7 March 2016

Top five BMW M series cars

For BMW enthusiasts, “M” is the most powerful letter in the alphabet. When the iconic “M” comes to mind, it conjures thoughts of motorsports, competition and innovation all executed with luxury, style and class. The series comes with a multitude of variations over the decades, each of them an intricate part of BMW history. Here are the top 5 M cars that we’d love to see in the garage.

5. 1998-2002 BMW M Coupe – Nicknamed the “Clown Shoe”, “Moupe” or “Smurf Hearse”, this ultimate driving machine may look like the unholy product of a bread van and sports car’s union, but it’s a look that will grow on you as quickly as it accelerates. The solid structure, stiff suspension and mighty performance offered by a 315 horsepower 3.2-liter straight-six makes this a car for drivers who enjoy the feeling of a machine at work while winding over the roads.

4. 1983-1989 BMW M6 E24 – In Europe, it was the second-fastest car built by BMW in its era and has also been critically acclaimed for the unmistakable, dynamic and dignified shark-nose design, not to mention its luxurious features, including giggle-inducing performance. For America, the E24 made 256 horsepower, but the non-catalyzed European version offered 286 horsepower! Its combination of looks and speed make the M6 hard to beat, and the E24 inspired other sought-after models such as the 500 horsepower E63/64 M6 and the newer F12/13.

3. 1986-1990 BMW M3 E30 – The BMW Motorsport department designed and built the powerful, lightweight and aerodynamic M3 to compete in the FIA Group A racing, and approximately five-thousand examples were hand-built for the United States. Formula One driver, Jean Alesi, stated that the M3 was one the most enjoyable, best handling cars he had ever driven. The heart of the M3 was a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine with a twin-cam four-valve head with Bosch fuel-injection that produced 192 horsepower, but in Europe an even more exciting 235 horsepower version was offered as the “Evolution” model.

2. 1985-1988 BMW M5 E28 – For the four-door fans, this car was the first of the M5 high-performance saloons and the first of the M5 line. When launched in 1985, the E28 M5 was the fastest four-door car available anywhere. The catalytic converter-equipped American version made 256 horsepower and the non-catalyzed version offered 286 horsepower — faster than the contemporary Ferrari 328. The V-8 E39 and twin-turbo V-8 F10 would never have seen production without the E28’s envelope-pushing performance.

1. 1978-1981 BMW M1 – The first car to sport the M badge, the M1 was BMW’s first mid-engine supercar, a homologation special built for sports car racing. The M1 might be BMW’s most desirable car ever produced and one of the most rare — only 453 examples were produced. The 277 horsepower straight-six engine could reach speeds in excess of 160-mph, and 20 circuit-racing versions created for the BMW M1 Procar Championship churned out 470-horsepower, an impressive number considering the times.

Honorable mention:

BMW 3.0 CSL E9 – Yes, we know that the E9 was not technically an M car (which is why it isn't in the preceding list), but the BMW Motorsport division developed this “Batmobile” variant of the already sleek and solid 3.0 CS, and it is more than worthy of being mentioned. It was the M car lineup’s predecessor, and the stylish and mechanically advanced CSL was — and still is for the folks lucky enough to own one — engaging to drive. The cars have the speed, handling and endurance to race successfully in the FIA, and to underscore its beauty, the 3.0 CSL was the first BMW enhanced as an Art Car, this one by American artist Alexander Calder.

10 Reader Comments

  • 1
    David Combs Renton, WA March 7, 2016 at 12:54
    If I may add another honorable mention: The E12 chassis-based M535i as a precursor to the E28 M5.
  • 2
    368S-McoupeOwner NC March 9, 2016 at 18:17
    If I may offer a polite correction...your 'Mcoupe' pic is not an "M" coupe.
  • 3
    Mike Willinger Chester, VA March 9, 2016 at 19:42
    Re: Honorable mention - I'm not sure why no one ever mentions the 3.0 CSi when the E9 Coupes are mentioned. The CSi had the same drive train as the CSL, but lacked the CSL's weight savings measures. But it also didn't have the "Batmobile" geegaws stuck all over it.
  • 4
    J.R. Miami, FL March 9, 2016 at 19:44
    While I'm glad that the M Coupe is finally getting recognized for what it is, you've got a couple of issues. For one, only 2001-2002 examples had 315HP from a true M engine. S54 powered M Coupes are among the rarest of all BMWs. Second, the photo you show is a Z3 coupe, not an M coupe.... Big difference.
  • 5
    Vic Sorlie Colleyville, Texas March 9, 2016 at 20:15
    Gotta put in a shout for the E39 M5, one of the best BMWs ever made. Approximately 10,000 brought to NA market 2000-2003. Iron fist in a velvet glove.
  • 6
    Vic Sorlie Colleyville, Texas March 9, 2016 at 20:16
    Gotta put in a shout for the E39 M5, one of the best BMWs ever made. Approximately 10,000 brought to NA market 2000-2003. Iron fist in a velvet glove.
  • 7
    Patrick Chicago March 9, 2016 at 22:21
    I appreciate that the M Coupe made this list, however, I would have preferred that a picture of an actual M Coupe (not a Z3 Coupe) was used.
  • 8
    hammer FL March 13, 2016 at 10:33
    Z3 coupes of all flavors are rarer because they didn't sell. My large volume dealer still had 2 new ones in stock halfway into the 03 yrar. They were ugly and unpopular then and they haven't changed. While it is marginally a stronger platform for an all out track car versus the roadster, its also marginally slower as it is heavier. Personally I always thought they were different or unique, but that's why I've owned 3 M Roadsters.
  • 9
    Jason Las Vegas, NV June 22, 2016 at 17:42
    Could I put a vote in for the 06-08 E86 M Coupe? Amazing lines compared to the convertible version, and 330HP from the bulletproof S54 engine. Much prettier than the 98-02 clownshoe in my opinion. Very hard to find, but a joy to behold.
  • 10
    Greg Connecticut March 22, 2017 at 20:27
    Have been driving BMWs since 1975 (2002) and enjoy them all, but for just sheer go out and have a blast on a country road, the Z3 M Coupe remains my favorite. With an aftermarket exhaust and a bit of digital magic from Mr. Dinan, the S54 just perfectly matches the chassis. Few bad BMWs, but a S54 M Coupe remains special.

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