Most Iconic BMW Cars Ever Made: Our TOP 10

1987 BMW M3

BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke AG) started its history in 1916 with the production of aircraft engines, and today it is a reputable multinational manufacturer of luxury vehicles and motorcycles. We’ve selected the 10 most iconic BMW cars ever made, in our opinion, although this list could actually be longer.

1. BMW M3

  • Production: 1986–2018, 2020 – present
BMW M3 1987 Front
1987 BMW M3

The first-gen BMW E30 M3 (1986–1991) is the brand’s all-time icon, a high-performance version of the BMW 3 Series that became a successful sports car. It has earned more titles in motorsport than the Porsche 911 and put on the list of the greatest cars.

The initial model was available in a 2-door coupé body style. A 2-door convertible joined soon after, and 4-door sedans were available for the 2nd E36 (1994–1999) and 4th E90 generations (2008–2012).

To the disappointment of BMW fans, the model has been rebranded as the 4 Series since 2014, and now the coupe and convertible are referred to as the M4 models.

The original BMW E30 M3 made a name for itself and is not forgotten: today this generation easily fetches $100K.

2. BMW 2002 Turbo

BMW 2002 Turbo 1973
1973 BMW 2002 Turbo

This model is from the 02 Series lineup of compact executive cars based on a shortened version of BMW New Class sedans.

The carmaker debuted the BMW 2002 Turbo (E20) at the 1973 Frankfurt Motor Show. Only 1,672 units were built, but this car is important for BMW heritage because it was the first to use a turbocharger.

The “2002” name stands for 2-liter 2-door. Under the hood, the car had a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine making 168 hp at 5,800 rpm and 177 lb-ft of torque and allowing the vehicle to reach a top speed of 131 mph.

Today the BMW 2002 is one of the most in-demand vintage cars and remains one of the best-looking models of the Bavarian brand of all time.

3. BMW 507

  • Production: 1956-1960
1956 BMW 507 image
1956 BMW 507

The roadster is an iconic BMW, a true rarity produced only in 252 units, and a tidbit for collectors. Despite the fact that BMW lost money on every 507 built, its impact on future roadsters like Z3, Z4, and Z8 makes the car important.

In 1954, American automobile importer Max Hoffman persuaded the BMW bosses to build a roadster version of the BMW 501 and 502 sedans to fill the gap between the Mercedes-Benz 300SL and MG and Triumph cars.

Although the model had a massive reputation as the “most beautiful car in the world”, it was too expensive to survive in the market. BMW used the best materials and the skills of the best technicians to build the 507. The car’s 3.2-liter, V8 engine delivered 150 hp. The 507 had a top speed of 122 mph and accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in 11.1 sec.

Interesting fact: a 1957 BMW 507 is the most expensive vehicle of the brand ever sold. It was bought for an incredible $5,040,500.

4. BMW Isetta

  • Production: 1955-1962
BMW Isetta 1955 photo
1955 BMW Isetta

The model went down in history as the smallest BMW car ever. Surprisingly, it was a top seller, with total sales of 161,728 units.

The Isetta originated from the Italian Iso SpA firm. BMW acquired the Isetta in 1955 to offer its worldwide as a mass-market car. BMW re-engineered the Isetta’s powerplant around its own engine but kept the car’s original design intact. The BMW Isetta got a 247-cc one-cylinder four-stroke 12-hp motorcycle engine.

The company continued with the Isetta 250 and 300. The Isetta 2-seater spawned the BMW 600 4-seater microcar produced from mid-1957 until November 1959. The 600 was BMW’s first postwar 4-seater economy car that started the design process for a more successful BMW 700.

5. BMW 3200 CS

  • Production: January 1962 – September 1965 (603 units built)
1962 BMW 3200 CS
1962 BMW 3200 Coupe CS

The sports touring car with a beautiful Italian exterior design ends up on our list for several reasons. It was the first-ever BMW to feature the Hofmeister Kink – a trademark design element that consisted of a forward/rearward angle near the base of the C-pillar.

Also, the 3200 CS marked the end of an era of BMW’s early postwar luxury platform used for the 501 and subsequent vehicles. It was the last BMW car to have a solid rear axle, pushrod-operated engine valves, and a perimeter frame

Finally, the 3200 CS’s styling influenced the 2000 CS coupe from BMW New Class, as well as the New Six coupes.

The BMW 3200 CS had a distinctive grille design (further met on later models): rectangular horizontal grilles at the sides and a vertical slim two-oval grille in the center that evolved into BMW’s famous kidney grille afterward. Other distinctive features of the model are big round headlamps fitted to round fenders.

The 3200 CS was powered by a 3.2-liter 160-hp V8 engine further mated to a 4-speed manual transmission. The car had a top speed of 124 mph and needed 8.9 seconds to accelerate from zero to 60 mph.

6. BMW 3.0 CSL

  • Only 1,265 cars were built
BMW 3.0 CSL track car
BMW 3.0 CSL homologation model

This homologation model was nicknamed “Batmobile” for its specially-shaped rear spoiler. The car is a track version of the BMW E9 coupe series, one of the most legendary BMWs, and the most powerful BMW CS.

BMW introduced the 3.0 CSL in May 1972 specifically for racing in the European Touring Championship, which it won four consecutive years.

One of the key reasons behind the BMW 3.0 CSL’s success was the 3.0-liter 6-cylinder 206-hp engine that enabled it to gain a top speed of 137 mph.

1972 BMW 3.0 CSL
1972 BMW 3.0 CSL

Another reason for the car’s impressive performance was the lightweight materials (aluminum, thinner steel sheets) the company used to reduce the vehicle’s overall weight. In fact, the name “CSL” stood for “Coupe Sport Lightweight.”

7. BMW 7 Series

  • Production: 1977 – present
1977 BMW 7 Series image
1977 BMW 7 Series

This full-size flagship sedan is the successor to the BMW E3 “New Six” sedan. Now it is in its seventh generation, and some rumors say a coupe version could be in the pipeline. The 7 Series has always been a trendsetter that traditionally introduced new technologies and exterior design themes before other BMW models.

In particular, the original V6-powered 1977-1987 BMW E23 7 Series introduced many advanced features for the first time on a BMW, namely a driver’s airbag, an onboard computer, complex climate control systems, a service interval indicator, a “check control panel”, a dictaphone, an anti-lock braking system, and double-link front suspension.

The second-generation E32 7 Series was the most remarkable car in the auto industry: it brought to practice Electronic Damper Control, Traction Control, V12 and V8 engines, dual-zone climate control, double glazing, and Xenon headlamps.

8. BMW M5

  • Production: 1984 – present
BMW M5 2001 photo
2001 BMW M5

This high-performance variant of the BMW 5 Series is considered an iconic car in the sports sedan category. In some markets, a wagon variant was also available in 1992-1995 and 2006-2010.

The original M5 was hand-built in 1985 on the E28 535i chassis. Due to an upgraded engine borrowed from the BMW M1, the first-gen M5 was the world’s fastest production sedan of its time.

The third E39 generation of M5 (produced in 1998–2003) really put the 4-door sports sedan on the map. It was the first M5 with a V8 engine (4.9L 400-hp one paired to a 6-speed manual transmission) and the first M5 to use a multi-link rear suspension and aluminum front suspension components. That model with a nice combination of agility, utility, and performance was able to challenge Porsche and Ferrari cars.

BMW M5 Touring 1992
1992 BMW M5 Touring

In 1992, BMW M released an M5 Touring version with race-based technology sourced from the M5 sedan. BMW designers aimed to create a car that combined sportiness with roominess and comfort. The M5 Touring was the last manually assembled BMW.

The 5-seater wagon received the best-in-class engine – a 3.8-liter straight-six DOHC gasoline one producing 340 hp at 6,900 rpm. It took 5.9 seconds for the vehicle to speed up to 60 mph, and it gained the top speed of 155 mph (electronically limited). BMW made only 891 units, so the M5 Touring is a rarity of its kind.

9. BMW M1

  • Production: 1978-1981
1979 BMW M1 image
1979 BMW M1

Despite the fact that only 453 units were produced, this is a prominent model in the history of BMW, a supercar of its decade, hand-built, one of the rarest BMWs. The M1 is the first mid-engine production car of the brand (the second is the BMW i8 PHEV) and the first M-badged vehicle.

Initially, BMW had planned to build the car in collaboration with Lamborghini, but the contract was canceled, and BMW produced the car itself.

The M1 had an eye-catching sleek exterior designed by an Italian designer Giugiaro and packed around 270 horsepower from a 3.5-liter inline-six engine. Its 0-60 mph acceleration was very fast for the time – just 5.5 seconds. Its top speed of 162 mph was also more than decent.

1978 BMW M1 Procar photo
1978 BMW M1 Procar

The car also had a race version – BMW M1 Procar – that was able to develop 850 hp and reach 192 mph due to body tweaks and engine upgrades made. The Procar was not a commercial hit, but it was a famous BMW in the racing world. Good performance and exotic appearance make the BMW M1 a sought-after car today.

10. BMW Z8

Production: 1998-2006, 5,703 units built

2001 BMW Z8 image
2001 BMW Z8

The James Bond movie helped make the BMW Z8 (E52) roadster iconic. The model was designed by Henrik Fisker and Scott Lempert to celebrate the BMW 507 from the 50s, The success of several prototypes led to the commercial development of the Z8.

The car had an all-aluminum chassis and body, and a 4.9-liter V8 with 400 hp and 370 pound-feet of torque, like the E39 M5. Acceleration from zero to 60 mph took up to 4.2 seconds, while the max speed the Z8 reached was 180 mph or 155 mph when electronically limited.

Due to a limited run, luxury, and beauty, this car has become a collectible at present.

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