From the very beginning, it was just a different kind of vehicle. It’s not the number of cylinders or power that makes this car so legendary. And it’s not about the amount of road grip it has. It is about how it corners intuitively, the control and precision and how it describes the road to you through its responsive movements. It is the character of the engine, the raspy grunt of the exhaust and the power of the thrust as it nears redline. During the last three decades, the E30, E36, E46 and E90 generation have been a benchmark of its time. This year we salute the powerhouse monster with the special edition “30 Jahre M3 (30 Years M3).
Considered to be some of the most enjoyable ultimate driving machines, the hi-revving, tight-handling, fine-tuned BMW M3 is a legend and it’s designed to delight sports car enthusiasts. The BMW M3 has come a long way and this automotive icon has been refined across five model generations. Let’s take a look at its evolution over its 30-year span.
E30 (1986 – 1991): The vehicle that started it all
This was the car that pushed all BMW 3 Series’ boundaries. It was dubbed the sports sedan of the 80’s. Although calling it that did not do it justice. It was a race car and became the first touring car. It looked like a regular E30, but under the hood it was vastly different.
The first edition BMW M3’s 2.3 litre, four cylinder engine was derived from the BMW M1’s six cylinder that churned out 147 kW, reached 100km/h in just 6.7 seconds and weighed only 1200kgs. Reaching a top speed of 235km/h, it was a nimble vehicle whether on the race track or out to get groceries.
The BMW M3 was highly sought after which spurred BMW to build nearly 18 000 cars instead of the intended 5 000. Many are still on the road today – if you are lucky to spot one, take some time to admire it.
Did you know?
The car was originally designed to compete against the Mercedes 190E and Audi Quattro cars. And history tells us, BMW was quite successful with it.
E36 (1992 – 1999)
The name of the game completely changed with the second edition BMW M3. BMW did away with the lighter four cylinder and replaced it with a 3 litre six cylinder engine that pushed the power to 210 kW. Now at 2 000kgs, that did not stop it from reaching 100km/h in 6 seconds, which is a nearly a second faster than its predecessor.
This powerful, refined sports sedan was made available in automatic transmission. If you were to look at the current prices of a well-cared for E36, then you will know that these cars are highly sought after and are few and far between. If you are looking for a classic collectable, then this is one you should start with.
E46 (2000 – 2006)
It deceivingly looked a lot like the regular BMW 3 Series Coupé and Convertible. However, it was a beefed-up performance monster ready to tackle the track or tar. The meatier wheel arches (to contain the widened track) and hood bulge tipped the race car enthusiast that there was more to meet the eye.
The E46 maintained the inline six cylinder engine but displacement increased to 3.2 litres. This pushed out a phenomenal 252 kW of power…talk about an exhilarating drive! It is 0.8 seconds faster than the BMW M3 second generation.
An up-scaled interior brought about luxurious seating and refinement that its predecessors lacked. In addition, the E46 generation offered SMG (sequential manual gearbox) transmission that used an electrohydraulic actuated clutch as well as the standard manual transmission.
The E46 is by far the best blend of track-focussed handling and power with modest luxury.
E90/E92/E93 (2007 – 2013)
The E90 generation of BMW M3 veered off from the “conventional” BMW M3. When it launched in 2007, it was by far the heaviest BMW M3 but the most luxurious. The 4 litre V8 engine catapulted you well past 8 000rpm and with 309 kW of power, it reached 100km/h in just 4.9 seconds.
The E90 generation BMW M3 either came in a 6-speed manual or 7-speed DCT (dual-clutch transmission). It corners intuitively and has an excellent road feel.
The fourth generation BMW M3 came to define the luxury sports sedan during this time and set a standard among rivalries. Those that own one knows it’s a dream drive and all you want to do is be on the race track with it.
F80 (2014 – present)
This German rocket with launch control brought about a whole lot of fun and excitement that made this the most thrilling M3. It was launched in 2014 as the fifth generation top athlete.
It shed not only some weight but also the 4 litre V8 engine. It was replaced with the sweet BMW inline 6-cylinder engine equipped with two turbos to create a phenomenal 317 kW of power and 550 Nm of torque. This resulted in on-demand power no matter the speed and went from 0 to 100km/h in a swift 4.1 seconds!
With improved brakes, this eliminated the need for sliding calipers and replaced them with two-piston setups with an optional four-piston carbon ceramic setup for race car enthusiasts who wanted to take it to the tracks.
Whether you terrify your family or enthral your friends, the F80 is a powerhouse on four wheels just waiting to take your breath away…sometimes literally. There is nothing quite like it.
30 Years M3
The exclusive special edition of the BMW M3 “30 Years M3” celebrates its 30th anniversary. To commemorate this special edition, only 500 will be produced worldwide. 30 of those cars are destined for South African fans.
This tribute’s exterior is painted a Macao Blue metallic colour which was a special option for the very first M3. The Competition Package is available for this edition and notches the power to 331kW with a combined fuel consumption of 8.8 – 8.3 l/100km and combined CO2 emissions is 204 – 194 g/km. Also included in the Competition Package is the Adaptive M suspension which nudges the performance in a positive way.
Giving this limited edition elevated dynamic performance are new springs, dampers and stabilisers, modified characteristic curves of the three modes (Comfort, Sport and Sport+) as well as standard Active M differential on the rear axle and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). To ground the beast, this model includes forged 20-inch M light-alloy wheels with 666 M star spoke design and mixed tyres (the front have 265/30 R20 and the rear are fitted with 285/30 R20).
The optional 7-speed M double clutch transmission bolts from 0 to 100km/h in a mere 4 seconds which is faster than the series production model by 0.1 seconds.
The exterior boasts an Individual High Gloss Shadow Line with enhanced features that include a black chrome tailpipe trim for the M sports exhaust system which significantly raises the hair on the back of your arms when you hear its raspy grunt and feel the surge pull you forward giving you a highly emotional drive. The M gills were specifically designed for the front wings that bears the logo “30 Years M3”.
The interior is sleek and sporty with the M sports seats that envelope you and support you on the track and tar. Over long distances, it is complete comfort. The seatbelts have the BMW M strips woven in to mirror the exterior. The logo is strategically placed on the front door sills and on the carbon fibre interior trim strip of the instrument panel to remind the driver and passengers of the iconic “30 Year M3”. To head off in the right direction, the logo is embroidered on the head rests.
The interior also features full leather Merino trim in bi-colour Black/Fjord Blue or Black/Silverstone with a colour matching contrast seams.
Happy birthday BMW M3 – a few congratulations from M3 professional drivers.
“I will always have a very special connection to the BMW M3. My father used to drive a black BMW M3. I myself became DTM champion in 2012 driving a matt black BMW Bank M3. All BMW M3 production models have this very special racing character – similar to the new BMW M4. The BMW M GmbH has managed to bring a racetrack feel onto the road. It is not really easy to make such a powerful car so compact and roadworthy like BMW has done with the M3. The BMW M3 is sportiness in its purest form. And it will always stand out in my memories.” Bruno Spengler, professional racing driver, competing for the BMW Team MTEK in the DTM 2016, DTM champion 2012 in a BMW M3 DTM.
“The BMW M3 is undoubtedly the most important car in my long career as a racing driver. With this car I won the World Touring Car Championship, the DTM title, the Italian Touring Car Championship and celebrated numerous racing victories all over Europe. From the very first day, the BMW M3 was a winner and it retained this position for decades. Fans love the BMW M3 – and I love it too!” Roberto Ravaglia, ex professional racing driver, first touring car champion in history (1987), founder of the Team ROAL Motorsport.
The “30 Year M3” is launching soon in South Africa…what do you think of it?