Through the years, many enthusiasts have begged and pleaded with BMW to manufacture a wagon (or “touring”) version of two of their most iconic cars – the M3 and the M5. And for a couple generations, we were lucky to receive them – though in very small numbers and never sold new in the United States. However – since we’ve waited the requisite 25 years, you’re now in the clear to import the original M wagon – the E34 M5. But that’s before you take into account the crazy homebrew possibilities that intrepid BMW enthusiasts have cooked up through the years.
The E34 M5 Touring
The original fast M wagon is of course, the E34 M5 Touring. It debuted in Europe in 1992, a grocery getter with gobs of get up and go, featuring an S38 inline-six good for around 335 hp. It arguably represents some of the best aspects of the M division. Hand-built attention to detail, glorious inline-six power, and a manual transmission combine to offer a truly rewarding driving experience. These are difficult to find these days and they draw a correspondingly wealthy collector crowd – depending on condition you may be lucky to snag one for under $100,000.
Which isn’t necessarily an unfair price for a vehicle once dubbed the fastest wagon in the world. That, plus the fact that it was the last hand built M car, but the original M powered mommy-mobile, makes this car as much (or more of?) an M car as anything coming out of Dingolfing today.
The E61 M5 Touring
Skipping over the E39 generation M5, BMW M brought back the M5 touring for the already kind of nutty V10 powered M5, the E60. It’s of course propelled by the S85 V10 engine, paired to the infamously terrible SMG “automated manual” transmission that plagued so many mid 2000s BMWs. Unfortunately, no manual was offered in markets that received the E61 M5 Touring. Which is a shame, because this would be a better investment than Bitcoin if it got a manual.
Anyway, the E61 M5 did exactly the things you think it did: like 0-60 in 4.1 seconds, 1/4 mile in the 12 second range, a 207 mph top speed – higher than the McLaren 570s’ pathetic 204 mph. Also you could probably live in it, literally – fold down the seats and you can very comfortably sleep in the back. Not a bad combination. But remember – we’re just getting started.
The E46 M3 Touring
Less talked about is the one-off E46 M3 touring. Well, one off from the factory anyway – numerous enthusiasts have taken it upon themselves to recreate the experience. But only one came like that from BMW M themselves, and that makes it special. Powered by the same S54 powering the M3 of the same vintage, making good power in a very balanced chassis and some of the best looks gracing a BMW ever.
The E46 M3 Touring was produced as a “proof of concept” for BMW, and never truly saw the light of day, from a production standpoint. But the idea has captured the hearts and minds of enthusiasts everywhere, and around a dozen are documented to exist from various corners of the BMW-loving world.
Europe received a bevy of BMW diesels that never made it to the US, and the true king of the lineup was the crazy, quad-turbo M550d station wagon. As equally improbable as the engine’s layout itself, sporting 561 lb-ft of torque this wild wagon only took 4.4 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standstill. And…again…did we mention it has four turbos?
The older F10 5 series’ equivalent had a slightly more grounded but still impressive showing. Despite lacking a turbo (three instead of four), it certainly wasn’t a slouch, still generating a massive 546 lb-ft of torque.
And I know, it’s not technically an M car.
The long story short is that every M engine that could conceivably fit into a non-M car has experienced the conversion at one point or another. The E39 M5 has a few well documented full body and drivetrain swaps, meaning that there’s probably twenty or so E39 M5 wagons just in the United States alone. There’s a number of E30 Tourings that people have slapped together with a variety of powertrains under the hood, ranging from in-period, four-cylinder S14 swaps to LS swapped, widebody-wearing madness.
More recently, ambitious (and technically gifted!) F30 wagon owners have begun to convert their cars to F80 tourings. Swapping in an S55 engine, a ton of bodywork, and all the trim pieces is a painstaking process but it’s been documented more than once – including a true M3 CS Touring conversion.
The future – G81 M3
The G80 M3 has even gotten its fair share of wagon-related news: it’s made headlines due to an actual, real petition for BMW to bring the wagon version of the M3 to the United States. Having been spotted in the flesh, we know it’s real – and though numerous sources have told us no, we’re still praying that the wagon finds its way here sooner rather than later. At the time of this writing, over 5,000 people have signed – let’s hope BMW is watching.
Some small solace is achieved, however, knowing that enthusiastic and mechanically-savvy owners will eventually end up creating a G80 Touring in the United States, whether BMW likes it or not. And that may not even be the most interesting swap we see in the next few years: just wait until people start swapping the current generation S58 inline-six and S63 into some of the older longroofs.
The love affair with wagons runs deep for most car enthusiasts; how do you feel about them?