The history of BMW M3 special editions

BMW M3, BMW M4 | April 13th, 2016 by 8
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“Special Edition models sharpen the character of the BMW M brand and embody an emotionally rich and exclusive driving experience,” says Frank van Meel, CEO …

“Special Edition models sharpen the character of the BMW M brand and embody an emotionally rich and exclusive driving experience,” says Frank van Meel, CEO of BMW M. The new BMW M4 GTS joins a family of exclusive BMW M3 Special Editions which have been setting the pace for 30 years.

Production of the first BMW M3 (E30) got under way in 1986, establishing M on both the street and the track.

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1988: BMW M3 Evolution (E30). 

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In 1988, BMW M GmbH brought the BMW M3 Evolution onto the market in a limited-run special series of 500 units. Its four-cylinder in-line engine with 2.3-liter displacement now developed 220 hp – 25 hp more than the standard M3. The increase in power was the result of a series of modifications to components that included the valves, pistons, cylinder head and camshaft. Weight reduction measures included body and thinner window glass. The BMW M3 Evolution had a more pronounced front spoiler than the standard M3 and a larger, adjustable rear spoiler.

1990: BMW M3 Sport Evolution (E30).
The development of the M3 E30 reached its highest mark in 1990 with the arrival of the BMW M3 Sport Evolution, available only in Gloss Black or Brilliant Red. The new arrival developed up to 238 hp from its four-cylinder in-line engine, now with 2.5-liter displacement – up more than 22 percent compared with the standard BMW M3 at the time. The intelligent lightweight construction of components including the front wings, muffler, front spoiler, trunk lid and rear wing brought the curb weight down by around 77 pounds. The adjustable splitter on the front spoiler and 16-inch light-alloy wheels with Nogaro Silver star in the center of the rim were among the most distinctive external features of the BMW M3 Sport Evolution. Inside, the front bucket seats with integral head restraints, red seat belts and suede leather covers for the sports steering wheel, handbrake lever and gearshift lever knob underlined the car’s sporting prowess. Another key mark of this M3 version – of which only 600 were produced – was the “Sport Evolution 1990” badge on the center console.

1995: BMW M3 GT (E36). 

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The second generation of the BMW M3 saw a 6-cylinder inline engine take over as the sports car’s power source. With capacity of 2,990cc, four-valve technology and VANOS camshaft timing on the intake side, the engine generated a formidable 286 hp and enabled acceleration form 0 to 100 km/h (62mph) in 5.9 seconds. In 1995, BMW M GmbH launched the BMW M3 GT special-edition model in a run of just 350 units. Output was boosted to 295 hp and the engine previewed some of the technical details of the upcoming 3.2-liter unit. The car’s doors were made from aluminium and the interior was decked out in Mexico Green Nappa leather. As for exterior paint shades, the special edition was available in British Racing Green or Silver only.

2003: BMW M3 CSL (E46). 

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BMW returned to the idea of a limited-run special-edition BMW M3 in mid-2003, this time using the E46 model generation as the donor car. The CSL affix was a reference to the legendary BMW 3.0 CSL (for “Coupe Sport Leichtbau”) of the early 1970s. In keeping with this moniker, denoting lightweight design, the BMW M3 CSL introduced a series of weight-saving parts to the mix. The center console, interior door trim and rear-view mirror were made from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP), the rear window featured thinner glass, the trunk lid with integral spoiler lip was now lighter and weight had also been cut from the trunk trim. All in all, the judicious use of lightweight parts allowed the car’s curb weight to be reduced by 362 pounds to 3,053 pounds.

The power produced by the 3,246cc 6-cylinder inline engine, was increased to 360 hp. Modification of the intake air ducting was necessary to cool the upgraded engine, which led to the creation of a distinctive circular aperture in the aerodynamically optimized front apron to enhance the supply of air to the airbox. Externally, the BMW M3 CSL stood apart from the BMW M3 with its exposed carbon-fiber roof and special “Sport” 19-inch M light-alloy wheels with Michelin Sport Cup tires.

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On opening the door, the two bucket seats and lightweight rear seats in an Amaretta/cloth combination immediately caught the eye. The doors came with carbon-fiber inserts, the M sports steering wheel had a grippy Alcantara covering and the center console was now of a more compact and lightweight construction. Another distinctive feature of the steering wheel was the “M” button used to activate M Track Mode. This adapted the responses of the power steering and the parameters of Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) to allow an even sportier driving style. The modified Launch Control system helped the BMW M3 CSL to race from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 4.8 seconds and hit the 200 km/h (124 mph) mark in a mere 16.7 seconds. The CSL chassis brought magnetic pulse-formed rear control arms and some of the tuning work took place at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. The result of these modifications could be seen in independent tests. Indeed, the BMW M3 CSL set what was then the fastest lap of the Nordschleife for its output class (7 min 50 sec).

2010: BMW M3 GTS (E92).

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In 2010, BMW M GmbH introduced the direct successor to the BMW M3 CSL in the form of the BMW M3 GTS. Like its predecessor, it was designed to deliver the highest dynamic performance. Lightweight construction once again played a central role, reducing the car’s DIN curb weight to 3,373 pounds – 275 pounds lower than that of the standard BMW M3. An increase in the cylinder stroke pushed the displacement of the V8 engine from 4.0 up to 4.4 liters, boosting output by 30 hp to 450 hp.

The BMW M3 GTS came as standard with a bolted-on roll bar in place of a rear seat bench, and this could be optionally upgraded to a full roll cage. Furthermore, mounts for four- and six-point Schroth seatbelts were fitted. And finally, the fire extinguisher holder behind the front seats underlined the clear track focus of the GTS. The car’s racing ability was also enhanced by revised aerodynamics. A front spoiler with carbon-fiber splitter teamed up with the carbon-fiber rear wing on the trunk lid to reduce lift and ensure high cornering speeds.

BMW M GmbH produced the BMW M3 GTS largely by hand, with the cars built individually in the factory to customer specification. Type approval for road use in Germany was on a case-by-case basis.

2011: BMW M3 CRT (E92).

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The BMW M3 CRT – produced in a run of just 67 units from May 2011 – combined the technology of the BMW M3 GTS with the body of the four-door BMW M3 Sedan. The CRT also had a carbon-fiber bonnet with apertures next to the powerdome and a splitter below the front apron, but the large rear spoiler on the trunk lid was usurped by a carbon-fiber spoiler lip. In place of a roll bar, the BMW M3 CRT came with a rear seat bench containing two molded individual seats. With a curb weight (DIN) of 3,483 pounds, the BMW M3 CRT was around 99 pounds lighter than the BMW M3 Sedan.

2016: BMW M4 GTS (F82). 

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In 2016, BMW M GmbH presented the next in its line of sports car special editions in the form of the BMW M4 GTS. The new car takes the concept of BMW M3/BMW M4 models radically accentuating their sporting genes another step into the future in innovative style. For around 700 enthusiasts worldwide, roughly 300 bound for the first time to US shores, with a taste for extra-high output, sharp handling and unbeatable performance, this will be the most agile, radical and powerful M4 ever.

The BMW M4 GTS sees BMW M GmbH not only celebrating 30 years of the BMW M3/M4 success story but also presenting a perfect model to mark the centenary of the BMW brand.

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