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BMW history

BMW in the 1990s - all new Z3 roadster and the X5 SUV

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In November 1990 the 3 Series is renewed by the E36 model. If the E30 was first available as a coupé, the E36 is launched as a sedan first. There were four models available: 316i, 318i, 320i, and 325i. The six cylinder models all had a new 24 valve engine from the E34 5 series.

A four-valve modified version of the K100 RS motorcycle is launched this year. It will go on to be named motorcycle of the year five years running. ABS is now standard on all K-Series machines.


New diesel engines are available for the 3 Series and the 5 Series. The 525tds had the new M51 six cylinder diesel engine which had 143bhp. The same engine but without the intercooler equipped 325td. Turbo models carried the "td" badge, while intercooler models are coded "tds".

On March 18, 1991 the one millionth BMW motorcycle rolls off the factory production floor. It is a three-cylinder K75 RT that is eventually donated to the Red Cross.


BMW presents the new E36 3 Series coupé. It was available as 318is, 320i and 325i. The 318is had the same 16 valve engine as the E30 318is but now had 140bhp.
Introduced in Europe at the 1992 Paris Auto Show, replacing the E30 M3, the original E36 M3 featured a six cylinder engine with 286 hp and a top speed of 250 km/h. The engine was designated the S50.

The E34 M5 has now a bigger displacement engine, increased from 3.5l to 3.8l, developing 340bhp.
The Touring version for the 5 Series E34 is launched and also the four wheel drive version for the 525, named “ix”.  

The new 730i and 740i eight cylinder replaced the 735i and 735iL. The eight cylinder models received the same wide kidney grille as the 750i.


The 3 Series E36 receives new body versions like the convertible and the compact. The compact version is essentially a 3 Series coupé with a chopped off boot lid. To make it affordable only small engines were available like the 316i and the 318i.

Meanwhile the 5 Series grows bigger in terms of engines with the 530i and the 540i. Both the E34 BMW 530i and 540i shared the M60 engine. The 530i developed 218bhp while in the 540i it developed 282bhp.

The ultra luxurious 8 Series receives a v8 engine in the 840Ci model developing 286bhp.  Top of the line 8 Series was the 850CSi. It’s v12 engine developing a staggering 380bhp.

The R1100 RS sports tourer motorcycle is fitted with both Paralever rear suspension and the new Telelever front suspension.


The convertible and the sedan versions of the E36 M3 model are revealed.

The E38 7 Series was introduced in August 1994 replacing the E32. Almost all 7 Series models are automatic with a five speed adaptive transmission. The iL models have an extra 140mm of wheel base, which provides more rear leg room.
BMW’s flagship sedan became the 750iL with its v12-cylinder engine the same fitted in the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph. 

Under the leadership of Bernd Pischetsrieder, BMW acquires the Rover Group. This brought the active Rover, Mini and Land Rover brands as well as rights to other brands such as Austin, Morris, Riley, Triumph and Wolseley under BMW ownership.

BMW finished the building of a new plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina in the United States.


The E36 3 Series receives the Touring version, the 4th body style after the sedan, coupé and convertible making it the most complete series from the BMW range.

With a more streamline body and a fresh design the E39 5 Series replaces the old E34. The base model was the 520i, which developed 150bhp in the earlier models and developed 170 hp in later models. Most parts of the chassis are made from aluminum, giving precise and responsive handling for more rewarding driving.

BMW revives the roadster market with the Z3 model. It is the first car produced in the Spartanburg plant. The Z3 was developed from the E36 platform of the 3 Series. The resulting platform is sometimes referred to as the E36/7(roadster) or E36/8(coupé). This model also featured in the famous James Bond movie, “Golden Eye”.

McLaren F1 GTR wins the famous Le Mans 24 hours race. What not everybody knows is that this impressive car was powered by a BMW engine. The road version of the F1 had a BMW 6.1 Liter V12 engine producing 627 hp. This engine was initially designated for an M version of the 8 Series but it never went into production.   


It is time for the E39 5 Series to receive the Touring version. New engines are available for the 5 Series: 535i and 540i. The 540i was powered by the 282bhp 4.4l v8.

A long version (L) is now available for the entry level 7 Series, the 728i.

BMW introduces the company's most powerful motorcycle to date, the four-cylinder liquid-cooled K1200 RS.


Because the Z Series had only small 4cylinder engines a larger straight-6 2.8l engine is now available. This engine, similar to the 3 Series except with an all aluminum block and head, was especially desirable with its 189bhp.

In response to a drop in demand for sporting machines, BMW markets it’s first-ever chopper/cruiser the R1200 C.


With a complete new design with a nice looking interior and some updated engines.
The higher price of the new E46 3 Series did not matter; it sold well from the start. The following engines were available from the start: 318i / 320d and 320i / 323i / 328i.

BMW introduces the E39 M5 at the Geneva Motor Show. Unlike its predecessors, the E39 M5 was not handbuilt at the BMW M GmbH factory; it was produced on the same assembly line as the normal E39 5-series at the Dingolfing factory in Germany. The E39 M5 was also the first M car powered by a V8 engine. The S62 engine with 400bhp made the new M5 the world's most powerful sedan.

The top versions of the Z Series were of course the ones wearing the M badge. The two body versions (roadster and coupé) had a 240bhp, 3.2l engine. 

In 1998, both BMW and Volkswagen tried to purchase Rolls-Royce Motors. Volkswagen outbid BMW and bought the company for £430 million, but BMW outflanked its German rival. Although Volkswagen had bought rights to the "Spirit of Ecstasy" mascot and the shape of the radiator grille, it lacked rights to the Rolls-Royce name. Rolls-Royce plc (the aero-engine business) retained the rights over the Rolls-Royce trademark and wished to strengthen its existing business partnership with BMW which extended to the BMW Rolls-Royce joint venture. Consequently, BMW was allowed to acquire the rights to the grille and mascot, and licensed the name and "RR" logo after 2003 for £40 million. Volkswagen was permitted to build Rolls-Royces at its Crewe factory only until 2003, but quickly shifted its emphasis to the Bentley brand.

After a 12-year absence BMW returns to the Paris-Dakar Rally with F650 competition motorcycles.


The E46 3 Series range receives the coupé and the touring versions.

The next car that came out of the BMW’s plant in Spartanburg South Carolina was the E53 X5 SUV. BMW called it a SAV, Sports Activity Vehicle because the X5 had limited off-road capabilities but a sporty handling and feel very similar with one from a BMW sedan. Two engines were available at the start: the 4.4 liter v8, producing 286bhp and the 3.0 liter straight six with 231bhp.

BMW presents a successor for the famous 507. It is called the E52 Z8. The car combines perfectly the classic lines of the BMW roadsters together with modern design. The appointments are superb, from the soft leather interior, the art deco steering wheel, to the sculptured rear view mirror and brushed metal trim. The roadster had an all aluminum chassis and body. The power plant was the E39 M5 engine giving it a sprint from 0 to 60mph in under 5 seconds.
The car was featured in the James Bond movie “The World Is Not Enough” in late 1999.

Once again the Bavarians win the Le Mans 24 Hours race with the BMW V12 LMR car running in the LMP 900 (Le Mans prototype) category.

BMW returns to Formula 1. The German manufacturer signs a long term agreement with Williams F1 Team to supply engines and expertise for a period of 6 years.

BMW's motorcycle division had the strongest sales year in its entire history.

BMW 5 Series, E39

BMW 5 Series E39 sets new standards for ride, comfort and handling

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