This new G80 BMW M3 is one of the most polarizing BMWs in history. It’s right up there with the “Bangle Butt” E65 BMW 7 Series and buck-toothed BMW X7. But the real question is; where does its styling rank among other M3s?
The BMW M3 is an icon of the automotive industry. It’s the quintessential sports sedan; the car you can drive everyday, take the kids to school in and also flog on a canyon road. However, the M3 has never really been a beautiful car. Its styling has always been function over form.
Even the coolest of M3 design elements throughout history have been pragmatic in nature. For instance, the E92 M3’s hood bulge was only added to accommodate the big V8 engine. The F80 M3’s killer fender flares were only added to fit the M3’s wider wheel track than the standard 3 Series.
So while this new BMW M3 isn’t exactly beautiful (which is being kind), its lineage isn’t exactly beautiful, either. So where does the G80 rank among the best looking M3s of all time? Looks are highly subjective, we’re completely aware that our list will almost certainly be different than most of yours’. So we’ll rank ours and you can rank yours in the comments section below.
Sixth Place — G80 BMW M3
Remember how I said most iconic M3 design elements were functional? That’s sort what makes them special. There’s a motorsport-style pragmatism to their designs. However, the G80’s most notable design element — that monster grille — isn’t purely functional. Some might say that those grilles are large for extra cooling but BMW could provide enough cooling without such a massive grille. Some might also say that the grilles are huge to hide sensors but you can see the flipping sensor, asymmetrically tacked onto the front of one of the grilles. So the G80’s design is neither pretty, nor functional. So it sits at last place.
Fifth Place — E36 BMW M3
The only BMW I’ve ever owned was an E36 3 Series, so I’ll always have a ton of love for it. However, it’s never been the best looking 3er, nor the best looking M3. It’s just a bit too boxy and lacks any sort of real visual interest. It’s not bad looking per se, it’s just a bit boring. It looks better as a coupe but it’s one of the only M3s to be offered as both a coupe and sedan, so that buys it some cool points. But it’s better looking than the G80, so fifth place it is.
Fourth Place — F80 BMW M3
This is where it gets interesting because the F80 M3 is actually a great looking car. Its swollen fender flares give it real menace, its stance is near-perfect and its face — grille and headlights — looks positively beautiful after seeing the G80. It’s always been a great looking sports sedan, so its placement is just due to having three other even better looking M3s.
Third Place — E30 BMW M3
While the E30 M3, the original, is basically just a brick with wheels, it’s an awesome looking brick. One of the reasons it looks so good is that its design truly is motorsport-derived, as the E30 M3 is the only M3 to actually be a homologated race car. So its gorgeous boxy fender flares and big rear wing are purely functional. It’s such an iconic design and one that defines its era of European sports cars. So while, again, it’s not pretty, it’s an epic design.
Second Place — E46 BMW M3
This was the hardest placement for me. The E46 M3 might be perfect in its design. It’s just so wonderfully balanced and its proportions are spot on. Its stance is near perfect and its design is timeless. However, the only thing that ranks it second instead of first is that I think there’s one M3 that looks even better.
First Place — E90/E92 BMW M3
The E90/E92 is, in my humble opinion, the best looking M3 of all. I used to think it was the E46 but the E9X-generation has grown on me dramatically over the past couple of years. In either sedan (E90) or coupe (E92) form, it’s a stunning looking car. Its overall design, starting with the base 3 Series, is aging so well and still looks fresh. In profile, the E92 especially looks near-perfect. It’s also at that perfect age when it’s just modern enough to still seem fresh but old enough to feel like it’s from a simpler time of car design.
So that’s our list of the best looking M3s of all time. As you can see that the G80 didn’t fare very well. Where would you place the G80?