With the new M3 and M4 generations launching across many countries, it is time to see them together with the five ancestor generations that came up before and thrilled fans all over the world. The new M3 Sedan and M4 Coupe generation are really the most important topic within the current BMW lineup at the moment, causing quite a lot of controversy and passion due to their polarized exterior design, as well as the sharp and high performance figures.
The Iconic E30 M3
The story of the BMW M3 started over 35 years ago. In 1985, BMW unveiled the fruit of some intense months of development and preparation: the first-ever M3, the fastest model of the E30 3 Series generation, premiered at the IAA Frankfurt. For the past 35 years, the grandfather of all modern M3s has also been a reference in terms of puristic driving and dynamism and, above all, the undisputed benchmark in its automotive segment.
It was not easy for the engineers of the back-then entitled BMW Motorsport division (which was later to become the BMW M GmbH) to create a model that would become an icon, a statement for the brand. The development program had to be adapted to just a few, as the E30 M3 was also being for Group A motor racing homologation.
The first generation BMW M3 was produced in no less than 17,970 pieces. By all standards, this is an exceptional number given that the initial aim, in accordance with FIA regulations, was to produce 5,000 units. This powerfully speaks about the great impact that the E30 M3 had and how its success led to the decision of building generation after generation of high-performance 3 Series models.
The E36 M3
Much like the E46 M3, the E36 M3 comes from a time when BMWs were known for incredibly precise and communicative steering and purity of driving. The E36 M3 is a cult hero to many BMW enthusiasts. With a free revving inline-six engine, 5-Speed manual, a limited-slip diff and rear-wheel drive all for under 10k (and in some cases under 5k), the E36 is one helluva deal.
The Beautiful E46 M3 and E92 M3
The E46 M3 was another hit among the clients with its traditional S54 6-cylinder NA petrol engine. In 2007, BMW decided to add the Sedan body to the M3 portfolio, thus joining the Coupe and Convertible fixtures. To set apart from the standard non-M E90 3 Series, the M3 Sedan borrowed the signature face of the E92/E93 models, thus establishing a visual trend for the following generations. All M3 models under the E9x series were the first and last of their kind to be powered by the S65 V8 naturally-aspirated engine.
The launch of the first 4 Series model in 2012 also led to the creation of the M4 Coupe and the disappearance of the M3 Coupe badge. The former M3 droptop model was also replaced by the new M4 Convertible, with the F80 generation remaining the sole model to stick to the M3 nameplate.
Now, after more than 35 years of continuous development and change of generations, the new M3 and M4 family live on closer and stronger together than ever before, like in a perfect symbiosis.
[Photos: Christian Colmenero / Zona IV Producciones for BMW Spain]