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Quite often, I get asked about BMW designations. What does this "ti" mean? What is the difference between the 525i and a 535i? E thirty what? So I decided to write a small article that would try to explain the differences between the designations and try to clear up some confusion on the subject. That said, here are some questions I have received.
What do they call my car an "E" something when it's a 325i, 535i, etc..?
When you hear you car being referred to as an E classification, what they are referring to is the body style of a particular car. For instance, BMW has produced a 3 Series model from 1976 to 2003. Naturally, the body style changes over time, so to avoid confusion; they refer to the 1976-83 3 Series as an E21, the 1984-91 cars as E30, 1992-99 cars as E36, and the present models as the E46. Keep in mind that certain early cars do not have an E number. Here's a break down of the "E" numbers as well as the early designations
114 1602 - 2002tii
118 1500, 1600-4, 1800, 1800tii
121 2000, 2000ti, 2000tilux
E3 2500 - 3.3Li
E6 1600, 1800, 2000 touring
E9 2500CS - 3.0 CSi
E12 5 Series cars from 1974 to 1981
E21 3 Series cars from 1976 to 1983
E23 7 Series cars from 1977 to 1986
E24 6 Series cars from 1976 to 1989
E28 5 Series cars from 1981 to 1987
E30 3 Series cars from 1984 to 1991
E31 8 Series cars from 1989 to 1997
E32 7 Series cars from 1986 to 1994
E34 5 Series cars from 1988 to 1995
E36 3 Series cars from 1992 to 1999
E36/5 318ti from 1995 to 1999
E36/7 Z3 Roadster from 1996 to 2002
E36/8 Z3 Coupe from 1996 to 2002
E38 7 Series cars from 1994 to 2001
E39 5 Series cars from 1995 to 2003
E46 3 Series cars from 1999 to 2003
E52 Z8 Roadster from 2000 to 2003
E53 X5 from 2000 to 2006
E60 5 Series cars from 2004 to 2009
E61 5 Series cars from 2004 to 2007 (Wagon models)
E63 6 Series cars from 2004 to present (Coupe)
E64 6 Series cars from 2004 to present (Convertible)
E65 7 Series cars from 2002 to 2008 (short wheelbase)
E66 7 Series cars from 2002 to 2008 (long wheelbase)
E67 7 Series cars from 2002 to 2008 (armored version)
E68 7 Series Cars from 2002 to 2008 (hydrogen powered)
E70 X5 from 2007 to present
E71 X6 from 2008 to present
E72 X6 Hybrid from 2008 to present
E81 1 Series from 2004 to present (3 door hatchback)
E82 1 Series from 2004 to present (Coupe)
E83 X3 from 2004 to 2010
E84 X1 from 2009 to present
E85 Z4 Roadster from 2002 to 2008
E86 Z4 Coupe from 2002 to 2008
E87 1 Series from 2004 to present (5 door hatchback)
E88 1 Series from 2004 to present (Convertible)
E89 Z4 from 2009 to present (Sedan models)
E90 3 Series cars from 2005 to 2008, M3 2008 to present (Sedan models)
E91 3 Series cars from 2005 to 2008 (Wagon models)
E92 3 Series cars from 2006 to present (Coupe models)
E93 3 Series cars from 2007 to present (Convertible models)
F01 7 Series cars from 2008 to present (short wheelbase models)
F02 7 Series cars from 2009 to present (long wheelbase models)
F03 7 Series cars from 2008 to present (armored version)
F04 7 Series cars from 2009 to present (Hybrid)
F07 5 Series Gran Turismo from 2009 to present
F10 5 Series cars from 2009 to present
F11 5 Series cars from 2009 to present (Wagon models)
What do these letters on the back of my car mean?
Traditionally BMW has used a series of letters to denote differences between models. For instance "is" would mean injected sports. Here's a breakdown of the letters and what they mean. Keep in mind that various BMW's used combinations of these letters. However, these letters are the most common.
i Fuel Injected
is Fuel Injected - Sports. Sports package, with better suspension, sway bars, etc..
ic Fuel Injected - Cabriolet, Convertible models
e ETA model. Built by BMW as efficiency-minded cars during the 1980's
es ETA - Sports, ETA model with sports package.
Ci Fuel Injected - Coupe. This designation is used on most modern BMW's
Csi Fuel Injected - Sports Coupe.
iT Fuel Injected - Touring. BMW's station wagon.
iX Fuel Injected - All Wheel Drive.
Ti Fuel Injected - Touring Compact.
Tii Fuel Injected - Touring International. Used only on early cars.
M Motorsports. M3, M5 for example, BMW's hot rod.
L Luxury (formerly). Basically a normal car fitted with full leather and all options, i.e. L6, L7
L Long wheelbase (currently).
What is the difference between a 525i and a 535i? A 325i and a 328is?
With the exception of the early cars, 1600, 1800, 2002 etc., BMW has usually used a three digit numbering system to identify models. The first number refers to the Series, for instance 328is would be a 3 Series, while a 740iL would be a seven series. The last two numbers are typically the engine displacement of a particular model, So, a 328is Would mean a 3 Series, Fuel Injected 2.8 liter engine with the sports package. The 740iL would refer to a 7 Series, Fuel Injected 4.0 liter engine with a luxury package. Keep in mind that the last two numbers do not always mean actual engine displacement.
What are they talking about when they say my 325i has an M20?
Usually BMW uses an M or S designation to identify their engines. In most cases several different engines would be used in a particular series, such as a 2.8, 3.5, and 4.0 all being available in the 5 Series. Here is a breakdown of the various designations and engines. For each engine listed, there is usually a displacement code. For instance, an M20B27 would be an M20 engine with a 2.7L displacement.
These are old engine codes that are no longer used.
M41 4 Cylinder 1.6L DIDTA carburetor
M42 4 Cylinder 1.8L DIDTA carburetor
M49 6 Cylinder 3.4L 24-valve Motorsport twin-cam
M60 6 Cylinder 2.0L and 2.3L carburetor or fuel injection
M68 6 Cylinder 2.5L and 2.8L carburetor
M69 6 Cylinder 3.2L fuel injection
M86 6 Cylinder 2.8L fuel injection (L-Jetronic)
M90 6 Cylinder 3.5L
M92 4 Cylinder 1.8L fuel injection (K-Jetronic)
M99 4 Cylinder 1.8L 2B4 carburetor
M102 6 Cylinder 3.2L turbocharged
These are the current engine codes used.
M10 4 Cylinder 1.8L or 2.0L single overhead cam, timing chain.
M20 6 Cylinder 2.0, 2.3, 2.5 or 2.7L single overhead cam, timing belt.
M21 6 Cylinder 2.4L Diesel single overhead cam, timing belt.
M30 6 Cylinder 2.8, 3.0, 3.2, or 3.4L single overhead cam, timing chain.
M40 4 Cylinder, DOHC
M41 4 Cylinder Diesel
M42 4 Cylinder 1.8L DOHC
M44 4 Cylinder 1.9L DOHC
M50 6 Cylinder 2.0, 2.3, or 2.5L DOHC
M50TU 6 Cylinder 2.0, 2.3, or 2.5L DOHC, VANOS variable intake
M51 6 Cylinder Diesel
M52 6 Cylinder 2.0, 2.3, 2.5, or 2.8L DOHC, VANOS variable intake
M52TU 6 Cylinder 2.5 and 3.0L DOHC, VANOS variable intake and exhaust
M54 6 Cylinder 2.5 and 3.0L DOHC, VANOS variable intake and exhaust
M56 6 Cylinder 2.5L DOHC, Dual VANOS, SULEV (low emissions)
M60 8 Cylinder 3.0 or 4.0L
M62 8 Cylinder 3.5 or 4.4L
M70 12 Cylinder 5.0L
M73 12 Cylinder 5.4L
M88 6 Cylinder 3.5L, 24 valve Motorsport engine (only in the BMW M1)
M88/3 same as above, but for all other vehicles
N42 4 Cylinder 1.8 and 2.0L (not used in North America)
N45 4 Cylinder 1.6 and 2.0L (not used in North America)
N46 4 Cylinder 1.8 and 2.0L (not used in North America)
N47 4 Cylinder Diesel with common rail injection
N52 6 Cylinder 2.5 and 3.0L Valvetronic and Double VANOS
N53 6 Cylinder 2.5 and 3.0L Valvetronic and Double VANOS with direct fuel injection
N54 6 Cylinder 3.0L Twin Turbo
N55 6 Cylinder 3.0L TwinPower Turbo with Valvetronic and direct fuel injection
N62 8 Cylinder 3.6, 4.0, 4.4 or 4.8L with Valvetronic and Double VANOS
N63 8 Cylinder 4.4L Twin Turbo with direct fuel injection
N73 12 Cylinder 6.0L with Valvetronic
N74 12 Cylinder 6.0L TwinPower Turbo with Double VANOS and direct fuel injection
S14 4 Cylinder 2.3L DOHC Motorsport engine (only in the E30 M3)
S38 6 Cylinder 3.6 or 3.8L DOHC Motorsport engine
S50 6 Cylinder 3.0 or 3.2L DOHC, Dual VANOS Motorsport engine (Non-US M3)
S50US 6 Cylinder 3.0 or 3.2L DOHC, Single VANOS Motorsport engine (US M3)
S52 6 Cylinder 3.2L DOHC, Dual VANOS Motorsport engine
S54 6 Cylinder 3.2L DOHC, Dual VANOS Motorsport engine
S62 8 Cylinder 5.0L quad cam, quad VANOS Motorsport engine
S70 12 Cylinder 5.6L Motorsport engine
I hope this article has been helpful in determining the differences between the various BMW models.
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