In 2016, BMW is celebrating the 30th anniversary of one of its iconic models, one which transformed the mid-size sports car segment when it came off the production line in 1986. After five model generations, the M3 is still going strong.
The BMW M3 was developed by the BMW Motorsport Division, which is today known as the BMW M Division. The team focused on coming up with a high-performance sports car that was suitable for daily use and was inspired by the series-produced BMW 3 Series. In the next 30 years, BMW M has slowly refined the M3 to evolve with the times while retaining its original character. Thus, the current version of the BMW M3 has emerged as a model that offers the perfect blend of motorsport inspired performance with convenience features for everyday practical motoring.
The BMW M3: a sporting icon and dynamic benchmark for five generations.
The first series-produced BMW M3s were made thirty years ago, marking the beginning of a success story that has few equals in the automotive world. In the first generation M3, the 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine with four-valve technology had an output of 147 kW/200 hp and made it possible for the vehicle to go from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 6.7 seconds. The car weighed only 1,200 kilograms and had a top speed of 235 km/h (146 mph). In 1988, BMW M debuted the Evo version in which the power was ramped up to 220 hp while the top speed increased to 243 km/h (151 mph). The final variant of the first generation model was launched as alimited edition run of just 600 units in 1990: the BMW M3 Sport Evolution featuring a 238 hp 2.5-litre engine.
The second generation of the BMW M3 was meant more for the road than the track and was unveiled in 1992. It came with a six-cylinder engine having an output of 210 kW/286 hp from three-liter displacement and a peak torque of 320 Newton metres (236 lb-ft). Another distinctive feature of this model was that it had an innovative new camshaft control system VANOS. Though understated, the new variant set two world records – one for the highest power output per liter (97 hp/l) and the highest specific torque (108 Nm (80 lb-ft)/l) produced by a volume-produced naturally-aspirated engine.
In 1995, the M3 was thoroughly revamped and the displacement of the six-cylinder in-line engine was increased from 2,990 to 3,201cc, with the output correspondingly increasing to 236 kW/321 hp. The new engine also had Double-VANOS, giving it fully variable camshaft control both on the intake and exhaust sides. In summer 1996 the BMW M3 became the first series-produced car for which customers could opt to have an SMG automated manual gearbox.
Just like the previous two generations, the third generation M3 which made its appearance in 2000 made an outstanding impression on motorists both when it came to style and performance. It had flared wheel arches, an aluminum bonnet with powerdome, a boot lid that was aerodynamically optimized with rear spoiler lip and four tailpipes emerging from the dual-flow exhaust system. The model was powered by a naturally-aspirated six-cylinder in-line engine. The redesigned engine had an output of 252 kW/343 hp from its 3,246 cc and peak torque of 365 Newton metres (269 lb-ft).
In the fourth generation model which made its debut in 2007, unlike in the previous two generations, BMW M used a high-revving, naturally-aspirated V8 engine with an output of 309 kW/420 hp. For the first time serious effort was made to reduce weight with the intelligent use of a front axle that fashioned almost completely from aluminum and with a carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) roof that was fitted as standard.
The current or fifth generation of the BMW M3 made its debut in spring 2014 and in keeping with BMW’s policy to change the naming system the brand’s series-produced models, only the four-door sedan is badged as “M3”, while the coupe and the convertible versions were designated as M4. All three body variants featured a free-revving straight-six engine with M TwinPower Turbo technology and an output of 317 kW/431 hp. Special care was taken to incorporate lightweight components made from aluminum and CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic) throughout the model, especially when it came to the chassis and body. Thus, the model weighed 80 kilograms less than its predecessor.
Celebrating the BMW M3’s successful 30 years, BMW M Division has launched an exclusive limited edition model, the production of which would be capped at 500 units worldwide. The model comes with Macao Blue metallic exterior paint finish reminiscent of the first generation of this model, and a BMW M3 “30 Jahre M3” logo. The Competition Package, is included as standard and comprises extensive powertrain and suspension modifications which raise the performance of the anniversary model, increasing it by 14 kW/19 hp to 331 kW/450 hp.
Manju Mathew, an MBA in marketing, completed publisher training courses from the Oxford Brookes University and New York University. She started with marketing and PR roles before moving on to her current position as a full time writer. Currently living in Dubai, her life as an expat has sharpened her observation skills and flair for writing. She enjoys writing about luxury cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc even if she can only dream of owning them.
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