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2021 BMW 3 Series vs. 2021 BMW 5 Series: which of the two sedans to choose?

three quarter front view of the 2021 BMW 330e
three quarter front view of the 2021 BMW 530e xDrive

It's an irrefutable fact that although SUVs are currently in fashion at BMW, the Bavarian manufacturer is a master at designing luxury sedans. In fact, among premium sedans with the longest careers in the industry, there are two from the automaker: the BMW 3 Series, in production since 1975, and its bigger sibling, the BMW 5 Series produced since 1972.

Over the course of their respective generations, the two luxury sedans from Munich have continued to improve in terms of comfort, technology and luxury, but also in terms of performance. Indeed, each of them gets its own sporty variant signed by the manufacturer's Motorsport department. The 3 and 5 Series share many similarities, making it difficult to choose between the two cars at the time of purchase, especially for their respective 2021 model years, both well rounded.

So: 2021 3 Series or 2021 5 Series for your next BMW sedan? BMW West-Island, your BMW dealer of choice from Montreal to Laval helps you helps you make the choice that best suits your lifestyle below.

Undeniable BMW DNA, but individual personalities.

The first round of this 3 Series vs. 5 Series match: the exterior styling, which will be your first exposure to each vehicle. One thing is clear: both sedans are authentic bimmers in their respective lines. With their typical BMW headlight design, iconic double kidney grille, extended plunging bonnet, and rearward passenger compartment ending in a short trunk when viewed from the side, the 3 and 5 Series can't deny their BMW genes, and that's just as well!

side view of the 2021 BMW 330e
lateral view of the 2021 BMW 530e xDrive

However, each of them has its own character: the lighting signature of the headlights is more complex for the 3 Series, while more streamlined and L-shaped on its bigger sibling. The taillights are also more tapered on the former, while those of the 5 Series are more massive but still very dynamic. From the side, the 3 Series is also slenderer, while the 5 Series is naturally more imposing in its body volumes.

So, your choice will have to be guided by your own preferences! If you want a sedan with slimmer and sportier lines, the 2021 BMW 3 Series will be your best option. If, on the other hand, you would like a more charismatic BMW sedan that will make a statement on the roads between the West Island and the North Shore of Montreal, then the 2021 BMW 5 Series is your best bet.

Same range structure, but more power for the 5 Series.

However, you know it as well as we do, a premium sedan is judged more on its mechanical aspects than on the design, especially if it's German. And in our 2021 BMW 3 Series vs. 2021 BMW 5 Series comparison, our two protagonists are no exception, even in Montreal!

Here is a summary of the 2021 BMW 3 Series and 5 Series technical specifications, in table form for greater clarity!

3 Series vs. 5 Series Technical Data Comparison

2021 BMW 3 Series 2021 BMW 5 Series
Version Specifications Version Specifications

Plug-in hybrid powertrain (2.0L 4-cylinder + electric motor with 12.0-kWh battery), 288 hp, 310 lb-ft

RWD, 8-speed automatic

530i xDrive

Turbo 2.0L 4-cylinder, 248 hp, 258 lb-ft

AWD, 8-speed automatic

330i xDrive

Turbo 2.0L 4-cylinder, 255 hp, 295 lb-ft

AWD, 8-speed automatic

530e xDrive

Plug-in hybrid (2.0L 4-cylinder + electric motor with 12.0-kWh battery), 288 hp, 310 lb-ft

AWD, 8-speed automatic

330e xDrive

Plug-in hybrid powertrain (2.0L 4-cylinder + electric motor with 12.0-kWh battery), 288 hp, 310 lb-ft

AWD, 8-speed automatic

540i xDrive

3.0L turbo inline 6-cylinder, 335 hp, 332 lb-ft

AWD, 8-speed automatic

M340i xDrive

3.0L turbo inline 6-cylinder, 382 hp, 369 lb

AWD, 8-speed automatic

M550i xDrive

Turbo 4.4L V8, 523 hp, 553 lb-ft

AWD, 8-speed automatic


3.0L turbo inline 6-cylinder, 473 hp, 406 lb-ft

RWD, 6-speed manual

M3 Competition

3.0L turbo inline 6-cylinder, 503 hp, 479 lb-ft

RWD, 8-speed automatic

M5 Competition

Turbo 4.4L V8, 617 hp, 553 lb-ft

AWD, 8-speed automatic

You can see this clearly in the table above: you will have more choice in the 2021 3 Series range. For example, you will be able to choose between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive for the 2021 BMW 3 Series Hybrid (the 330e). Similarly, you can choose between two versions of the M3 (the "regular" one with 473 hp, and the Competition with 503 hp), both of which offer a unique driving experience as both variants only have a rear-wheel drive system!

However, what the 2021 5 Series range 'loses' in choice, it gains hands down in terms of capabilities. Indeed, all its variants are all-wheel drive, and only one transmission is available (an 8-speed automatic). Power outputs are also much higher for the 5 Series engines; for example, the M550i offers 523 hp, which is more than its 3 Series equivalent (M340i: 382 hp). The same goes for the Motorsport version: the M5 Competition delivers 617 hp! However, as the 3 Series is shorter than the 5 Series, it will handle better than the latter.

Therefore, it all depends on what you want! If you want the ultimate in BMW Canada performance, choose the 5 Series with its powerful and noble engines and all-wheel drive. If you want a more spirited driving experience, choose the more compact 3 Series and its drive system, which can be a rear-wheel drive depending on the variant you choose!

Flawless, highly luxurious and ultra-technological interiors.

Finally, the best for last: the interiors! On this last point, the two sedans are equal in terms of ambient design; you and your passengers will benefit from a relaxing atmosphere, conducive to travel! The same goes for the materials and finish: very sound! So, what makes them different? The available room inside, especially behind the second row of seats. Indeed, while the trunk volume is about 368 litres for the 3 Series, it reaches some 530 litres in the 5 Series. This proves that the latter is clearly intended for longer distances than its smaller sibling!

On the other hand, in terms of equipment, the two BMW sedans will simply offer you the best. Leather upholstery, electric glass roof, head-up display, quad-zone automatic climate control, or Bowers & Wilkins sound system: depending on the model and version, you will have everything you could wish for to travel comfortably, whatever your final destination!

interior view of the 2021 BMW 330e with a leather upholstery
interior view of the 2021 BMW 530e xDrive with white upholstery

Conclusion: 3 Series for the feel and handling, and 5 Series for long distance and performance.

So here, everything about the 2021 BMW 3 Series vs 2021 BMW 5 Series comparison has been said! And as you can see from the title here, there is no better choice among both vehicles. It all depends on what you want! If you're looking for practicality, and to be comfortable in the city while having maneuverability on the road, opt for the 3 Series. For the ultimate in performance and efficiency, with more cargo space for on-road use, go for the 5 Series.

Overview of this 3 Series vs. 5 Series comparison

2021 BMW 3 Series 2021 BMW 5 Series
Typical BMW design in both cases, but…
...a more slender and tapered features ...a more imposing design that makes a statement on the road
High performance engines for all models, but…
...less power, but a choice of drive systems and gearboxes (auto or manual), and a smaller size for better handling. ...mechanical nobility, superior efficiency and performance, but above all great driving comfort, because of its larger size.
Ergonomic, luxurious, highly technological and tremendously comfortable interior in both cases. However...
...a smaller interior space, especially in the trunk. ...more room for luggage to travel longer distances.
For those who value handling and driving experience above all else, with the performances to match.

Intended for those:

For whom interior space is important, and who primarily drive long distances.

Seeking greater efficiency and performance.

Still undecided? Come directly to BMW West-Island, your BMW dealer of choice in the Montreal sector of the same name! We'll answer all your questions, and help you choose the BMW sedan that's right for you! You will also be able to learn about our promotions, as well as our current BMW leasing and financing programs. See you soon!

rear view of the 2021 BMW 330e on a road
three quarter rear view of the 2021 BMW 530e xDrive

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