Let’s face it: BMW model names can be confusing. From the scale of ascending numbers to additions like xDrive and M models, car buyers can get lost in the labyrinth of BMW naming conventions. Thankfully, BMW follows patterns throughout the lineup that are simple once you learn them. We’ve created a quick guide for understanding BMW model names so you can sound like a pro.

BMW Series and Models Breakdown:

There are currently 10 different groups in the BMW lineup, separated into numerical and letter distinctions. The 2 series through the 8 series are a range coupe and sedan-like cars, with MSRP increasing respectively with each series number. Even numbers include sportier designs and interiors, while odd-numbers are more business and traditionally designed. Letter series represent high-performance, electric, and SUV options.

  • 2 Series – a two-door coupe and convertible that is smallest in size and lowest in price
  • 3 Series – a four-door compact sedan available as a sports wagon (Touring) or slightly larger Gran Turismo
  • 4 Series – a compact two-door coupe also available as a convertible or as a four-door Gran Coupe
  • 5 Series – a quintessential midsize four-door sedan available in standard gas, plug-in hybrid, and high-performance options
  • 7 Series – a full-size four-door sedan available in a high-performance M sedan and an ALPINA sedan
  • 8 Series – a top luxury full-size modern coupe available as a convertible, a four-door Gran Coupe, or as M coupes.
  • X Models – a series of larger SUVs and crossovers from the X1 to X7, with available M models
  • Z Models – a two-door convertible roadster
  • M Models – Versions of select BMM series and X models that offer higher performance (e.g. the X3 is also available as X3 M)
  • BMW i Models – BMW’s electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, both a unique model and as hybrid options (like the 530e plug-in hybrid)

bmw 2020 2 series gran coupe in blue driving down city street

Options Within Models:

Within each model, there are a few varieties in size, body, and performance, such as:

  • Gran Coupe – simply put, a Gran Coupe is a roomier coupe with four doors. You can still expect the same model style, but with space for more passengers.
  • Gran Turismo – the Gran Turismo option offers increased trunk space and a higher driving position in the form of a four-door sedan.
  • ALPINA – BMW and ALPINA Automobiles are separate companies, but together offer high-performance options for select BMW models. In fact, ALPINA vehicles are produced on BMW factory production lines.

What do the Numbers Mean Within BMW Models?

You may have seen a 5 series sedan labelled as a 530i, 540i, or an M550i. The larger the last two digits in the number, the more powerful the engine performs. For instance, a 540i will be more powerful than a 530i. Originally, this number was directly linked to the litre size of the engine but now is used to represent general power.

2022 BMW i4 all-electric vehicleWhat do the Letters Mean Within BMW Models?

The letter at the end of each vehicle’s name represents the type of fuel used. An “i” signals a gas model, “d” for diesel vehicles, and “e” for plug-in hybrids. To make things confusing, BMW’s electric i Models have an “i” before the numbers in the vehicle name. So, a 2022 BMW i4 is electric, but a BMW 330i is gas-powered.

What do xDrive and sDrive Mean?

xDrive is the BMW 4-wheel all-wheel-drive system available in select models, while sDrive is the standard 2-wheel drive system. But don’t get xDrive confused with the X models names since xDrive will be spelled out in the name of the specific vehicle. For instance, if an X model comes with xDrive, it could be written as BMW X3 xDrive30i.

At first glance, BMW model names seem like a foreign language. But once you learn the patterns, understanding model naming conventions is a piece of cake.

Still have questions about BMW model names? Let us know below.