A Guide to the BMW Naming System

A Guide to the BMW Naming System


When looking for a BMW, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the complex naming system BMW uses to describe its vehicles. The combination of letters and numbers may make it seem very complicated; however, BMW has actually put a lot of thought into their naming system and it’s easier to understand and decipher than it may first seem. Depending on the model, the BMW may use a series of numbers followed by one or two letters, or one or two letters followed by a series of numbers. The following is a quick guide that breaks down some of the most common model and series numbers for BMW automobiles.

The Numbers
BMW usually uses odd numbers for vehicles that can be classified as sedans with four doors. This is different than even numbered BMWs, which use even numbers to distinguish themselves as coupes or other two door automobiles. The number 1 is used for one of the smaller and less expensive BMWs, whereas the number 8 is reserved for some of BMW’s heaviest hitters when it comes to top-of-the-line luxury.

The Starting Letters
It’s important to note that the letters used in naming BMW automobiles are used in conjunction with the numbers, and can also be used in conjunction with each other, such as letters at the end of the model. The letters at the beginning of a BMW mean that the letters indicate the series. Some of the most common letter series include M, Z, X, and i. Each letter corresponds to a series, such as the M series indicating a MotorSports automobile, or the X series indicating BMW’s crossover (just like the letter X is a criss-cross of lines) into SUV type vehicles. The i stands for Electric or Hybrid technology used in vehicles.

The Ending Letters
The letters used at the end of BMW models help to distinguish one variant from another. For example, a letter at the end of a model may indicate an added or additional feature which adds to the vehicle’s uniqueness or individuality. Common letters used at the end of models include C, GT, d, i, iT, T, L, M, and sDrive. C stands for coupe but is generally only used at the end in earlier models of BMWs. GT stands for Gran Turismo, d stands for a diesel engine, i stands for a fuel injected BMW, iT stands for Touring (T) and petrol injected (i), T stands for the touring shape, L indicates a long wheelbase, M stands for the sports version of the model, and sDrive indicates a rear-wheel drive car.

Putting it Together
Here are some examples using the system outlined above. When you know what each letter or number stands for, it’s easy to identify the type of BMW each series and model number corresponds with. One popular BMW is the BMW 750iL. The number 750 places it in the 7 series of BMWs, meaning that it is a luxury car and is a full-size, four door vehicle. The letter i means that it is fuel injected, whereas the letter L means that it has a long wheelbase. Thus, the BMW 750iL is a long wheelbase, fuel injected, four door luxury BMW. Using the information provided above, it’s possible to identify a BMW vehicle just from its model and series numbers.