The Ultimate BMW M3 Review: E30 vs E36 vs E46 vs E92 vs F80

BMW M3, Videos | December 23rd, 2015 by 7
bmw m3 family 45 750x500

Christmas came early for BMW fans. The folks at Car Throttle bring us the first review of all five generations BMW M3. From the E30 …

Christmas came early for BMW fans. The folks at Car Throttle bring us the first review of all five generations BMW M3. From the E30 M3 to the latest F80 chassis, the UK folks take the iconic M3 to the ultimate test drive. We’ve seen the M3 powered by an inline four, an inline six, a V8, and now a twin-turbo inline six. Regardless of the powertrain and horsepower output, the M3 has always set the benchmark in the segment and created a cult among car enthusiasts.

bmw m3 family 43 750x499

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.

Concorso dEleganza Villa dEste 2015 BMW M3 E30 02 750x497

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.

An BMW E92 M3 Lime Rock Park Edition Modded 5

The current generation M3 is a four-door saloon with the convertible and coupe variants getting the M4 badge.

Nonetheless, the inline-six makes a comeback with the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged unit producing 425 hp and 550 Nm of torque. BMW claims the M3 can reach 100 km/h in just 4.3 seconds with the optional automatic dual-clutch gearbox. While the car has a base price of more than $65,000, several ‘options’ including carbon-ceramic brakes can increase the cost by at least $20,000.

READ THIS: The History Of The BMW M3


If you had the opportunity to drive all five M3s back to back, which one do you think would be your favorite?

7 responses to “The Ultimate BMW M3 Review: E30 vs E36 vs E46 vs E92 vs F80”

  1. Epistomai says:

    Sold my only BMW (2011), so I won’t have the chance to drive all of them. Would love to read experiences from who has driven at least some of them.

  2. Tony says:

    E30 is the most fun (just so raw)
    E36 is a balance between the e30 and e46
    E46 is most precise
    E92 is best sounding (also fun with that 8300rpm)
    F80 is most maniacle (always puts a smile on my face because of how insane it is)

  3. Senne says:

    This was really an amazing video. I doubted he would love the F80 as much as he did the E92, because it’s turbocharged etc. But it turned out he loved the F80 even more. I think it’s incredible how BMW made every generation M3 so much better. Will they ever make an M3 that’s not as good as the previous gen or will they keep evolving? I respect BMW for doing this. As I love them for making the M2, although they will not make much money from doing it! :)

  4. Wolf says:

    I saw the video and bought an e46 M3. I don’t see his you can improve on this car. The newer ones go faster but extra speed is not what is needed on British roads. It has enough or more power than you need. Buy a good e46 M3 now. I can see them going the way 911s have in the last few years.

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