BMW M3: The Evolution.


1986: E30
After completing its brief career in Formula 1, BMW’s Motorsport arm focused all its energy on touring car racing. The BMW M3 E30w was born. The first edition came with a 195 hp, four-cylinder 16-valve power unit. Right from the start the car was a success and in 1987 Italian driver Roberto Ravaglia won the World Touring Car Championship at the wheel of a BMW M3. In the following five years the M3 was the uncontested leader in the international touring car scene, bringing home two European Touring Car Championships and winning the DTM twice. But the M3 was, of course, an equally successful road-going car. Sales reached a heady volume of 17,970 units, including 600 units of the 2.5-litre M3 Sport Evolution version, as well as 765 hand-built convertibles.

1992: E36
The E36 M3, launched in 1992 was voted car of the year in Germany two years on the trot – and in France even gained the questionable moniker ‘car of the century’. Between 1992 and 1996 M-sport built more than 85 four-door racing 3 Series based on the E36 M3 GT, with Johnny Cecotto at the wheel winning the ADAC GT Championship in 1993, and next setting out to conquer the US motor-sport market. In 1995 the car received even more power – 321 hp from 3.2 litres, to be precise – and for the first time the M3’s grunt exceeded 100 hp per litre. Double variable timing was also used for the first time, as well as a six speed gearbox.

2000: E46
Making its debut in the year 2000 the E46 M3 turned up the gauge in all departments. 343 hp. 365 Nm. 5.2 seconds. And the design in turn reflected the increased attitude. One year later the M3 GTR lined up on the starting grid of the American Le Mans Series with a four-litre eight-cylinder under the bonnet for the first time. The racing car with the characteristic air scoops in the bonnet and the powerful rear aerofoil proved superior on the race tracks of the USA and won the Championship in the GT Class. 2003 saw the return of the CSL with its roof, centre console and door panels made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic. This lean beast was powered by an engine tuned to 360 hp, which gave it an astonishing Nürburgring lap time of 7.50. In 2003. All 1800 units were sold before they hit the forecourt.

2007 E90-series
For the E90, with that marmite design that put quite a few folk off, BMW went with an eight-cylinder engine for the first time in the coupé and the saloon launched shortly afterwards. The new V8 engine generated power of 420 hp from a displacement of 3,999 cubic centimetres. Around 85 percent of the maximum torque of 400Nm could be called up over the enormous rev range of 6,500 rpm. Power was transferred to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox and a completely new rear-axle differential. Particularly in the coupé, the design engineers once again used lightweight construction. The positive experiences with other M models led to the roof also being made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic and the engine bonnet was made of aluminium.


One Response to “BMW M3: The Evolution.”

  1. Having previously owned an E46 M3 and currently driving an E90 M3 (not whilst I write this, mind), I can say I’ve very much enjoyed the latest part of M-Powered evolution.

    When they were first released I wasn’t a fan of the E90’s shape and I still love and feel envious of the old E46’s “fatness”, but the V8 soon helps me forget.

    The engine is a modern day, every man’s, superhero. It’s a complete throw-back that’s power blasted through a barricade of technology, computer chips and engineering. It’s a beast. What with the world guzzling and gargling on its last remnants of petrol, it’s a dinosaur.

    The new M3/M4s will be great cars, there’s no doubt about that. This is an important stage in the legend’s evolution, though. This is the first time an M car will have to care more about the planet and MPG than raw power and speed, which in my mind, makes the E90 a closed chapter on the naturally aspirated M classics that went before.

    Now it’s time to hand over to the turbos…