Evolution of the BMW M3

The Most Powerful Letter In The World

The M range of BMW vehicles is synonymous with performance and with unparalleled driving dynamics as they pay tribute to their motorsport heritage.

The original concept model of BMW M3 was designed to take the racing sedan and create a street version that runs as strong on the road as it does on the racetrack and BMW have been delivering this promise since 1986. The M3 is designed by the in house motorsport division, BMW M GmbH, and have been produced for every generation of the 3 series, beginning with the E30 M3 model.

The BMW announced the M3 Touring in June 2022 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England, a very fitting premier, and we were able to gather several generations of BMW M3 models alongside the new BMW M3 Touring at Knockhill Racing Circuit. Our Group Content Executive Kabir Zaman, who coordinated the shoot, said "... I was honoured to capture such a remarkable car in action. Having three of the older models join us made it even more special..."

E30 Generation

The original BMW M3 was presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1985 with production running from 1986 until 1991. Thanks to a large number of championship wins in touring car racing it became one of the most iconic BMW M vehicles to date. These wins included one World Touring Car Championship title, two European Touring Car Championship titles, and four Italia Superturismo Championship titles.

When the production model finally arrived in 1986 it had the task of selling at least 5000 road legal copies in 12 months for it to then be approved for racing in line with Group A Touring rule. In its full run the E30 M3 had 17,970 cars produced with multiple special editions and both coupé and convertible models.

The bonnet, roof panel, and sunroof were the only exterior body panels that the M3 shared with the regular 3 Series. The brake calipers, rotors, and master cylinder were also all unique to the M3 model and its front engine rear wheel drive layout.

The E30 M3 used an in-line four cylinder engine capable of 200-230 HP depending on which model of you owned. Drivers found first gear in the bottom left, a feature that is typical in racing, and the manual gearbox gave a classic racing feel.

The braking system had ABS and ventilated discs alongside a dampened suspension system, both of which were designed with racing as the inspiration. Sports Evolution models also replaced the fog lights with brake cooling ducts to further aid this.

E36 Generation

The E36 M3 followed the successful E30 M3 with production running from 1992 to 1999 and convertible body styles included from 1994. This model was purely for consumers and not a homologation speciality which allowed it to be a little more luxurious than its predecessor.

This introduced right hand drive to an M3 model for the first time. Another first was the use of a six-cylinder engine, which has then been used in some form in the majority of M3 models, and the saloon body type.

The inaugural six cylinder engine had a high speed concept and a sequential manual gearbox. The SMG transmission, utilised for the first time on an M3 outside of the US, was often praised for its ability to provide fast shifting times and its operation in performance but received criticism from those who utilised it in their every day driving.

Power was greatly increased from the E30 M3 models with maximum output ranging from 286hp to 321hp depending on the model year and specification. The first units, which displayed 286 HP, were able to achieve 95.7HP or 70 kW output per litre cubic capacity which not even small-series Italian manufacturers were achieving on sports cars in the early 1990s.

The E36 models were designed with aerodynamically elaborate M side mirrors which reduced air resistance, front and rear aprons, and special 17 inch wheels which were focal points of the model.

Amongst the variants of the E36 M3 included the European M3 GT, all of which came in British Racing Green, and the M3 Evolution Imola Individual which was a limited-edition model.

E46 Generation

The third generation E46 M3 was produced in both coupé and convertible versions from 2000 to 2006 and sold over 85,000 units in its six year run which makes it the most successful BMW M model to date. For many the E46 M3 was reminiscent of the virtues of the original E30 M3 thanks to its low weight construction and the high-rev concept of the inline six-cylinder engine.

Interestingly an M3 Touring prototype was built at this stage to test the feasibility of building an M3 model on the existing platform of the E46 station wagon. Unfortunately it never reached production and an M3 Touring was shelved.

The power output increased again with the E46 to lie between 343 HP and 360 HP and there were options for six speed manual and six speed automated manual transmission (SMG). The SMG transmission can be operated from shifter paddles on the wheel or the gear lever in the centre console

An M Differential Lock was installed on the E46 to channel power to the rear wheels whilst the suspension and braking systems were both modified by engineers to improve cornering and stopping performance.

Special edition E46 M3 models included the M3 CSL (Coupe Sport Leichtbau) which only had 1383 cars produced and the M3 GTR which was another model that had to be homologated for racing.

Additionally, a special edition was introduced in 2005 which used parts from the CSL, the M3 CS. The Competition Package included 19 inch BBS alloy wheels, stiffer springs, faster ratio steering rack of 14:5:1, steering wheel from the CSL, M-track mode for electronic stability control, the larger CSL front brake discs and rear brake calipers with larger pistons, and Alcantara steering wheel and handbrake covers.

E90 Generation

The fourth generation BMW M3 came in the form of E90 (saloon), E92 (coupe), and E93 (convertible) models and were produced between 2007 and 2013. It was first introduced at the 2007 Geneva Motor Show before being shown as a production model at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show later in the year.

The coupe models used a carbon fibre roof to reduce weight and lower the centre of gravity and also received a facelift in 2010 where the LED tail lights were revised alongside minor interior trim pieces. In the convertible models a power retractable hardtop was used and the leather seats were treated with a coating to reflect the sunlight to reduce their ability to become incredibly hot with the top down.

The bonnet is pressed aluminium and the thermoplastic bumpers and front wings house front and rear tracks 38mm and 31mm wider than those on a 335i. Other differences from the standard 3 Series models included bespoke aluminium suspension components which only shared offset control arm bushings with the standard 3 Series and saved 2.5kg

For its fourth generation a V8 petrol engine was introduced, making it the only batch of M3 models to use one, which replaced the S54 straight six engine. The S65 V8 engine was awarded International Engine of the Year for the 3.0l to 4.0l category every year in the 2008-2012 period, a testimony to it's performance.

This gave a maximum power output of 420HP and a 0-100 km/h time of 4.6 seconds for the coupe and the saloon with DCT automatic transmission. The E90 M3 models were also where the M Drive system was first introduced.

F80 Generation

The F80 designation was applied to the M3 version of the F30 3 Series and produced from 2014 to 2018. Only saloon body styles were produced in this generation as BMW decided to split the 4 Series coupe and convertible from the 3 Series to give them their own identity.

The single trim level of the F80 M3 included dual zone climate control, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, DAB radio, sat nav, and electric heated memory seats which maintained the luxury of the M3 model.

In 2016 a Competition Package became available for both the M3 and the M4 models which included a power increase to 444 HP, a revision of the tuning of the electronic differential and electronic stability control, upgraded suspension, and new front seats.

The F80 returned to a straight six engine from the V8 that powered the previous M3 model and was also the first M3 to have a turbocharged engine. The official 0-60mph times are 3.9 seconds for the M-DCT transmission and 2.1 seconds for the six speed manual transmission with top speed capped at 155mph, although this could be increased to 174mph with the optional M Driver's package.

The departure from the V8 engine also improved efficiency and low down power, with its rear wheel drive delivering thrills that many thought were reserved for old school style cars. The DCT transmission with its adjustable settings and quick changes gave much greater control over the car.

M3 Touring

Now, nearly 40 years after the first BMW M3 was introduced, BMW decided to finally give fans what they have been asking for and released the first ever BMW M3 Touring. This companion model to the BMW M3 G80 saloon is described as combining "unadulterated race-car feeling with an extremely distinctive character and increased practicality", it is being offered exclusively in the Competition guise.


Looking firstly just at the dimensions of the M3 Touring it is 88mm longer than the BMW 3 Series Touring and 76mm wider. It also has model-specific adjustments to the design of the car's roof and rear end for a standalone visual identity within the model range.

The body has the iconic M signatures which includes M side-gills, M-side view mirrors, horizontal double-bar M kidney grille, and M-quad tailpipes. The kidney grille is the focal point of the entire car with all lines on the bodywork emerging from it. The unique horizontal double-bar arrangement is suspended in a single piece frame and finished in High Gloss Black.

The rear diffuser houses the monstrous M-quad tailpipes which are finished in Black Chrome and compliments the strong lines and curvature of the body. The M Brakes come with black front and rear brake calipers as standard but you can also opt for blue or red for a flash of sporty colour alongside peak performance.

The BMW M3 Touring is defined by crisp contours with a clear path to creating a strong and muscular appearance which is highlighted in the contour lines that lie parallel to the flared wheel arches and extended side sills.

The BMW M3 Touring is completely customisable too; with eight paint options available at no extra cost (two solid colours and six metallic), three premium metallic colours, and three BMW Individual colours. This is paired with five different 19 or 20 inch alloy options.

Marcus Syring, Head of BMW Design explains "The interior of the new BMW M3 brings sporting commitment, a modern design language and high-quality details together under one roof ".

Merino leather trim is standard specification for the BMW M3 Touring and is available in four different colours choices in both the part and full-leather trims. You can also choose from a selection of BMW Individual leather trims with extended features or full Merino leather in their own range of colours and all trim variants are suitable to be chosen alongside the standard M Sport seats or the upgraded M Carbon bucket seats.

The M Sport seats include multi-way electric adjustment with a memory function and are heated alongside M seat belts with a woven stripe pattern in BMW M GmbH colours. However, you can also opt to upgrade to the aforementioned M Carbon seats.


"The BMW M3 Competition Touring: Where authentic motor sport sensation meets practical, everyday driving."

Previous M3 Competition models have built an incredible reputation for legendary dynamic ability and the challenge in the newest generation sports cars was to absolutely exceed expectations, which was embraced wholeheartedly by the dedicated team of engineers.

The result is a truly outstanding upgraded engine offering: a 3.0 litre M Twinpower Turbo 510HP six-cylinder in-line engine. It is designed with the sole purpose of delivering "supremely assured performance" and absolutely doesn't disappoint.

The M3 Touring uses eight-speed M Steptronic transmission with Drivelogic alongside M xDrive all wheel drive to allow you to fully utilise the engine power. It demands power urgently and drinks the revs right into the highest peaks of the speed range with maximum torque of 650 Nm consistently available between 2750 rpm and 5500 rpm. The engine hits it's peak of 510HP when the revs hit 6250 rpm and won't red line until 7200 rpm.

If you needed any more convincing that this is an incredible performance engine then you should know that this straight six engine is also the base for the drive unit in the BMW M4 GT3 endurance racing car used by BMW Motorsport International.

Thanks to the M Steptronic transmission you can opt for fully automated gear changes or manual shifts with sequential gear selection using either the M-Specific lever or the shift paddles on the steering wheel.

The M xDrive all wheel drive system optimises traction and performance by distributing power to all four wheels to ensure that the hallmark M performance is delivered in every drive. This is thanks to an electronically controlled multi-late clutch in the transfer case which provides fully variable and ultra smooth power distribution between the front and rear wheels.

This is paired with the Active M Differential which gives fully variable distribution of the drive torque between the wheels as you actually need it. When you push the car hard or there is less grip on one side of the car it means that it will plant the drive power firmly onto the road without any losses.

All of this translates into instant response and amazing acceleration times. BMW reports that the M3 Touring takes just 3.6 seconds to power from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) and 12.9 seconds to reach 200 km/h (124 mph) from rest. The midrange sprint from 80 to 120 km/h (50 – 75 mph) is over in 2.7 seconds (in 4th gear) or 3.5 seconds (in 5th gear).


Standard equipment includes M sport seats for the driver and front passenger in Merino leather, heated front seats, electric adjustment with memory function for the driver's seat, automatic three zone climate control, ambient interior lighting, M leather steering wheel with stitching in M colours, HiFi loudspeaker system, adaptive cruise control, and front and rear Park Distance Control.

As well as the plethora of standard equipment available BMW also offer additional equipment and packages to further enhance your BMW M3 Touring. These are broken down to allow you to handpick the features and equipment that is most important to you.

For example, the Technology Plus Pack adds more driving assistance, the Visibility Pack adds Laserlights, and the Comfort Pack makes your car even easier to use.

The Ultimate Pack combines the best of all additional equipment and gives you comfort access, drive recording, driving assistant professional, extended storage contents, a heated driving wheel, Laserlights, M Carbon exterior styling, M Carbon bucket seats, parking assistant plus, and full black Merino Leather.

The standard curved display in the cabin is a phenomenon in itself. It has a screen diagonal of 14.9 inches with state of the art graphics and an angle towards the driver for ergonomic effect. BMW Operating System 8 has a newly designed graphical layout and also display all of the M content required to have a performance based driving experience when you enter the car.

The BMW M3 Touring also includes BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant with additional skills compared to previous versions. This includes being able to use naturally formulated speaking instructions for tasks such as adjusting the air conditioning or opening and closing the windows. The use of the Assistant is also highlighted on the centre console with graphics appearing in the display to show the system's character and also to indicate that it is listening in the direction of whomever is speaking.

The upgraded Carbon M Seats, for the driver and front passenger, are an excellent combination of racing finesse, lightweight design, incredible craftsmanship, and comfort for long distance journeys in a way that is distinctively BMW. The M Carbon seats have integrated headrests, use carbon fibre reinforced plastic in its structure of the seat cushion and backrest, and have cut outs in the side bolsters and below the head restraints for an impressive saving of 9.6kg over the M Sport seats.

For more information about the BMW M3 Touring please contact BMW Aberdeen or BMW Tayside.

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