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Published Date: 05/01/2016

Why the BMW 3 Series is still the leader of the pack

The BMW 3 Series is now 40 years old and has been the car to beat in the family saloon sector since the first generation model was launched in 1975.

Through six generations of 3 Series, it's been the car that others have striven to match - sometimes getting close, but not close enough! It's BMW's most popular model too, with around a quarter of all BMW cars sold being 3 Series. But what makes it the class benchmark?

Why the BMW 3 Series is still the leader of the pack

The very first 3 Series - the E21 - was the successor to the now fondly-remembered 2002 and originally a 2 door saloon (and then a 2 door convertible) rather than the more familiar 4 door today. While the body shape may not have been what you'd associate with a current 3 Series, it set the groundwork for every car to come.

In an era where Britain was used to the cars like the Audi 100, FIAT 124 and Triumph 2000, the E21 3 Series was a revelation. Designed to be as good to drive as possible, it brought the characteristic excellent driving position that remains a core of the 3 Series today. Although drivers of the time didn't realise it, it also brought reliability to the mix - the four-cylinder M10 engine used in much of the range would go on to form the basis of the BMW Formula One engine, producing up to 1,500hp!

The E30 was the 3 Series that started it all for many. Available as a 2 door coupe or convertible, 4 door saloon and 5 door estate, it introduced the four bodystyles available across 40 years of the 3 Series. It was also the first 3 Series with a BMW M model - the iconic M3.

As rivals tried to catch up to the performance of the E30, BMW moved things on with the E36. As before, there was more space and more power, but it was the luxury appointments and technological advancement that set the E36 apart from rivals.

This has remained the case with every iteration of 3 Series since. While some rivals may catch up for performance, space, driving manners, luxury or equipment, the 3 Series has always had a blend of all departments that sets it ahead overall - and by the time it's matched in any one area it's moved ahead again.

The current F30 is one of the highest-rated cars in the motoring press. It ranks ahead of its rivals for driving, ride quality, interior quality, space and equipment - and this is despite new versions of leading competitors' cars being launched this year.

For more information on the BMW 3 Series, click here:

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