1975: The first generation. With the presentation of the first BMW 3 Series in July 1975, BMW opened a new chapter in the history of the automobile. Right from the start, the two-door sedan with compact dimensions and a sporty character has its very own distinctiveness. The kidney grille dominates the front end and with a length of 4355 mm, a width of 1610 mm and a height of 1380 mm, the new car has a compact but at the same time ‘grown-up’ appearance. Track widths of 1364 mm at the front and 1377 mm at the rear provide the car with a powerful look. This is complemented by state-of-the-art, sporty suspension technology with a McPherson front axle as well as independent wheel suspension on trailing arms and spring struts at the rear.
The car is powered by four-cylinder engines with a displacement of 1573, 1766 and 1990 cc respectively. The model designations are 316, 318, 320 and 320i. With the exception of the fuel-injected engine, all power units are designed to run on regular petrol.
An absolute novelty is the interior design with a cockpit inclined towards the driver, this remaining a typical feature of the BMW interior for many years. Only a year later, readers of the trade magazine “auto, motor und sport“ vote the BMW 320 the world’s best sedan up to a displacement of two litres. In 1977, the BMW 3 Series features the segment’s first six-cylinder engine, the models 320 and 323i being fitted with disc brakes all round especially for this purpose.
The BMW 323i in particular soon gains a reputation as a supreme, athletic model, which – with a power output of 105 kW/143 bhp – accelerates effortlessly to a speed of 190 km/h. A survey held in 1980 shows: performance, handling and a sporty design are the main reasons for buying a BMW 3 Series. Four out of five customers would buy the car again. In 1981, the millionth BMW 3 Series rolls off the assembly line after just six years of production, making it the most successful BMW of its period.
Source: BMW press