Based on the 1986 E30 3-Series body, the first BMW M3 was introduced with a 2.3 L S14 engine, derived from the M10 straight-4. One of the main reasons for production of the road car was to homologate the M3 for Group A Touring Car racing, as an answer to the "2.3-16V"-model of the Mercedes-Benz W201 which was introduced in 1983.
The first version produced 195 hp (143 kW), and later versions upped displacement to 2.5 L and 238 hp (175 kW). 786 cabriolets were also produced. The E30 M3 differed from the rest of the E30 lineup in many ways. The M3 was equipped with flared fenders to accommodate a wider track with wider and taller wheels and tires. It also had three times the caster angle of any other E30. The M3 had larger brakes and shared wheel bearings with the E28 5-Series.
Special editions and later homologation specials included the Evo I, Evo II and Sport Evo (AKA. Evo III) some of which featured less weight, improved aerodynamics, and more power to keep the car competitive in racing following homologation rules. Production of the original M3 (E30 coupe) ended in 1991.
The M3 was (and is) a successful racer, winning the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft, European Touring Car Championship and even the one-off world title in 1987. The E30 M3 is also a multiple winner of Macau Grand Prix, 24 Hours Nürburgring and Spa 24 Hours.
(2.3l-16v I4) - 143kW/195bhp 0-60 mph - 6.9 s. Top Speed: 140 mph
(2.5l-16v I4) - 175kW/238bhp 0-60 mph - 6.2 s. Top Speed: 150 mph
In 2004, Sports Car International named this car number six on the list of Top Sports Cars of the 1980s.
The replacement for the original M3 appeared at the 1992 Paris Auto Show. This E36 coupe model got the 3.0 L S50B30 straight-6 engine, which produced 286 hp (210 kW). For the 1996 model year the M3 was upgraded to a new 3.2 L, 321 hp (236 kW) engine (S52B30),a six speed gearbox and the M5's larger brakes. The new SMG gearbox was also offered as an option. These models are often described as the "Euro" models to differentiate them from the models sold in the US which were quite different. The 3.2 Euro is also known as the M3 "Evolution" or "Evo".
The first E36 M3 to be imported to the United States was the 1995 model, which got a tamer 3.0 L engine with 240 hp (176 kW) and 305 N·m (225 ft·lbf) (S50B30US) and a different suspension. The reasons for the tamer car were largely due to excessive costs for the US market with the original engine and possible difficulty in getting the Euro engine to pass emission tests. The 1996-1999 model years had displacement bumped up to 3.2 L, with 240 hp (176 kW) and 320 N·m (236 ft·lbf) which is the same engine used in the early M Roadster and M Coupe. Starting in model year 1997, it was also available as a sedan with a convertible in 1998. Production of the sedan was halted in 1998, while the other models continued until 1999.
(3.0l-24v I6)Euro Version - 210 kW/286 bhp 0-60 mph - 6.0 s. Top Speed: 155 mph (electronically limited)
(3.2l-24v I6)Euro Version - 240 kW/321 bhp 0-60 mph - 5.5 s. Top Speed: 155 mph (electronically limited)
The US-Spec E36 M3 was named Best-Handling Car by Car and Driver in 1997.
The 2001 E46 M3 appeared worldwide with the new 3.2 L S54B32 engine. This was the highest specific output naturally aspirated engine ever made by BMW, producing 343 PS (333 SAE net hp (252 kW) in North America) and 365 N·m (262 ft·lbf) of torque. The available SMG transmission, a Formula 1-style elctrohydraulic manual gearbox with no clutch pedal and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, is also a highlight.
(3.2l-24v I6) - 343 PS (US model = 333 hp / 252 kW) 0-62 mph - 4.8 s. Top Speed: 155 mph (electronically limited)
BMW was expected to announce an all-new M3 based on the E90 platform at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show (to be released in 2007), but this did not happen. It is rumored that the next-generation M3 will have a 425 hp (315 kW) 4.0 L V8, and there is much speculation as to whether or not it will be marketed in coupe or convertible form as the M4. Some believe the E90 convertible may be a retractable hardtop, similar to the Mercedes-Benz SLK. However, such rumors have yet to be substantiated, and the issue won't be definitively settled until BMW officially releases the new "3" convertible.
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