1. S85B50 V10 - E63 M6 - 507hp
Imagine a genteel two-door coupe that thinks its a Group C racer and you’ve got a pretty good handle on the E63 M6 - or the E60 M5 saloon, which shared its drivetrain.
The soaring top end only exaggerates the limp low-rev push, and horror stories about the V10 in the M5 and M6 grenading themselves and landing owners with a bill that would almost renew a pointless nuclear submarine programme has dimmed the lustre a little.
But the S85 was an epic engine and we won’t see its like in a mass production car again.
2. M30 Inline 6cyl - E9 CSL - 200hp
From dominating European Touring Car racing to dominating the outside lane of the Autobahn, the M30 did everything in a near 30-year career. And that includes powering the iconic, original CSL.
Early CSLs punched out a round 200hp from 3003cc (just enough to sneak it into the over-3.0-litre racing category), but this was later upped to 3.2-litres and 206hp.
3. S65 V8 - E92 M3 GTS - 450hp
Derived from the S85 V10, the original E92 M3's 4.0-litre S65 V8 shared much of the ten's character, including a near 9000rpm redline - and a lack of low-end torque that made using those revs essential.
The key difference was that by the time the E92 was launched you could have it with a slick DCT instead of the clunky old SMG.
The S65 reached its peak in 2009's S65B44 under the bonnet of the 400cc bigger M3 GTS, a poignant last gasp for atmo M cars.
4. M57D30 Inline 6cyl diesel - E46 330d - 184hp
BMW had made diesels before 1999, and some of them - like the 325tds - were pretty good for their time. But the original 330d was on another level, punting the 3-series to 60mph in less than 8sec and delivering 40mpg (in manual form, at least).
These days, of course, the little four-cylinder 320d makes more power than the original 330d six, but with 50 per cent fewer cylinders its got half the manners.
5. M10 Inline 4cyl - 2002 turbo - 170hp
Talk about versatile. BMW's little ohc inline four started off with a modest 72bhp back in the days when men still wore hats to work, but was later adapted to produce 130hp in the fuel-injected 200tii, and then helped pioneer forced induction in European cars under the bonnet of the 170hp 2002 turbo.
But craziest of all, it also formed the basis for BMW's demonic M12 Formula One engine of the early 1980s that produced almost 1500hp when the wick was turned up for qualifying sessions.
6. S62B50 V8 - Z8 - 400hp
Developed from the solid M62 V8 already powering high-end Fives and X5s, the S62 was fortified with a double-row timing chain and the M Division's trademark individual throttle bodies.
Fitted to the retro Z8 sports car - and the E39 M5 - it made 400hp and was the last of BMW's big power engines to come exclusively with a six-on-the-floor manual transmission.
7. M88 DOHC Inline 6cyl - E26 M1 - 277hp
The M30 sohc straight six was tough as boots and good for over 200hp, but bolting a four-valve head on top transformed it into an engine fit for a supercar.
And also one fit for the first M5 supersaloon after a bit of tinkering including ditching the dry-sump lubrication system and switching to Bosch Motronic fuel injection.
This later evolved into the S88 3.6 and 3.8 litre sixes in the E34 M5.
8. S14 Inline 4cyl - E30 M3 Evo III - 238hp
What do you get when you combine numbers five and seven from our list together? An S14, that’s what. Using the M10 bottom end and two thirds of the M88’s trick cylinder head, BMW created an engine that would dominate Touring Car racing.
Catalysed 2.3s in the early cars delivered a respectable 195hp, but the final 2.5 variant in the Sport Evo pushed that to 238hp and made for the best E30 M3 of all - though it wasn't enough to stop Mercedes winning the '92 DTM title.
9. S54B32HP DOHC inline 6cyl - E46 M3 CSL - 360hp
We’ve picked out the CLS's S54 here because it was the last, and most sophisticated, but really, any of those M sixes between this and the S50 3.0 in the first E36 M3 could make a case for its inclusion.
The CSL's S54 featured a modified exhaust, revised cam timing, and a new carbon intake system that made a sound as good as any supercar.
10. S70/3 V12 - McLaren F1 - 627hp
It’s arguably BMW’s greatest engine ever, but wasn’t actually fitted to a BMW. The story goes that McLaren wanted Honda to build the engine for what would become the F1 supercar, McLaren and Honda having enjoyed a successful relationship in Grand Prix racing.
But Honda couldn’t commit to delivering the 550hp McLaren required, so Paul Rosche and BMW got the gig instead, delivering over 70hp more than McLaren had asked for, and propelling the F1 into the record books.