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The 6 Best BMW Cars Ever Made

Author: Cameron | Updated: 16th May 2023

BMW cars are some of the finest examples of vehicle engineering around. Most of the German manufacturer’s range consists of powerful, luxurious models that genuinely excite. Since 1980, when the first BMW was sold in the UK, we’ve seen some incredible models arrive from across the Channel.

But if you were going to choose a BMW, which one should you consider? Discover some of the best BMW cars (in our opinion) ever made.


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1. BMW E30 M3 (1986-1991)

BMW 3-series e30 M3 - best BMW cars

The BMW M3 that started it all – the E30 was the very first M3 made and is considered by many car enthusiasts (us among them) to be the best ever.

At the time it made history that still resonates with car lovers today. For starters, BMW threw in some radical changes for enhanced performance that the standard E30 3 Series it was based on didn’t have. That is, a sporty front diffuser, beefy rear apron, rear spoiler, and changes to the C pillar all served to improve the aerodynamics of this model.

Of course you then have the addition of the iconic ‘M’ Sport badge on the front and back to let you know you’re driving something unique. Everything about this car looks and feels cool.

But what’s so impressive about the E30 M3 were the other mechanical changes and engine upgrades that made this car what it is. Specific brake calipers, master cylinder and rotors were unique to this first-generation M3.

Then you’ve got the engine – a 2.3-litre, four-cylinder ‘S14’unit with a high-revving dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) design. It has 192bhp (or a whopping 350bhp when it was in racing tune) and loves to be worked hard. In fact, the higher you are to the 7,000rpm redline the better you see the magic from this car.


The brand-new BMW M3 is available to lease toda for fixed monthly payments and comes with the same notorious performance as its predecessor. Moneyshake helps you find the best deal on the latest sixth-generation M3.


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2. BMW i8 (2014-2020)

BMW i8 - best BMW cars

While the plug-in hybrid BMW i8 was only discontinued last year, it left a lasting impact on people familiar with the brand and drivers alike. That’s because everything about its design is still futuristic to this day. The aerodynamic wheels, incredibly low-drag shape and splashes of glitz across the body are all very pleasing on the eye.

Beyond just looks, the i8 uses very clever engine technology to cater for a multitude of driving scenarios. The multitude of driving modes – hybrid is very peaceful and efficient. There’s even an all-electric setting that means you can drive up to 35 miles for and hit a max speed of 75mph. Most impressive is the way that the car uses minimum energy even when you keep it in its normal driving mode.

Together, the 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine and electric motor produce a whopping 369bhp that take the i8 from 062mph in just 4.4 seconds.

BMW even created a convertible ‘Roadster’ version of the i8 which looked even more incredible over the standard coupe. While it was slightly slower than the coupe off the mark (only by 0.2 seconds), there were neat features added, like vertical-opening butterfly doors that looked very cool.

What the BMW i8 did so well was serve really well as both a driver’s car and was easy to live with too. If you want to give it some ‘oomph’, switch to sports mode and the damper settings firm up, the eco-meter becomes a rev counter and there’s even a bit more engine noise to prepare for a launch.

But if you just want to drive in town or on the motorway, the ride from the i8 is very comfortable, as you’d expect from a much more sensible BMW.


3. BMW 4 Series (2014-present)

BMW 4 Series - best BMW cars

The BMW 4 Series has received a lot of stick in the past, mainly for being branded as just a more expensive, stylish 3 Series with a sloped roofline.

But times have changed and BMW has genuinely rethought the concept of this sporty coupe. Not only has a new, more aggressively styled face been added to the 4 Series, but its dynamic has been changed. Namely, a wider rear and lowered centre of gravity has improved the aerodynamics of the vehicle.

What’s more is that the suspension and chassis have been stiffened for more agile performance out on the road.

These improvements make a massive difference out on the road too. And we can’t ignore the vast improvement this car has made, which is why it makes our list.

When you start driving the new BMW 4 Series, the standard rear-wheel drive setup and muscular 181bhp 420i petrol engine come to life. Despite the 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds not seeming that impressive on paper, there’s still enough pace for the car to be considered fun.

‘Variable’ steering also comes as standard on all 4 Series models for better, more responsive handling in town. But then you can just as quickly turn the car to Sport mode at higher motorway speeds to firm up the steering to make the car less nervous.

Those of you looking for an absolute trail-blazing sports coupe will want to check out the top-of-the-range M440i model. It comes with a six-cylinder, 3.0-litre petrol engine with a huge 369bhp, four-wheel drive and a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox.


4. BMW 3 Series (1975-present)

BMW 3 Series - best BMW cars

There’s a reason why BMW’s uber-popular 3 Series is its current best-selling model in its lineup.

As its entry-level, compact saloon, the 3 Series has always been a go-to model for business people or those looking for access to a solid all-round executive car. Because the car is well-built, has sporty rear-wheel drive and is full of modern equipment as standard.

What’s most impressive about the BMW 3 Series is how it performs on the road over rivals like the Audi A4. Handling is second to none, especially when you choose a model that has the M suspension equipped. Most of the engines are quicker than in its Audi counterpart too.

Another feature which is important in the 3 Series which contributes to its driving ability is 50/50 weight distribution. This helps the car to stay grounded through corners, as does the fact that the car isn’t overly heavy (around 1.5 tonnes).


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5. BMW X1 (2009-present)

BMW X1 - best bmw cars

The multi-talented BMW X1 has had a similar development path as the 4 Series mentioned earlier. At first, the X1 wasn’t really that great, though it did kickstart a trend for premium SUVs.

Today, the X1 is a truly great model to drive. It has a stiffer suspension setup that means it’s very secure through corners, whereas rivals like the Volvo XC40 and Range Rover Evoque don’t hold you in place as well.

Another great factor about the X1 is that, despite the fact that it’s technically a compact family car, it’s super practical. Up front, there’s loads of headroom and legroom, with highly adjustable seats that let you get a comfy position very easily. Cubby spaces are really good too, with two cupholders, big door pockets and a small cubby holder in front of the gear lever for any loose items. There’s even a bonus cubby space below the arm rest which is handy for your mobile phone.

In the back of the X1 you can easily fit a couple of six-foot-tall passengers for longer journeys. Adding another adult in the back would be a bit of a stretch, as it would in most of the X1’s key rivals too. However, three children could sit in the back comfortably.

The latest X1 range comes with a plug-in hybrid engine (badged ‘xDrive25e’) which is by far the quickest and most fuel-efficient model in the lineup. It’s also a great option for a business lease because its incredbly low CO2 emissions of 41g/km mean company drivers benefit from cheaper BiK (Benefit-in-Kind) tax rates.


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6. BMW Z3 (1998-2003)

Silver gray BMW Z3 car with convertible roof

You might be looking at the car above and find it difficult to put your finger on its design. That’s because, unlike a lot of the BMWs in our list of favourites, the Z3 M is something of an anomaly.

There are no models that it follows and when BMW killed it off in the early 2000s it wasn’t replaced either. But regardless of the past or future of this model, what we do know is that it was a brilliant car to drive. This is mostly down to the fact that it had a very stiff chassis and a quirky design that was often referred to as a “clown shoe” or “bread van” by those who weren’t big fans of the vehicle’s design.

First to come out of the BMW’s production lines was a convertible ‘roadster’ version of the Z3, which features a soft-top instead of the coupe’s hardtop roof. Both were powered by different engines – the latter getting a fantastic inline-six engine with 190bhp or 316-321bhp for the M version of the vehicle.

Famously, the car appeared in the 1995 James Bond movie “GoldenEye” after BMW created a 007 Bond Edition version of the car.

Today, the closest model to the Z3 is the current BMW Z4, which is itself a competent sports car. With rear-wheel drive and powerful engines available, the car has quickly become renowned for being fun to drive.


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