BMW 1 Series BMW doesn't do retro. But the new BMW 1 Series, a spiritual successor to the now iconic 2002 coupe, comes pretty close. As the company's entry-level model, the 1 Series is meant to evoke the same passion that the 2002 did. That nimble and unassuming coupe caught America's attention in the late 1960s and '70s but gave way to larger and plusher models in successive decades. While BMW has certainly never lost sight of its "Ultimate Driving Machine" mission statement, it's the 1 Series that most closely reflects the company's roots.
Available as a coupe or convertible in the United States, the 128i and 135i are based on the highly regarded European-market-only 1 Series hatchback. Save for the slightly reworked front bumper and frameless doors on the coupe and convertible, front-end styling is consistent across the entire 1 Series line. All resemblance ends at the rear, as each vehicle is finished with bodywork optimized for carrying out its intended duty.
Falling neatly between the Mini and 3 Series in terms of price and size, the BMW 1 Series is poised to ruffle some feathers in the premium small car marketplace. Unlike most of its front-wheel-drive contemporaries, the 1 Series features a traditional front-engine/rear-drive blueprint that is sure to delight purists or those just wanting an affordable way to get into a premium-badged BMW.
Current BMW 1 Series
The BMW 1 Series was introduced for 2008. Though it's the company's least expensive model, it's hardly an underperforming stripper. The base-model 128i comes with a naturally aspirated 3.0-liter inline-6 producing 228 horsepower. The performance-oriented 135i comes equipped with BMW's impressive turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6. It produces 300 hp and 300 pound-feet of torque. Both engines come with a six-speed manual as standard equipment; a six-speed automatic transmission is available as an option. In the convertible, a fully automatic cloth top stores underneath a hard tonneau cover.
Although no official word has been given regarding blessing the BMW 1 Series with an "M" model to call its own, the 135i does get plenty of M-like tweaks to sweeten the deal: an exterior aero kit, special sport seats and pedals, and a sport suspension including 18-inch wheels and performance run-flat tires. Rumors of a limited "tii" edition intended to pay homage to the original BMW 2002tii model persist.
Measuring 171.7 inches in length and 76.1 inches in width, the 1 Series checks in about 8 inches shorter and 2 inches narrower than the 3 Series coupe. The rear seat is strictly for two, and how often it gets used depends on how large and how forgiving potential rear passengers are. There's not a lot of space in back, so it's almost better to consider the 1 as having a 2+2 seating arrangement -- especially the convertible.
In our initial reviews, our editors have offered nothing but praise for the 135i's engine, citing powerful acceleration from just off idle all the way to redline. The steering is responsive in typical BMW fashion. And thanks to idealized weight distribution, the 1 Series handles admirably, though drivers expecting the car to act like a mini M3 will likely be disappointed, as the suspension is tuned to prioritize comfort and ride quality.
Past BMW 1 Series
Though it's a new model for the North American market, the 1 Series actually debuted for the European market in 2004 as a hatchback. But this isn't the first time in recent years that BMW has introduced an affordable entry-level car to North America; a 3 Series-based two-door hatchback, called 318ti, was sold from 1995 to 2000. It suffered from poor reviews and slow sales, and likely influenced BMW's decision not to offer the hatchback version of the 1 Series in the U.S. market.

BMW 3 Series The BMW 3 Series is the company's top seller in the United States and a favorite in the marketplace for good reason: It's a well-built, premium compact vehicle endowed with world-class fit and finish, ample power, and a comfortable ride and handling trade-off that is unmatched by most cars at any price. No matter what model you choose, our editors generally agree that you'll be able to go about your weekday routine without feeling that you've sacrificed ride comfort for the sake of weekend thrills.
Recently, the 3 Series has gone through a full redesign. The current model, which represents the fifth-generation 3 Series, is now slightly larger, heavier and faster than the previous model. An even better car overall, the latest BMW 3 Series has a bolder look, revised suspension and braking, more power and more interior space. For 2007, the new convertible adds another piece to the 3 Series line up. With its clever three-piece hardtop, it maintains much of the coupe's sexy styling – including BMW's trademark Hoffmeister kink – and improves rear visibility versus the outgoing soft top.
As positioned and appointed, the BMW 3 Series tends to cost more than the competition -- but if you go easy on the optional equipment, we think you'll find that the price of admission is well worth it, as the BMW 3 Series remains the unequivocal "ultimate driving machine" and popular favorite in the entry-luxury category, whether new or used.
Current BMW 3 Series
In BMW speak, the new "E90" sedan and wagon debuted in 2006 with a complete makeover, and the coupe followed suit in 2007. A new hardtop convertible arrived midway through 2007. The newest 3 Series vehicles take the numerical stakes higher as well, with sedans and coupes now badged as either the twin-turbo-equipped 335i with 300 horsepower, or the 328i and 328xi ("xi" denotes all-wheel drive) sedans, coupes and wagons with 230 horsepower. Both engines, in BMW tradition, are turbine smooth inline-6s and both are 3.0 liters in size. The convertible offers the same engine choices, but not the all-wheel drive.
Most BMW 3 Series models come with a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, with a six-speed automatic optional. Newer versions of the automatic offer paddle shifters for manual-style gearchanges.
Inside 328i, 328xi and 335i models, drivers will find a restrained show of luxury, with an emphasis on driver comfort and involvement -- supportive seats underneath and a clean, clear analog gauge cluster dead ahead. Materials and build quality are exceptional in keeping with its price point; even the standard leatherette upholstery looks and feels better than one might expect. In the new convertible, its optional leather upholstery features the industry's first sun reflective pigments that lower the temperature of dark-colored leather surfaces by up to 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Even light-colored leather can be lowered by 15 degrees. For those who avoid convertibles because of the dreaded SBS or Sweaty Butt Syndrome, your open-top chariot has arrived.
The BMW 3 Series never fails to impress us as a top choice in its segment. In addition to its other outstanding qualities, Edmunds editors report that "the 3 Series' world-class suspension, steering and brakes provide hours of entertainment on twisty two-lane highways. Beyond simply feeling rock solid when hustled around turns, this car communicates with the driver in a manner that inspires confidence no matter what kind of driving you're doing. And you don't have to give up a comfortable ride to get this kind of athleticism."
If you can ante up the considerable bottom line, the 3 Series is still the standard-bearer of the compact luxury-sport class -- especially when it comes to perfectly sorted and balanced vehicle dynamics, abundant and smooth power, a wide range of configurations to suit any style and available all-wheel drive for those who can't afford to let a little inclement weather stand between them and their well-appointed journeys.
Past BMW 3 Series Models
From 1992-'98, the evolutionary third-generation E36 replacement grabbed the 3 Series baton and never looked back, with a handsome, spirited new sedan and unique, more rakishly styled coupe and convertible. A new DOHC 24-valve aluminum head bumped the 325i to a robust 189 hp.
For five years starting in 1995, BMW added an even more compact two-door hatchback called the 318ti to the 3 Series lineup, with a chopped-off tail and the less-sophisticated semi-trailing arm rear suspension of the previous-generation car. With only 138 horses under the hood and rather austere interior trimmings, we can only recommend it to the most budget-conscious/entry-level used shoppers.
In 1996, BMW introduced a new 2.8-liter inline-6 to the 3 Series with 190 hp and substantially more torque for improved acceleration, vented rear disc brakes to handle its higher limits and a new 328i designation. Premium and Sport option packages debuted to simplify things, and a year after that in 1997 all models received minor styling revisions in the front grille and rear fascia areas, as well as in the cockpit. In '98, another engine and model update again raised the bar and kept things fresh -- the base 318i coupe and convertible became the 323is coupe and convertible by ditching the aging four-banger in favor of a smoother, more powerful 168-hp 2.5-liter inline six-cylinder power plant. In general, any 3 Series from this generation that's been well maintained and has low mileage should be an excellent value for shoppers of "previously owned" entry-luxury vehicles.
Also widely available for the used BMW 3 Series shopper in search of a great entry-luxury car, the fourth-generation "E46" 3 Series debuted as a sedan for the 1999 model year. The coupe, convertible and wagon models fell in line a year later in 2000, while the entry-level 318ti hatchback was finally axed. In 2001, feature content and engine displacement/technology was boosted -- and all-wheel drive made available -- keeping the 3 Series at the head of a very competitive pack. Detail improvements like DVD-based navigation, bi-xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers and an SMG transmission -- with an exterior face-lift for sedans and wagons in 2002, and coupes and convertibles following in 2004 -- helped carry the baby 325i and 330i BMWs through the remaining few years of the ever-popular previous 3 Series generation.

BMW 5 Series It's not an overstatement to say that the BMW 5 Series sets the standard for premium sport sedans and, in recent years, wagons, too. Introduced in the United States for 1972, the midsize 5 Series has long offered a near-perfect blend of performance, luxury and interior room.
Most 5 Series cars you'll come across new or used are rear-wheel drive; however, the current-generation lineup includes all-wheel-drive variants. Most 5s also have an inline six-cylinder engine, though BMW has offered V8 versions since 1994. Model names are numeric, with the first number identifying the car as a 5 Series and the last two historically, but not always, denoting engine size. Today's BMW 528i, for instance, has a 3.0-liter inline-6. The final "i" originally distinguished 5 Series cars with fuel injection; these days, it only has significance in Europe where diesel models (that carry a "d") are also offered.
When people ask us to recommend luxury cars, BMW's 5 Series is invariably high on the list. Wealthier shoppers may gravitate toward the newer models loaded with technology, but older 5 Series cars can be just as satisfying to drive and own.
Current 5 Series
Introduced for 2004, the current 5 Series is by far the most radical. On the surface, it incorporates bold styling cues that depart from BMW's traditional styling language established over the preceding four generations. Inside, a system called iDrive corrals audio, climate, navigation and communication functions using a central LCD screen and console-mounted control dial. We've found iDrive cumbersome to use, although it is more sophisticated than the button-heavy layout in older 5 Series cars.
The driving experience hasn't changed much, as the 5 Series still has sharper reflexes and more road feel than any other car in its class. There's still a choice of inline-6 or V8 power, and you can still get a manual or automatic transmission on whichever model you choose. More recent versions of the 5 Series lineup boast even greater performance, with the entry-level 528i having a 230-horsepower six, the 535i packing a twin-turbo six with 300 hp and the 550i harnessing a 360-hp V8. But there's a lot of technology working behind the scenes too, including a stability control system that can do everything from helping you avoid skids to drying off the brakes when it's raining. An optional active steering system can vary the steering ratio to reduce effort in tight turns.
If you like the styling and aren't intimidated by its hefty dose of electronics, the current-generation 5 Series is an excellent choice for a midsize luxury car. The only significant drawback is high pricing.
Past 5 Series Models
For 2004 and 2005, the current 5 Series was offered only in sedan form and only with rear-wheel drive. There were two six-cylinder models, the 184-horsepower 525i and 225-hp 530i, along with a top-line V8 version, the 325-hp 545i. Buyers looking at six-cylinder models would be wise to focus on 2006 and newer models, as the '06 model year brought a new pair of 3.0-liter sixes, resulting in a more spirited 215-hp 525i and a 255-hp 530i. The V8 sedan was already quick, but it, too, received a new engine, a 360-hp 4.8-liter, and became the 550i.
The 5 Series wagon also arrived for 2006. It's offered in a single 530xi model and all-wheel drive is standard. Additionally, all-wheel drive became optional for the 530 sedan. For 2007, additional standard equipment was added like an auxiliary input jack and BMW Assist, while new options include high-definition radio, BMW’s Night Vision system and 20-way adjustable front seats
Shoppers will have little difficulty finding representatives from the fourth generation (1997-2003). Many purists consider this the finest era for the 5 Series, as exceptional on-road dynamics, premium furnishings and unparalleled refinement came together in one classically styled package. Resale value has always been high for this generation, so expect to spend more than you would for competitors of similar age. Reliability has been strong as well.
Provided it's well-maintained, any car from this generation is worth your consideration. For 1997 and 1998, only sedans were offered: a 528i with a 190-hp, 2.8-liter inline-6 and a 540i with a 282-hp, 4.4-liter V8. The wagon joined the lineup in 1999 and was available with either engine, both of which gained variable valve timing that year. In 2001, the 528i sedan got a new 225-hp 3.0-liter six and became the 530i; the 528 wagon was dropped. BMW also added an entry-level, 184-hp 525i sedan and wagon to the lineup.
Third-generation 5 Series cars (1989-'95) are still common as well. Although not as perfectly balanced as its successor, this car was highly regarded in its day. If you find one in good condition, you'll almost certainly find it enjoyable to own. The best years were 1994 and '95 when BMW offered V8 power in two 5 Series with the 530i sedan and wagon (215 hp), and the 540i sedan (282 hp).

BMW 6 Series
BMW has long offered fine driving cars for every luxury budget, though most have been high on door count. The BMW 6 Series coupe and convertible are for those seeking Bimmer performance two-door style in a high-end package that's noticeably more extravagant than the company's entry-level offerings.
In many ways, one can consider the current BMW 6 Series to be a two-door variant of the company's 5 Series sedan. The singular (non-M) 6 Series model, the 650i, inherits most of the 550i's running gear, including its 4.8-liter V8. The resulting 360 horsepower means speed comes quite naturally to the 6 Series. In fact, its agile handling, swift braking and slick pair of transmissions make it a great performer all around, while a composed ride quality and supportive seats keep comfort levels high.
As with any luxury touring coupe or convertible, the specific mission of the BMW 6 Series is to cover lots of road in a hurry while making its occupants look and feel great -- the front ones, anyway. Unfortunately, the 6 Series offers precious little of the rear-seat space found in its sedan counterpart despite similar midsize dimensions. The 6's swoopier body lines are the reason for this, but even with the heightened focus on appearances, neither the 650i coupe nor the convertible could be considered the pinnacle of style. The 6 Series also inherited BMW's iDrive -- an electronic interface notorious for bringing pointless complexity to the simplest of interior controls.
However, when you're driving it, or even just sitting in it, the BMW 6 Series coupe and convertible are some of the more interesting luxury two-doors on the market. Furthermore, a competitive pricing strategy on BMW's part makes them a better value than many other European-brand two-doors. As an imperfect but unexpectedly affordable coupe or convertible, the 6 is hard to ignore.
Current BMW 6 Series
The 6 Series is offered in one model, the 650i, and as either a four-seat coupe or a four-place convertible with a conventional, power-operated fabric top. The details of the 6 Series experience largely depend on how you choose to equip it. Adding the Sport Package will firm up the ride and increase cornering grip via a set of 19-inch wheels and tires, while ordering the variable-ratio Active Steering quickens low-speed turning response. The most important choice buyers have to make is picking between two six-speed transmissions: a manual and a sport-oriented automatic introduced for 2008. Unlike the old, Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) option, the new automatic is better at reconciling high-performance gear changing and everyday comfort.
In reviews of the BMW 6 Series, we've found that the ride is supple and quiet, the brakes are powerful, and despite nearly two tons of weight, handling limits remain high thanks to aggressive tires and a well-balanced rear-drive chassis. The highly praised 4.8-liter V8 makes 360 hp and 360 pound-feet of torque and provides forceful and sweet-sounding acceleration.
Coupes and convertibles often come with compromise, and so it is with the 6 Series. In addition to tight rear-seat quarters, BMW's controversial iDrive control interface often proves frustrating when one attempts to make use of the car's extensive electronics array. Still, there's much to like about the interior, including the firmly bolstered front seats, the optional Harman Kardon sound system and the top-quality cabin materials.
Past BMW 6 Series models
The current BMW 6 Series debuted for 2004. Originally, it came equipped with a 4.4-liter V8 rated at 325 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque and was known as the 645Ci. The name change to 650i (minus the "C") and update to the current 4.8-liter V8 occurred for 2006. Driving characteristics between the 645Ci and 650i are very similar: The smaller V8 shared the 4.8-liter's athletic character but had a slightly less vigorous power band. If you find a well-kept 645Ci on the used market, you won't find it lacking from a performance standpoint.
Prior to 2008, there were three six-speed transmissions available: a traditional manual, a traditional automatic and BMW's SMG, which used an electronically control clutch to provide both the responsiveness of a manual and the forget-about-it friendliness of an automatic. Sounds good, but in reality, we'd steer clear of this transmission as its herky jerky performance makes everyday driving a pain in the neck. Most 6 Series from this time were equipped with the traditional automatic.
Not counting the BMW 8 Series of 1990s vintage, the only true predecessor to BMW's big coupe is the 6 Series that spanned from 1977 to 1989. All models used an inline six-cylinder engine ranging from 3.2 to 3.5 liters, tuned to varying degrees of power. Even the most potent version could only accelerate to 60 mph in the low 6-second range and grip the road in the upper 0.70g range -- modest by today's standards -- while the car's semi-trailing arm rear suspension never did the best job of keeping the car planted to the road. Still, it was an engaging car to drive in its day and, for that reason, the original BMW 6 Series coupe retains an important place in BMW history.

BMW 7 Series
Since its introduction for the 1978 model year, the BMW 7 Series luxury sedan has remained true to its original character. It's the BMW flagship, and this full-size, rear-wheel-drive sedan has always represented the pinnacle of technology and luxury accoutrements in the German automaker's lineup. As such, it's an obvious choice for wealthy car buyers seeking a spacious and elegant sedan with a high level of curbside prestige.
There's a fair amount of competition even in this elite vehicle class, but the 7 Series sedan's athletic handling dynamics have long set it apart, starting with the early 733s and carrying through to the present-day BMW 750i, 750Li and 760Li. While other manufacturers have been content to build high-end sedans with soft, serene rides, BMW engineers its 7s to engage their drivers on an emotional level. For that reason, the BMW 7 Series is the definitive super luxury sedan for people who like to drive.
Current BMW 7 Series
The most recent 7 Series redesign came in 2002, and this was by far the most radical overhaul the nameplate has ever received. Traditional exterior styling cues from the previous 25 years were largely abandoned in favor of a more aggressive, avant-garde design. The car was still recognizable as a BMW 7 Series, but many purists found the look abrasive. A refresh for 2006 smoothed out some of the harsher elements, but it's still a stretch to call the car beautiful, whether in standard-wheelbase 750i form or long-wheelbase 750Li and 760Li form.
The modernist motif continues in the cabin, where BMW's typically button-heavy control layout has given way to an all-in-one system called iDrive that governs climate, audio and navigation functions via a single console-mounted dial and a central display. Although iDrive assures the 7's place in the information age, its steep learning curve has proven bewildering for many a 7 Series driver in spite of BMW's efforts to simplify it over the years.
Even though it tends toward the esoteric, the current BMW 7 Series has proven quite popular, largely because of its superb driving experience. Here BMW has applied its arsenal of technology to great advantage, as features like self-stiffening antiroll bars, self-leveling air springs and adaptive shock absorbers work together to keep the big sedan stable when driven hard. In addition, all 7s have BMW's trademark steering feel, such that the driver feels an unquantifiable connection to the car.
With the exception of 2002 when only a V8 was offered, the fourth-generation 7 Series lineup has always included sophisticated eight- and 12-cylinder engines paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The 745i and 745Li sold from 2002-'05 were equipped with a 325-horsepower 4.4-liter V8, while the 750i and 750Li that succeeded them have a 360-hp 4.8-liter V8. The 750s are slightly heavier, so performance is about the same as the 745s.
Offered continuously since '03, the 760Li has a direct-injection 6.0-liter V12 capable of 438 hp. Unlike the V8s, which are eager to rev, the V12 delivers a massive wave of thrust as soon as you nudge the accelerator pedal. BMW offered a short-wheelbase 760i from 2004-'06.
Past BMW 7 Series Models
There have been three previous generations of the BMW 7 Series. Most of the examples you're likely to come across on the used car market will be from the third generation, sold from 1995-2001. Bimmer enthusiasts generally regard this as the finest era for the 7 Series. It was a true driver's car just like today's 7, but there was less in-car technology to distract from the task at hand. And most people agree that its sleek, classically styled body was easier on the eyes.
Provided the car is in good condition, any 7 Series from this generation would make a fine purchase. Quality was generally excellent on these cars, but like most high-end German products, repair costs can be hefty as they age. The main advantage to choosing a car from later in the model cycle is added standard feature content. BMW's Dynamic Stability Control system, for example, debuted across the line for 1998.
The model lineup included the regular-wheelbase 740i sedan, which was offered every year except '96, and the long-wheelbase 740iL and 750iL, which had an uninterrupted run. The BMW 740s were powered by a 282-hp 4.4-liter (4.0-liter in '95) V8, while the 750iL had a 5.4-liter V12 good for 326 hp. All 7s came with a five-speed automatic transmission. Either setup provided strong acceleration, but fuel economy was poor by today's standards.
Similar in style and focus to its successor, the second-generation BMW 7 Series was on sale from 1988-'94. This was the first 7 Series to include both regular- and long-wheelbase models, the advantage to the latter being increased rear legroom. For most of the cycle, the base engine was a 208-hp 3.4-liter inline six-cylinder offered in 735i and 735iL models. A four-speed automatic transmission was standard, but a five-speed manual was offered as well. The 282-hp 4.0-liter V8 replaced the inline-6 in 1993, yielding the 740i and 740iL, both of which took a five-speed automatic only. The BMW 750iL was offered throughout the run. The first V12-equipped BMW, it had a 296-hp 5.0-liter engine and a four-speed automatic.
The first-generation BMW 7 Series enjoyed a long run from 1978-'87. It was the largest sedan the company had ever built and directly targeted the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. All 7s of this era were powered by an inline six-cylinder engine. Sold from 1978-'84, the BMW 733i had a 177-hp 3.2-liter inline-6. Initially, transmission choices consisted of a four-speed manual or a three-speed automatic. A five-speed manual with overdrive replaced the four-speed for 1981, and a four-speed automatic finally became available in '84. BMW swapped in a larger, 182-hp 3.4-liter engine in 1985, prompting a name change to 735i.

BMW M3 The BMW 3 Series has long been regarded as the benchmark compact sport coupe, sedan and convertible. Taking this already athletic vehicle to new heights is the M version, known as the BMW M3. In the Bimmer world, the letter M stands for the company's Motorsports performance division. These fun-loving engineers tweak a given BMW model's engine for more output, upgrade the suspension for even more agile handling and add sporty exterior and interior design elements.
Throughout its two decades on the U.S. market, the BMW M3 has been a favorite of enthusiasts looking for sports car performance and handling from a true four-place car. Although content to smoothly burble around while doing daily driver duty, the M3 transforms into a back-road burner when conditions allow and gives its pilot the opportunity to attack corners with precision and rocket out of them with gusto.
Current BMW M3
Based on the present-generation 3 Series, the current BMW M3 was introduced for 2008. There is only one trim level available among the coupe, sedan and hardtop convertible body styles. Each is powered by a 4.0-liter V8, good for 414 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, which revs to a thrilling 8,400 rpm redline. A six-speed manual is the standard means of sending power to the rear wheels, and a seven-speed automated-clutch manual gearbox with paddle shifters is optional. M3s also get specific hardware upgrades such as more powerful brakes, stiffer suspension tuning and a specialized limited-slip rear differential.
Like previous M3s, the current model comes well-equipped with the latest luxury amenities, which in this case includes xenon headlamps, leather upholstery, heated power sport seats and a 10-speaker audio system. The convertible features a nifty hardtop and sun-reflective leather. Features like 19-inch wheels, heated seats, satellite radio, the iDrive navigation system and M Sport personalized performance settings are optional.
While past M3s have been performance stars, the new M3 coupe is quite simply one of the best cars to grace our test track. It accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a blistering 4.6 seconds and came to a stop from 60 mph in an extremely short 100 feet. The slalom and skid pad test results were also on par with vastly more expensive supercars, while on-road handling is beyond reproach. Regardless of which body style you choose, expect one of the best performance machines money can buy.
Past BMW M3 Models
The previous M3 lasted from 2001-'06 and was available in coupe and convertible body styles. There was a single trim level for both, powered by a 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine producing 333 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission was standard, while a six-speed sequential manual gearbox (SMG) was offered as an option starting for the 2002 model year. The latter allows manual-style shifting via paddle shifters next to the steering wheel, and although it was popular, we weren't fans of its herky-jerky performance.
Changes were minor during this generation M3's lifespan. A CD player became standard for 2002, while the following year saw the addition of a few extra convenience features plus an improved DVD-based navigation system. (The former one was CD-based.) The only major addition arrived for 2005 with the Competition Package (coupe only), which provided some of the performance hardware from the European-market M3 CSL, such as 19-inch forged wheels, revised suspension tuning, a quicker steering ratio, upgraded brakes and a less intrusive Track mode for the stability control system.
Every road test of this M3 sang the car's praises in terms of its incredibly balanced handling, prodigious grip and telepathic communication between car and driver. The downsides of this no-compromises performance car are few: a stiff ride, tinny exhaust note, and more wind and road noise in the convertible than one might expect. But for die-hard sports car enthusiasts who need four seats, it doesn't get much better than the BMW M3. However, these cars tend to be driven hard and owners frequently modify them, so it's important to examine a used example closely before signing on the dotted line.
The second-generation M3 was introduced in 1995 and was a tidy package, with only its subtle rocker panel extensions, tri-color "M" badges and different wheels to separate it from the common 3 Series. Along with a buttery-smooth 240-hp inline-6, this generation of the M3 wooed enthusiasts with its ripping performance, finely balanced chassis and everyday livability. For enthusiasts on a budget, these are perhaps the best deal for a used M3, combining a wide choice of body styles (coupe, convertible and sedan), along with plenty of entertaining performance and an affordable price tag. The coupe ran throughout this generation from 1995-'99, while the sedan (1997 and '98) and convertible (1998 and '99) were only available briefly and are subsequently harder to find.
The first-generation BMW M3 was the most radical. Running from 1988-'91, this M3 was essentially a hard-edged, racetrack-ready version of a 3 Series sport coupe. These M3s featured aggressively blistered fenders fore and aft, slightly thicker C-pillars that allowed a more aggressively canted rear window, and a higher trunk lid fitted with a large spoiler. Under the extroverted bodywork was not an inline-6, but a highly-tuned DOHC 16-valve inline-4 that cranked out, for its time, a very impressive 195 hp without the help of a turbocharger or supercharger. An unmolested first-generation M3 is a rare find these days and tends to require more maintenance and care than the second-generation car because of its more specialized four-cylinder engine.

BMW M5 There are sport sedans, and then there's the BMW M5. No other car in recent memory has been able to represent the ideal for this segment as strongly as the Bimmer. For each of its four generations, the M5 has impressively blended sports car performance, sedan utility and luxury ambiance.
The M5 is a product of BMW's performance-tuning M Division. It's based on the 5 Series sedan and historical calling cards include a unique and more powerful engine, a sport-tuned suspension, more powerful brakes, special wheels and tires, and aerodynamics-enhancing bodywork. Though the current BMW M5 is the best of the group, a used third-generation car still represents a fantastic choice for a luxury sport sedan. M5s from the 1980s and '90s were also significant performers for their day, but are much harder to find because of their rarity.
Current BMW M5
The current BMW M5 is a five-passenger luxury sport sedan that debuted for the 2006 model year. It's designed to offer more performance than the regular 5 Series sedan on which it's based. The car's most significant change lies under the hood. BMW has shoehorned in a 5.0-liter V10 capable of 500 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque.
This normally aspirated and high-revving engine is connected to a seven-speed sequential-shift manual transmission (SMG) that sends power to the rear wheels. Drivers can place the transmission into automatic mode or perform exceptionally quick manual gearshifts without a clutch by using steering-wheel-mounted paddles. A six-speed manual transmission is a no-cost option for 2007.
While BMW chose to incorporate plenty of advanced technology into the M5's drivetrain, the car's suspension has been treated to a more back-to-basics approach. Unlike the standard-issue 5 Series, the M5 lacks active steering, active roll bars or run-flat tires. What the car does have is an exceptionally well-tuned suspension setup, electronically controlled dampers, lightweight 19-inch wheels, performance tires and massive brakes.
As with previous M5s, the car doesn't sacrifice much comfort to achieve its high-performance abilities. Just about every luxury feature comes standard, and whether it's used for daily commuting, impressing clients or blasts on empty canyon roads, the M5 is up to the task.
Past BMW M5 Models
For some BMW enthusiasts, the third-generation M5 is still the best. The 5 Series on which it was based (the fourth-generation 5) was an excellent platform and highly regarded in terms of styling, size, handling and amenities. Offered from 2000 to '03, this M5 featured a 4.9-liter V8 good for 394 horsepower. At the time of the car's debut, the engine's output was considered quite outrageous for a modern midsize sedan. The sole transmission choice was a six-speed manual. Eighteen-inch wheels and the requisite suspension and braking upgrades were part of the package. It will no doubt be a future classic.
Previous to this there were two M5 generations, and both are rare sights on U.S. roads today. The second-generation M5 was available from 1991 to 1993. It had a straight six engine that displaced 3.6 liters and made 310 hp. Even today, that's a figure most automakers would be very proud to boast about. European-spec cars from this period had an even more powerful version good for 340 hp. This M5 was prominently featured in the 1998 Robert De Niro car chase classic "Ronin." At the time, the only sedan capable of matching the M5 was the Mercedes-Benz E500, which had a V8 engine.
The original BMW M5 was available for the 1988 model year only and was based on the second-generation 535i. For power, it had a version of the 3.5-liter straight six-cylinder found in the legendary M1 exotic sports car. In the United States, it made 256 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. The sole transmission was a five-speed manual and the cars were offered with a black paint job only. Highly collectible now, it's said that only 500 were brought to the United States.

BMW M6 BMW is known for building cars and SUVs that combine everyday practicality with enhanced performance. Its series of M-badged high-performance variants, in particular, are often regarded as some of the best performance cars in the world. It therefore stands to reason that the BMW M6, as the company's flagship performance coupe (and convertible) is something truly special.
Though there have been two generations of the M6, it is the more recent one that people are most familiar with. Though not a true sports car, the M6, thanks to its 500-horsepower V10 engine, versatile suspension and powerful brakes, can challenge the world's best on just about any road. At the same time, it offers all the comfort and luxury one would expect from BMW's premier coupe and convertible.
Current BMW M6
The BMW M6 is available in coupe and convertible body styles. Both versions employ a 5.0-liter V10 engine that produces 500 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices are a standard seven-speed sequential manual gearbox (SMG) or a traditional six-speed manual. Compared to the M5 sedan, the M6 offers greater performance due to a slightly lighter curb weight and a lower center of gravity.
The look of the M6 takes the low-slung style of the mainstream 6 Series coupe and convertible and adds unique front and rear fascias. These not only contribute to a more sporting look, but also serve to enhance performance and aerodynamic efficiency. The exterior is further differentiated by unique trim, mirrors, wheels, colors and a quad-outlet exhaust.
Edmunds editors have found the performance of the BMW M6 to be simply intoxicating. The sounds emanating from the V10 power plant are like nothing else available to consumers. The M6 convertible only adds to the aural pleasure. With the sun and sky overhead, the song of an F1-inspired V10 in your ear and 500 hp underfoot, life just doesn't get much better for an automotive enthusiast.
With an F1-racing-inspired engine and transmission, it seems only logical that a fully programmable driving experience be included. Owners can choose among three different engine programs that vary horsepower between 400 and 500, along with throttle response, at the push of a button.
Unfortunately, because the M6 is a BMW, it comes equipped with BMW's iDrive. Designed to help simplify the interface between the driver and the vehicle's various electronic systems, iDrive has been vilified by most of the automotive media, including Edmunds' editors and many owners. What was supposed to help simplify has only served to complicate and frustrate.
Past BMW M6 Models
The BMW M6 was introduced as a coupe only for the 2006 model year. For 2007, BMW introduced the convertible model and, later that year, the traditional six-speed manual transmission.
The first generation of the M6 was imported briefly to the U.S. market starting in 1988. Based on the 6 Series coupe of the time, the M6 was powered by a 3.5 liter inline-6 engine that produced 256 hp and 343 lb-ft of torque. Production ended in 1989.

BMW X3 The BMW X3 is a compact luxury SUV that offers a high seating position, all-wheel-drive traction, exemplary performance, solid build quality and the distinctive good looks shoppers in this category are looking for. Indeed, the X3 SUV is a great alternative for sport sedan shoppers who require just a bit more utility in their compact luxury vehicle.
Sharing much of its mechanicals with the previous- and current-generation 3 Series, the X3's performance is enabled by its responsive six-cylinder engine, precise steering and a full-time all-wheel-drive system, dubbed xDrive. With the ability to instantly detect slippage and redirect power to the wheels with the most traction, the xDrive system gives the compact BMW SUV confidence-inspiring handling in both wet and dry conditions.
A commanding view from the X3's driver seat complements this carefree all-weather capability, and ample passenger and cargo room plus numerous storage spaces sprinkled throughout the interior add to its versatility and likability. Drivers, especially, will appreciate its purposeful, 3 Series-derived cockpit featuring large analog gauges and high-quality switchgear.
Unfortunately, the news is not entirely rosy for used-car shoppers. Our editors note that some of the cabin materials used in earlier BMW X3 models do not meet the premium standards set by the 3 Series, so those expecting a luxurious, upscale environment may be disappointed. And its premium price tag may be difficult to swing for many shopping for a smaller SUV. However, if you're sold on its non-traditional, car-like style and performance, but require a bit more functionality and cabin space, we're pretty sure you're going to like the feel behind the X3's wheel.
Current BMW X3
The edgy four-door X3 has received a midcycle freshening, with more power and upgraded interior materials to address one of its few shortcomings. Cementing its position as king of the compact mountain, the new, single-model 3.0si replaces the 3.0i with increased, velvety-smooth torque and 260 horsepower -- 35 more horses in the stable than before. Connecting this power to the ground are six forward gears, in your choice of BMW's Steptronic automatic or fully manual six-speed shift.
On the style front, a freshened and sleeker exterior combines with better plastics and wood trim inside for an especially enticing new package. Dynamically, the BMW X3 features bundled stability and traction control, combined with braking enhancements to improve emergency responsiveness. And in keeping with its premium persona, the options sheet includes adaptive headlamps and brake lights, 19-inch alloy wheels and heated rear seats.
If you're shopping for a premium, performance-oriented compact SUV -- and don't mind the stiff ride and even stiffer price of entry -- we recommend that you put the BMW X3 at the top of your short list of choices.
Past BMW X3 Models
The X3 compact luxury SUV, still in its first generation, was introduced for the 2004 model year. Previous to 2007, there were originally two six-cylinder models: the 2.5i and the 3.0i. Seating five, the X3 quickly set the standard for driver-oriented sport-utility vehicles with precise handling and responsiveness. The base 2.5i version was dropped in 2006, leaving the 225-horse 3.0i as the lone X3 model with a choice of six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. If you prefer a more comfortable ride versus ultimate handling response, we recommend you steer clear of X3s equipped with the Sport Package.

BMW X5 The BMW X5 was this German automaker's first entry into the luxury SUV segment. Realizing that most SUV buyers rarely, if ever, venture off-road, BMW designed the X5 for on-road performance and handling. Short overhangs, a compact size (the original was 4.5 inches shorter than the 5 Series sedan of the same time period) and a car-based chassis combined to give the X5 its low stance and superb on-road performance. The X5, produced at BMW's first American plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, quickly became a huge hit for BMW in the U.S.
The first-generation BMW X5 only sat five people, however, and this is something that the company addressed with the current model. Redesigned for the 2007 model year, the latest X5 features an optional third-row seat and seating for seven. The vehicle is larger than before and has more cargo capacity but is still very entertaining to drive as luxury SUVs go. If this appeals to you, the BMW X5 is a fine choice, new or used.
Current BMW X5
The redesigned X5 comes in two variants: the six-cylinder X5 3.0si and the V8 X5 4.8i. The goal of the redesigned vehicle was to address certain deficiencies in the outgoing model, primarily its lack of utility. The second-generation X5 looks very similar to its predecessor. The X5's signature ducktail tailgate remains, as do the tailpipes that exit from the rear bumper cover. However, passersby will notice the sharp creases in the X5's sheet metal that break the flow of its curved panels, giving the new X5 a more aerodynamic shape. This X5 is 7.4 inches longer, with 4.5 inches of that increase going to the wheelbase.
Most importantly, the added length now gives the X5 more cargo space than a BMW 5 Series wagon. The increased size also results in a more planted, station-wagonlike appearance compared to the tall-and-tippy look of the original X5.
If there was a flaw in the original X5's driving dynamics, it was the luxury SUV's stiff ride quality. BMW addressed that issue on the second-gen X5 by fitting a new double-wishbone front suspension, the first non-strut type BMW front suspension since 1961. The smooth ride is particularly impressive given that all X5s now wear run-flat tires.
The BMW X5 offers two new engine choices: A 260-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine is standard on the X5 3.0si, and a 350-hp 4.8-liter V8 is included on the X5 4.8i. An improved xDrive all-wheel-drive system is also standard and further enhances the X5's all-weather capability.
Our editors have found the interior furnishings quite handsome in BMW's biggest and newest SUV, with comfortable seating for the driver and rear passengers. The materials are of excellent quality and the craftsmanship is top-notch. The only sour notes in the interior are the controversial nature of the iDrive system interface and the small size of the third-row seat, which makes it impractical for use by adults.
Past BMW X5 Models
The original BMW X5 debuted for the 2000 model year. It was initially offered with one engine only: a 4.4-liter V8 engine. A 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine debuted the following year. Though the six-cylinder offered superior fuel economy and adequate overall performance, it was often criticized for its lack of off-the-line grunt. The 4.4i reached 60 mph in fewer than 8 seconds. One note to buyers looking at a first-year BMW X5: All X5 models manufactured after June 2000 (starting with the '01 model year) benefited from important structural changes that improved occupant protection in frontal crashes.
In 2002, the high-performance BMW X5 4.6is debuted, boasting a 4.6-liter V8 making 340 hp and 350 pound-feet of torque. The midlevel X5 4.4i saw an 8 horsepower increase to 290 for the year. Towing aficionados welcomed a new version of the stability control system that aided trailer towing, and BMW finally made a CD player standard in its luxury SUV.
In 2004, the X5 received its most extensive refreshening. A new front fascia received BMW's signature corona ringed headlamps, optional adaptive headlights and new foglamps. The year also marked the introduction of BMW's new all-wheel-drive system, xDrive. Compared to the previous setup, xDrive was far more capable, with its ability to transfer 100 percent of the engine's torque to one individual wheel. (The old system could only distribute torque front to rear.)
Also noteworthy for 2004 was the replacement of the high-performance X5 4.6is with the 355-hp 4.8is model. BMW also installed the V8 engine from the '02 7 Series sedan in the midlevel X5 4.4i, which raised output by 35 horses to 325 hp.
In reviews, we typically praised the first-generation BMW X5 for its carlike ride and handling, its wide range of engine choices and its top safety scores and equipment. Oft-noted downsides included its lack of off-road ability and small cargo area.

BMW X6 BMW isn't the first manufacturer to call a non-coupe a coupe. That honor (which some might consider dubious) belongs to Mercedes-Benz, which applies the term to the slinky CLS luxury sedan. Not to be outdone, Volkswagen recently unveiled a nomenclatural oxymoron of its own with the four-door Passat coupe. But were there an award for Least-Coupelike Coupe, the prize would undoubtedly go to the BMW X6, a luxury performance SUV the manufacturer has dubbed a "Sports Activity Coupe."
Perhaps "fastback SUV" would be a more appropriate description. The midsizer, which is based on the BMW X5, has a dramatically downward-sloping roof line, evoking the timeless profiles of classic fastback coupes (or, less charitably, the Pontiac Aztek). As such, style trumps utility. Rear passenger space and cargo volume are reduced, and the X6 only has two rear seats instead of a three-passenger bench.
For the style-conscious, these shortcomings will likely be of little consequence. BMW has given the X6 a potent range of engines and handling abilities that far exceed one's expectations for a crossover SUV. Overall, the BMW X6 is a capable niche vehicle that should appeal to those who want solid BMW SUV fundamentals in a spruced-up package. We just hope they won't mind an extra pair of doors on their "coupe."
Current BMW X6
Introduced for 2008, the current BMW X6 comes in two trim levels: xDrive 35i and xDrive50i. The xDrive35i features a turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine and comes standard with such luxuries as leather upholstery, power front seats and premium audio. The xDrive50i ups the ante with a turbocharged V8 and even more in the way of interior accoutrements. As with most BMWs, the options list is both extensive and pricey.
The X6 certainly impresses in the powertrain department. The xDrive35i's 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 pumps out a frisky 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, while the xDrive50i's 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 bristles with 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. The sole transmission is a six-speed automatic with manual shift control. All X6 models are equipped with all-wheel drive and a trick torque distribution system called Dynamic Performance Control. This system apportions varying amounts of power to each wheel in order to maintain optimal traction and directional stability.
The X6's styling isn't for everyone, but it manages to set itself apart with the fastback roof line, huge wheels and other sporty styling cues. Inside, the BMW X6 boasts comfortable seats, an excellent driving position and high-quality materials, though the control layout can be befuddling. Rear dimensions are compromised, but two adults will be happy in back -- provided they aren't unusually long of torso. Cargo capacity, while adequate, is considerably below average for the midsize crossover SUV segment.
In performance testing, our editors appreciated the X6's sprightly performance, especially in xDrive50i trim. BMW says this V8-powered model should accelerate from zero to 60 in 5.3 seconds, and while that may be slightly optimistic, there's no doubt that this is among the fleetest SUVs on the market. The V8's throaty exhaust burble belies its sophisticated turbocharged character, and in either trim, the X6 handles extraordinarily well for such a tall and heavy vehicle.
The BMW X6 makes sense for well-heeled buyers who want an SUV but care more about looks and performance than utility. However, such buyers will need to be undeterred by the fact that the X5 offers most of the X6's performance as well as far greater utility for thousands of dollars less.

BMW Z4 The BMW Z4 is one of the more intriguing sports cars currently available. It's known for its engaging handling and steering, thrilling inline six-cylinder engine and distinctive styling. Although its stated horsepower ratings are equaled or surpassed by those of some less expensive machinery, the Z4 counters with a lighter curb weight and, in most cases, a more rewarding driving experience. Recent improvements have made the latest Z4 the best yet, and older models are still a very viable choice for a used sports car.
The BMW Z4 is built at the company's Spartanburg, South Carolina, facility, and has been in production since the 2003 model year. It's a successor to the original Z3 and is the company's only two-seat sports car. It features traditional characteristics such as a front-engine/rear-drive layout, a hunkered-down stance, a long hood and rearward positioning of driver and passenger. Another notable element is the car's chiseled exterior design, which BMW says is used to add tension to the car's shape.
The BMW Z4 is available as a roadster with a convertible top or a fixed-roof coupe. For the roadster, there are two trim levels: 3.0i and 3.0si. The Z4 3.0i comes with features such as 17-inch wheels, stability control, antilock brakes, power mirrors and windows, manually operated seats and vinyl upholstery. A 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine rated at 215 horsepower is standard, as is a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is optional.
The Z4 3.0si features 18-inch wheels, a few upgraded interior features and a 255-hp 3.0-liter inline six. A few options are also available for both trim levels, including a Premium package with a power-operated top and a Sport package designed to improve the vehicle's handling capabilities. The Z4 Coupe is offered in the 3.0si trim only.
Even without the Sport package, the Z4 rewards drivers with an engaging driving experience. In reviews of the BMW Z4, editors have praised the car's sharp reflexes and quick acceleration. The Coupe possesses a slight advantage in terms of handling due to its added body rigidity. For shoppers desiring even more performance, there's also an M-powered version of the Z4.
Because of a major update for 2006, Z4 models from this year and onwards are a better choice than earlier models, if price is no object. This update included the mid-year release of the coupe body style, the 215-hp and 255-hp engines, and the six-speed automatic. Other changes to the BMW sports car included a retuned standard suspension for better ride quality, a higher final-drive ratio for improved acceleration, new wheel designs, additional braking functionality for the stability control system, updated front and rear styling and minor interior trim updates.
From 2003-'05, BMW Z4 models were identified as either 2.5i or 3.0i. The 2.5i has a 2.5-liter, inline six-cylinder engine that makes 184 hp, while the 3.0i uses a 3.0-liter straight six that generates 225 hp. For transmissions, there is a five-speed manual (standard on the 2.5), a six-speed manual (standard on the 3.0), a five-speed automatic or, as on the M3, a six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG). There were a few minor changes made during this period in terms of feature content, but none of them were significant enough to make one model year more desirable than another.


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