M Power: A Timeline of BMW M Cars

06th Apr 2019

BMW M; or to give its full official name - BMW M GmbH. This specialist tuning arm of BMW started out with just a handful of enthusiastic employees who happened to know a thing or two about getting the most out of a BMW. Responsible for creating some of the world's most sought-after performance cars, BMW M was originally set up in the early seventies to facilitate BMW's motorsport program. But what does M stand for? 'Motorsport'. But then you already knew that.


White BMW 3.0 CSL driving on the track.

The 1970s

BMW M ensured BMW dominated various European Touring Car championships in the seventies, winning multiple titles, along with taking a notable victory at the infamous Nürburgring Six Hours in 1973. This was all thanks to the first car developed by BMW M; the legendary 3.0 CSL a.k.a 'The Batmobile'. A nickname adopted thanks to the car's striking aerodynamic styling.

By the late seventies it was clear that BMW M knew a thing or two about creating championship winning racing cars. So, after cleaning up on track, BMW M thought they may as well beat their competition when it came to road cars as well. Blending true BMW motorsport DNA, BMW M cars offer unrivaled performance, fine dynamics and pure driving nirvana, whilst still keeping hold of the all-important traditional BMW comfort and luxury. Discover the legacy below.
Red BMW M1 (1978) parked up.

BMW M1 (1978)

The very first BMW road car to be blessed with the now iconic BMW M badge was in fact a supercar, ingeniously named the BMW M1. Launched in 1978, the M1 is the only ever mid-engined M car. It featured supercar looks, performance, and was also supercar expensive, costing over £2,000 more than a Ferrari BB12. The 273bhp M1 could hit 62mph in just 5.6 seconds, topping out at 161mph.

Whilst not supercar fast today, back in late seventies the M1 had more than enough power to embarrass some of the supercar elite. Incidentally, Lamborghini were due to build the BMW M1, but with financial commitments elsewhere, they pulled out of the project. BMW M therefore built the M1, their first ever M car. The rest is history.
Red BMW M535i (1979) parked up.

BMW M535i (1979)

After the BMW M1 supercar, BMW M had to turn their attention to more sedate BMW models. This probably had something to do with the accountants telling them to be a bit more sensible or something...

Therefore a luxury saloon was the perfect foundation, and so BMW M set to work on the 5 Series (E12). Although not technically a full-on M5, the car was still created by BMW M. Enhancements to the chassis and aero were just the start, as the M535i was given a 3.5-litre inline-six cylinder heart, for some luscious M grunt. Producing 218bhp, this M fettled 5 Series was just the beginning for fast 5 Series 'bimmers'.
Blue BMW M635C Si (1983) parked.

BMW M635C Si (1983)

'Let's Go Crazy' was a number one hit by music icon Prince in the eighties. BMW M must have had the song playing on repeat in the office, as they too went crazy and released three epic M cars during this era. The first of which was the M635C Si.

The 'E24' 6 Series may of been born in the late seventies, but BMW M created the M635C Si in the early eighties. North America and Japanese spec cars were simply badged 'M6'. It took just over six seconds to reach 62mph thanks to a 3.5-litre straight-six lifted from the M1 supercar, albeit with a few modifications.

GT coupe styling, and the iconic 'Sharknose' front end, ensure this 'M6' is undoubtedly one of the prettiest M cars ever produced.
Black BMW 'E28' M5 (1985) driving by the sea.

BMW 'E28' M5 (1985)

Queen and Freddie Mercury at Live Aid. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd acting in one of the most iconic films ever in Back to the Future. Oh yeah, and how can we forget, BMW launched the first M5; the birth of the legendary super saloon! The mid eighties gave us some properly iconic moments.

With a tad under 280bhp, the E28 M5 was properly Schnell!
Black BMW 'E30' M3 (1986) driving on a track.

BMW 'E30' M3 (1986)

Look up 'Legendary' in the dictionary and it ought to say; BMW M3. This performance icon was born in the eighties and is undoubtedly one of the greatest names in performance car history. And it all started with this iconic, legendary, boxy, wide-arched German perfection known as the BMW E30 M3.

Built so BMW could go and smash its German neighbours on the racetrack, just like the 3.0 CSL did back in the seventies, the E30 M3 was built for homologation purposes. With 200bhp, later increasing up to 235bhp on Sport Evolution models, thanks to the E30's light weight, the E30 M3 did indeed dominate on track, and was also superb on the road.
Black BMW 'E34' M5 (1988) driving on a track.

BMW 'E34' M5 (1988)

Old 'bimmers' are highly sought-after, with good reason. The E34 demonstrated build quality and attention to detail of the highest order. There is something about the looks of the E34 too, it just looks so right, if a bit sinister, again adding to its overall appeal. A Touring version was also available, proving that you can be fast and practical, even in 1988!

BMW individual colours of a purple nature, such as Daytona Violet and Techno Violet make this era of bimmer even more alluring. They just ooze class and style. Quick too, but then it is an M car after all, and a bloody good one at that!
Yellow BMW 'E36' M3 (1992) parked up.

BMW 'E36' M3 (1992)

The second ever M3; and following on from the legendary E30 M3, the E36 M3 had a lot to live up to! Unlike its predecessor, the E36 M3 wasn't built for homologation reasons, but being a full-fat M car it certainly had motorsport heritage and flair, being the first M3 with a 6-cylinder engine.

It was also available for the first time as a saloon, along with the more familiar coupe and convertible. Estoril Blue was a pretty iconic colour choice too.
Grey BMW 850C Si (1993) parked up.

BMW 850C Si (1993)

Perhaps not as delicate as the 'E24' M635C Si, the 850C Si was another stunning looking BMW from the company's M division. The shape is like nothing else. Ultra-sleek, ultra-smooth and fitted with a glorious V12 engine, the M divisions 8 Series M car had all the right ingredients.

If you need an example of a head turner, look no further than an 8 Series M car.
BMW Z3 M Coupe/Roadster 'E36/8' 'E36/7' (1996) driving on the road.

BMW Z3 M Coupe/Roadster 'E36/8' 'E36/7' (1996)

BMW's Z3 wasn't particularly fast, despite its sports car roadster looks. BMW M therefore decided to give the Z3 the power it deserved with 321bhp. This meant 62mph in a shade over five seconds and with near perfect 50/50 weight distribution. BMW M had worked their magic to give the Z3 proper sports car pedigree it deserved.

They even did a Z3 M Coupe. A car which divided opinion in the looks department. 'Breadvan' or 'Clown Shoe' depending on which side of the pond you were from. A unique car, from a unique division of BMW and a car which is properly sought-after and celebrated. No wonder really, as cars like this simply won't come round again. An M legend.
Blue BMW 'E39' M5 (1998) driving by the sea.

BMW 'E39' M5 (1998)

Alexander Hildebrandt - project leader for the E39 M5, and therefore the guy responsible for giving the M5 a massive V8 powerplant. What a guy! With 394bhp and 62mph met in just 4.8 seconds, the M5 was a properly schnell supersaloon!

This was perhaps the turning point for the M5. It had been given a proper naughty engine that turned out to be a mere foundation of what was next in the M5 pipeline. The E39 also looked the business, as is the case with many M5 'bimmers'.
Grey BMW 'E46' M3 (2000) parked in the countryside.

BMW 'E46' M3 (2000)

That engine! Quite simply the best bit about this iconic drivers' car. The E46's 3.2-litre straight-six 338bhp naturally aspirated heart howls in such a distinct way, that this particular engine is still looked back at fondly.

The undeniable daddy of the E46 M3 range was the CSL, built to provide an even purer experience. Carbon fibre was used for the roof and rear diffuser, along with a hike in power enabling a sub five seconds 0-62mph sprint. It sat on some gorgeous lightweight 19-inch wheels too and in total was 110kg lighter than the standard M3. If only it had a manual gearbox!
Blue BMW 'E60' M5 (2005) driving on a track.

BMW 'E60' M5 (2005)

'One of the ugliest and most annoying cars in the world, but at the touch of the button, it becomes one of the very best, it becomes an M5.' Jeremy Clarkson knows a thing or two about cars, and this was his view on the E60 M5.

We all know V8 engines are cool, but V10 engines are just on another level! So BMW M decided to stick one in an M5, making it a a true supercar slayer. The car had somewhat of a split personality however, as expressed by Jezza. 400bhp is enough for the normal mode, yet press the M button and you get 507bhp. Remove the limiter and this M5 will go over 200mph!
Grey BMW 'E63' M6 (2005) parked outside a building.

BMW 'E63' M6 (2005)

Nowadays, sticking a motorsport-inspired 500bhp naturally aspirated engine in a striking super coupe is unheard of. Thank goodness the BMW M division decided it was necessary in 2005, making the E63 M6 another awesome creation form the M division.

Today, turbocharging has been widely adopted for economy and environmental factors, along with performance. But can you really beat a naturally aspirated engine? No lag, and a wonderfully evocative noise!
BMW Z4 M Coupe/Roadster 'E85/E86' (2006) driving on the road.

BMW Z4 M Coupe/Roadster 'E85/E86' (2006)

It is argued that by removing the roof of a car, it becomes prettier. When BMW launched the E85 Z4, it was first offered as a Roadster (convertible), but then they released the Coupe, which looks even more stunning. Especially with full-on M treatment.

Prices have stayed strong too, especially on the Coupe. As a successor to the Z3 M Coupe and Roadster, it is much more handsome and subtle, yet is still like its predecessor with values staying strong.
White BMW 'E92' M3 (2007) parked up.

BMW 'E92' M3 (2007)

Enter the fourth-generation of one of the world's most iconic performance cars, this time with an iconic V8 lump. What's more it was naturally aspirated and rear-wheel drive; a sought-after mix for the avid petrolhead and keen driver.

Available as a convertible too, along with a rare Saloon, the Coupe is the one to go for. The Saloon has its fans and rightly so. The rarity of such a sought-after mix of ingredients is responsible for ensuring some examples fetch strong money, but you can't knock a car with such heritage, and one which will never be replicated.
Orange BMW 1M 'E82' (2011) parked.

BMW 1M 'E82' (2011)

One of the first proper M cars to be turbocharged, the 335bhp 1M has become a properly sought-after M car, fetching more used than it cost brand-new. All this despite its somewhat backwards name, so that it didn't take the shine away from the original M1 supercar!

As M cars go it's pretty rare too, with only 450 made. The short wheel base, manual transmission and pumped up looks have ensured the 1M will be one of the most sought-after M cars in recent times. Prices will no doubt continue to rise, showing just how good a car this is.
Grey BMW 'F10' M5 (2011) parked on the track.

BMW 'F10' M5 (2011)

A controversial part of BMW M history, especially in the case of the super-saloon M5. With the previous 'E60' M5 featuring an incredible naturally-aspirated V10, the updated 'F10' M5 featured a smaller 4.4-litre V8. What had happened?

Due to the search of more-efficiency and to keep the people at green peace happy, probably, manufacturers had to reduce engine sizes and adopt turbo power. In this case, the 'F10' was fitted with two of them, so M enthusiasts needn't have worried. Especially with 552bhp on tap, over fifty more than the V10!
BMW 'F13' M6 (2012) parked on the track.

BMW 'F13' M6 (2012)

Need a less practical M5? The 2012 M6 is essentially just that, just in a more alluring coupe package. Therefore you still get the same mental power of over 550bhp, enough for 62mph in under 4 seconds. Not bad considering the weight of this GT which has been putting in overtime at the gym.

Available in a 2-door Coupe, Convertible and even a 4-door Gran Coupe, the BMW M department was ensuring ever performance car niche was catered for!
Blue BMW 'F80' M3 (2014) parked on the drive.

BMW 'F80' M3 (2014)

The first M3 to be available in four-door only, after BMW introduced the 4 Series - effectively a 3 Series Coupe, just with a different name - more on that later. But this is an M3 so let's talk power. No longer naturally-aspirated, the F80 is turbocharged, with 425bhp available. Official 0-62mph time is quoted at 4.3 seconds - although various sources state they are in fact quicker.

With a notably larger derrière than its M4 sibling, the M3 looks properly menacing, just like an M3 should. Helping prove that opting for turbo charging is no bad thing after all.
Gold BMW 'F82' M4 (2014) parked in the middle of the road.

BMW 'F82' M4 (2014)

So, effectively the F82 M4 is a Coupe version of the M3. Clever marketing, range expansion or a sign of the times? No matter what your take, the M4 is another stonking M car.

It is also the first ever M4, and appeals to those who are after a properly focused drivers' car. Rear-wheel drive and using the same 425bhp turbo-charged lump as the M3 - it is properly lairy, especially in the wet!

Blue BMW 'F87' M2 (2016) parked up.

BMW 'F87' M2 (2016)

With a history of creating near perfection when it comes to creating a baby M car, step forward BMW 1M, BMW continued the trend with the introduction of the M2. It may use the N55 engine, as found in the M235i, but it's been configured to suit this bona fide M car to a tee. It sounds incredible too, and like history before it, the M2's short wheel base ensures its a superb drivers' car.

Later in life the M2 Competition was born. It received a full-on M engine from the M3/M4, albeit with some modifications and of course de-tuned. It also received enhanced seats, again borrowed from its M3/M4 sibling.
Blue BMW 'F90' M5 (2017) parked at the stadium.

BMW 'F90' M5 (2017)

Four-wheel drive in an M car? Welcome to the ultra-powerful 592bhp F90 BMW M5, a proper weapon, in a super-saloon body. But has the rear-wheel drive M car magic been lost? Quite simply, no. As, if you are a fan of getting the back end out - on a track of course, then you can select the M5 to be rear-wheel drive at the touch of a button. Marvellous.

62mph is dealt with in just 3.4 seconds, which is absolutely insane and a whole second quicker than the M5 it replaces. If you want a super-saloon that can bully supercars, the M5 is still the daddy!


This concludes our look at BMW M's back catalogue of their legendary M car range. We would ask which is your favourite, but surely that's an impossible task!