On this episode of Ignition, Carlos Lago is back and driving all four generations of his favorite German sports car, the BMW M3! Through 28 years of evolution, from E30 to E36 to E46 to E90, has the M3 lost its edge?
The first M3 was introduced in 1985 with a 2.3 L I4 S14B23 engine. The engine design was based on various BMW genealogy; basic block layout from the M10 4 cylinder (found in the 2002 and 320 series) overbored and reinforced to similar specifications of the BMW M88 inline-6. When the E30 M3 was in its final years of top level competition, the 2.5 liter S14 engine in full race trim was capable of over 340 hp (250 kW) naturally aspirated.
The E36 variant appeared first in 1992 and was the first M3 powered by a straight-6 engine. The engine used is a 2,990 cc S50, which produces 210 kW (282 hp).
Initially available as a coupe only, BMW introduced M3 convertible/cabriolet and saloon versions in 1994, the absence of any M5 models in the BMW line-up between the end of E34 M5 production in 1995 and the launch of the E39 M5 in 1998 prompting the introduction of the four-door Motorsport model. In September and November, 1995, the M3 coupe and saloon, respectively, were upgraded to the 236 kilowatts (316 hp) 3.2 liter S50B32 engine
One of BMW fans’ favorite, the E46 chassis, made its debut in 2001. It was powered by the 3.2 liter S54 M-tuned engine. At the time of the car’s introduction, this engine had the highest specific output naturally aspirated of any engine ever made by BMW (except in the McLaren F1), producing 343 horsepower (256 kW) and 365 N·m (269 lb-ft). No sedan variant was offered for the E46 generation.
The E46 M3 was offered with a standard 6-speed Getrag transmission, but optionally came with a SMG drivelogic transmission (also known as the SMG II).
In 2007 BMW introduced the E90/E92/E93 platforms, corresponding to three different bodystyles: sedan, coupe and convertible. The award-winning S65 engine produces 414 bhp (309 kW; 420 PS) at 8300 rpm, with peak torque of 295 lb-ft (400 N-m) at 3900 rpm. A six-speed manual transmission is standard. As from April 2008, BMW offers a new seven speed Getrag double-clutch gearbox, called M-DKG (Doppel-Kupplungs-Getriebe) or M-DCT (Double Clutch Transmission) as an option.
The next generation M3 is just around the corner and for the first time BMW will split the M3 models into two different badges: M3 for the sedan and M4 moniker for the Coupe and Convertible variants.
The new M3 / M4 also moves away from the naturally-aspirated engines and will make use of a six-cylinder high-rev turbocharged engine which will produce 440 horsepower.