Scott Lear
Scott Lear
8/14/20 7:53 a.m.

[Editor's Note: This article originally ran in the November 2007 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.]

M3: It’s a simple alphanumeric designation that gets sports car enthusiasts all hot and bothered. For two decades, the BMW M3—the sportiest variant of the company’s smaller, 3 Series line—has been the upmarket but still attainable king of the sports sedan realm.

The sheet came off the first E30-chassis M3 way back in 1986. By mixing four-seat practicality, understated but still aggressive good looks, superb engineering and highly developed performance components, BMW got it very, very right the first time.

History is full of watered-down sequels, but BMW refused to endure that kind of self-inflicted embarrassment. The second-generation car—known to enthusiasts as the E36 M3—was able to surpass the original in nearly every category.

As a result, BMW established a trend that indicated they would not allow the M3 badge to adorn anything other than a worthy car. Further confirmation came with the new millennium in the form of the even more powerful third-generation E46-chassis M3. Today, BMW fanatics have a new object to lust after, as the 2008 BMW M3 (E92 chassis) takes the M3 to an even higher tier of performance, refinement and, unfortunately, price.

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350z247
350z247 New Reader
10/8/20 10:32 a.m.

Easily the perfect M3. Best sound, highest redline, most NA power, sedan/coupe/vert all offered, perfect balance of luxury and performance, and surprisingly reliable. I love the S54, but having an iron block inline six sticking way out front is less than ideal. 

Olemiss540
Olemiss540 Reader
10/8/20 4:47 p.m.

My idea of the perfect m3 weighs a little less than 3600 lbs, but the v8 is a hell of a NA swan song!

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/8/20 8:48 p.m.

The M3 is still amazing, but let's not pretend BMW hasn't watered down the ///M badge by putting it on damn near everything including SUVs these days. I see 20+ M-badged BMWs every day in my commute (and S/RS-badged Audis, and AMG Benzes) It used to mean the car was really rare and special. These days it's not rare at all, it just means you have a lot of cash. 

Matt B (fs)
Matt B (fs) UltraDork
10/8/20 9:02 p.m.

These aren't criticism-free, but the the 4-door version is pretty high on my list for a kid-hauler where the weight isn't as much of an issue.  Overall nickle-n-dime-you-to-death reliability seems higher than the turbo sixes, but they do seem to have a couple of big-ticket items that commonly need to be addressed.  The throttle body actuators break and the rod bearings were apparently shipped with too-tight tolerances from the factory.  That said, I haven't found any other modern 4-door V8s with a manual transmission that I could afford and are desirable to the household.  The SO doesn't like G8 GXPs as much as I do.

wspohn
wspohn Dork
10/9/20 12:26 p.m.
irish44j (Forum Supporter) said:

The M3 is still amazing, but let's not pretend BMW hasn't watered down the ///M badge by putting it on damn near everything including SUVs these days. I see 20+ M-badged BMWs every day in my commute (and S/RS-badged Audis, and AMG Benzes) It used to mean the car was really rare and special. These days it's not rare at all, it just means you have a lot of cash. 

The 'M' status was devalued when it became an option package that gave you  a few things like steering wheel, seats etc. You got M Sport And you see owners that haven't even paid for the option package sticking an 'M' on their cars in a rather pathetic attempt at self aggrandizement.

The last real M cars  may be the E85/86 in the mid 2000s. but there are cases to be made for slightly later ones like the E90/92/93 M3s

350z247
350z247 New Reader
10/15/20 10:00 p.m.

In reply to wspohn :

You'd be crazy not to count the E9X chassis as a "real" M car. These things on track are just sublime; the drive weigh lighter than they actually are. Sure, the turbo stuff has lost it's way a bit, but the last naturally aspirated M car is a real M car. A swan song of what BMW could do before emissions and soft rich people changed the direction of the brand. 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
10/16/20 5:32 a.m.
irish44j (Forum Supporter) said:

The M3 is still amazing, but let's not pretend BMW hasn't watered down the ///M badge by putting it on damn near everything including SUVs these days. I see 20+ M-badged BMWs every day in my commute (and S/RS-badged Audis, and AMG Benzes) It used to mean the car was really rare and special. These days it's not rare at all, it just means you have a lot of cash. 

It just means you live where there are a lot of people with a lot of cash smiley

 

I saw an RS3 once.

ojannen
ojannen Reader
10/16/20 6:29 a.m.
wspohn said:

The 'M' status was devalued when it became an option package that gave you  a few things like steering wheel, seats etc. You got M Sport And you see owners that haven't even paid for the option package sticking an 'M' on their cars in a rather pathetic attempt at self aggrandizement.

The last real M cars  may be the E85/86 in the mid 2000s. but there are cases to be made for slightly later ones like the E90/92/93 M3s

I have a 1996 318ti with the M appearance package that you probably are not going to be a fan of.  M3 front bumper, rear bumper, side skirts, steering wheel, interior, etc.

dyintorace (Forum Supporter)
dyintorace (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
10/16/20 6:57 a.m.

I've owned every generation of M3 made through this chassis. They are all very cool cars, in very different ways. The e90 M3 I owned had been prepped for light track work and it was simply stunning to drive. The noises it made with the aftermarket exhaust were truly amazing.

Matt B (fs)
Matt B (fs) UltraDork
10/16/20 8:02 a.m.

In reply to dyintorace (Forum Supporter) :

Which exhaust did you use?  Inquiring minds and all that...

Also, man that car looks great.  The want is STRONG.

rothwem
rothwem Reader
10/16/20 8:32 a.m.

I love these and have always been planning on getting one when they've depreciated to an affordable level, but they've held their value frustratingly well.  

350z247
350z247 New Reader
10/16/20 12:24 p.m.

In reply to rothwem :

You can pick them up all day for around $20,000 or much less if you're willing to travel to a good deal. That's pretty darn cheap for what you're getting.

rothwem
rothwem Reader
10/16/20 1:52 p.m.
350z247 said:

In reply to rothwem :

You can pick them up all day for around $20,000 or much less if you're willing to travel to a good deal. That's pretty darn cheap for what you're getting.

Under 20k? I've seen them but they're rare and usually have a whole bunch of miles/owners/accidents on them.  Most of the ones I'd be interested in buying hover around $25,000, which does seem like a lot of car for the money but its still too rich for my blood.  If I'm spending 25k, its got to be daily-able, and I just don't trust one of these for that purpose with the rod bearing and throttle actuator issues hanging out there.  

nderwater
nderwater UltimaDork
10/16/20 2:10 p.m.

In reply to rothwem :

Agreed.  I've been keeping my eye out for one for several years--the cheap ones all have super high mileage and/or rebuilt titles.

350z247
350z247 New Reader
10/16/20 9:51 p.m.

In reply to rothwem :

You only need to replace the rod bearings once and replacing the throttle body actuators isn't really that bad. I would have no issues with daily driving a 4 door E90 M3. Most of the cars at $25,000 should already have most of the big maintenance items done already as it makes them easier to sell. I certainly wouldn't have one as my ONLY car, but as long as you have some form of second car, they're great.

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