The 15 Best BMW M Cars

BMW M, Featured Posts | July 25th, 2012 by 27

BMW M was established in 1972 and represents BMW’s foray into the sportscars market. The first M product was the 3.0 CSL, a car built …

BMW M was established in 1972 and represents BMW’s foray into the sportscars market. The first M product was the 3.0 CSL, a car built for the racing venues, and followed by the first M-badged vehicle: the M1.

Built starting in 1978, the M1 is one of BMW’s finest vehicles to date. It was the first and only mid-engined BMW to be mass produced. It was powered by a twin-cam M88/1 3.5 liter 6-cylinder gasoline engine with Kugelfischer injection.

Another iconic M car, yet never released to the public, was the M8. The iconic M model was unveiled for the first time in 2010 at a private event for journalists around the world. The M8 was equipped with a V12 prototype engine based on the S70 engine, producing around 550 horsepower.

For the compact segment, BMW launched a series of classic M cars that have gone to the heart of BMW purists, such as the E30 M3, E28 M5 or the M Coupe.

In more recent times, models like the E46 M3, E61 M5 Touring and the first M-diesel tuned vehicle M550d, are bound to become classics in their own way. BMW M continues to evolve and adapt to modern era requirements and regulations, and over the next decade an interesting array of M-built or M-touched vehicles will come to market.

This article is inspired by a recent piece we have read on which takes on the challenging task to outline “The 15 Best BMW M Cars” of all time. Let’s take a peak at their top 15, and then we will share with us your favorite M cars ever produced.

1. E9 3.0 CSL
Years: 1971 – 1975

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

2. E12 M535i
Years: 1979 – 1981

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

3. E26 M1
Years: 1978 – 1981

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

4. E30 320is
Years: 1987 – 1990

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

5. E36/8 M Coupe
Years: 1998 – 2002

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

6. E31 850CSi (not an actual M car, but considered an M8-like model)
Years: 1993 – 1996

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

7. E30 M3
Years: 1986 – 1990

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

8. E24 M635CSi
Years: 1983 – 1989

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

9. E28 M5
Years: 1984 – 1988

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

10. E39 M5
Years: 1998 – 2003

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

11. E46 M3 Coupe
Years: 2000 – 2006

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

12. F10 M5
Years: 2012 and on

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

13. E61 M5 Touring
Years: 2007 – 2010

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

14. E36 M3 Sedan
Years: 1994 – 1998

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

15. M550d Xdrive
Years: 2012 and on

The 15 Best BMW M Cars

  • N8shon

    PLEASE fix the picture posted for the E46 M3 Coupe. You have the E39 M5 picture for both the E39 M5 AND the E46 M3 Coupe!

  • elgee

    1M coupé has to be here!

  • Mathias

    No E46 CSL??????

  • tjpark01

    A couple of these cars aren’t even M cars. You’re basterdizing the M brand even more than BMW already has.
    M550d Xdrive
    E31 850CSi
    2011 1M
    2006 M Coupe

    • Horatiu B.

      As we said, this is not our top.

      We would have there the M3 CSL and 1M

    • Kjasil

      exactly , 1M and M6 2012 !

      • Kjasil

        X5 M , X6 M

  • E30_M3_LVR

    There needs to be the M3 CSL and/or the 1M in there. I agree with the rest though

  • Otto

    Well, well, well, that’s not a good start:
    “BMW M was established in 1972″
    It’s not BMW M but BMW Motorsport. Ok, to make it short, we call it M, but in a kind of historical article, I would expect to read the “Motorsport”, right?
    Then, the No1 is the E9 3.0 CSL produced as from …1971. Kind of “Back to the Future” isn’t
    Let’s go down a bit to the 4th : the E30 320is. Let me give you some background on this one. The 320is was sold only on very few markets, Italy and Portugal. I don’t know about Portugal but Italy was because the road tax was much higher for engine above 2 liter so BMW decided not to import the E30 M3 and offered the 320is instead which output just a couple less bhp than the M3. It was also the 1st street car to almost reach 100 bhp/liter as far as I remember.
    But basically, ranking a car sold only in those markets is a kind of a joke, isn’t?

    So now, how is the Z4 M Coupe ranked? What?! no Z4 M!
    And a Diesel is ranked 15th?!

    That’s definitively a joke…

    • Otto

      Argh, I meant the 1st NA engine to almost reach 100 bhp/liter of course.

    • Otto

      Argh, I meant the 1st NA engine to almost reach 100 bhp/liter of course.

  • Another regular guy

    The sedan E36 hardly deserves an honorable mention, and the E36 coupe is left off the grid. I’m not even sure why I’m wasting the time to leave a comment on some guy’s opinion piece of ‘top 15′ M cars.

  • Colin

    I’m an E30 enthusiast and if I’m not mistaken, the E30 320is was the Italian market only S14 powered car brought to market slightly detuned to meet a tax break. It was only available as a 4-door sedan to my knowledge. The picture posted is simply an E30 MTech2 coupé.

    • Colin

      Scratch that. Looked through realoem again and it lists it as both a sedan and coupé. My mistake, carry on.

  • 1M owner

    I’d say you guys missed the mark just a bit. Several of the cars listed here aren’t M cars. I second the M Division wasn’t established until 1972, all cars prior to that were leading up to and supportive of BMW creating the M Division. Leaving out the 1M is just doesn’t make any sense since it will walk all over the e46 M3 and remains one of the lowest imported M cars to the US ever.

  • James Turro

    I’m glad to see my E36 M sedan on the list–I’ve owned for 12 years (bought as CPO) and still really enjoy the ride

    • sonnyjim

      Dude what do those wheels come off/ what they called?x

  • Law

    People bashing on the 850CSi need to realize that they didn’t stick the M badge on it but the whole car was developed by Motorsport Gmbh. The motor was a V12 S70 developed by M, the VIN begins with WBS, manual gearbox. If anything, it was more of an “M-car” than the 1 series M, which has a Z4 35is motor with M3 suspension, brakes, subframe. Essentially, it was the unofficial M8 after the prototype was scrapped. “An M car in all but name”

  • Law

    Those hating on the 850CSi must not realized the entire car was
    developed by Motorsport GmbH. The motor was M’s very own S70 V12 &
    the VIN indicated it was produced by Motorsport (i.e. WBS prefix). It
    wasn’t a 1-series with a Z4 35is motor & M3 brakes, suspension, subframe.

  • Em/1

    Major duh factor–who wrote this!!! E46 CSL, GTS and 1M at the top please.

  • BP

    Actually, I prefer the days before M cars when one could get an LSD with just about any MT car. Just like Cadillac today on the ATS with all but the base engine.

    But not on a BMW unless you get the M. So sad.

  • geeeeeez

    Can anyone tell me what wheels those are on the e36 saloon/sedan??

    • msixnut6

      The wheels are called M contour and came on E36 luxury editions.

  • M Fan

    E63 M6 with that amazing v10 and the best looks of the last 10 years should have been there

  • Tarek

    My favorite was forgotten; the M6, and also Z4 M.

  • Jethro Lubas

    I find it laughable that the E46 M3 CSL is nowhere to be found in this list along with the Z3 M Roadster/Coupe.

  • Surya De

    E92 M3? Only V8 M3? Come on that has to be in this list.