BMW Model Names Explained

Let’s face it: BMW model names can be confusing, especially with changes and updates in recent years. From ascending numbers to additions like xDrive and M models, it’s easy to get lost in the labyrinth of BMW’s naming conventions. Thankfully, BMW follows patterns throughout its lineup that are simple once you learn them. Here’s a quick guide for understanding BMW model names in 2023, 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.

  • 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)

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

  • Gran Coupe: A roomier coupe with four doors. Expect the same model style, but with space for more passengers.
  • Gran Turismo: Offers increased trunk space and a higher driving position in the form of a four-door sedan.
  • ALPINA: BMW and ALPINA Automobiles offer high-performance options for select BMW models. 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 labeled as a 530i, 540i, or an M550i. In general, 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. While these numbers were originally linked to engine size, they now represent general power.

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. BMW’s electric i Models have an “i” before the numbers in the vehicle name. So, a 2023 BMW i4 is electric, while a BMW 330i is gas-powered.

What do xDrive and sDrive Mean? xDrive is BMW’s all-wheel-drive system available in select models, while sDrive represents the standard 2-wheel drive system. xDrive will be clearly spelled out in the name of the specific vehicle. For example, if an X model comes with xDrive, it could be written as BMW X3 xDrive30i.

At first glance, BMW model names may seem like a foreign language, but once you learn the patterns, understanding model naming conventions in 2023 is a piece of cake.

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