There’s no denying that BMW, short for Bayerische Motoren Werke (try saying that three times fast), has a reputation that precedes itself.
But behind that famous logo is a rich history stretching over a century. Founded in 1916, BMW has consistently produced vehicles that aren’t just modes of transportation, but experiences on wheels.
But what makes one BMW year better than another?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some standout models and explore why they’re hailed as the ‘best.’
Let’s get started, shall we?
What Makes a BMW Year ‘The Best?’
Before we zoom through the best years of BMW production, let’s discuss what factors we’re considering.
After all, the term ‘best’ can mean different things to different people, right?
Here are the criteria we’ve used to compile this list:
- Performance. The thrill of pressing down on the pedal and feeling the car respond enthusiastically is crucial to the BMW experience.
- Design. From the classic kidney grille to the sleek, aerodynamic body lines, we’re considering which models and years brought something unique to the design table.
- Technological innovations. BMW isn’t just about style and speed; it’s also about pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in a car.
- Reliability. While it’s fun to talk about speed and style, at the end of the day, a car needs to be reliable.
- Recognition. Awards, expert reviews, and even popularity among drivers all play into how we define the ‘best.’
Now, let’s dive into the list!
Best Overall BMW Years and Models
From the roaring engines of the M Series to the elegant sophistication of the 5 and 7 Series, these cars have not only defined BMW but also helped shape the world of motoring as we know it.
2005-2010 BMW E60 M5
Alright, first on our list is a model that, quite frankly, needs no introduction among car enthusiasts – the BMW E60 M5.
Let’s start with the heart of any car, the engine.
Under the hood of the E60 M5, you’ll find a glorious 5.0-liter V10 engine.
This beast was a clear nod to BMW’s Formula 1 racing involvement at the time, and boy, does it deliver on performance. With 507 horsepower, the E60 M5 doesn’t just accelerate; it launches.
What makes the E60 M5 truly shine is how it balances this with sophistication and luxury.
It’s a car that can comfortably glide through city streets and then transform into a track-ready monster at the drop of a hat.
All these factors, combined with a dedicated fan base, make the 2005-2010 BMW E60 M5 a standout model in BMW’s lineup.
2000-2006 BMW E46 M3
Ah, the E46 M3… where do we even start?
It’s one of those cars that captured the hearts of car enthusiasts worldwide and continues to do so even now.
A 3.2-liter inline-six engine coupled with a well-tuned chassis and BMW’s handling makes the E46 M3 a pure joy to drive.
With the widened wheel arches, the vented front quarter panels, and that distinctive M badge, it’s a car that commands attention without screaming for it.
In 2003, BMW even released a special variant of the E46 M3, the M3 Coupé CSL. Today, that’s one of the most expensive BMW models!
The 2000-2006 BMW E46 M3 is more than just a car; it evokes a certain emotion, a thrill that only an M car can provide. It’s no wonder many enthusiasts consider it one of the best M cars ever made!
1996-2003 BMW E39 5 Series
Stepping onto the stage next is the BMW E39 5 Series, a model that defined what a luxury sport sedan should be.
Even years after its production ended, it’s still known as one of the best in BMW’s lineup.
The E39 5 Series offered various engine options, from the efficient six-cylinder in the 520i to the powerful V8 in the 540i. But the crown jewel, without a doubt, is the M5 variant with its naturally aspirated 4.9-liter V8.
The exterior styling perfectly blends classic and modern aesthetics, making it age exceptionally well.
On the technology front, the E39 5 Series was ahead of its time, introducing features such as a navigation system and even park distance control. Not to mention the M5 variant came equipped with the first-ever application of BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control system.
Overall, the E39 5 Series set a high bar for the sport luxury sedan segment, one that has shaped the direction of the 5 Series for years to come.
2011-2012 BMW 1 Series M Coupe
Next in line is the 2011-2012 BMW 1 Series M Coupe, also known as the 1M.
Though its production run was brief, its impact is long-lasting, cementing its status as a future classic.
Under the hood, the 1M features a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine producing 335 horsepower.
Combine this with its compact size, and you have a sports car that delivers an exhilarating, nimble, and responsive driving experience.
The 1M is a proper driver’s car, offering rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission – a purist’s dream.
From a design perspective, the 1 Series M Coupe stands out with its muscular styling. The flared wheel arches, large air intakes, and quad exhaust tips give it a distinctive look, making it immediately recognizable as something special.
Couple that with the 1 Series M Coupe being a limited production model, and you’re left with a highly sought-after BMW model today!
2005-2011 BMW E92 3 Series
The BMW E92 3 Series is a car that perfectly encapsulates BMW’s mantra of the ‘ultimate driving machine.’
You can choose from a range of engines, from a six-cylinder in the 325i to a 4.0-liter V8 engine in the M3. Paired with BMW’s exceptional handling and a well-tuned suspension, the E92 3 Series is a tuner’s favorite.
The E92 also marked the debut of BMW’s ‘coupe’ style for the 3 Series, introducing a new two-door model that added extra sportiness to the lineup.
The E92 3 Series was also impressive when it came to tech. It offered options like an iDrive infotainment system, active steering, and a hardtop convertible version, which was quite a novelty then.
2016-2021 BMW M2
Moving forward, we have the 2016-2021 BMW M2, which marked a return to BMW’s roots of compact, high-performance vehicles. If you’re looking for a car that delivers pure driving fun, look no further than the M2.
Underneath its bonnet, you’ll find a punchy 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six engine. With 365 horsepower in the base model and 405 in the M2 Competition, it’s one of the best turbocharged BMWs, pushing you back in your seat whenever you hit the accelerator.
Coupled with a balanced chassis and precise handling, the M2 offers a driving experience that’s undeniably ‘M.’
Inside the M2, you’ll find a driver-focused cockpit with sports seats and M-specific gauges constantly reminding you you’re in a performance machine.
The M2 was also among the first in the M lineup to feature the Active M Differential, enhancing its cornering ability.
In short, the BMW M2 is an example of what a modern, compact M car can be. It’s a car that’s as much at home on a racetrack as it is on the daily commute, and that’s what makes it so special.
2014-2020 BMW F80 M4
Next on our list is the 2014-2020 BMW F80 M4.
Under the hood of the F80 M4, you’ll find a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six engine. This means plenty of power on tap whenever you need it.
In terms of design, the F80 M4 stands out with its muscular yet elegant styling. Key features like the flared wheel arches, aerodynamic bodywork, and quad exhaust system give it a distinctive presence on the road.
The M4 also offered various tech features, including the iDrive infotainment system, a heads-up display, and a suite of driver-assistance features.
When it comes to reliability, the F80 M4 is generally considered dependable, especially for a high-performance vehicle. Regular maintenance is crucial, as with any BMW, but many owners have reported that the M4 holds up well over time.
Whether you’re tearing up the track or cruising down the highway, the F80 M4 never fails to impress. You could even compare it to a Porsche 911 GTS!
1986-1991 BMW E30 M3
Last but definitely not least on our list is the car that started it all – the 1986-1991 BMW E30 M3.
Under the hood of the E30 M3, you’ll find a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine (later increased to 2.5 liters), an unusual choice that proved incredibly effective.
This engine, combined with the car’s lightweight and balanced chassis, provided a driving experience that was nothing short of revolutionary.
When it comes to design, the E30 M3 is an icon.
Its wide wheel arches, aerodynamic body kit, and famous ‘boxy’ silhouette are instantly recognizable. Despite its age, the E30 M3 remains a standout design, admired by enthusiasts worldwide.
The interior of the E30 M3 carries the same level of simplicity and functionality. It’s a classic driver-focused cabin with sports seats, an M-branded steering wheel, and straightforward controls.
Despite its lack of modern tech features, the E30 M3 offers a pure, unfiltered driving experience that’s become increasingly rare.
In conclusion, the BMW E30 M3 is not just one of the best BMWs – it’s one of the most influential cars in the world of performance vehicles.
What BMW years are most reliable?
While we’ve been discussing the best BMW years and models based on their performance, design, and overall appeal, it’s equally important to consider their reliability.
After all, knowing that a car will be dependable over the long haul adds to its appeal.
Generally speaking, most BMWs made after 2012 are highly reliable. However, as with any car, this is contingent upon regular maintenance and care.
Beyond the Z4, several other BMW models have a reputation for reliability, especially the new 3 Series, 5 Series, and 7 Series.
Even BMW’s high-performance G30 M5 holds a great reliability reputation, which is a great accomplishment given the performance and complexity of this car.
In conclusion, while BMW’s reputation for reliability has been mixed in the past, the brand has significantly improved in recent years. With regular maintenance and care, many BMWs have proven reliable companions on the road.
Want to learn more? Check out our article: A 2023 Study On BMW’s Reliability: Are They Good Cars?
And there we have it!
A journey through time, visiting some of the most significant years and models in BMW’s history.
What makes a BMW year ‘the best’ is more than just performance numbers or designs.
It’s the perfect balance of driving dynamics, innovative technology, thoughtful design, and timeless appeal. It’s the thrill of taking a corner, the comfort of a well-designed cabin, and the pride of owning a piece of automotive excellence.
In the end, the ‘best’ BMW year or model will often come down to personal preference.
Some may value performance and sportiness, while others may prioritize comfort and luxury.
However, regardless of which BMW you choose, you’ll enjoy many incredible miles ahead!
More BMW model lists
Interested in other interesting lists about BMW models? Find them here!
- 5 Best BMW Interiors – Ranked
- 12 Best Turbocharged BMWs Ever Made – Ranked
- The 6 Best All-Wheel-Drive BMW Models Of 2023
- Top 8 Small BMW Models In 2023 (Get More With Less!)
- 4 Best BMW Models To Get As Your First Car (On A Budget)
- 18 Most Expensive BMW Models In The World (A 2023 List)
- The 8 Most Mod-Friendly BMWs On The Market! (2023 Guide)