In 1972, BMW created BMW M (Motorsport) GmbH as a subsidiary company to look after the BMW racing program. With only eight employees, the Motorsport subsidiary initially only created cars for racing. The first car to be produced by BMW M was the 3.0 CSL, which has proven extremely successful in racing. The success of the racing vehicles and the demand for high-performance cars among consumers influenced BMW’s decision to start to introduce M Series vehicles into the mainstream marketplace.

More on the BMW M
BMW M Origins

The first M Series car available for purchase by the public was the M1, which the brand launched in 1978. Although this was a roadworthy vehicle, it remained more of a racecar than a car that drivers would take on public roads. In 1979, the direction of the BMW M subsidiary changed, and it began to release M-badged versions of BMW models instead of producing new vehicles altogether. The M535i marked the first of these high-performance variants to be created, and it was launched in 1979.

Since 1979, BMW M vehicles include cars that are modified versions of available models. The M-badged versions have a higher trim level, plus they include modifications to the engine, transmission, and suspension. Modifications to the interior and exterior styling make the M-badged versions look different from the models on which they’re based. Also, the exterior style changes make the BMW M versions much more aerodynamic. BMW M has moved from the racing projects to supplementing the BMW lineup with these high-performance variations.

BMW M Features

BMW M models can be found for almost every model within the BMW family; the only exceptions are the BMW 7 Series and the BMW X3 compact crossover SUV. The 7 Series does not yet have an M-badged version because it remains the flagship sedan for BMW, and the top ends of the line contain a V-12 engine, which many think is far too heavy for a sporty high-performance M version to be successful.

When BMW M first started tuning vehicles to produce M-badged versions, it concentrated on those cars that had high lateral agility or cars that had responsive turning and accelerating. This means that the initial focus of BMW M was the 3 and 5 Series model lines, as well as the roadsters (the performance models of the BMW Z3 and Z4 models). BMW M aims to create cars that integrally connect to the driver and react in the blink of an eye to whatever the driver requests.

In most cases, BMW M versions of models come equipped with manual or semi-automatic transmissions. The introduction of the X5M and X6M SUVs in 2010 saw the introduction of the first M-badged BMW vehicles with a fully automatic, six-speed transmission. This also marks the first time that BMW M branched out from producing high-performance cars and moved towards other lines of vehicles in the BMW family.

Not only has BMW M created M-badged versions of BMW models, but it has also modified other cars that have not become M cars. These vehicles may have styling changes, performance updates, or both, but BMW often offers them as upgrade packages for the cars. In this case, the cars are not full M-cars, and are badged as the model number plus the M. For instance, the BMW 325i offers an M-feature package, under the name 325i M. Many of the BMW models offer M options.

Current BMW M versions of BMW vehicles also include the BMW 1 Series M Coupe, which was launched in 2011. This is the smallest and least expensive of all the M-badged vehicles, including the fourth generation of the M3, the fifth generation of the M5, and the new X5 M and X6 M.

BMW M Evolution

The first car produced by BMW M was the BMW M1 from 1978 to 1981. It is a two-door coupe classed in the supercar category. It has a mid-engine and is the only mid-engine car to be mass-produced by BMW. Workers at the BMW M plants hand-built just over 450 units of this car before the line was terminated. This car has no relation to the new version of the M1, which began production in 2010.

The M-badged versions of BMW models began in 1979 with the release of the M5. Other previous versions include the M3, M6, M coupe, and M roadster. The M5 and M3 still remain in production, while the M6 was produced from 1983 to 1989 and again in 2005. BMW produced an M coupe based on the Z3 coupe from 1998 to 2002, and one based on the Z4 couple from 2006 to 2008. The M roadster was also based on the Z3 and Z4 roadsters over the same years as the coupe.

Select a BMW M Year

2002 BMW M

Convertible, Coupe, Sports

The 2002 BMW M convertible or coupe is a roadster designed to really tear up the road.

2001 BMW M

Convertible, Coupe, Sports

The 2001 BMW M coupe shows why the German carmaker enjoys a reputation as one of the best in the world.

2000 BMW M

Convertible, Sports

The 2000 BMW M is a sporty, rear-drive two-seater that is available as either a coupe or convertible.

1999 BMW M

Convertible, Sports

The 1999 BMW M goes into its second year of being the performance version of the BMW’s groundbreaking Z3 roadster.

1998 BMW M

Convertible, Sports

The BMW Z3 has been hugely popular since its introduction in 1996.