BMW began building the 3-series for the 1975 model year. Billed as the company’s entry-level luxury car, it has gone through several facelifts, upgrades, and generations. Currently in the F30 sixth generation, the BMW 3-series is still selling strong and helping to define the luxury segment.
BMW may have moved into the sixth generation of the 3-series, but that does not mean the previous generation has become obsolete or dated. The E90 fifth generation is still a highly sought after luxury car. It was built in four layouts: the E90 model code is the four-door saloon; the E91 is an estate wagon, the E92 is a coupe; and the E93 is a cabriolet. Why not come along with us and take a look at the fifth generation of the BMW 3-series?
BMW Design Team
BMW had begun the design process for the fifth generation of the BMW 3-series in early 2000. The final designs were frozen in place around mid-2002, giving BMW nearly 30 months to retool its production facilities and begin shipping the new models for their showroom debut in early 2005 as 2006 models. The designs for the four variants of the generation were assigned to three premier designers. Joji Nagashima was assigned the task of creating the saloon and estate wagon, The coupe and cabriolet were given to Marc Michael Markefka. Christoph Nordmann was assigned to assist both designers.
BMW Engine Options
The fifth generation of the BMW 3-series is powered by a wide variety of petrol and diesel engines. There were six petrol powerplants used in the 3-series. Those options included: a 1,599 cc N43/N45 I4; a 1,997 cc N43/N45/N46 I4; a 2,497 cc N52 I6; a 2,996 cc N52/N53 I6; a 2,996 cc N54/N55 turbo I6; and a 3,998 cc V8. The diesel options were: a 1,995 M47/N47 I4 and a 2,993 cc turbo I6. The standard gearbox is a six-speed automatic. A six-speed manual gearbox can be found in some trim levels and in the M3.
Following BMW’s normal sales course, the was the first variant to be released to dealerships. It appeared mid-cycle of 2005 as a 2006 model. The early models were the 318i, 320i, 320si, 323i, 325i and the 330i. As the generation was upgraded, the 316i, 320d, 325d, 328i, 330d, 335i, 335d were added. The M3 saloon made its appearance for the 2008 model year.
The dimensions of the E90 saloon are slightly larger than those of the previous generation. Its wheelbase is 2,760 mm, length is 4,520 mm, width is 1,820 mm, and the E90’s height is 1,420 mm. Depending on the trim level purchased, the fifth generation of the BMW 3-series could be equipped with xenon headlamps, fog lamps, automatic climate control, power-adjustable seats, satellite navigation, premium audio, Dakota leather upholstery, glass sunroof, heated front seats, and Bluetooth and USB audio input.
E91 Estate Wagon
The E91 arrived in showrooms shortly after the saloon. The E91 maintained the exact same dimensions as the saloon. The engine and gearbox options were carried over as well. All of the models found in the saloon are available as an estate wagon with the exception of an M3 variant.
Equipment can include xenon headlamps, fog lamps, automatic climate control, power-adjustable seats, satellite navigation, premium audio, Dakota leather upholstery, glass sunroof, heated front seats, Bluetooth and USB audio input.
The BMW E92 did not hit showrooms until August of 2006 as part of the 2007 model year line-up. It is available in the 316i, 318i, 320i, 323i, 325i, 325xi, 328i, 328xi, 330i, 330xi, 335i, 335is, 335xi, 320d, 320xd, 325d, 330d, 330xd, 335d, M3, and M3 GTS layouts.
In previous generations, the coupe and saloon were very similar in design and size; however, the fifth generation digressed from that tradition. The coupe is lengthened by 90 mm, narrowed by 38 mm, and is 25 mm shorter. Additional changes include: a switch to an L-shaped taillight design, steeply angled headlamps, and smaller side windows. The coupe features longer door panels and only seats two in the rear. The luxury options that are available in the saloon and estate wagon are also available in the coupe.
The fifth generation of the 3-series is the last to include a coupe and cabriolet variant. For the current generation, and all generations moving forward, the coupe and cabriolets will be marketed under the designation.
There is something about a cabrio that is sexy as hell. Even a low-slung supercar cannot compete with the primal urge to lower the top and find out exactly how fast your car can go.
The E93 BMW 3-series cabriolet has the same dimensions as the coupe with the exception of its height. The cabrio sits 11 mm lower than the coupe and 36 mm lower than the saloon. The top has been changed from the cloth used in the previous generations. The fifth generation introduced a three-piece folding aluminum hard-top roof. Not only was this feature new to the BMW 3-series cabrio, but it was one of the first offered within the 3-series’ price range. The E93 cabrio could be ordered with the ”Comfort Access” option that lowered or raised the roof at a touch of a button on the key fob.
Safety is a very important aspect of every car. The BMW 3-series was given top marks across its entire fifth generation line-up. The EURO NCAP gave it five-stars in every category except pedestrian safety features. In the United States, the IIHS gave the 3-series its top rating of Good, while the NHTSA gave it five stars across the board.