From the early days of racing-inspired luxury cars to today’s track-ready sedan, BMW M3’s history is full of icons. From its roots in German touring car racing, it has retained a sense of motorsport theater for 37 years and counting. Learn more about each generation of the legendary BMW M3 and follow its advancement over the past three decades.

bmw m3, cars, history

A look back at the BMW M3 history through 2019 | BMW

E30 M3: 1986 – 1991

The first BMW M3 came only as a coupe or convertible, unlike the four-door models we see today. A 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine cranked out 192 horsepower in the first M3 models. By 1989, output had increased to 212 horsepower, accelerating to 60 mph at 6.5 seconds. Flared wheel arches, sport suspension, and upgraded brakes differentiated the first M3 from its 3-Series cousin. Today, first-generation M3 models exceed six-figure values in good condition, with low prices at around $75,000.

E36 M3: 1992 – 1999

The follow-up to the successful E30 M3, the E36 is gaining popularity among modern enthusiasts. It’s incredibly affordable these days, with prices ranging from below $20,000 to around $40,000, depending on the condition. The E36 was the first BMW M3 in history to use a six-cylinder engine, making use of a 3.0-liter unit to deliver 240 horsepower. The First US models arrived in 1995, just before an engine upgrade ushered in the second half of the E36 generation. From 1996 through 1999, the E36 used a 3.2-liter straight-six to boost torque, while total horsepower remained the same. It could accelerate to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, nearly one second faster than its predecessor.

The E36 was also the first generation of the M3 to get a four-door variant. The first of those models arrived in 1997.

E46 M3: 2000 – 2006

Well-known for its appearance as the hero car in Need for Speed: Most Wanted, the E46 M3 is an icon in today’s enthusiast circles. The M-tuned 3.2-liter inline-six finally got a horsepower boost, developing 333 horsepower and dropping a half second from the sprint to 60 mph.

While the six-speed stick was the standard kit, the E46 was the first BMW M3 in history to offer an automatic transmission. The SMG drivelogic transmission was a single-clutch paddle-shifted automatic, which claimed shift times as short as .08 seconds. Today, a clean E46 M3 will go for between $25,000 and $35,000, while a few immaculate examples have exceeded $70,000 at auction.

E90/92/93 M3: 2008 – 2013

The fourth-generation BMW M3 ushered in an era of sport-luxury cars, though it also added heft to the previously-nimble platform. This was especially true of convertible models, which saw marked drops in acceleration and handling due to the added weight. That said, to this day, it is the lone BMW M3 to sport a V8 engine, with a 4.0-liter unit making 414 horsepower. The fourth-gen M3 is also the first to use a dual-clutch automatic transmission. This seven-speed cog set improved zero to 60 mph acceleration from 5.0 seconds to 4.8 ticks. Today, if you’re looking to buy an E92 M3, set aside at least $40,000 for a quality example.

F80 M3: 2015 – 2019

The introduction of aluminum and carbon fiber meant that the F80 M3 finally lost some heft when compared to a previous M3 generation. It is the first BMW M3 in history offered exclusively as a sedan, as the coupe and convertible models were spun off to create the M4. The V8 from the fourth-gen was scrapped for a twin-turbo six-cylinder mill producing 425 horsepower. Once again, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and six-speed manual were available to get your power to the ground. Acceleration to 60 with the DCT flew by in just 3.9 seconds. For 2016, a Competition variant was introduced, increasing horsepower and sharpening the suspension for more focused performance. While it isn’t challenging to find an F80 M3, you’ll want to set aside at least $50,000 for one with respectable mileage.

G80 M3: 2020 – Present

The newest BMW M3 has become a bit of a lightning rod, ushering in a new era of BMW design that has many enthusiasts divided. The pig snout nose is reviled as being hideous but is essential for proper airflow to the twin-turbo six-cylinder engine. It spits out a staggering 473 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque and is the first M3 available with all-wheel drive. Competition models up the ante even further, delivering 503 ponies and six additional pound-feet of torque.

bmw m3, cars, history

The newest BMW M3 | BMW


bmw m3, cars, history

BMW M3 history: a legacy of excellence

For nearly 40 years, the BMW M3 has meant the pinnacle of daily driving performance. Each generation has a legion of adoring fans. When it comes to the M3, there are no wrong answers. Even better, there are several great ways to buy into this legacy of motorsport theater, regardless of budget.


3 Most Reliable Lexus Models

While there are a few automotive brands out there known for being reliable, one of the top companies with several durable models in its lineup is Lexus. Which vehicles are the top three for being reliable rides? Why does reliability matter? Lexus logo | Getty Images When you buy a ...

View more: 3 Most Reliable Lexus Models

The Cheapest New Dodge Charger Is a Versatile Sedan Option With One Big Issue

The Dodge Charger offers everything from a sensible V6 and all-wheel drive to supercharged tail-happy sports sedans. Better yet, the cheapest offering in the model’s lineup, the SXT, is versatile and well-suited for daily driving. However, the 2023 Dodge Charger SXT has one glaring issue: it’ll be the last car ...

View more: The Cheapest New Dodge Charger Is a Versatile Sedan Option With One Big Issue

Cheapest New Audi Is 1 of the Best Small Luxury Cars, Says Car and Driver

Audi has a solid lineup of luxury vehicles — with their good driving dynamics, premium features, and attractive designs. Also, compared to some other luxury brands, Audi models are relatively affordable. This includes the 2023 Audi A3 subcompact sports sedan, which is the cheapest new Audi car. Also, according to ...

View more: Cheapest New Audi Is 1 of the Best Small Luxury Cars, Says Car and Driver

GM Just Announced An All-New Small-Block V8 Is Coming

The electrification zeitgeist is in full swing, but gasoline-powered engines won’t disappear overnight. Nor will V8 power, as GM just confirmed a new small-block V8 engine is coming soon. This will be the sixth generation of the legendary small-block V8 that has powered so many Chevy and GM products since ...

View more: GM Just Announced An All-New Small-Block V8 Is Coming

Best car tool kits 2023

Whether you're looking for an emergency set of basic tools or something more comprehensive, a good tool kit can save you lots of stress – but who makes the best?...

View more: Best car tool kits 2023

The Lectron Adapter Will Let You Charge a Ford Lighting at a Tesla Station

Electric vehicle charging ports are mess. Some use one type developed in Europe, others use a Japanese system, and then Teslas use their own. But, what about those who have access to a Tesla charger, but want to charge something else, like a Ford F-150 Lightning? The Ford F-150 Lightning ...

View more: The Lectron Adapter Will Let You Charge a Ford Lighting at a Tesla Station

How Much Does a Nissan Tune-up Cost, and What Do They Do?

Keeping up with your Nissan‘s regular maintenance means you get optimal performance and fewer chances of major breakdowns. With that, you save on fuel costs and significant repairs and avoid the inconvenience of your car breaking down or stalling in the middle of the road. Naturally, tune-ups are a considerable ...

View more: How Much Does a Nissan Tune-up Cost, and What Do They Do?

How Does the New Corvette E-Ray Stack Up Against Hybrid Hypercars?

The new 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray isn’t just the latest stage in the Corvette’s evolution into a world-class supercar. Instead, it’s a reminder that the latest generation of plastic fantastic can punch well above its weight class. For instance, the new hybrid Corvette is quick enough to compete with several ...

View more: How Does the New Corvette E-Ray Stack Up Against Hybrid Hypercars?

4 Snow Plow Safety Tips When Encountering These Vehicles on the Road

Alpine is Coming to the U.S, but it’s Not Bringing the Goods

What’s the Toyota Highlander Hybrid Towing Capacity?

1990s GMC Typhoon: There’s Never Been an SUV That Can Beat It

Your 2022 Ford Maverick Might Have Faulty Airbags

This Older Porsche Infotainment Upgrade Helps Modernize Your 911 and Cayenne

Only 1 Type of Buyer Should Even Consider the 2022 Jeep Compass

3 Most Common GMC Sierra 1500 Problems Reported by Hundreds of Real Owners

5 Used Cars with the Biggest Price Drops

Incredibly Rare and Awesome Pontiac GTO Judge Sold for $1.5 Million

Is the 2023 Toyota RAV4 Too Old to Keep Up?

Carroll Shelby’s 100th Birthday Honored by Centennial Edition Mustang


Top Car News Car News