The BMW M3 is based on the BMW 3 Series and was unveiled in 1986. It aims to be the top performing BMW vehicle in the 3 Series compact executive class.

More on the BMW M3
BMW M3 Origins

The BMW M division creates modified versions of BMW’s different nameplates. When an M version is created, it comes with a higher trim and performance level than the original BMW car. Not only do engineers make modifications under the hood to create a high-performance version of the BMW series, but the interior and the exterior body also change.

Since its launch in 1986, there have been four generations of the BMW M3, each based on a different generation of the BMW 3 Series. Within these four generations, there have been variations in body to include two-door coupes, two-door convertibles, and two- and four-door sedans.

About the BMW M3

Designed as a high-performance version of the BMW 3 Series, the BMW M3’s engine, transmission, and suspension are all upgraded to make a racetrack-worthy car. Not only is the engine more powerful, the revised suspension is more responsive to the driver and more agile. The exterior looks sportier and is more aerodynamic, which further improves performance. Even the inside offers a sportier feel.

BMW M3 Features

The fourth and current generation of the BMW M3 was launched in 2007. As with previous generations, the latest generation of the M3 comes equipped with a new engine: this time, it’s a 4.0-liter V-8 engine that produces 414 horsepower. The transmission has also been upgraded to a seven-speed, dual-clutch gearbox, which uses two clutches to power the odd and even gears to allow for faster gear changes with less power loss. The driver can shift with the gear knob or paddles mounted on the steering wheel. In the U.S. it comes as either a two-door coupe or convertible with a retractable, carbon-fiber hardtop roof.

BMW M3 Evolution

The first BMW M3 to be introduced in 1986 came equipped with a 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine that produced 192 horsepower. It came as a two-door sedan or a two-door convertible and with a five-speed manual transmission only. While this version of the BMW M3 was based on the E30 line, the body showed significant differences: as well as improving aerodynamics, the body panels adjusted for the extra width of the M3 as well as wider and taller wheels. The first generation of the M3 remained in production until 1992 when BMW launched the second generation.

The second generation of the BMW M3 was based on the E36 version of the 3 Series. The brand unveiled it in early 1992, but didn’t make it available until November for the 1993 model year. This marked the first M3 to come equipped with a V-6 engine, which had a power rating of 282 horsepower. As well as coming in two-door coupe and convertible forms, this generation of the M3 was also available as a four-door sedan. The first models to be imported to the U.S. were for the 1995 model year, and it stayed in production until 1999. The U.S. version contained a 3.0-liter V-6 engine with a power output of 240 horsepower. It also had a different suspension setup and comes with either a five-speed manual or automatic transmission.

The models available from 1996 to 1999 had an engine with an increase in capacity to 3.2 liters, but power output remained the same at 240 horsepower. Although the European versions featured upgrades to six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, the M3 models in the U.S. maintained either the five-speed manual or automatic transmission. Initially, BMW only offered the coupe version, but the convertible followed the next year and the sedan the year after that.

In October 2000, the third generation of the BMW M3 was launched for the 2001 model year, based on the E46 BMW 3 Series. The U.S. models had a new 3.2-liter, M-tuned, six-cylinder engine that featured a power rating of 333 horsepower. BMW dropped the sedan version with the launch of this generation, so the M3 only came as a two-door coupe or convertible. A six-speed manual transmission came standard on this generation, but an SMG Drivelogic transmission was optional. The SMG transmission has both manual and automatic shift capabilities with the driver able to manually control the transmission through paddles on the steering wheel or by the gear knob. This generation of the M3 ceased production in 2006 with the launch of the fourth—and current—generation.

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