You don’t need to drag race every generation of BMW M3 to know that the newer ones are faster. Each generation has been faster than the one it replaced, which is just the natural progression of every performance car. However, seeing just how much faster each generation became it actually sort of interesting. As automotive technology moves on, the leaps in performance become larger and larger. In this new video from Carwow, you get to see that on the road and it’s quite shocking.
This race features all six generations of M3, from the original E30 all the way to the current G80. In order from oldest to newest, it goes like this: E30, E36, E46, E92, F80, G80. What’s interesting is that, when you really look at each one on the road, they’re all quite a bit different from the one they replace. The most similar two generations are the E36 and E46 but every other generational jump was quite drastic.
The original E30 M3 was the only homologated race car of the bunch, using a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine with 192 horsepower and a five-speed manual. After that, the E36 M3 was bigger and heavier, with a 3.0-liter inline-six that originally made 286 horsepower (240 in the U.S.) but was bumped to 3.2-liter I6 with 321 horsepower after the LCI facelift. While most customers opted for a five-speed manual, the E36 M3 was the one that introduced an automatic option. The E46 M3 used a similar recipe as the E36 M3, using a 3.2-liter inline-six but with 333 horsepower, a six-speed manual, and it replaced the E36’s five-speed auto with a six-speed sequential-manual gearbox (SMG).
Jumping to the E92 M3 is where things really got weird. BMW ditched the I6 engine from the E46 M3 and replaced it with a 4.0-liter V8 making 414 horsepower and revving to 8,250 rpm. It also ditched the SMG for a seven-speed dual-clutch (DCT). BMW M made another big change with the F80 M3, making it a sedan only (M3 coupe became the M4), and going back to an inline-six but with two turbochargers—an M3 first— and 425 horsepower.
Now, we’re at the G80 M3, the most controversial of all M3s. While its engine remained similar to its predecessor—a 3.0-liter twin-turbo I6—it makes upwards of 503 horsepower, drops the DCT for an eight-speed auto, and is the first M3 ever to offer all-wheel drive. More than that, it’s the first M3 ever to be offered as a wagon.
So as you can see, each generation is more powerful and more advanced than its predecessor. However, in the actual drag race, since most cars are manual, driver skill can make a big difference. Plus, there are some interesting quirks about each one, like the E92 being tricky to launch and the G80 launching in second gear because it’s a rear-wheel drive Competition-spec. So it’s really quite fun to watch. Plus, you get to hear the killer exhausts of the older cars.