BMW has a rich history of incredible cars. For at least the past sixty years, the Bavarians have been debuted at least one or two incredible cars every decade. So it’s very difficult to narrow it down to just a few of the very best. That isn’t going to stop us from trying. But it’s just not possible to choose just one or even two or three. So we’re going to pick four of the best BMWs of all time and put them on our fictional Bavarian Mount Rushmore.
In this little exercise, we can choose from any BMW throughout its storied history. However, it has to have a BMW Roundel on it. No MINIs, no Rolls-Royces, nothing that comes from a brand that BMW owns or has owned. Also, like Mount Rushmore itself, this isn’t a list in a particular order. It’s just acknowledgement of four of the best Bimmers in history. So let’s get started.
It’s impossible to talk about the best BMWs of all time without at least mentioning the BMW 507. Not only is it one of the most beautiful cars the brand has ever made but it was so over-engineered that it almost bankrupted the company. BMW poured tons of money into the 507, making it as absolutely incredible as it could, and it ended up not selling well enough to recuperate the cost. Then there’s the star-power, as several famous celebrities at the time had 507s, with the most famous being Elvis Presley. However, despite all of that, I think the most qualifying aspect of the BMW 507, for its Mount Rushmore appearance, is the fact that it’s unique.
BMW has really only made one other car like the 507 since, the famous BMW Z8, and it took nearly fifty years to do so. BMW isn’t famous for gorgeous, cruising roadsters, as that’s not really the brand’s M.O. However, the two that it’s made have both been breathtaking the BMW 507 is the original.
E30 BMW M3
If the 507 is near impossible to not mention when discussing BMW’s history, leaving the E30 M3 out would be criminal. Not only was it the original M3 but it was such a special machine when it debuted and is still widely considered to be the very finest driving M3 of all time. Sure, its motorsport-derived four-cylinder barely made 200 hp but it was the way that it revved and the noise that it made that made it so special.
There are also few cars in history with the same sort of engaging driving dynamics as the E30 BMW M3. Enthusiasts still wax lyrical about the steering feel, precision and handling dynamics of the first-ever M3. It also looked the business, thanks to its boxy fender flares and rear wing.
Another feather in the E30 M3’s cap is the fact that it was the last pure homologation special BMW ever made. Meaning, it was the last car that BMW developed as a race car first and then turned into a road car.
E39 BMW M5
If someone were to say that the E39 BMW M5 was the finest driving super sedan in history, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a counter argument. The E39 M5 is the stuff of legends, a car that almost every enthusiast, regardless of preferred brand, loves.
Thanks to its classic good looks, brilliant 4.9 liter naturally-aspirated V8 and sensational driving dynamics, the E39 M5 is often considered the best M5 of all time. Even though each and every M5 since has been more powerful and far faster, it’s the E39-gen that fans keep coming back to. It also has some star power, as it was the car journalist Alex Roy used to break the Cannonball Run record and it was the car used in BMW Film’s “Star”, featuring Clive Owen and Madonna.
While the E39 BMW M5 doesn’t really have any major specific accolades — it isn’t the first M5 or the most powerful of the fastest — it’s probably the best to actually drive and it’s one of the best driving sedans in history.
E38 7 Series
We had to put a regular BMW on here, as we couldn’t just use M cars, that would be no fun. So we thought long and hard about which regular BMW really stood out among the rest, which was the Bimmer that was, and still is, considered to be the best of its kind. That had to be the E38-generation BMW 7 Series.
The E38 7 Series is, almost without question, the very best 7 Series of all time. Not only that but it’s one of the best luxury cars ever made. Seriously. In its short wheelbase form, with an M Sport package, it’s also one of the best looking. Its styling is timeless, with handsome, square-jawed good looks and smooth lines. Yet it’s still elegant and sophisticated looking, enough to be a proper luxury car.
More than that, though, the E38 7 Series was and still is incredible to drive. No other luxury Bimmer has ever managed to nail that balance of comfort, handling and fun, before or since. It was also a Bond car. Do I need to say more?