The year was 1985, with BMW ramping up their racing, they would soon stumble across one of the most competitive niches to date. They created the M3 with intentions of just qualifying for the races, they needed 5,000 road versions of their ultimate racing machine to be eligible. Later in 1991 they would sell over 17,000 M3’s. Released at the 1985 Frankfurt Auto Show, the four banger, rear wheel drive maniac known as the E30 was given to the world. With a rear wing, revised suspension kinematics, and a four cylinder good for 200 horses the M3 made a pretty solid statement about your need for speed. The 2.3L straight 4 (internally known as the S14) and all 200 horsepower were good enough to carry the 1200kg (2,640lbs) from a standstill to 60 in about 6.6 seconds. It was no slow poke by any means.
The next iteration in 1992, the E36, would take the driving performance of its forbear and improve upon it. For their next trick, they’d up the ante with a 3.0L straight six, now good for 282 ponies. The 0-60 was now down to 6 seconds dead. BMW was owning their niche, all the other companies just lagged behind. Of course that is open to debate, but with such an improvement on something already made to perfection, BMW didn’t leave much room for the competition.
Next perhaps the most famous, considered most likely to be the best of the M3’s, was the E46. Revealed in 2000, the E46 took the M3 name to new heights. The straight six of yore was replaced with a new six at 3.2L which made 343 horsepower now. It was up by sixty, which in today’s world is nothing, but back then it made all the difference, especially seeing as it was only 1549kg (3,415lbs). Car and Driver said that the 2006 M3 was their favorite sports car of all time, something not to be taken lightly. With all this greatness it was hard for BMW to know where to go next with their dream machine…
And thus the E92 was born. It was given a V8. A naturally aspirated V8. A 4.0L naturally aspirated V8 good for 414hp at 8,300 rpm! A naturally aspirated V8, in an M3! Surely that had to be the highlight, surely it couldn’t be any better… unless you included the fact it could still be bought with a manual, and that it weighed 1580kg (3,483 lbs), with a 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds as tested by Car and Driver. Could it get any better?!
And so in September of 2013, production of the E92 was discontinued, a deep melancholy now swept throughout the purists and followers of M around the world. The new M4 concept came out soon after and with it outrage. How could it be turbocharged?! How can they change the name?! No one could have understood how wrong they would be. The official details have been released today and with it many mouths have been shut, and then opened again when they would fall to the floor in complete and utter awe. The new M4 will be lighter than its predecessor, even as light as the E36, three generations back! Sure it only has 16hp more than the old V8, but it has got 406 ft/lbs of torque, up by 111 ft/lbs of torque! It’ll get 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. It even has a button designated “Smokey Burn-Out”, tell me that doesn’t scream insane. Besides, the E92 was the one that was supposed to be the M4, and the three series coupes would from then on be the 4 series. As for the turbocharging, purists were determined to hate the 1m on that account, but it became their favorite of the M’s. BMW is actually known now for being able to hide the turbo lag, so what’s the big deal? Sure this car might get under the skin of purists but I say that if there has been one constant in BMW’s history, it’s not natural aspiration, not rear-wheel drive, not even good looks, but just pure innovation and the ability to reinvent itself. Maybe they are departing from what they have had success with, what people want, but I believe without a doubt that BMW will adapt and that when it’s all over they’ll have people saying, “You can’t NOT turbocharge a BMW!” or “You can’t call it anything but an M4!”