The three things we can count on are death, taxes, and BMW’s model naming scheme being a clusterfuck. CarBuzz has recently unearthed some trademark filings that suggest BMW may change its model naming scheme yet again, and oh boy, is this new naming scheme ever confusing. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
First, a bit about what might be BMW’s new naming scheme for electric models. Unsurprisingly, each non-M EV model name still starts with lowercase ‘i,’ followed by a series number, with an X in-between if the vehicle in question is an SUV or crossover. Europe has an iX3 now and it shall continue to get an iX3 into the future. However, then come two numbers crammed right up against the series name to denote power levels. Two bigger numbers mean more power, two smaller numbers mean less power, but don’t expect them to always correlate with any actual units of measurement like horsepower or kilowatts. Add it all up and you get model names like iX340 and i420. It’s definitely jarring at first, but it’s not like BMW’s current EV model names are much better.
Right now, electric model names feature a lowercase ‘i,’ then a single number or letter to denote series, then a space, then either eDrive or M depending on model, then a two-digit number that roughly denotes power level. For instance, the i4 eDrive35 is a 4-Series electrified by the department of redundancy department and features all-electric power output that someone deep in the bowels of headquarters considered to be comparable to an imaginary 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated combustion engine.
Imaginary displacement is a bit stupid, but it’s consistent with BMW history. Remember the 533i, 633CSi, and 733i with 3.2-liter inline-sixes? That was just the start of messing around with advertised displacement. The E39 540i and E38 740i used a 4.4-liter V8, and the E60 545i and E65 745i used a different 4.4-liter V8. The old E23 745i built between 1980 and 1986 used a turbocharged 3.2-liter or 3.4-liter inline-six, except in South Africa where it used a naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter inline-six. The E30 325e used a 2.7-liter inline-six, the 1996 to 1998 E36 318is used a 1.9-liter inline-four, and the awesome 850CSi used a 5.6-liter V12. Hell, my 325i is a 3-Series with a three-liter engine that was detuned for longevity, and it was succeeded by the 328i which featured a slightly more powerful variant of the same three-liter engine that offered zero improvement in zero-to-sixty acceleration. Car And Driver clocked both the 325i and 328i at 6.1 seconds to 60 mph.
Now that every BMW is turbocharged, the displacement indicators are even less rooted in reality. Models like the M340i, 540i, and X5 xDrive40i use a three-liter turbocharged inline-six, as does the electrified X5 xDrive 50e. The M235i Gran Coupe, 330i, 530e, and X1 xDrive28i all use two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines. It may feel like a newfangled thing but for the past few decades, the displacement indicator on the back of a BMW hasn’t always lined up with actual displacement.
Oh, and that’s before we get into letters. Through BMW history, iX means AWD model from the yuppie era or giant electric SUV with the face of a naked mole rat, xi means AWD in most 2000s models like the E46 325xi, and xDrive also means AWD. In addition, e means either eta motors with low-compression or hybrid cars, d means either a naturally-aspirated or turbocharged diesel but td means a turbocharged diesel, t means hatchback (but not all hatchbacks), T means touring (station wagon, but not all of them), C means coupe or cabriolet, s means sport, L means long, and ‘i’ at the end of a model name indicates fuel injection.
Add all of this model name screwiness together and you end up with examples like this: The 2003 318ti is a 3-Series hatchback with a fuel-injected two-liter (don’t ask why) engine, and the 2003 318td is a 3-Series hatchback with a two-liter turbocharged diesel engine. If this doesn’t make any sense, you’re right. On the face of it, it doesn’t. However, actual displacement matters less than where a model is in the hierarchy, as bigger numbers typically mean more power and equipment.
While potential model names like i330 and iX450 are a touch ugly, they’re no more egregious than what BMW’s been doing for decades. Plus, BMW isn’t the only offender. Ever seen a recent Cadillac Escalade with a badge on the back that says “600”? That’s torque rounded to the nearest 50 Nm. Really though, if you aren’t a fan of BMW’s proposed new naming scheme, there’s a solution that’s been around for decades: Just rip the badges off.
(Photo credits: BMW)
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The torque figures Cadillac uses appears to stem from the Chinese market, where torque figures for EV is part of the standard naming practice for nearly all manufacturers. Perhaps Tycho can tell us more.
I once bought a debadged 323i with a 2.5 straight six. I get making the name sound like you have a bigger engine, but smaller? Weird.
Anyway, my old Lotus was an Elise 160, with a 151bhp 1.8. I’m currently trying to find the money to replace it with an Elise 111R, which has a 189bhp 1.8.
One of my MR2s was a “2.0 GT-i 16” just in case you weren’t sure if it was sporty or not.
Remember the 1980s Toyota Corolla GTS Twin-Cam 16?
At least automakers realized pretty quickly that using “Twin Cam” and the number of valves was redundant, and just went with one or the other.
There’s another weird thing about BMW’s naming scheme: 2-Series.
We assume that any nomenclature starting with odd number has to have at least four doors and even number just two doors. Yet, BMW didn’t read its own “rules of conduct” when naming 1- and 2-Series, beginning in 2010s. We had three- and five-door 1-Series (F20/F21) and two-door 2-Series (F22/F87). All neat and squared away, right? Nope, to make the matters more perplexing, BMW assigned 2-Series to the Active Tourer (F45) and Grand Tourer (F46), both of them have five doors. Hmm…
My biggest peeve is Audi’s weird two-digit number to denote the engine output:
30 = 109-128 hp (81-96 kW)
35 = 147-160 hp (110-120 kW)
40 = 167-201 hp (125-150 kW)
45 = 226-248 hp (169-185 kW)
50 = 281-308 hp (210-230 kW)
55 = 328-368 hp (245-275 kW)
60 = 429-455 hp (320-340 kW)
70 = 536+ hp (400+ kW)
C’mon, Audi, do you expect us to have this chart imprinted in our brains like the multiplication table?
oooh, Audi is equally bad with this weird naming; I swear for few months now I thought that there is a surprisingly large number of Audis with 3,5 l engines just driving around my neck of woods… it is not the case now sadly.
Whilst I do not put much stock in the names auto manufacturers affix to their vehicles (or, in the case of the Mustang, don’t), this overly complicated naming scheme is just another example of Germans overthinking and over-complicating matters.
(source: I’m German, and can relate)
In reality, though, all one needs to know, when walking into a BMW dealership, is “which model fits my budget for a monthly lease payment?”
BMW STL. Short Term Lease.
I much preferred infinity and lexus old naming scheme which was a random letter followed by the first two digits of the list price.
made it very easy to know who to follow home and rob at gunpoint.
Note to automakers: If you want me to remember your car, give it a name, not a number. For example, if you ask me to imagine what a certain Infinity looks like, I won’t be able to. They all have perplexing letter/number combos that I can’t/won’t remember.
You inadvertently hit the nail on the head. Automakers that use numeric naming like this are trying to de-emphasize the model so that you focus on the brand. When people see you rolling down the street in your i335 fDrive90 M-spec whatever, they want people to say “hey, that’s a BMW” and go buy another BMW.
Huh. Cogent point there.
And I’m going to steal it (with attribution, because I’ll always remember your name due to the song & story)
This is all merely the German sense of humor. They do this to fuck with us. Their naming schemes actually involve lottery type tumblers wherein they just throw numbers and letters while laughing hysterically at dumb-ass Americans all while we reward them with cold hard cash. It’s like a reverse lottery for them!
Not gonna lie, I read through all those numbers and designation explainers and remembered nothing, but from what I can gather they are applying their ICE naming scheme to their EVs, right. Pretty simple, compared to the apparent news that Audi will be rename the A4 and A6 to A5 and A7 respectively, with their EV equivalents taking the A4 and A6 names, completely ignoring the fact that they are already differentiated by the e-trim label. I can’t even with this logic…
I love that the Germans popularized alphanumeric naming, with that sheen of logic and organization, even though they all have become MORE confusing than any other naming scheme.
I do love when they try to rip up the playbook and simplify. You then end up with things like Mercedes naming their high end EV sedan the EQS, and their high end SUV…the EQS.
And I would love to have been a fly on the wall for the meeting when Audi decided to name their new EV SUV the Audi eTron, and then having eTron be what they call EV models, yet still have the eTron model exist.
So, you are a consultant to BMW. What naming scheme would you recommend? If you gave actual names to the cars, what would your suggestions be?
I would make sure that they all have names that mean one thing in German and something completely different in some other language. Or something unpronounceable that’s 22 letters long with at least three umlauts.
Introducing the all-new BMW Scheiße.
Audi is doing just that with the etron line up, la ligne de merdes in french.
It’s a good question. Maybe suitably stern Germanic animals? But whatever they’d choose, have the names…in German.
Any sensitivities to that sort of thing are long-gone at this point, and many of the target BMW crowd would love the supposed continental flair it would impart. Same reason why the import tuner crowd adores the JDM names for their cars.
I always thought Mazda had one of the more straightforward systems.
Hatchbacks & Sedans: 2, 3, 6 (higher numbers are larger cars)
Crossovers & SUVs: CX-3, CX-30, CX4, CX5, CX8, CX9 (again, higher number is larger)
“Other/sport”: MX-5, adding electric MX-30
Pickup truck: BT50
Too bad they don’t use the RX category anymore.
Or we could follow Porsche’s example and just name everything a Turbo. Anything else is just details.
I’d be happy if the people who named vehicles for Ford and Dodge just freelanced for the entire industry. Not like they nail EVERY name but they’re easily my favorites on average. Memorable, simple, with a punch.
A Prius driver
At this point, I don’t get OEMs not just integrating their EV offerings into their mainstream model lineup. If EVs are the future, why is BMW bothering with its “i” model lineup (i4, iX, etc.), or VW with its “ID.” lineup, instead of just using the brand equity already in place?
It’s even worse for brands themselves. Cupra will replace Seat? Why bother building a brand to replace an established (and successful) one? Same with Polestar -unless they eventually fully split from Volvo.
To me this seems rather shortsighted.
Or even intra-brand. Like Ford building a very cool, capable, and well-priced EV but then misguidedly calling it a Mustang.
Upset more than 50 years’ worth of fans AND run headlong into the problem of what happens when an actual EV Mustang of the usual variety appears in a few years?
Could have been a Taurus (game-changing in a big way) moment for Ford if it had given it its own name. The Bishop did a great Ford Torino sketch, but coulda even gone with Ford Galaxie/y if a retro-but-still-appropriate name was the goal.
I saw a Polestar 2 on the highway the other day. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but noticed how distinct this vehicle was coming and going. They’re lucky I was able to find it by searching “disjointed cross car logo”. Splitting the brands makes some sense to me for luxury vs. not-luxury, but yeah…for EVs I don’t quite get why you’d want or need it to be separate.
They must get a bulk discount on the lowercase i’s. Thats why it can be on either end of the name and all models use it.
Luckily I can always count on BMW fanboys on the internet to explain it all to me, in between getting upset that I might have confused an M54 with an N54 or some other mortal sin.
I mean, the goofy names don’t bother me as much as their current styling – either way no reason for me to set foot in a BMW showroom any time soon
What really bothers me is that people are still lining up to buy them despite the styling, so they have no reason to change. As I’ve lamented a few times, their entire design and marketing strategy is trolling at this point. They’re intentionally churning out hideous designs to get attention, going U MAD BRO?! Lol you idiots will still buy them”, and lo and behold….people are still buying them.
I probably see at least one beaver toothed BMW every commute. Insert “he can’t keep getting away with this” Jessie Pinkman gif here.
German car companies and over complicating things: name a more iconic duo
Italian car companies and unexplained fires?
How dare you! All those fires were perfectly explainable!
British cars and shoddy wiring?