BMW 3-Series

1991

BMW's compact line covered a broad range by juggling engines and body styles on a rear-drive chassis. The least expensive 318i sedan was powered by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and competed with other compact sedans like Honda's Accord, Toyota's Camry and Infiniti's G20. The same car with upgraded suspension, fancier interior and a 2.5-liter inline Six was the 325i. It competed with Volvo's front-drive 850 and the Mercedes-Benz C280. 

There was also a more expensive 2-door coupe built on the same wheelbase that sacrificed rear headroom for style, and a convertible version of the coupe. The convertible was available with either the Four (318iC) or the 2.5-liter Six (325iC). The coupe was had with the 4-cylinder as the 318iS, or with the 6-cylinder as the 325iS.

The 3-series was very highly rated by car enthusiasts and quite sophisticated, but despite its high price, such expected features as limited-slip differential, metallic paint, and even cruise control were options on many models. Also optional was AST traction control. The convertible was available for ordering with an optional rollover protection system featuring dual roll bars that shoot up behind the rear seats if the car threatens to flip over.

1993

The 318iC convertible was temporarily unavailable in the U.S. market for this year.

1994

A new 189-horsepower 325iC was introduced in 1994.

1995

In 1995, two new models were introduced: the 318Ti and the M3.

The M3 was a high-performance model that features a fancy leather interior, heavy-duty suspension, racy bodywork, 17-in. alloy wheels with 235/40ZR17 tires and a top speed of 137 mph at a price that is $3600 more than a regular 325i. It competes with the Mazda RX-7, Lexus SC 300, Mustang GT, Camaro Z-28 and other high-performance sport coupes.

BMW 5-Series

1991

BMW used the same philosophy on most of its car lines: Design a sophisticated front-engine/rear-drive car, then fit it with a variety of drivelines to create different models across a broad price range. It has done this with the compact 3-series, the large 7-series and the midsize 5-series as well.

In the early '90s, the 5-series consisted of only a 4-door sedan, either as a 525i, 535i or M5. The entry-level 5-series, the 525i, shared its 189-hp 2.5-liter inline Six and 5-speed gearbox with the smaller 325i.

1993

For this year, a new station wagon version of the 525i was introduced. BMW preferred to call it a "Touring" model.

1994

Styling of the 5-series was virtually identical to that of the much more expensive 7-series, which would be nice if one impresses the neighbors on a limited budget. Competitors for these BMWs ranged from Chrysler's LHS to Mercedes' E420, including such mid-price luxury models as the Lexus GS 300 and the Infiniti J30.

For 1994, there were two new models in the U.S. market -- a 530i and a 540i. The 530i had a torquey 215-hp 3.0-liter V8; the 540i had a 282-hp 4.0-liter version of this same engine. The top-line 540i was available only as a 4-door sedan, while the 530i was also available as a 4-door station wagon. A 6-speed manual transmission was optional on the 540i.

The 540i was a high-performance sport sedan in the $50,000 range. It was fast, handled superbly, had excellent brakes and was as comfortable as any other midsize luxury sedan. Comfort is something you don't always get when a car's emphasis is on "sport" rather than "luxury."

BMW's AST computerized traction control was standard on the 530i Touring station wagon and available on all other 5-series models. The 530i Touring wagon also came with a unique dual sunroof as standard. It was optional on the less expensive 525i Touring.

1996

The E34 BMW 5-series was discontinued in 1996.

1997

BMW 7-Series

BMW 8-Series

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