The BMW New Six is a line of six-cylinder luxury cars produced by the German automaker BMW from 1968 to 1977. The series was introduced as a response to the Mercedes-Benz-dominated large luxury car class and was very important in establishing BMW's reputation as a maker of sporting, luxury sedans. A two-door coupé version was produced alongside. Racing versions of the coupé enhanced BMW's reputation in auto racing. The sedans have the internal name E3, while the coupés are E9.
Models were given names denoting their engine sizes, and suffixes to indicate the long-wheelbase (L) and fuel injection (i) available on later cars. The coupés were all named CS, followed by i (for fuel injection models) or L (for light-weight models, which also had fuel injection and higher power).
The two initial models, introduced in 1968 and sold through 1977, were the 2.5 L 2500 and 2.8 L 2800. In 1971, the Bavaria, made exclusively for America, replaced the 2500/2800 models, but used the 2.8 L engine with some interior features stripped out to give a more attractive price, about US$5,000, less than the $6,874 of its full-featured predecessor, the 2800.
They were roomy 6-cylinder cars that handled well and impressed contemporary reviewers. Road & Track called the Bavaria "delightful" and "superb", concluding that it was "one of the world's best buys". The big-bore 3.0S was introduced in 1971. It was more powerful and expensive than the 2800; a fuel-injected version was also made. Also produced were long-wheelbase L models (3.0L, 3.3Li, etc.), whose sharp handling was a stark contrast to the large Mercedes-Benz models of the time. Langley Motors in Thames Ditton UK also produced an estate (tourer) version.
In the US market, the 2500 and 2800 were introduced in 1969. The 2500 was shy of many of the luxury features included in the 2800, and with the smaller engine , it sold for about $5600 in 1970. The 2800 sedan was heavily optioned with such things as full leather interior, power windows, and power sunroof, which its price of $6,874 reflected. For the 1971 model year Max Hoffman, the BMW importer for the USA, convinced BMW AG to build the 2500 configuration car but use the 2800 engine i.e. the classic "American hotrod" formula of taking the lower option, lighter weight chassis and fitting the largest engine.
This new E3 configuration was called the "Bavaria" and was unique to the US market. Hence the 1971 E3 sedans available in the US were, initially, the 2500, and 2800, then the Bavaria replacing the former models. The Bavaria is generally considered the forebear of the modern BMW high-performance sedan as it combined excellent acceleration, good fuel economy, plenty of room for four people and a large trunk.
The majority of them were sold with a four-speed manual transmission, reflecting the sporting nature of the sedan. With a well designed fully independent suspension, front and rear, along with four wheel disc brakes, the E3 was well ahead of its time in the early 1970s.
For the 1972 model year, the 2500 was dropped while the M30 engine size in the Bavaria was increased to 3.0 liters. The former 2800 was now called the 3.0S reflecting the 3.0 liter engine. These two models, the 3.0S and the Bavaria, were the E3 sedan line-up for 1972 through 1974. However, in 1974 the E3 received the ungainly, federally mandated 5 mph (8.0 km/h) bumpers front and rear significantly altering its profile.
In 1975 BMW introduced fuel injection to the US market for the big-six M30 motor replacing the twin two-barrel Zenith carburetors used on the M30 motor since its inception. The Bavaria was dropped from the line-up, and the 3.0Si was now the highest end of the BMW model range (the "i" added to the 3.0S to designate fuel injection). The bargain end of the 6-cylinder sedan range was now the newly introduced E12 530i. The fully optioned 3.0Si was sold during the 1975 and 1976 model years.