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 11 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
  • 6 Series – a midsize powerful two-door coupe available as a convertible or as a four-door Gran Turismo
  • 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.

bmw 2019 ie model in red and black driving on mountain road

What 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 BMW i3 is electric, but a 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.