The 3 Series is always among BMW's most popular models, and the sixth-generation F30 was no different. But with the seventh-generation G20 hitting the roads, its predecessor is starting to feel a little long in the tooth.
So what options do you have? Do you really have to upgrade to the latest BMW 3 Series, or is there still life in the F30 yet?
To help you make up your mind, we take a thorough look at the F30 3 Series, how it is to own and what you can do to breathe new life into your older vehicle. BimmerTech makes it particularly easy with our range of BMW F30 retrofits, including park assist cameras, Apple CarPlay, navigation retrofits and car audio upgrades.
Let's start with the basics. With so many overlapping terms — BMW 3 Series, BMW 320i, BMW F30 — BMW's naming conventions can get a little confusing. Of the three, F30 is the one you're probably least likely to hear. People usually refer to their cars as a BMW 325i or BMW 335i, rather than an F30.
Break things down and it's clear how things work. The 3 Series is BMW's family of compact executive cars, nestled below the more substantial 5 Series. The 3 Series has been in production since 1975, during which time it's gone through several versions.
The F30 is BMW's internal model code specifically for the sixth-generation 3 Series sedan, produced between 2011 and 2019. This model code differentiates it from 3 Series vehicles from other BMW generations, like the E90, E46 and E36.
Within a single series, BMW uses different model codes for each body style. For most of the world, the sixth-generation 3 Series was made up of three models: F30, F31 and F34.
F30 refers to the standard four-door sedan. Sharing the same platform is the F31 wagon (also known as the 3 Series Touring), and the F34 3 Series Gran Turismo, a five-door hatchback with a sloping, coupe-style fastback.
All three BMW 3 Series models have a lot in common, including many engine options, meaning a BMW 328i could just as easily refer to a family-friendly wagon as to a sports sedan. Other configurations, however, such as the BMW 330e plug-in hybrid, can only be found in the typical sedan package.
The underlying similarities between the different models means that they are often considered alongside each other. For example, discussion on major BMW F30 forums like Bimmerfest and Bimmerpost is also dedicated to the F31 and F34.
As a newer car, the latest G20 3 Series has more technological bells and whistles than its predecessor, but that doesn't mean the F30 has to go without. If you're shopping for a used F30 3 Series and having a car packed with the latest tech matters to you, it could be worth picking up one with the Technology Package.
The Technology Package includes:
The technology package does not include Enhanced Bluetooth (S6NSA), which was sold as a standalone option. Enhanced Bluetooth is designed for smartphone integration, letting you browse your phone's music library over Bluetooth, pair two phones and use BMW's Mobile Office feature to check your texts, emails and calendar events on the iDrive screen.
The F30 3 Series uses the same remote key fob as other BMW F Series cars, so any tips and tricks for the F10 5 Series, F25 X3, F15 X5 or other models from the same generation are likely equally applicable to the F30/F31/F34.
How to change F30 key battery
Standard F30 key fobs without Comfort Access come with non-rechargeable batteries that should last up to three years. If your fob has stopped working, or you've just noticed your remote range has got worse, it could be time to replace the battery.
To do so, simply remove the internal key blade to reveal a small hole behind the plastic back plate of the fob. They key blade can be used as leverage to pry off the back plate, giving you access to the CR 2450 battery.
How to get a new BMW key
If changing the battery doesn't help, the problem might be with the key fob itself. If you have a faulty or broken key fob, or just need a replacement for one you've lost, getting a new BMW original fob is the only option.
For security reasons, all F30 key fobs must be programmed by BMW to match your exact vehicle, ruling out using second-hand fobs. This process is designed to prevent thieves gaining illegitimate access to your vehicle. BimmerTech offers BMW F30 replacement key fobs that have been prepared by BMW, guaranteeing proper functioning. Fobs are available with or without the laser cut key blade.
How to program F30 key fob
After receiving your replacement F30 key fob, it's necessary to pair it with your BMW to activate it.
Doing so is easy. After unlocking your vehicle with your existing key, set the key down away from your car, hold the new fob against the key markings on the side of the steering column and hold the start/stop button until the 'no key' warning light disappears. Pressing the start/stop button again will confirm the pairing worked.
How to close BMW windows with remote
The F30 key fob can do more than just lock and unlock the doors. It's also possible to control the windows and sunroof remotely by pressing and holding the lock and unlock buttons on your key fob to roll the windows up and down.
BMW does not make the remote closing feature available in all markets. If you can't close your windows by holding the lock button on your F30's key fob, you will need to activate this option through coding.
BMW F30 coding
Remote window control isn't all coding can do for your F30. It's possible to make changes to several aspects of your iDrive through coding, giving you a car that better suits your needs.
How to code your BMW F30
The simplest way to code your BMW F30 is with BimmerTech's Easy iDrive Coding. We offer two coding methods depending on your vehicle: coding via cable or via USB.
Coding via cable is primarily for F30s from the 2011--2013 model years, as well as vehicles without the high-end technology or navigation options. Coding via cable requires connecting your laptop to your BMW's OBD port with an ENET cable. This connection lets our expert technician code your F30 remotely.
Coding via USB is compatible with most F30s with an NBT or NBT Evo head unit. This innovative process is designed for ultimate convenience, letting you code your car whenever you want simply by plugging a flash drive into your vehicle's USB port. Within a few minutes, your car will be coded and ready to go.
Both methods let you code your BMW F30 from home at a time that suits you.
What things can you code on a BMW F30?
When coding your F30, you have plenty of options to choose from. Popular options include:
Exactly which options are compatible with your F30 depends on your head unit and vehicle configuration. You can check the full list of options for your car by entering your VIN on BimmerTech's BMW iDrive coding page.
As well as changing your vehicle settings, coding can also let you activate third-party services, such as SiriusXM satellite radio for BMW or BMW's Apple CarPlay option. Many people will no longer consider buying a new vehicle without CarPlay, so the right BMW F30 CarPlay retrofit is a great way to make an older car feel much more modern.
How to add CarPlay to BMW F30
If your F30 was built towards the end of the model run, it's possible it's already fitted with all the hardware necessary to run Apple CarPlay. 3 Series vehicles with the NBT Evo ID5/6 head unit (introduced for the 2017 model year) will be CarPlay ready, as will any other cars with the CarPlay Preparation (S6CPA) option.
In this case, activating Apple CarPlay in your BMW is a simple coding process. You might only need to add a WiFi antenna, to allow connecting your iPhone to your BMW. In less than an hour you'll be able to use popular navigation, music and messaging apps on your iDrive screen, without making any physical changes to your vehicle.
F30s that don't allow activating BMW-original CarPlay will be compatible with BimmerTech's CarPlay MMI Prime retrofit, a hardware upgrade that adds support for CarPlay and Android Auto. Unlike factory CarPlay, CarPlay MMI Prime connects to your iPhone using an Apple white cable, so doesn't require a WiFi antenna. The CarPlay interface is also displayed full-screen by default, as opposed to the split-screen display of the factory CarPlay option. Check which CarPlay option is compatible with your F30.
If you or your family use Android phones, our CarPlay MMI Prime also comes with Android Auto, making it an easy way to add Android Auto to your BMW.
Another area where expectations changed during the run of the F30/F31/F34 is rearview cameras. While a park assist camera was an optional extra when the car was launched, all new vehicles in the US and Canada will now have a backup camera as standard.
There are plenty of reasons to have a backup camera, but if your vehicle is missing one, BimmerTech makes it easy to add an aftermarket BMW F30 rear view camera retrofit to your car. All three of our camera models — MMI, OEM Integration and OEM — mount the camera discreetly in the trunk handle, and use the factory dashboard screen to display the image from the camera.
|Camera mode||Full screen||Native (with PDC view)*||Native (with PDC view)|
|Requirements||Factory screen||Navigation Professional||Navigation Professional + PDC|
|Installation time||3-4 hours||3-4 hours||3-4 hours|
|Compatible add-ons||SmartView HD AT3/ATV4, SmartView HD Flex, Front View Camera||PDC||Obstacle marking (included), Trailer hitch mode (included), Surround view|
*PDC is not included as part of the kit.
Not sure which camera to add to your 3 Series? Enter your VIN on our BMW Rear View Camera retrofit page to see which options are compatible with your car.
If you're still feeling like your iDrive is showing its age, there are a few more hardware and software changes that will bring your F30 up to match the latest vehicles.
How to update iDrive navigation
If you're committed to having the latest BMW has to offer in your F30, you'll probably want to look into upgrading your iDrive head unit. If your vehicle currently has an older or more basic iDrive version, replacing the hardware will instantly give you a host of new features and a sleek, modern interface.
Before deciding to upgrade, it's worth finding out which BMW iDrive version you have, and how it differs from the NBT Evo ID6 head unit -- the latest offered in the BMW F30. Older vehicles are likely to have the CIC head unit, whereas NBT has been offered in the F30 since the 2013 model year. The upgrade process depends on which head unit your car is fitted with from the factory.
How to update BMW F30 navigation maps
Perhaps the simplest way to keep your 3 Series from falling behind the latest cars is to update the BMW navigation maps. BMW regular adds new roads and points of interest, and recommends updating your maps to the latest version every 6 months.
Updating is simple; you only need to upload the latest map data to your vehicle through the USB port and enter an authorization code from BMW. Both the map data and the activation code are available from BimmerTech in our BMW Navigation Maps Update.
How to upgrade BMW F30 screen
What good is the latest map or a quality backup camera on a screen that doesn't have space to show everything clearly? Many F30s without extra packages come with a 6.5″ iDrive screen -- the same size as a lot of people's smartphones. Once the more premium option, the larger 8.8″ screen now feels like a standard.
With BimmerTech, it's easy to replace the smaller screen with our VividScreen BMW F30 screen upgrade, which matches the screens found in fully-specced 3 Series cars. What's more, VividScreen includes built-in support for our front and rear view cameras, letting you bring your whole car up to date at once. Check if your car is compatible with VividScreen.
For the ultimate multimedia experience, many people look towards upgrading their BMW F30 stereo, with replacement speakers for BMW or an aftermarket amplifier. The right car audio retrofit can give immersive sound that compares to the premium Harman Kardon sound systems found in many BMWs, and making the change doesn't have to be difficult.
BimmerTech cut its teeth in the audio game with the Premium Audio System, the world's first drop-in replacement for the factory BMW amplifier to feature a powerful 64-bit DSP. F30 owners with the base or HiFi stereo options can easily add the amp to their cars, thanks to the included harness and bracket that's designed specifically for BMWs. With greater power and clarity than the factory BMW amplifier, the Premium Audio System makes a significant difference to sound quality in your vehicle.
For an even greater improvement, the Alpha One speakers are designed to perfectly complement the Premium Audio System as well as the factory BMW amp. With tweeters, mids and woofers all designed to perfectly match the housing of the factory BMW speakers, fitting the Alpha Ones is a simple DIY job. Within only an hour or two, your F30's sound will be completely transformed.
At BimmerTech, we believe that the latest technology shouldn't be the reserve of the latest cars. With many older-generation vehicles still offering a great driving experience, we're committed to providing the right BMW F30 retrofits to keep you from needing to switch to later model. If you need any more help upgrading your car, please get in touch with our team.
© BimmerTech 2019