain the finer-details of some of the biggest manufacturers in the world. Most car-buyers understand the basics of each manufacturer, but with brands like BMW boasting such a wide variety of products, it makes us wonder how many people understand the classification system that is used for their BMW’s. Welcome to your one-stop BMW guide.
Let’s begin with the ‘Series’ concept. The size of the model increases with the number of the series, with the 1-series as the smallest BMW models and the 7-series being the biggest models. All the even-numbered series are coupe models, like the 4-series coupe, while the odd-numbered series are four-door models, like the 3-series sedan. Pretty simple, but there are exceptions to this rule.
The first exceptions are the Gran Coupe models, which are four-door coupe models. These cars are based on BMW’s coupes, but incorporate two-more doors into the design in an effort to blend function and form. The BMW M6 Gran Coupe is a perfect example. It’s a four-door M6.
The second exceptions are the Gran Turismo models, which are SUV-Estate versions of the 3- and 6-series. These cars feature a unique design that prioritises space and comfort. Sloping rooflines, an electric spoiler and a hatchback rear are dead giveaways of a Gran Turismo model.
The SUV’s and crossovers are denoted with an X, along with their number relative to their series. The even-numbered X-models refer to a coupe-styled SUV, while the odd-numbered X-models are full-on traditional SUV’s. A good example is the difference between the X5, with its regular SUV proportions versus the sportier coupe-styled X6.
Lastly, there is BMW’s line of hybrid and electric cars, denoted by either an ‘i’ or an ‘ActiveHybrid’ badge. There are two ‘i’ models – the BMW i3, a small electric city car hatchback, and the i8, a futuristic hybrid coupe.
Now let’s look at the difference between cars of the same series. Back in simpler times, the two-numbers that followed the series number used to indicate the displacement of the engine that powered the specific model, for example the 318i would be powered by a 1.8-litre engine. Nowadays, it specifies performance rather than displacement. For example, the 320i is powered by a 2.0-litre engine but the 340i is powered by a 3.0-litre engine. The fuel type of the engine is denoted by an ‘i’ for petrol or ‘d’ for diesel at the end.
Then there are BMW’s high-performance cars. These cars are based on the regular cars of their series, but often feature more exciting bodywork, a sportier interior and the most powerful engines in their series. These are known as ‘M’-cars. The M2, for example, is the fastest and most-powerful 2-series, and the X5 M is the most powerful X5.
If you look just below the M cars of BMW’s models, you’ll find the M-performance models. These models are a middle ground between a regular model and a full on sports model, such as the BMW X5 M50d, which is not as aggressive as the X5 M, but is not as ‘normal’ as a regular X5.
We hope this knowledge serves you well and that you’re no longer somebody who has no idea what’s happening at the car-meet anymore. Also, feel free to use this knowledge to call out people who put fake M-badges on their cars.