BMW has been making world-class vehicles for over a century. If you’ve seen the names of BMW vehicles, it might seem a bit confusing, especially as the automaker expands its reach to EVs and electric cars.

Find out everything you need to know about BMW naming conventions with our guide.



BMW Series and Models

BMW’s current naming conventions have ten distinct groupings, six for cars and four for SUVs or EVs.

Coupe styles have even numbers (2, 4, and 6 Series), while the sedans have odd numbers (3, 5, and 7 Series).

  • 2 Series are smaller two-door models in a coupe or convertible style.
  • 3 Series are four-door cars available as a sedan, sports wagon, or Gran Turismo styles.
  • 4 Series offers compact coupe-style models with a two-door coupe or convertible or a four-door Gran Coupe.
  • 5 Series vehicles are a mid-size four-door car sedan or Gran Turismo.
  • 6 Series cars provide mid-size two-door models with a two-door coupe or convertible, or a four-door Gran Coupe or ALPINA Gran Coupe.
  • 7 Series cars provide full-size four-door models available as a sedan or upgrade ALPINA sedan.

In addition to the numbered series, BMW naming conventions give you four groups of vehicles designated by letters.

  • X Models provides a line of SUVs and crossovers (or what BMW refers to as Sports Activity Vehicles and Sports Activity Coupes) for family-friendly luxury vehicles.
  • Z4 Models are two-door roadsters that zip through every road you drive on.
  • M Models offers a high-performance version of many BMW models that combine with the normal BMW naming convention. To wit, the M3 is a high-performance version of the 3 Series sedan.
  • BMW i models designate BMW’s line of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, so an i4 would be an electric compact coupe while an iX is an electric SAV.

BMW Naming Conventions for a Gran Coupe, Gran Turismo and ALPINA

BMW naming conventions also have special models specific to the brand, including Gran Coupe, Gran Turismo, and ALPINA.

A Gran Coupe is a four-door version of an ordinary coupe. It retains the curves and styling of a smaller two-door vehicle with the added roominess of four doors. Both the 4 Series and 6 Series are available as Gran Coupes.

Gran Turismo models are four-door sedans with a higher driving position and a wagon-like trunk. This higher roofline car is available within the 3 and 5 series.

ALPINA Automobiles is a separate company from BMW. The BMW ALPINA lines offer a higher-performance variant of the 6 Series and 7 Series cars. Because of the close relationship between the two brands, ALIPNA vehicles are all produced in BMW factories on their normal production lines.

BMW Naming Conventions: Numbering & Lettering

On new BMWs, numbers roughly show the performance of the engine, with a higher number reflecting more power. For example, the 328i Sedan would have a 240-hp 2.0-liter Twin Power Turbo inline 4-cylinder engine. The 335i Sedan uses a 300-hp 3.0-liter Twin Power Turbo inline 6-cylinder engine.

BMW Naming Conventions: Gas, Diesel, and Hybrid Designations

Traditionally, the first letter after the number of each vehicle was an “i” on gas models (the “i” stands for fuel-injected) or a “d” for diesel vehicles. Hybrid versions are designated with an “e,” such as a BMW 745e PHEV or an eDrive. This is for the letters at the end of the name, not the beginning of the name, because the beginning of the name with an “i” will indicate an EV model.

xDrive vs. sDrive

This designation simply refers to whether a vehicle is 2-wheel drive (sDrive) or 4-wheel drive (xDrive). The full name of the all-wheel drive version will have xDrive spelled out (e.g., 328i xDrive Sedan).

To add further confusion, the X Models are available in both 2-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive. The X1, X3, X5, and X6 are all available with both sDrive and xDrive, resulting in a model name like X5 sDrive35i or X3 xDrive28d.

Hopefully, you’ve learned enough to deduce that the former has a gas engine while the latter is a diesel vehicle.

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