10 Greatest Hits From The BMW M Division

10 Greatest Hits From The BMW M Division

Originally introduced to crank up BMW’s racing program, the BMW M (stands for Motorsport) division provided the automaker with an impetus that further solidified BMW’s place among the super performers. The phenomenal success of the segment early on led to a quick expansion in M’s area of interest, and the segment soon penetrated BMW’s vehicle portfolio with highly modified trim levels, enhanced engines, transmission, and exteriors – all bearing the revered M badge.

By the mid-80s, Motorsport was in BMW’s DNA with dozens of high-performance models. With virtually every M model, the Bavarian manufacturer has either given birth to an innovative trend or fanned higher an existing one. And, it’d be a misconception if you hold the belief that M cars are not intended for regular use on regular roads. Over the decades, there have been several M sedans and even a wagon at one point, that haven’t just made for impressive family cars, but also rad performance cars when the need arises.

RELATED: BMW M Wants to Put Enthusiasts First; Says No to Small Engines


10 1978 -1980 BMW M1

White BMW M1
nakhon100 via Flickr

Three-quarter shot of a white BMW M1 in a field.

The M1 was the first automobile to be ever produced by the Motorsport division. It was also the first BMW mid-engine car to be mass-produced. The mid-engined supercar laid the foundation for the enormous success and reverence the segment enjoys today in its territory. The M1 employed a twin-cam M88/1 3.5 liter six-cylinder engine with Magneti-Marelli ignition system and Kugelfischer-Bosch mechanical fuel injection – both of which helped quicken the response time and enhance the fluency of the performance.

As mentioned earlier, the M story starts with the M1, and here’s how it came to pass. In order to pass the homologation, BMW was in talks with Lamborghini to produce a racing car. However, as per the rules, BMW needed to produce a car on its own. As a result, we got the M1 – a product of BMW’s research, engineering, and awful willingness to get into the races. Despite BMW’s diligent efforts, the car never made it to the race series it was intended for, instead it competed in a Procar championship.

9 1985 BMW M5 (E28)

BMW E28 M5

Front three-quarters shot of a black BMW E28 M5

The E28 M5 was a legend that transformed the way manufacturers in the automobile industry approached superfast sedans. Arguably, the best sedan in the market at the time of its launch, the M5 E28 was popular for being safe and sensible in numerous ways. Equipped with an M88/3 3.5 liter straight-six unit, the car generates up to 286 horsepower at a magnificent 6500 rpm.

Though insanely powerful, the sedan was designed with families in mind featuring five seats, four doors, and great mileage like a good ol’ family car. Furthermore, even after over 35 years since its launch, the E28 M5 can still be found in mint condition owing to the BMW reputation for built quality, and simplistic controls.

RELATED: A Legend Reborn: The 2023 BMW 3.0 CSL 50 Jahre Does The M Colors Proud

8 1998 – 2003 BMW M5 (E39)

2000 BMW M5

Front three-quarters shot of a black BMW E39 M5

The majority of M models came up with an innovation of their own, and the E39 M5, a true 90’s icon was no exception. The M5 E39 was the first M5 to use a aluminum front suspension setup and multi-link rear suspension. Not just that, it was also the first M5 in terms of employing a V-8 unit.

With a 4.9-liter naturally aspirated V-8 setup under the hood, the car puts out 395 horsepower at 6600 rpm along with 369 pound-feet torque of at 3,800 rpm. The figures translate beautifully as the car can sprint from 0-60 mile sprint in 4.8 seconds and reach a maximum speed of 186 mph.

7 1999-2002 BMW Z3 M Coupe

Silver 1999 BMW Z3 M Coupe
BMW Group

The 1999 BMW Z3 M Coupe reflected in a puddle.

The Z3 M Coupe stands among the Motorsports Division’s most compact supercars highlighted by a disproportionately large bonnet and mini rear. The model’s curvaceous frame was accentuated by distinctive oval overtaking side mirrors, four-pipe exhaust, and wider track. The Z3 M Coupe’s design was reckoned to be weird by many including gearheads. Even so, it sold in high numbers and is among the most produced M models. Describing the traits of the Z3 M, Chris Bangle, former head of BMW Design stated,

“In the tradition of the great sports cars of the 60s, every line of the Z3 Coupé is proof of the BMW passion for driving.”

The compact coupe tipped the scales at just 2,800 pounds which is a digit that cars with half the Z3’s power can also crack. But don’t be fooled. The vehicle might be tiny and extremely lightweight, but when it comes to power and performance, the Z3 could put beasts to shame. The car features a 3.2-liter inline-six engine with the capacity to produce up to 321 horsepower at a screaming 7400 rpm.

RELATED: BMW’s M’s Celebration in Spartanburg Will Include Some Rare Classic M Cars

6 2004 BMW M3 CSL (E46)

Silver 2004 BMW M3 CSL

A front 3/4 studio shot of a 2004 BMW M3 CSL

The M3 was the second BMW M series car to be adorned with the famed CSL badge (Coupé Sport Leichtbau, which is German for Coupe Sport Lightweight Construction). The M3 E46 came with an inline-six engine with could generate up to 360 horsepower. In production from 2000 to 2006, the M3 got a minor upgrade in 2003 with lights and LEDs.

The Bavarian automaker took pride in the fact it was one of the lightest sports cars at the time (3053-3,133 lbs) with an excellent power-to-weight ratio. Over the years, the M3 CSL has proved to be the product of the rare mix of power, elegance, and robustness – which are major traits for any vehicle, let alone a performance model to be successful.

5 2004-2010 BMW M5 (E60)

BMW M5 E60

BMW M5 E60

At introduction, the BMW M5 E60 gained a solid reputation almost immediately as the fastest four-door sedan in the market. The E60 M5 can bolt at an insane speed of 305 km/h. The top speed in standard models, however, was electronically barred at 155 mph. The insane speed could be attributed to the E60’s use of the V-10 engine.

The E60 M5 was the first production sedan to use a V-10 unit featuring a 5.0 Liter S85 uneven firing V-10 (90 degrees) that puts out 507 horsepower and produces 384 pound-feet of torque. The monstrous setup under the hood provided insane power, but fuel economy had to suffer. Consequently, the car might not be a perfect option for a daily driver. Nevertheless, the M5 E60 is the result of such meticulous engineering that even against today’s standards, it doesn’t take the backseat.

RELATED: Here’s Why You Won’t Find an Electric BMW M2, M3, or M4 Anytime Soon

4 2006 BMW Z4 M Roadster

Red 2006 BMW Z4 M Roadster

A front 3/4 shot of a 2006 BMW Z4 M Roadster

Equipped with a mighty 3.2-liter inline-six unit from the E46 M3, the Z4 M was mighty enough to take on the best performers at the time of its introduction. At 7900 rpm, the beautiful Roadster sparks off 333 horsepower and can fly to a top speed of 155 mph. The acceleration is as impressive allowing the car to go from 0 to 62 mph within just five seconds.

The issue: Despite the extensive use of carbon fiber, the car has a curb weight of 3,273 pounds. Experts argue that the Roadster’s use of leather to give a luxurious touch to the interiors goes against the M Division’s stance on being lightweight. Weight aside, the Z4 M is a beauty to behold and power to clap for.

3 2011 BMW 1M Coupe

BMW 1M Coupe

Front three quarters of the BMW 1M Coupe

Regarded by persists as the best M car ever, the BMW 1M coupe brings phenomenal power with muscular looks, all contained in a tiny body. With a maximum output of 340 horsepower and 368 pound-feet torque, the 1M is otherworldly swift to cruise about in. A sprint of 0-100 km/h only takes 4.9 seconds to complete. Besides power and performance, the car enjoyed swift controls that coupled with its petite body made it a highly road-friendly vehicle. The 1M was designed with special attention to aerodynamics. It’s the first series production car to use air curtains to reduce drag and turbulence.

RELATED: BMW M Can’t Ditch Manual Transmissions

2 2011 BMW M3 GTS

Orange 2010 BMW M3 GTS

Front three quarter shot of the BMW M3

With only 150 units produced, the M3 GTS remains one of the rarest and most desirable M models. Dr. Kay Segler, CEO of BMW M GmbH in 2010 described the M3 GTS as a ‘pure M feeling, embodying the brand values in a highly concentrated form.’

The development of the GTS M3 took place with racing values in sight. As a result, the car gave off race-ready vibes with its specially designed components including adjustable suspension, racing bucket seats, and larger brakes to enhance control and comfort at high speeds. The engine was bored out 4.4 liters and power was up from 414 horsepower to 444 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. 60 mph came up 4.4 seconds while the top speed was a whopping 190 mph. In addition, the enhanced aerodynamic design helped the car maintain equilibrium and reduce turbulence over wheel arches.

1 2023 BMW 3.0 CSL

2023 BMW 3.0 CSL

Front three-quarters view of the 2023 BMW 3.0 CSL posing on a track

Celebrating 50 years of the M Division, the incredible design coupled with power-oriented engineering gave birth to an absolute performer in the form of the 2023 BMW 3.0 CSL 50 Jahre. The modern-day 3.0 CSL enhanced an already impressive M TwinPower Turbo technology powering its inline six-cylinder engine to generate a hefty output of 560 horsepower.

That made the engine the manufacturer’s most powerful assembly in a road-legal vehicle. The 3.0 CSL is incredibly lightweight thanks to the carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) used in the making of the body and chassis. Furthermore, the titanium rear silencer used in the car was approximately 9.48 pounds lighter than a standard silencer.

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