BMW's 3 Series has just turned 40.
The Munich car maker is making a big fuss for the birthday of its smallest sedan, timing the launch of the F30 facelift to coincide with celebrations.
There's been the occasional wobble, but by and large there's never been a 3 Series that hasn't been great to drive.
E21 - 1975-1982
The car that started it all, replacing the much loved but ageing 2002. Top of the tree was the 323i, unveiled in 1977, with a 107kW 2.3-litre six and all-wheel disc brakes.
E30 - 1982-1993
The legend. Looked great, performed well and ushered in the first M3, which is now one of the most desirable cars of the 1980s. End of line 2.5-litre Sport Evo now worth big bucks.
E36 - 1990-2000
Somewhat unloved in M guise, though the range now stretched to sedan and convertible as well as coupe. Good enough to win MOTOR's Performance Car of the Year in 1997, though. Aussie-only M3 R an absolute weapon, only 15 built.
E46 - 1998-2007
Was arguably the class benchmark during its entire production run, and the M3 earned BMW its second Performance Car of the Year title in 2002. Limited-run CSL still special today, but we'd aim for a manual CS, which picked most of the good CSL bits for far less money. Also spawned the wild V8 GTR, of which 10 were built.
E90 - 2004-2012
Didn't dominate as the E46 did, partly because the introduction of run-flat tyres didn't do the ride or handling any favours. Still a great car, and the V8 M3 is one of the all time greats. Rare (and expensive) GTS become the ultimate M3, but we'd prefer the GTS-engined, carbon-panelled CRT sedan. Only 67 exist.
F30 - 2011-Present
The jury's still out on whether the latest generation will join the list of greats, but as a performance sedan BMW's latest is still right up there. New M3 divides opinion with its turbocharged 3.0-litre six, but its shattering performance is inarguable.
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