Over three decades ago, the car industry received an automobile that would revolutionize the idea of the mid-size sports car. When it came off of the production line in 1986, it would become the new standard for car manufacturers everywhere. This car is known as the BMW M3.

This high-performance sports car became one of the very first cars that could both race on the track as a technological trailblazer and ride in the streets as a comfortable luxury automobile. Even after three decades, the M3 still has many of the same characteristics that it left original production lines with. 

Just what is it that makes this highly-respected motor sport automobile such a refined package? Let’s dig in a bit and find out! 

The History of the BMW M3

Paul Rosche, the managing director at BMW during 1985, was the man who came up with the idea for the M3. He felt that they needed a line of sporty cars to top the 3-Series and attack the touring car industry. Just soon after, production began. It was first debuted at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany. There were almost 18 thousand units that were sold that year.

Innovations and Technology of the BMW M3 – A Motoring Icon

The latest version of the M3, which ended production in 2018, was first manufactured in 2014 and was dubbed the “F80 Generation”. This F80 M3 utilized a twin-turbo straight-six engine, making it one of the first turbocharged models in the long line of M3s. In terms of power, this car had a 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds with automatic and 4.1 seconds with manual, maxing out at a top speed of 174 mph. 

The F80 M3 was produced with saloon-style doors and came complete with a carbon fiber roof and front quarter aluminum panels. The competition package was also released in 2016, adding electronic stability control and suspension upgrades.

In terms of tech, riders now had access to 14-way heated seats in the front, an 8.8-inch iDrive system, keyless entry, and a high-quality, 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

A Timeline of the BMW M3

  • BMW M3 E30 – First Generation (1986-1991)
Red BMW M3

The M3 E30 was first built with a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, similar to that of the M1, which gave drivers 192 hp and a 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds. The top speed was 146 mph. At 2,645 pounds, it was built to race, though worked great as a casual, daily driver as well.

BMW introduced the EVO2 model in 1988 with larger wheels, a deeper front splitter, and faster specs. The EVO3 was also produced in just 500 units, bumping the horsepower up to 155 mph, enlarging the front bumper and replacing the front fog lights with brake cooling ducts. 

  • BMW M3 E36 – Second Generation (1992-1999)
Old Blue BMW M3

The E36 utilized a 3.0L straight-six engine instead of the six-cylinder, which added about 800 pounds, though gave the care more speed. The 0-60 time decreased to 5.6 seconds and maximum speed was increased to 155 mph, giving drivers 240 hp. Automatic transmission was introduced as well. 

It was initially meant to be a coupe, though BMW released a convertible version in 1994. The 1996 version went through a design revamp with the addition of 6-speed SMG automated manual transmission to optimize performance. 

  • BMW M3 E46 – Third Generation (2000-2006)
Blue BMW M3 on the Beach

The E46 came complete with a 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder engine with a 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph. The overall horsepower increased to 333. It was the third generation that saw quite a few aesthetic changes, including the upscaled interior, larger wheel arches, and optimized hood. 

The E46 utilized electrohydraulic SMG transmission alongside its standard manual transmission. It was one of the best track-style cars of its time.

  • BMW M3 E90/E92/E93 – Fourth Generation (2007-2013)

The Fourth Generation M3s utilized a 4.0-liter V-8 engine, providing a whopping 414 hp and a top speed of 155 mph. It was the heaviest of the M3s at that point, weighing in at 3,649 pounds in coupe-style and 3,538 pounds in sedan-style.

The headlights and tail lights were revised and updated with LED and the E93 convertible was made with a power-retractable hardtop. A competition package (ZCP) was released in 2010 with revised variable damper tuning and better electronic stability control.

  • BMW M3 F80 – Fifth Generation (2014-2018)

The F80 replaced the V-8 with a turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, providing 425 hp, a 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds, and a top speed of 155 mph. The weight was reduced in each iteration, the braked were upgraded to a two-piston package instead of sliding calipers, and the name was changed to the M4.

The BMW M3 in the News

Is there a possibility for the M3 in 2020? An M3 was just recently caught on a car carrier with its’ undercarriage out. Not much has been announced, though we may be able expect to see a new iteration of the car coming soon.

Celebrity Endorsements of the BMW M3

The M3 is one of BMWs most sought after cars, so it is no surprise that the car has a long list of celebrity owners. That long list includes Jessica Alba, Eduardo Cruz, and of course, the late Paul Walker’s custom-tuned M3.

Best BMW M3 Groups

If you’re looking for M3 clubs around the United States, head on over to Meetup. Here you can find contact information for some of the most popular M3 clubs around. BMW USA also has a long list of official BMW clubs with over 125,000 owners and enthusiasts.

The BMW M3 – The Daily Driver Supercar

For those looking for the perfect mix of race-ready supercar and family-friendly, daily driver, the M3 is an excellent match. With a mix of speed, luxury, and reliability, there is nothing quite like it on the market. From coupes to convertibles and beyond, the M3 delivers an adrenaline rush similar to being on the track, and for that, we can’t deny its legacy.