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Like most car companies these days, BMW’s best sellers are SUVs, but their sales are spread across their lineup, with the 4-Series slotting in as their third best-selling car of 2023. BMW builds six SUVs, four sedans, four EVs, two coupes and their convertible versions, and the Z4 Roadster.

Obviously, we’ve only made it about one-third of the way through the year, but let’s find out what makes the X5, X3, and 4-Series BMW’s most popular vehicles.

A blue 2023 BMW X5 driving down an open road.
2023 BMW X5 | BMW

The BMW lineup can be a bit confusing at times. There is a 2-Series, but the 2-series Gran Coupe is a FWD-based sedan, while the true 2-Series is a RWD/AWD Coupe—yes, an actual two-door coupe. The X5 and X3, however, are not confusing in the slightest.

The X5 came out in 1999 and the X3 in 2003, meaning they have some of the best name recognition of the SUV lineup. As we’ve seen with brands like Cadillac and Lincoln, name recognition is crucial.

It’s challenging to get people to choose an unknown product, irrespective of how awesome it may be. Thus far, BMW has sold 17,315 X5s this year, reports GoodCarBadCar. That is up over 5% from the previous year and is approximately 6,000 units more than the 4-Series. The X3 falls just behind with 15,108 units sold thus far in 2023.

Interestingly, despite the SUV craze, the 4-Series and 5-Series have sold the third and fourth most units out of BMW’s entire lineup this year. Surprising as neither is a giant truck or SUV, but it makes sense given how much brand equity matters. People know these models and will theoretically keep buying them as long as BMW doesn’t find a way to mess it up. 

The BMW X5 and X3 have superior design and practicality

Like other German brands, BMW makes a “coupe” version of almost all its SUVs . The counterparts of the X3 and X5, the X4 and X6, are essentially identical vehicles, albeit significantly less attractive. They maintain the positive elements of their boxier counterparts but do so with less cargo space and rear passenger room—concessions many SUV shoppers are unable or unwilling to make.

Let’s pretend you find the coupe versions attractive, specifically the X4. Would you give up over 10 cu-ft of cargo space for a sloping roofline? In addition to more cargo space, the X3 has more legroom and headroom and costs a few thousand less. Lifestyle vehicles are excellent, but it seems those in the market for an impractical BMW would rather have an actual coupe.

The 4-Series is a surprise contender

If you want the best BMW engineers can muster, getting a sedan or coupe makes the most sense. The 4-Series can be a proper two-door coupe/convertible or a four-door liftback.

The 4-Series sold the third most units in BMW’s lineup in 2023 with 11,997 units—nearly 5,000 units more than the 3-Series upon which it’s based. Despite the front grill being quite challenging to look at, the 4-Series seems to offer something for everyone.

It is one of the few luxury sports coupes left on the market, it can be a top-down GT cruiser, and in Gran Coupe guise, it offers tons of space due to the liftback. The variety alone could account for such impressive sales.  

Unlike in the SUV world, where impeding on practicality is antithetical to the buyer’s needs, most folks won’t be in the market for a convertible if they’re looking for cargo space on their family trip. The 4-Series is a cool and reasonably affordable way to get a BMW badge and some insane performance—assuming you opt for the M4 or M440i.

The rest of the year could tell a different story, but the X3, X5, and 4-Series are a well-rounded sample of BMW’s best, so it’s no surprise they top the list.       


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