How to spot a genuine ‘M’ Series BMW

How-To | May 31st, 2013 by 17
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For car enthusiasts, the ‘M’ badge with the BMW racing stripes is the ultimate symbol of sports performance combined with the quality and luxury that …

For car enthusiasts, the ‘M’ badge with the BMW racing stripes is the ultimate symbol of sports performance combined with the quality and luxury that one has come to expect from one of the bestselling car manufacturers in the world.
But whilst many dream of one day picking up the keys to a brand new or used BMW, many can be caught out by a proliferation of imitation ‘M’ series BMWs that are frequently seen in classifieds and on dealer forecourts.
A combination of aftermarket ‘M’ badges being freely available online and at trade shows, as well as the creation of ‘M Sport’ sub-brands, has caused confusion for some used BMW buyers over just what they’re actually parting with their money for, so how do you tell exactly what you’re buying?

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Spotting an ‘M’ Car from an ‘M’ Badge

The genuine BMW ‘M’ Series cars – the 1M, M3, M5, M6 and M Coupes – are considered by many to be the last word in luxury performance motoring and the cars have both the performance and the styling to live up to that claim.
However, BMW has recently started to produce a series of ‘M Sport’ branded vehicles, designed to plug the gap between the standard models across the range and its thoroughbred M series models and compete with Audi’s ‘S-Line’ models.

However, this has blurred the lines of what constitutes a true M series for many potential buyers. The bona fide M cars are bred for pure performance and this is clear the second you open the bonnet. Whilst the M Sport models use largely the same engines throughout the BMW range, the M Series machines use bespoke engines that generate significantly more power. The E90 M3 packs a 4 litre V8 that generates 420hp whilst the M5 produces 560hp from its twin-turbo 4.4l power plant.

Styling cues will also be notable, particularly the side vents above the front wheel arches. These are distinctive to the BMW M series editions and are not available as a factory fit on any other BMW model.

Check the VIN Number

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Whether you are in the market for either an M Series of an M Sport, you still need to make sure that you understand that what you are buying is exactly what you are expecting it to be, rather than a standard model that is plastered in ‘M’ badges bought from eBay or a local trade show.

You should be able to tell this from the V5/C logbook but if you don’t have access to this, try typing the VIN into This handy database will tell you exactly how the car you’re interested in rolled out of the factory, making it easy to tell what has been added (or taken away) since then.

Buy from a reputable dealer

If you’re still unsure, the safest way to ensure that you are getting what you expect is to buy from a reputable dealer or from an established car supermarket. By searching at you can fine used BMWs near to you and ensure that what you are buying is exactly what you are looking for.

17 responses to “How to spot a genuine ‘M’ Series BMW”

  1. TGAT says:

    M8???? Please post a link to a sold example of this car. If you meant 850CSi, well, I respect that car, but it isn’t an M.

  2. Zeke says:

    What about debadged M’s…I debadged mine because if you don’t know what an e39 M5 is, I don’t need you to know.

    • VTEN PWR says:

      If you debadged your e39, then those who aren’t familiar with the car won’t spot it as easily. The same could be said for my e60 M5, but I wouldn’t do such a thing?

  3. Turbonator says:

    Totally expected since BMW themselves started plastering the M badge all over the place. Talk about dilution of the M brand.

  4. Dave says:

    What about the M Roadster? You left that out of the list.

  5. denton says:

    I saw an E90 328i in NYC last week, debadged, tints, and ‘M’ logo on the back. lmao.

  6. AreYouA-Mcar? says:

    Interesting posts. Any M-Badged unit born M is an M period.
    On the M8. I’d love to see the proof BMW AG GmbH ever built and badged a M8. It would have been nice to see but all dreams don’t come true.
    Of course, these are my opinions based on self-research.

  7. Harlequin says:

    Easiest way is the 3rd digit of the VIN. ALL ///M cars are “S” as in “WBS…”

  8. Citizen says:

    Here’s the BMW ETK 2014 with integrated VIN decoder. It shows full spec of any bmw car.

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