What’s The Best Non-M Drivers’ Sedan From BMW?

What’s The Best Non-M Drivers’ Sedan From BMW?

BMW is largely credited with the creation of the sports sedan as we know it today. That credit might not always be deserved but no doubt, its M division has single-handedly crafted some of the best driver’s cars in history. But we wonder which four-door sedan from the Bavarian automaker has been the best driver’s car without wearing an M badge?

It’s a trickier question than it might sound on the nose of it. First of all, the first truly sporty sedans that came out of BMW probably won’t get the average driver’s feathers very ruffled these days. Secondly, BMW has largely diluted the M-brand today by placing it on all sorts of vehicles that can’t be described as hardcore M cars.

Take for example the new M235i xDrive Gran Coupe. By most accounts, it’s a good and checks all the necessary boxes. It’s fast, it’s good in the bends, and despite the unfortunate nomenclature, it does indeed have four full-size doors. But we can see the argument that maybe it shouldn’t count because it starts with M and well, it’s a front wheel-drive platform-based model even if it’s AWD.

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Still, we’ll allow those entries because, as mentioned, they’re not the same type of hardcore M cars that most enthusiasts would think of when asked this question. Despite that group of allowable choices, we think there are a number of excellent drivers that could also be in the running.

The E46 3-Series will surely get quite a lot of attention here as the 330i ZHP was especially good. Rated at 235-horsepower (175 kW), it was and still is considered one of the cheapest ways to enjoy most of the benefits of owning an M3 without the same sort of maintenance costs.

The E39 540i likewise should get some votes thanks to its burly V8 and excellent manual gearbox. For a long while I owned a twin-turbo 535i from the E60 generation of the 5-Series and can confirm that it’s incredibly capable as a driver’s car. In fact, take the powertrain, drop it in the E90 3-Series and you get a 335i which is another potential choice here.

1988 BMW 320is. Photos Bring-a-trailer

Or perhaps you guys and gals can dig deeper into BMW’s history and uncover other gems, perhaps ones that weren’t initially available in all markets like the Italian and Portuguese special E30 320is, which while not branded an M-car, was essentially a lite E30 M3 (available with both four- and two-doors) featuring a de-stroked version of the S14 at 2.0-liters delivering 192 hp.

So what do you think? Which non-M BMW sedan is the best ever made?

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