2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the M3, an automotive icon which revolutionized the mid-size sports car segment when its production started in 1986. BMW Motorsport Division, the precursor to BMW M Division, was incredibly rigorous in its deployment of undiluted motor racing technology in the development of the first-generation BMW M3. Its endeavors produced a thoroughbred high-performance sports car – based on the series-produced BMW 3 Series – that was perfectly suited to daily use.
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The 30th anniversary of the BMW M3 provides an ideal opportunity to look back at four highly intriguing model variants that, for various reasons, never made it past the prototype stage. One of them is a touring model based on the E46 M3.
The BMW M3 Touring prototype materialized because a production model was under consideration. The M3 Compact was made available to journalists for testing in order to both project an image and sound out customer interest. But the M3 Touring served entirely in-house purposes.
“This prototype allowed us to show that, from a purely technical standpoint at least, it was possible to integrate an M3 Touring into the ongoing production of the standard BMW 3 Series Touring with very little difficulty,” explains head of vehicle prototype building and workshops at BMW M Division and an employee at the company for more than 40 years.
“One important thing we needed to demonstrate was that the rear doors of the standard production model could be reworked to adapt them to the rear wheel arches without the need for new and expensive tools.” Once it had passed through the assembly line, the M3 Touring required only minimal manual follow-up work to fit the M-specific add-on parts and interior details, for example.
Power came courtesy of a naturally-aspirated six-cylinder in-line engine. The completely newly developed unit developed output of 252 kW/343 hp from its 3,246 cc and peak torque of 365 Newton meters (269 lb-ft).
Unfortunately for customers, the E46 M3 never made into production, even though this would have been one of the hottest sports wagons ever built.