Six generations of the BMW 3-Series: The success story of a global trendsetter

If there is such a thing as a quintessential BMW, it is without doubt the BMW 3-Series. The 3-Series is everything a sports sedan should be, and for years it has stood undisputed at the summit of the premium mid-size segment. Since it made its debut in 1975, more than 12 million customers around the world have taken ownership of a BMW 3-Series, the car retaining its traditional appeal across an incredibly diverse customer base. The reasons for this extraordinary success are therefore many and varied.

In the early days, just as with the latest-generation model, the BMW 3-Series concept was unique: a compact body with an elegant design, powerful, modern engines, a classic rear-wheel-drive set-up and sporty suspension tuning. Out of the mixing pot came a car with unrivalled driving dynamics and agility. BMW soon showed it had a finely-honed sense for the zeitgeist - and was wired up to the individual preferences of potential customers as well. The result has been a succession of innovative body concepts and technical developments which have left the brand's rivals clutching at air. Here again, the BMW 3-Series sets the benchmark in the sporty mid-size class of which it was a founding father. The systems produced as part of the BMW EfficientDynamics development strategy, which have given the BMW 3-Series the lowest fuel consumption and emissions in its class, are a fine example of this pioneering role.

Following over time in the tyre tracks of the Sedan - the best-selling model variant worldwide - have been the BMW 3-Series Convertible, BMW 3-Series Touring, BMW 3-Series Coupé and BMW 3-Series Compact. Alongside the mainstream models, the brand also developed the BMW M3 high-performance sports sedan. The success story of the world's best-selling premium car began 36 years ago with a two-door model.

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