In the realm of BMW’s nomenclature, certain vehicles, such as the M3, begin with a letter and then a number. Other names, such as the 328i, start with a number and then a letter.

If a car’s name begins with a letter, it’s generally one of the following: “M,” “X,” “Z,” or “i.” These automobiles come in a range of body designs.

M stands for BMW Motorsport, which includes the M3 and other BMW models. A crossover/SUV body type is represented by the letter X. The X Series cars are also assigned a number from one to seven according to their size, such as the midsize X6, a sports activity coupe. The letter Z signifies two-seater roadsters with rear-wheel drive.

The lowercase I stands for electric or hybrid vehicles, such as the i3 five-door hatchback.

There is one other letter prefix, which is less well-known: “B,” which stands for Alpina, a business that manufactures and distributes high-performance BMWs. This prefix indicates that the vehicle is a badge-engineered variant of a Beemer series.

The names of BMW passenger automobiles begin with a number, which denotes a series. The series run from 1 to 8, with 1 being the smallest and least expensive automobile and 8 being the largest and most expensive. Odd-numbered series, such as 3, 5, and 7, formerly denoted four-door sedans.

Even-numbered series designations, such as 2, 4, 6, and 8, were meant for two-door coupes and related vehicles.

BMW, on the other hand, has thrown a monkey wrench into its nomenclature by extending the body styles of the odd-number series in recent years. The BMW 3 Series, for example, has been enlarged from a four-door sedan to a two-door convertible, two-door coupe, five-door station wagon, five-door liftback, and three-door hatchback. As a result, the series numbering scheme may not always be a trustworthy indicator of a car’s body type within a specific series.

More letters and less reasoning

BMW’s alphanumeric name sequences and exclusions are perplexing, but the letters at the end of these names may not provide any further insight. Only a handful are self-evident, such as a lowercase “d” for diesel or a small I for injection (a fuel-injected engine). You might know some of them, such as GT (Gran Turismo), “T” for Touring, and the “M” following the car name, which signifies a Motorsport variant, like the X6 M.

Others perplex. While the lowercase “td” for turbo diesel is understandable, the small “t” for the hatchback is not. You may expect that a vehicle with a lowercase “e,” such as the Audi e-tron, would be electric.

BMW’s alphanumeric decoding guidelines

The following are some examples: The 3 Series comes in sedan, wagon, and hatchback body variants, all of which are practical, traditional German designs. By contrast, the 4 Series coupe, convertible, and fastback are low-slung, elegant, and eye-catching.

The same reasoning may be used for BMW SUVs. The odd-numbered series, such as the X3 and X5, have blocky, austere designs. The X4 and X6’s sharp kidney grilles, slanty roofs, and bubble butt design indicate a more unusual and sportier look. According to DeMuro, electric automobiles appear to function similarly. The i3 is a practical city car, whereas the i8 is an innovative sports car.

However, even a reasonable generalization like DeMuro’s is stymied by BMW’s naming scheme. The automaker’s down-to-earth minivan is actually a 2 Series, which throws his rule out the window.

It only goes to show that, despite our best efforts to decode BMW’s nomenclature, the automaker’s constant innovation still results in name discrepancies.1