Top five BMW M-cars you need to drive

Originally, the BMW M series of cars was part of the company’s racing line, though it later evolved into an array of vehicles that became available to consumers. This subsidiary of BMW came about in the early 1970’s, and as the popularity of the cars grew, so did its influence, until today the series is an established part of BMW’s image.

Although the first of these cars was introduced to the racing world in 1972, under the BMW M moniker (“M” referring to “motorsport”), it wasn’t until 1978 that the first road car under this brand would be released, the M1 supercar.  The success of the car spurred BMW M to create more road-worthy vehicles for the everyday driver, and it was from these humble beginnings that the entire M series was born.

In the 80’s, BMW M released other models in this line, including the M535i and the M635CSi. The first M3 followed several years later, offering another race car for the public in the guise of a street car. As the early 90’s came around, BMW M focused its efforts on making M versions of BMW’s road models, and eventually underwent a name change to BMW M GmbH. In the 21st Century, BMW M continues to produce street vehicles with racing capabilities, though the last traditional M car without a turbocharged engine was the 2013 model of M3.

Over the years BMW M has produced some notable vehicles, and some of these key models deserve a closer look:

BMW M1

Produced between 1978 and 1981, the M1 was the original vehicle in the M series and also the first BMW production vehicle to feature a mid-engine layout. With a 3.5 liter six-cylinder engine, the street version of the M1 was capable of producing 273 horsepower, and could reach a top speed of 260 km/h. The racing versions of the M1, on the other hand, can produce up to 850 horsepower.

Because exactly 453 M1’s were ever produced, it is one of the more rare of the BMW M series. 20 of those cars were used for professional racing purposes, in the one-make racing series BMW M Procar Championship, which went on for two years.
Much later in 2008, to celebrate the anniversary of the original M1, BMW unveiled a concept car that was somewhat based on the original M1’s design, called the M1 Homage.

BMW M1 is one of the rarest M-cars.

BMW M1 is one of the rarest M-cars.

BMW E30 M3

The M3 vehicles encompassed high-performance variations on the BMW 3 series of cars, including the E30. The E30 was popular with car enthusiasts even before it made its official appearance on the market, as it was one of the most powerful BMW models made for the street at the time, with a top speed of over 225 km/h and the ability to produce 200 horsepower. It was not only powerful, however—it was also a sign of a change in the market, as manufacturers were becoming more environmentally conscious. The BMW M3 was one of the cleanest and most efficient sports cars of its time, and had remarkable fuel efficiency for what was essentially a racing car.

The M3 made its first public appearance at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1985. This model, also built for homologation purposes, easily sold all of its production vehicles to eager customers.

BMW M3 E30

BMW M3 E30 is one of the more popular M-cars among enthusiasts.

BMW M-cars history

BMW M3 E30 had a huge spoiler.

BMW M5 E39

The M5 E39 was produced between 1998 and 2003, and it differs quite a bit from some of the M-series cars that came before it. For one, its production version was manufactured in much larger quantities, with a total of 20,482 cars produced. It was also produced alongside other 5-series vehicles, in the same manufacturinBg facilities, and it shares a lot of superficial chassis similarities with other E39 models. It used the S62 V8 engine, which is capable of producing 394 brake horse power. Without any regulatory limitations that artificially stifle the speed capabilities of the vehicle, the E39 M5 is capable of reaching a top speed of 300 km/h.

BMW M5 E39 affordable

BMW M5 E39 is one of the more affordable M-cars today. Image courtesy BMW.

BMW 3.0 CSL E9

The BMW 3.0 CSL E9 was a special version of the E9, a successful line of cars that truly helped solidify BMW’s reputation in the racing world during the 1970’s. First produced in 1972, only 1,265 production vehicles were built, as the model was created more or less exclusively for homologation purposes. It became a successful racing car in the European circuit, winning the European Touring Car Championship for Toine Hezemans in 1973, and then later consistently winning the 1975 through 1979 championships.
The street version of the car was well-liked for its power and practicality. It is still highly sought after for its sleek design and good handling. The 1973 “batmobile” version of the 3.0 CSL E9 is particularly valued because it is so rare; only 109 were ever built.

BMW 3.0 CSL original version and homeage

BMW 3.0 CSL (right) and the later homeage edition, image courtesy BMW.

BMW M5 E28

The BMW M5 E28 was a departure from sports cars of the past, because it featured a decidedly non-sporty sedan-size carrying capacity, and yet wielded the power of a racing car, making it the fastest sedan in the world at the time. In a sense, it served the consumer demand for something that was both practical and exciting to drive, and its inconspicuous look was desired by those who wanted the capability of their car to be understated.

Based on the E28 5, it was the first of the M5’s and was debuted in 1984. It was produced between 1985 and 1988, and there were only 2,191 of these ever built, which puts it in the top 5 rarest BMW M series vehicles to have been produced.

Over the decades, what started as a line of homologation specials built for the purpose of legally entering BMW’s racing machines into motorsport competitions has slowly evolved into a highly-valued line of street cars in their own right. From the M1 to the X6 M, these cars have allowed everyday drivers to experience the power of a racing car, often under the guise and aesthetics of an average production car.

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