12 Best & Worst BMW 3-Series Years (With Pictures)

The BMW 3-Series is without a doubt the most successful luxury sports sedan in history.

Aside from its nimble handling and class-leading performance, it also offers the latest tech and luxury features with every new generation.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the best and worst years of the 3-Series from the last two decades.

2023 BMW 3 Series

Here’s The Short Answer To What The Best And Worst Years For The BMW 3-Series Are:

The best BMW 3-Series model years are 2023, 2021, 2017, 2016, 2012 and 2003. The worst model years of the 3-Series are 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2000. This is based on auto industry reviews, NHTSA statistics, reported problems, and consumer feedback.

What Are The Best Years For The BMW 3-Series?

2023 BMW 3-Series

For the 2023 model year, the seventh generation BMW 3-Series received minor cosmetic updates which included a new grille, headlights, bumpers and wheels.

What’s more impressive is the new curved display that spans across two-thirds of the dashboard which seamlessly combines the large 14.9-inch infotainment screen with the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

It’s the same ultra-widescreen design you’ll find in the 7-Series and X7 flagship models.

It also features the latest iDrive 8 software which comes with updated voice recognition that adds the ability to control the windows and sunroof.

There are basically 4 trim levels to choose from: 330i 2.0-liter inline-4, M340i 3.0-liter inline-6, 330e PHEV, and the high-performance M3 model.

The base 330i is more than enough for most people with its highly reliable B48 engine producing up to 255 hp. Car and Driver was also able to get an impressive 42 mpg with the base model 3-Series.

You can get the M Sport package and optional adaptive dampers to make it handle more like the high-performance M models.  

  • Edmunds: 4.7 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.2 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 81 / 100

2023 M340i, Edmunds review:

“It’s been around 4 months since I first received it and it truly never gets old. The power, luxury, drive quality, and technology along with great mpg all come together to make the greatest modern BMW daily ever made in my opinion. I can’t recommend this car enough. it has turned all my Mercedes and Audi friends into BMW enthusiasts just from one drive in it. Truly a game changer.”

2021 BMW 3-Series

The 2021 BMW 3-Series added two new models: the 330e PHEV and the latest iteration of the iconic BMW M3 — completing the G20 generation’s model lineup.

The new 330e can go up to 22 miles in all-electric mode (50% more than the previous generation 3-Series PHEV) which is more than enough for daily commutes and errands. It’s also nearly silent in EV mode.

The performance-oriented M340i (first introduced in 2020) also got a new mild hybrid system, which smooths out the stop/start system and gives it a noticeable acceleration boost. 

Android Auto also became a standard feature in 2021 while Apple CarPlay became standard in 2020.

  • Edmunds: 4.6 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.2 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 81 / 100

2021 330i, Edmunds review:

“I came from an A7 to this. Very different car. I sit up a little higher.  Has the blind spot and lane assist like the car drives itself. Easy to speed but it will slow you down if you have drivers assist. Love the display and the controls. I have owned Mercedes, Volvo, Audi, and this is hands down the Ultimate Driving Machine. Has every feature, but most importantly, it drives smooth. It is both classy and sporty.”

2021 BMW 330e Sedan

2016 & 2017 BMW 3-Series

2016 was the year the BMW 3-Series F30 generation got a Life Cycle Impulse (LCI) update.

Aside from styling and feature updates, 2016 and newer models also got more reliable engine options.

The base 320i’s 4-cylinder N20 engine was replaced with the B48, which was carried over to the G20 generation.

The 335i was replaced with the 340i which uses the 6-cylinder B58 engine.

The 328d’s N47 diesel engine was also replaced with the newer B47 engine. 2016 was also the first year of the 330e plug-in hybrid.  

The 2016 328i still used the N20 engine, but this was eventually replaced by the 330i in 2017 which used a more powerful version of the B48 engine.

Although BMW addressed the timing chain issues of the N20 engine in 2015, many owners have complained that it’s still very unrefined and sounds like a diesel engine.

These final model years of the F30 generation also marks the last time a manual transmission was offered for the non-M3 models of the BMW 3-Series.

2016 BMW 3-Series

  • Edmunds: 4.4 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.5 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 82 / 100

2017 BMW 3-Series

  • Edmunds: 4.0 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.5 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 80 / 100

2016 320i, Edmunds review:

“Car rides great, drives great and gets great gas mileage. Love the way it handles and performs.  Could not be happier with our purchase.   We have owned the car for over 2 years and it has been in the shop only once for a minor problem besides the routine service.”

2017 BMW 3 Series Sedan, Model M Sport

2012 BMW 3-Series

Although the E90 sedan was replaced by the F30 generation in 2012, the coupe, convertible, wagon, and M3 variants continued to use the older platform until the following year.

Most driving enthusiasts prefer the communicative hydraulic-assisted power steering of the E9x generation. Although the F30 and newer generations’ electric power steering (EPS) is lighter and easier to steer, it doesn’t transfer any road feel to the steering wheel.

2012 was also the year that BMW finally updated the problematic high-pressure fuel pump (HPFP) of the 335i’s N55 engine.

The N52 engine in the E90 328i, which was the last naturally aspirated BMW straight-6 engine, is also known for its reliability — particularly with its later versions. Unlike the turbocharged N20 4-cylinder engine of the pre-facelift F30 models, which had timing chain issues that often led to catastrophic engine damage.

It also marked the final years of the glorious-sounding V8-powered M3, which was discontinued after the 2013 model year.

  • Edmunds: 4.4 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.5 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 81 / 100

2012 335is, Edmunds review:

“I absolutely love this car (2012 335is)! I was hesitant to get it because of the maintenance nightmare stories, but if you don’t dog it out and keep it maintained, the N54 motor is very reliable. The slight horsepower boost is noticeable in sport mode over the normal 335i. The steering is tight and very engaging and the suspension seems to hold well while cornering. The interior reflects quality craftsmanship especially in the seats.”

2012 BMW 3 Series Sedan, Sport Line

2003 BMW 3-Series

By the 2003 model year, the fourth-generation BMW 3-Series, also known as the E46 model, had received many significant upgrades. 

The sedan and touring (wagon) variants received a facelift in 2001, along with the introduction of the 325i and 330i models featuring the new M54 engine. That same year, BMW also released the E46 M3, which was the last M3 to have a naturally aspirated inline-6.

BMW also addressed the rear subframe issues which significantly reduced the number of reported rear-end failures for the 2002 models.

In 2003, BMW upgraded the 330i’s 5-speed manual with a new 6-speed Getrag gearbox. The ZF Steptronic transmission was also replaced with a GM unit, which many consider to be more reliable.

Additionally, this was the year when BMW introduced the 330i ZHP Performance Package.

The E46 generation combines the character of the older E30 and E36 models with the comfort and modern amenities of the newer cars. It also isn’t as riddled with electronics as newer models, so it’s much easier on the wallet to keep on the road.

  • Edmunds: 4.7 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.5 / 5.0
  • JD Power: NA

2003 335is, Edmunds review:

“I have a 2003 330i, 5spd manual, 182,000km and have had it for 12 years. This car is what other manufactures set their goal to match and even try to beat but can’t.  It offers excellent performance, handling, luxury leather interior, fold down seats for plenty of storage, 3.0-liter engine which is good on gas. Manual transmission makes it fun to drive, It has been bulletproof reliable, and compared to Audi or Mercedes Benz parts, I would say not an expensive car to own. It looks better than the models that followed it, especially the latest offering from BMW. Do yourself a favor and find a well cared for model and this is a car that can last you a lifetime!”

2003 BMW 3 Series Coupe 

Consumer Scores For Best BMW 3-Series Years

Model YearEdmunds
Consumer Rating
Kelley Blue Book
Consumer Rating
JD Power
Consumer Rating
2023 BMW 3-Series4.7 / 5.04.2 / 5.081 / 100
2021 BMW 3-Series4.6 / 5.04.2 / 5.081 / 100
2017 BMW 3-Series4.0 / 5.04.5 / 5.080 / 100
2016 BMW 3-Series4.4 / 5.04.5 / 5.082 / 100
2012 BMW 3-Series4.4 / 5.04.5 / 5.081 / 100
2003 BMW 3-Series4.7 / 5.04.5 / 5.0NA

Related: 10 Most Common BMW 3-Series Problems (Explained)

What Are The Worst Years For The BMW 3-Series?

2006 BMW 3-Series

The first model year of the BMW E90 3-Series sedan has the most number of complaints on CarProblemZoo.com.

Aside from different electrical issues that crop up over time, one of the most common issues with this model year is the ‘steering lock’ problem. When the steering column’s lock eventually fails, you won’t be able to turn the wheel or start the car.

Here’s how one owner described their issue:

“My ’06 BMW 325xi is exhibiting a yellow caution light, indicating that there is an issue with the electronic wheel lock. My local dealer said the fix is to replace the steering column, which will cost about $1,000. If I don’t fix it, the yellow warning light will eventually turn red, at which time, I reportedly will not be able to start my car.”

Unfortunately, the steering lock tends to fail well after the warranty is over so owners were often left with no option but to replace the entire steering rack. 

This issue was immediately corrected in later model years with a new steering rack that had no lock.

This model year was also affected by the infamous Takata airbag recall where metal fragments can explode onto occupants’ faces during deployment which greatly amplified the number of reported complaints.

The 2006 3-Series had a total of 29 complaints on CarComplaints.com and 1,299 complaints on CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Takata airbag recall
  • Steering wheel lock
  • Hydraulic lifter tick
  • Electrical issues
2006 BMW 325i

2007 & 2008 BMW 3-Series

The 2007 and 2008 BMW 3-Series were the first model years of the performance-oriented 335i model which came with the problematic N54 turbocharged inline-6 engine.

The N54 engine was BMW’s first mass-produced turbocharged engine. Despite its awesome performance and potential for tunability, it eventually suffered from lots of major issues over time.

One of the most common issues with the N54 was early fuel pump failures, which made the engine go into limp mode or not start at all.

Here’s how one owner described their experience:

“High pressure fuel pump failure in 2007 BMW 335i convertible @ 36k miles. Car was purchased in April, 2010 with 32k miles.”

Another common weakness of the N54 engine was its turbochargers.

These can easily fail when aftermarket tunes upped the boost pressure, but they can also wear out over time even at stock levels.

The two turbochargers cost a lot of money on their own, but the labor cost is even more expensive.

The 2007 3-Series had a total of 29 complaints on CarComplaints.com and 1,196 complaints on CarProblemZoo.com.

The 2008 3-Series had a total of 17 complaints on CarComplaints.com and 831 complaints on CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • High pressure fuel pump
  • Turbo issues
  • Water pump failure
  • Oil leaks
  • Fuel injectors
  • Carbon buildup
2008 BMW 328xi Sedan

2011 BMW 3-Series

The 2011 model year of the 328i had lots of complaints of VANOS bolt failures which are very expensive to fix.

BMW issued a recall for this issue but some models were not included.

Here’s how one owner described their experience:

“The bolts for my VANOS adjuster unit failed at approximately 143,000 miles on my 2011 328i xDrive wagon (chassis code e91). In 2014, BMW issued a recall (campaign no. 14v-176) for this exact issue. On the first page under the “model” section, it is stated that the e91 chassis is affected. However, on the second page, the e91 chassis is not listed under ‘affected vehicles’.”

This was also the year that the E90 335i transitioned to the updated N55 engine, which used the same problematic high-pressure fuel pump as the N54 engine.

This resulted in the same failures that plagued the N54 engine.

The 2011 3-Series had a total of 13 complaints on CarComplaints.com and 929 complaints on CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • VANOS issues
  • High pressure fuel pump
  • Water pump failure
  • Oil leaks
BMW 3 Series Sedan Sport Line

2013 BMW 3-Series

The 2013 model year was the first year the 328i used the BMW N20 engine which had lots of reports of premature timing chain failures.

The N20’s timing chain guides were made of plastic and had a tendency to wear out and break prematurely.

This often led to broken pieces ending up in the oil pan and getting sucked into the engine. The timing chain can also become too loose and skip the camshaft gears, causing catastrophic engine damage.

BMW only addressed the timing chain guide issue in early 2015, which means that many 2013 to 2015 F30 generation BMW 328i models are at risk of engine failures.

Here’s how one owner described their experience:

“2013 BMW 328i x drive. A drivetrain warning light came on at approx 11300 miles. After dealer inspection the timing chain guides may have caused/or the chain may be loose and is now dropping metal into the engine oil. Repair requires a new engine. Inspection also revealed a wastegate control malfunction on the turbo.”

The 2013 3-Series had a total of 13 complaints on CarComplaints.com and 342 complaints on CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Timing chain problems
  • Water pump failure
  • Oil leaks
2013 BMW 328i (F30) M Sport Sedan

2000 BMW 3-Series

E46 models from 2000 and earlier had lots of reports of automatic transmission failures.

The most common problem was the loss of reverse gear. This was eventually fixed in 2001 and later model years.

Here’s how one owner described their experience:

“Just yesterday my reverse went out on my wife’s 2000 BMW 323i without warning. This car only has 62,000 miles on it and has been cared for extremely well.”

These pre-facelift models of the E46 were also more prone to chassis issues when the rear subframe mounting points would crack.

The 2000 3-Series had a total of 6 problems on CarComplaints.com and 544 problems on CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Automatic transmission issues
  • Rear subframe problems
  • Cooling system issues
  • VANOS issues
  • Widespread airbag recall
2000 BMW 3 Series

Related: How Long Do BMW 3 Series Last? (Solved & Explained)

What Years Have The Most Complaints?

Model YearComplaints
2023 BMW 3-Series1
2022 BMW 3-Series1
2021 BMW 3-Series9
2020 BMW 3-Series8
2019 BMW 3-Series13
2018 BMW 3-Series24
2017 BMW 3-Series44
2016 BMW 3-Series367
2015 BMW 3-Series6133
2014 BMW 3-Series19296
2013 BMW 3-Series17390
2012 BMW 3-Series7197
2011 BMW 3-Series15971
2010 BMW 3-Series5345
2009 BMW 3-Series132052
2008 BMW 3-Series251019
2007 BMW 3-Series291380
2006 BMW 3-Series291593
2005 BMW 3-Series17271
2004 BMW 3-Series19657
2003 BMW 3-Series21616
2002 BMW 3-Series31520
2001 BMW 3-Series13615
2000 BMW 3-Series6672
1999 BMW 3-Series9267
1998 BMW 3-Series5106
1997 BMW 3-Series948
1996 BMW 3-Series358

What Problems Do BMW 3-Series Have?

  • Cooling system plastics
  • Oil leaks
  • Timing chain issues
  • Serpentine belt failure
  • Electrical problems
  • Fuel injector failures
  • Carbon buildup
  • VANOS issues
  • Fuel pump failure
  • Electric Water pump failure

What Are The Best Alternatives To The BMW 3-Series?

Make & ModelScoreMSRPFuel Economy (MPG)
Acura TLX7.6$39,650 – $62,000City: 19 – 22 / Highway: 25 -31
Alfa Romeo Giulia8$44,280 – $79,760City: 17 – 24 / Highway: 25 – 33
Audi A48.7$40,300 – $42,400City: 21 – 24 / Highway: 30 – 33
Audi A58.6$44,600 – $53,900City: 18 – 24 / Highway: 25 – 33
BMW 3-Series8.4$43,800 – $58,400City: 16 – 25 / Highway: 23 – 34
BMW 4-Series8$45,900 – $68,250City: 16 – 25 / Highway: 22 – 34
Cadillac CT46.3$34,395 – $60,495City: 16 – 23 / Highway: 24 – 34
Genesis G708.5$39,400 – $47,000City: 17 -21 / Highway: 26 – 31
Ininiti Q507.2$42,650 – $58,500City: 19 – 20 / Highway: 26 – 29
Kia Stinger8.4$36,690 – $54,090City: 17 – 22 / Highway: 24 – 32
Lexus IS7.4$39,435 – $61,620City: 17 – 21 / Highway: 25 – 31
Mercedes-Benz C-Class8.7$44,850 – $90,000City: 16 – 25 / Highway: 24 – 36
Volkswagen Arteon8.3$43,010 – $50,175City: 22 – 25 / Highway: 31 – 33
Volvo S608.1$41,300 – $50,300City: 25 – 26 / Highway: 33 – 35

Source: cars.usnews.com, edmunds.com











  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...