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.
The 318iC convertible was temporarily unavailable in the U.S. market for this year.
A new 189-horsepower 325iC was introduced in 1994.
In 1995, two new models were introduced: the 318Ti and the M3.
The M3 was a high-performance model that featured 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 $3600 more than a regular 325i. It competed with the Mazda RX-7, Lexus SC 300, Mustang GT, Camaro Z-28 and other high-performance sport coupes.
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.
For this year, a new station wagon version of the 525i was introduced. BMW preferred to call it a "Touring" model. This was also the last model year for the 535i and M5.
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.
The E34 BMW 5-series was discontinued in 1996.
When the E39 series cars appeared on sale, it only comprised of two models -- the 528i and 540i.
The station wagon returned for this generation of the BMW 5-Series.
Originally, the 7-Series consisted of a 4-door sedan in these three models -- 735i, 735iL and 750iL.
The two entry-level sedans were renamed the 740i and 740iL.
BMW completely redesigned its 7-series cars for 1995. Every body panel was new, although it still looked very much like the 7-Series from the previous generation. The 740i with its 282-hp 4.0-liter V8 competed with Jaguar's XJ6 and Mercedes-Benz's S420. This was the same drivetrain used in the smaller BMW 540i. However, the 740i was a bigger, more luxurious car with a more spacious interior. The 750iL, with its 322-hp 5.4-liter V12, competed with the Jaguar XJ12 and the Mercedes-Benz S600. In other words, it was among the top luxury sedans in the world, and significantly cheaper than the equivalent Mercedes. There were actually three separate 7-series models; the short-wheelbase 740i, plus the 740iL and 750iL, which each had 5.5 in. added to rear-seat legroom. The V8 had double-overhead cams and a 5-speed automatic, the big V12 used only a single overhead cam for each bank of cylinders but, new for 1995, now had a 5-speed automatic transmission as well. All three 7-series models came with standard luxury-car features like leather upholstery, automatic climate control, power seats (the driver's seat has a computerized memory) and automatic dimming mirrors. The only options were heated front seats, AST traction control, electronic damping control and a ski sack that was used to expand into the passenger compartment from behind the rear seat's center armrest and allows one to put long objects (like skis) into the trunk without messing up the interior upholstery. The 750iL came standard with everything except an optional computerized suspension system. Even the ski sack was standard.
Sales of the E38 began in November 1994 in North America.
In the early '90s, only one model was available within the BMW 8-Series -- the 850i, later known as the 850Ci. It was used to accelerate from 0 to 60 in less than 7 seconds, cruise at a computer-limited 155 mph and turn a corner at nearly 1 g. But it also had all the comfort of a big luxury sedan, plus all the style of a sleek sport coupe. And there was even a back seat (although rear-seat legroom was almost nonexistent in this 2+2 coupe).
If there were a market segment called Big Boomer Gran Turismo, BMW's 840Ci and 850Ci would have been right in the center, competing with the Mercedes-Benz S500 and S600, Jaguar XJS and Porsche 928. Except for a couple of exotic Ferrari and Lamborghini models costing $100,000 more, cars like the 850Ci represented the outer limits of mass-production passenger cars. BMW's 8-series was essentially a short-wheelbase 7-series fitted with sleek coupe bodywork. The new base car, known as the 840Ci, used the same 282-hp V8 as the 740i; the 850Ci used the 296-hp V12 with its locomotive-like 332 ft.-lb. of torque. The limited-edition 850CSi, a hot-rodded version developed by BMW's motorsports department, came with a 5.6-liter version of the V12 that produced 372 hp and more than 400 ft.-lb. of torque. A 6-speed manual gearbox, wide low-profile tires on 17-in. wheels and a tightened-up suspension made this one of the best-performing sport coupes ever built.
The 8-series offered such standard features as leather upholstery, automatic climate control, power everything and a computerized memory for the driver's seat, steering wheel and mirrors. Standard, too, is more performance and status than normal folks can stand.
The 850Ci was upgraded to have 322 horsepower and 361 ft.-lb. of torque.
This was the last model year for the 850CSi.
After seven years of production, BMW discontinued the 8-Series.