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Most BMWs have identifying Model Numbers on the rear of the trunk lid or in other locations, like this:

arrow The "5" refers to the Series, the 5 Series. 

Other current Series numbers are 3 and 7. Series 6 and 8 were used in the past. BMW has announced a 1 Series future model.

arrow The "30" refers to the engine displacement, 3.0 liters. 

Current models run from 1.6 in the 3 Series Compact to 5.0 in the 7 Series Sedan. These numbers are not always accurate; the E30 325e and the E28 528e had the same engine, a 2.7 liter!

arrow Many model numbers have a suffix, like "d" in the picture above. 

The "d" refers to a diesel engine. A popular suffix is "i", which originally referred to an Injected (fuel-injected) model, but has come to represent BMW performance, and it is applied to a number of models. 

Here are some other common suffix codes and what they mean:

s = Sport model These models have sporting options like bigger brakes, stronger suspension, etc.
e = Economy engine Technically, "e" refers to the Greek letter "eta", which means "efficiency". The eta engine was used in the 325e and 528e models.
t = Turbo charged engine When used alone, "t" can refer to gasoline or diesel models. The "td" stands for " turbodiesel" while "tds" refers to " intercooled turbodiesel". 
t = Touring For early models, " touring" could refer to hatchback, wagon, or even sport versions.
x = All Wheel Drive model The original model was the E30 "ix", but the latest E46 3 Series AWD model is designated "xi".
L = Long wheelbase model Examples include the 7 Series Sedan, 750iL. Sometimes, "L" is used as a prefix, like the "L6" and "L7" models. These models are not only long, but they are also premium models, usually with extra luxury features.
C or c = Coupe Sometimes used with an "S", like "Coupe Sport". The "C" code is often used for luxury coupes like the 6 and 8 Series. The new E46 3 Series uses the "C" code, too.
A = Automatic transmission Rarely seen, for BMW does not often advertise automatic transmissions! A common example is "525iA".

Here is another BMW model number:

  • The "M" stands for Motorsport, a unique division of BMW. BMW Motorsport specializes in high performance versions of BMW production automobiles. 

  • The "M" logo usually appears with distinctive racing stripes, like the above picture.

  • The "3" refers to the Series, the 3 Series. M cars have built in the 3, 5 and 6 Series models. The first M car - the M1 - was a production version of a racing model. The M designator has also been used with model numbers, like the M535i and the M635Csi.

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