The M3. What could we say about it ? A myth, a symbol. It’s certainly not as old and as established as a Porsche 911, but since 1989 it has been with us, feeding our dreams. BMW has just revealed the brand new and fifth generation of its most popular motorsport model. So let’s see what the fuss is all about, and if it is worth its legacy. Text : Mickael B. & Luca W. Images : BMW ©

Back in 1986, BMW Motorsport launched what has become one of automotive’s most popular sports car : the M3. The name was very simple, because it was just an usual 3 Series BMW tweaked by their M department, for Motorsport, or racing. Their reputation had started in 1978 with the fabulous and only mid-engine the bavarian brand has ever built, the M1. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, featuring a 3.5 liter six in line engine developing more than 270 horsepower, it did 0-100 km/h in around 5.6 seconds and was only produced at 456 units. Although being a road car, the M1 was designed in first mind to compete at Le Mans, as we recall that the famous turbocharged M1 Procars were capable of dealing with over 800 horsepower on the Sarthe track. One year later, in 1979, they launched what is considered as the first M5 : the E12 M535i, which was a more powerful standard 5 Series, produced at 895 units. The M635 CSi, which was presented in 1982, had the same engine that the legendary M1, but had the comfort that was missing to the Munich’s supercar.

The BMW E30 was the second 3 series generation. It was an incredible car; its shape is simply stunning and the motorsport version, the first M3 generation, was fitted with a 2.3 liter four cylinder engine. With 192 (catalytic), 197 (non-catalytic), 217 in the Evolution version, and 235 horsepower in the ultimate Sport Evolution version with the 2.5 liter engine, it was the first affordable sports car derived from a series production car. This car drove marvelously well, being pure fun, and almost introduced the world to a new style of driving, because this car was so easy to put sideways. The only disappointment that Motorsport’s enthusiast emit was that the standard BMW 325 with the six in line engine was almost better, and therefore the only thing missing in the E30 M3 is the six cylinder in line engine.

“The BMW 325 E30 was better than the original M3, thanks to its six in line engine” – Mickael

The straight six came a little bit later, in 1992, with the M3 E36, the second M3 generation. This is when the legend really started. The first cars faced some reliability issues, but it remained one of the best coupé cars of its time. Nine years later, the M3 E46 was born, considered as the most beautiful M3 according to the petrolhead nation, and the M3 never has been so popular and desired. There were also racing version, such as the BMW M3 GTS, or the ultimate M3 CSL. Six years later, in 2007, the BMW M3 E92 was launched. Some people were very happy about it and others were disappointed – Luca – because BMW just removed the straight-six engine and put a heavy 4.2 liter V8 which develops 420 BHP. For me, the M3 legend stopped in 2007, and I was so excited about the next generation !

“The M3 legend stopped in 2007…” – Luca

BMW is actually expanding its numbers bag : the 3 Series Coupé doesn’t exist anymore. Its official name is the 4 Series now, so be sure to call it like that, otherwise, people will look at you in a strange way. Actually, I wonder why they chose to change. Apart from confusing people, I don’t know what is the objective. Especially I doubt any 4 Series will sell in China or Japan, where the number four is associated to death and misfortune. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change anything to the car itself. The 4 Series is a beautiful car, and BMW just revealed the M4 -so, basically the new M3-. What a style monster ! I was totally impressed by its hips and front wing. The car is so agressive and look so feminine ! The designers really did a good job because the car is really really gorgeous.

“The ultimate M3 ? The E46 CSL. Six in line, no turbos, pure M3 spirit.” – Mickael

In addition to this, with the M3 and the M4 Coupé, BMW is celebrating the comeback of its straight-6 cylinders engine, coupled to turbos. Turbos or not, the six cylinders are back on the M3, M4 and so back with Motorsport ! The maximum output of the engine is 431 HP, so eleven more than the previous generation, with an impressive 550 Nm of torque ! More power and torque, but the fuel consumption is reduced by 25%, that is incredible. The basic transmission is manual – good news -, and with the optional seven speed M double clutch transmission, the car does 0 to 100 km/h in only 4.1 seconds. The weight was also reduced by almost 100 kilograms, by using carbon fiber for the drive shaft and others parts of the car.

Inside, it’s really close to the standard 3 and 4 series but unlike these, the seats and the steering wheel are different and are obviously sport oriented. So from now on, remember ladies and gentlemen, if you say M3, it is a sedan ! So be careful in the future !