BMW says the current generation M3 Coupe will be its last - here we bid it a fond farewell
6 July 2013

BMW has announced that the current generation M3 Coupe will be the company's last.

To make way for the M4 Coupe, due in 2014, BMW says it will cut the 3-series badge in favour of the 4-series. That means that both the current Coupe and Cabriolet models bearing M3 badges will be the last to go on sale. The convertible M3 will end production in September.

Here, Autocar pays tribute to the M3 Coupe and its siblings.

In 1986, it was motor racing that first persuaded BMW to prefix the name of its smallest model range with the letter ‘M’.

The first ‘E30’ M3 was built in small numbers to legitimise its appearance at circuits around the globe. The required 5000 cars needed to homologate the model flew from the shelves, helped by the popularity of the World Touring Car Championship. Each car came with radical styling - including flared wheel arches and a tall rear wing. In 1988, the Coupe was followed with a Convertible version, available exclusively in European markets.

Such was the popularity of the concept, however – high power, low mass and a small footprint on the road – that the company was forced to consider a replacement.

The E36 arrived in the UK in 1993, being powered by a 3.0-litre straight-six engine. It stayed in production until 1999 and spawned Coupe, Cabriolet and, for the first time, Saloon variants. It was the first M3 to be powerred by a straight-six engine, which was upgraded in late 1995 with the introduction of a 312bhp, 3.2-litre unit to the range. Subtle styling changes also accompanied the engine change.

Again, Convertible and Saloon versions followed the Coupe a year later.

Another followed in 2001, the E46, and with it came more of the spoorting edge that had been lacking in earlier models. The same 3.2-litre straight six from the previous generation was carried over, but re-tuned to put out 325bhp. Top speed was electronically limited to 155mph, while 0-60 times fell to sub-five seconds. This generation of M3 was the first to use an electronic throttle as opposed to previous generations which used cables.

Three special versions of the E46 were produced, the M3 CS, the M3 CSL and the M3 GTR V8.

Today’s M3 coupe was launched in 2008 and gave the range a significant overhaul in terms of styling. This generation lost many of the straight edges and harsh lines of the previous model, choosing instead to use a much softer appearance. It also caused a bone of contention with M3 purists, who disliked the move to a V8 engine.

In the beginning it would have been difficult to see that the M3 would be such a sales success for BMW. Those with long memories will recall that the 1993 M3, the successor to the great original, was lambasted for being too soft and in possession of poor steering.

Although some may consider the current model to be too anodyne to do justice to the most famous single-consonant, single-digit car name in the world, it would be hard to suggest that the M3 has earned a truly legendary status in car culture.

Farewell, then, to the BMW M3 Coupe

 

Our Verdict

BMW M3 Coupé
Anyone who drives this car and yearns for more straight-line performance clearly has power issues

The latest generation BMW M3 isn't as thrilling as the original E30 M3, but it's still mighty

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Comments
21

9 July 2010

Why is it that the E30 still looks perfectly proportioned today and puts many new cars to shame with their fussy styling and detailing?

Where has all Japanese design went to?

9 July 2010

An E30 with the 3.2 from the E36, perfection.

9 July 2010

[quote Autocar]The E36 arrived in the UK in 1993, being powered by a 3.0-litre straight-six engine.[/quote]

It was actually a 3.2.

[quote Autocar]Those with long memories will recall that the 1993 M3, the successor to the great original, was lambasted for being too soft and in possession of poor steering[/quote]

I don't particularly recall that, and those I've met who have them absolutely love them - many have gone on and on about the handling, the steering, the brakes, the engine, the sound, etc. Remember, also, these cars have to ride as well as handle.

9 July 2010

[quote Straight Six Man]It was actually a 3.2.[/quote]

Err, no. It was actually a 3.0.

It became the 321ps 3.2 Evo engine in 1995.


9 July 2010

[quote Straight Six Man]I don't particularly recall that, and those I've met who have them absolutely love them - many have gone on and on about the handling, the steering, the brakes, the engine, the sound, etc. Remember, also, these cars have to ride as well as handle.
[/quote]

Funny that, as I remember it quite well. I do like the e36 m3 though, especially as a saloon, but the image has become questionable these days, perhaps due to their relatively affordable price resulting in some rather tasteless modifications to many of them.

9 July 2010

Had an E46, same color as the one in the gallery but on 19"inchers and a manual box (apparently better than the robotised box), i enjoyed every mile of it, infact being a low mileage user i could run it on £25 quid's worth of unleaded a week!, best mpg, i once got 34.6 out of it on a long run of 200 miles, the car got so much under my skin i'd have another one, no hesitation, alas,Wife and kids prevent it, but as a second best i'm driving a 530i M-SPORT,doesn't handle aswell, but there you go!

Peter Cavellini.

9 July 2010

[quote Zeddy] Why is it that the E30 still looks perfectly proportioned today and puts many new cars to shame with their fussy styling and detailing?[/quote]

Because the E30 3-Series was a classic piece of design , even before the M3 was born

I think BMW lost the plot when they put a V8 in the M3

9 July 2010

They're all gorgeous. The original was so right though. Elegant and purposeful. The interior is brilliant and has aged really well.

10 July 2010

[quote every thing you say is right]

They're all gorgeous. The original was so right though. Elegant and purposeful. The interior is brilliant and has aged really well.

[/quote]

The E30 was a bit chavvy for me - the bulging square wheelarches, the turbo four, etc. I think the E36 is exactly what an M3 ought to be - understated, looking like any salesrep's ordinary 3-series, but with a smooth and powerful straight-six engine.

The E46 was, perhaps, a bit too uncompromising - no four-door option, teeth-rattling ride, no torque, just revs... a glorious track machine, but not a realistic proposition as your only car.

10 July 2010

[quote Straight Six Man]The E30 was a bit chavvy for me - the bulging square wheelarches, the turbo four, etc. I think the E36 is exactly what an M3 ought to be - understated, looking like any salesrep's ordinary 3-series, but with a smooth and powerful straight-six engine.[/quote]

I'm not a fan of the blown arches either but the rest is beautifully teutonic. Not sure where you got the turbo four reference from. The E30 definately has a four cylinder, 16V NA unit. Were you thining of the much earlier 2002 turbo?

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