2016 marks the 30th anniversary of a motoring icon, one which revolutionised the mid-size sports car segment when its production started in 1986. The very first BMW M3 set a new standard by which other carmakers would be measured – and, five model generations later, are still judged today. BMW Motorsport Division, the precursor to BMW M Division, was incredibly rigorous in its deployment of undiluted motor racing technology in the development of the first-generation BMW M3. Its endeavours produced a thoroughbred high-performance sports car – based on the series-produced BMW 3 Series – that was perfectly suited to daily use. Over the three decades that have followed, BMW M has gently refined its trailblazing and highly successful creation from one generation to the next, while always taking great care to preserve the original character of the M3. The upshot is that there is arguably still no other car that blends such prominently honed motor sport genes and uncompromised everyday practicality into such an emotionally stirring overall package.
The 30th anniversary of the BMW M3 provides an ideal opportunity to
look back at four highly intriguing model variants that, for various
reasons, never made it past the prototype stage. Four surprise guests
will therefore be attending their progenitor’s birthday party: the BMW
M3 Pickup from 1986, the BMW M3 Compact from 1996, the BMW M3 Touring
from 2000 and the second incarnation of the BMW M3 Pickup unveiled in 2011.
Use in touring car racing was the overriding development
objective for the first-generation BMW M3.
The BMW M3 was not an attempt to produce a sporting
flagship for a volume-produced model range; instead it originated from
the idea of developing a racing car for motor sport that would also be
available in a road-going version. The selected category of racing was
Group A production touring cars – as seen in the German Touring Car
Championship (DTM) that had succeeded the German Racing Championship
(DRM). The Group A regulations stated that for a racing car to be
homologated, at least 5,000 road-legal units had to be sold within 12 months.
The current (fifth) generation of the BMW M3 was introduced in spring
2014. In keeping with the change in nomenclature for BMW’s
series-produced models, only the four-door sedan is badged “M3”, while
the coupe and the convertible variants were given the model
designation M4. In all three body variants, a free-revving
straight-six engine with M TwinPower Turbo technology and
317 kW/431 hp provides the power. Rigorously applied intelligent
lightweight design elements include the extensive use of lightweight
materials such as CFRP and aluminium for many chassis and body
components. All of which has shaved around 80 kilograms off the weight
of its predecessor.
This summer, BMW M Division released an exclusive special-edition
model – limited to 500 units worldwide – as a special tribute to the
successful 30-year history of the BMW M3. With its Macao Blue metallic
exterior paint finish, the BMW M3 “30 Jahre M3” harks back to the
first generation of car, for which this colour shade was first
offered. The Competition Package, which is included as standard and
comprises extensive powertrain and suspension modifications, pushes
the engine output of the anniversary model up by 14 kW/19 hp to 331