BMW M3: A brief history

We take a look back at the beginnings of BMW's famous M3 model, tracing its evolution to how it got where it is today.

1y ago

For those of you who may not know, the BMW M3 is the high performance version of the 3 series sedan. Ever since its release it has recieved much praise from driving enthusiasts and fanboys around the world, some even going as far as calling it the best car in the world. In my opinion, it has made a mark in the world of high performance sedans, by being the best a car can be and doing it with simple elegance, a mark that no other brand can match. With that, let's jump right into it.

E30 M3 (1986-1991)

The concept of the E30 M3 started in the early 80's when BMW wanted to race in DTM. DTM homologation required cars to be race car versions of regular road cars, and so they required a minimum of 5000 road-going vehicles to be sold before a car can qualify to race. So BMW took the straight-6 engine from the M1 and stuck it in a 3 series body. Unfortunately the engine was too heavy, so the solution was to reduce the engine to 4 cylinders, which they did. The resulting unit was a 192 horsepower (143 kW), 2.0 L, naturally aspirated engine. It did 0-100 km/h in 6.7 seconds and a 235 km/h top speed (146 mph).

The M3 Evolution II was later released (1988) and it packed 217 horsepower (162 kW) from the same (albeit improved) NA 4 cylinder and did 0-100 km/h in the same 6.7 seconds.

E36 M3 (1992-1999)

The E36 M3 was released in November of '92 only as a coupe, and 2 years later a convertible was added to the lineup. This model used an engine similar to the one in the E30, but with the two missing cylinders added back on to make it a straight-6 again. The engine was a 3.0 L, 281 horsepower (210 kW) naturally aspirated motor and it pushed the car to 100 km/h in 6 seconds, and on to a top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph). The car came with either a 5 speed manual or a 5 speed automatic gearbox.

1995 saw a facelift that included several changes to the internals as well. Engine displacement went up to 3.2 L and an SMG gearbox was introduced.

E46 M3 (2000-2006)

The E46 M3 is my personal favourite M3 of all time. This model was introduced in 2000 and had a 3.2 L S54 straight-6 engine which was naturally aspirated and had 338 horsepower (252 kW). It also had individual throttle bodies and it took the car to 100 km/h in 5.1 seconds, and on to a limited top speed of 250 km/h.

In 2004 the M3 CSL (Coupe Sport Leichtbau/Coupe Sport Lightweight) was released. This was a limited, lightweight version of the E46 M3 which weighed 1385 kg (3053 lbs). It was only available in the colours Silver grey metallic and Black sapphire metallic.

E90/92/93 (2007-2013)

The E90 generation of M3 was the first and only generation to use a V8. This was a 4.0 L, 414 horsepower (308 kW). It was available with a 6 speed manual and a 7 speed M-DCT gearbox was an option. It does 0-100 km/h in 4.6 seconds for the M-DCT version and 4.8 seconds for the manual.

There later came a massively facelifted version of the E90 which was called the E92, and the E93 is the hard-top convertible version of that.

E92 Frozen Edition

Since South Africa did not get the M3 GTS variant of the E92, BMW made 25 Frozen edition cars exclusively for South Africa which had an AC Schnitzer intake manifold and changes to the engine management system. This gave the Frozen edition 443 horsepower (330 kW), which was just 7 horsepower less than the GTS.

F80 M3 (2014-2018

The F80 M3 was the first M3 to be turbocharged, but it still managed to produce more power than the E90 even with fewer cylinders and a smaller displacement, thanks to those twin-turbos. It develops 425 horsepower (317 kW) and accelerates the car to 100 km/h in 4.3 seconds and lets the car top out at 280 km/h. This M3 was never available as a coupe because it arrived at a time when BMW had introduced the 4 series (F82), which is supposed to be the coupe version of the 3 series.

A Competition pack version of the M3 was later introduced and had an increased power output of 444 horsepower (331 kW) which means a reduction in acceleration times from 4.3 seconds to 4.0 seconds 0-100 km/h. Other changes include a modified differential and Stability Control system.

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Comments (1)

  • Would be nice to see this history M3/4 interleaved with the RS4/5. Much leapfrogging of power and cylinder counts and aspiration.

      1 year ago