BMW 3 Series: which is your favourite generation?

By topgear, 16 October 2018
E21 (1975-1982)

“It’s a perfect place to sit and operate the machinery. The seat and pedals are just-so. Visibility is astounding through deep windows and past slim pillars. It’s wonderfully compact and concise. Take hold of the thin plastic rim on the huge steering wheel and head off…”

Read Top Gear’s drive of the E21 BMW 316 here

E30 (1982-1991)

“What a brilliant powertrain. It makes 192bhp, which is pretty special for an elderly naturally aspirated two-litre. And it pulls like a happy puppy all the way to 7000rpm, which means about seven-and-a-bit seconds to 60mph, on a weight of just 1200kg…”

Read Top Gear’s drive of the E30 BMW 320iS here

E36 (1991-1998)

“Oh my word, this is a magical car. The E36 got all-new rear suspension, and its principles are still used today. It got a freshly styled body and new cabin. And it all gelled together magically…”

Read Top Gear’s drive of the E36 BMW 323i here

E46 (1998-2005)

“Most of all, the styling was honed to a perfect pitch, the curves smoothed, the junctions neatened, the older E36’s frowning face now softened. This coupe version is a joy to behold…”

Read Top Gear’s drive of the E46 BMW 328i here

E90 (2005-2015)

“Time for another big leap, and a controversial one. This Three got a jagged Bangle-ised exterior and an interior dominated by the primordial iDrive. It feels heavier, is bigger, and more serious than what’s gone before. But more likeable? Nope…”

Read Top Gear’s drive of the E90 BMW 320iS here

F30 (2012-2018)

“The main thing is new engines. But then, this is the Bavarian Motor Works we’re talking about, so it’s what you might call a core competence. One of them wears a new badge on the tail: 340i. Historians will note the significance of a new generation of BMW straight-six, as this turbo 3.0-litre is making its first appearance in any car. It produces 326bhp. It’s actually the last man standing in the great tradition of petrol straight-six 3 Series…”

Read Top Gear’s first drive of the F30 BMW 340i here

G20 (2019-)

“Inside, BMW’s finally stopped fiddling with its 1990s design themes and gone chasing after Audi and Mercedes modern-cool ambience. We’ve got a 12.3-inch digital instrument display that lies flush with a widescreen iDrive console. Metal buttons add a touch of class to fiddling with the air conditioning. There’s ambient lighting, more sculpture to the shapes and surfaces, and the centre console’s been thoroughly reimagined…”

Read the full story on the new G20 BMW 3 Series here