Currently reading: Your BMW M 50th anniversary birthday wish list
From limited-edition hardcore BMW M4s to the electrified BMW Concept XM: here are all the cars that should top any self-respecting BMW M fan’s ‘must-haves’

In the five decades since it was founded, BMW’s race-bred performance-focused BMW M division has pulled together an impressive roster of game-changing pace-setting epoch-defining models – from the race-inspired BMW 3.0 CSL that started it all in 1972, through the legendary BMW M3 E46 that defined the brand’s reputation in the 1990s, to today’s deep, broad and well-defined mix of high-tech ultra-potent BMW M saloons, coupe’s, cabriolets and SUVs.

Now, for 2022 – its 50th anniversary – BMW M has pulled together one of the most impressive line-ups of model launches and special editions in its history. So, if you want to join the 50th anniversary celebrations by putting yourself right in the driver’s seat, here are all of the all-new BMW M models that will mark the brand’s big year of celebrations, and why they should be on <your> birthday wish list.

Find out more about BMW M’s 50th anniversary

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It’s always good to start a big birthday year with a resolution, and it’s clear from the reveal of the limited-run special-edition BMW M5 CS in January that BMW M has lost none of its resolve to lead the way in its quest for ultimate performance. Boasting 635hp and up to 750Nm of torque from its 4.4-litre M TwinPower Turbo V8, it will sprint from 0-62mph in 3.0 seconds on its way to an electronically limited 189mph, making it BMW M’s fastest and most powerful production car to date.

As befits any good new year resolution, the BMW M5 CS has focused on getting leaner, keener and even more stylish for 2022, with lightweight and carbon-fibre components cutting 70kg of weight from a chassis and body that hugs the ground 7mm lower. Equally, shock absorbers from the BMW M8 Gran Coupé, rear-biased M xDrive all-wheel-drive, an Active M differential and M Carbon ceramic brakes contribute to a bespoke chassis tuning.

No wonder our Autocar road test team gave it a much-coveted hard-to-earn five-star review. “The BMW M5 CS is the super-saloon to rule them all,” we said when we celebrated this accolade in our Autocar Awards. “More importantly, it’s the archetypal and defining example of the breed returning to the height of its powers. The way it overlays so much muscular aggression on the normal bones of the BMW 5 Series might be a high-water mark for super-saloon design. It’s the perfect execution of the ordinary made extraordinary.”

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BMW M3 Competition Touring

Every birthday, there’s one present you’ve been eagerly awaiting for some time. In the case of the BMW M3 Competition Touring, it’s a car that BMW M fans have been hankering for since the launch of the first BMW 3 Series Touring in 1987. Deep in BMW M’s HQ in Munich’s Garching district, a feasibility prototype was briefly considered in 2000. But it wasn’t until this year that the dream became reality.

Offering BMW M3 pace with much more space, the BMW M3 Competition Touring is the ultimate birthday present to BMW M’s fans. Boasting 510hp and 650Nm from its race-bred 3.0-litre M TwinPower Turbo straight-six, it gets you from 0-62mph in as little as 3.6 seconds, with all the BMW M3 trimmings you’d expect under the skin – including rear-biased M xDrive all-wheel-drive, an Active M Differential and Adaptive M suspension.

It's in the back, though, where the real changes happen. Boasting between 500 litres and 1,510 litres of load space (depending on whether the three full-size 40:20:40 split-rear seats are folded down), the BMW M3 Competition Touring is – in BMW’s own words – blistering performance and everyday practicality taken to the extreme.

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Just because one present is smaller than the others doesn’t mean it’s any less special. So, for fans of compact pure rear-wheel-drive BMW M cars – and we know there are plenty of you – the anticipated reveal of a new BMW M2 later this year is a package worth waiting for.

Using the same race-bred 3.0-litre M TwinPower Turbo straight-six as the BMW M3 Competition and BMW M4 Competition, the new BMW M2 is set to boast a similar level of performance to the outgoing BMW M2 CS that took BMW’s compact coupe to the peak of performance in late 2019. That car boasted 450hp and 550Nm of torque, and a 0-62mph time of 4.0 seconds on its way to a 4.5-star Autocar review.

Our Autocar road test team have had a brief taste of the BMW M2’s performance on-track. “It’s got a deeply traditional positioning for a fast BMW and something of a pure heart; it’s a base-of-the-pyramid, core-of-the-brand type of model,” we said. “While the new BMW M2 is a more complex and versatile car than its forebears, it could ultimately be a more rewarding one too. It has all the power and performance it needs and then some, and it will go where it’s pointed fast and with confidence-inspiring consistency.”

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Nothing marks a big birthday than something much sought-after. In the case of the limited-run special-edition BMW M4 CSL that’s truly the case. Building on the celebrated base of the BMW M4 Competition – which earned a 4.5-star Autocar review – the BMW M4 CSL adds 40hp to its race-bred 3.0-litre M TwinPower Turbo straight-six for a total of 550hp and 605Nm of torque. It also trims 100kg of weight, thanks to the use of a wealth of lightweight and carbon fibre components.

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The CSL moniker first made its debut on the BMW 3.0 CSL that won the 1973 European Touring Car Championship at its first attempt. In modern BMW M parlance, CSL stands for ‘Competition, Sport, Lightweight’, and the list of weight savings and track-focused details on the BMW M4 CSL is impressive.

Hip-hugging M Carbon bucket seats up front deliver a more engaging driving feel, while saving 24kg, while the removal of the rear seats saves another 21kg. It’s all part of a two-seater cockpit with a carbon fibre centre console and unique CSL detailing that feels even more race-bred than the standard BMW M4 Competition.  

Under its skin, the BMW M4 CSL sits 8mm lower than the standard BMW M4 Competition, while M Carbon ceramic brakes and wealth of other weight-saving trims and tucks take another 55kg off the chassis.

The result: 0-62mph in as little as 3.7 seconds, and a benchmark-setting 7m15.677s on the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife layout – the fastest lap of the venue by a BMW M car to date. BMW M fans have had to move equally fast to secure one. With a production run of just 1000 units (with only 100 making their way to the UK), this is truly a birthday memento to savour if you’re lucky enough to own it.

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BMW M4 3.0 CSL homage

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If you think the BMW M4 line-up will reach the peak of performance and exclusivity with the BMW M4 CSL, then think again. Pictured testing, and then sitting behind BMW M CEO Frank van Meel in a recent Instagram post, a specially wrapped BMW M4 with a racier front splitter and large rear wing – perhaps inspired by the 1970s 3.0 CSL ‘Batmobile’ – is clearly in development.

Easter egg labels on the wrap, such as ‘6MT FTW’ and ‘I LIKE IT RARE’ hint at a six-speed manual for driving purists and a strictly limited-edition run – potentially making this BMW M’s most desirable and exclusive car on its birthday wishlist.

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BMW i4 M50

It’s time to talk electric. Luckily, BMW M’s next wave of birthday toys already come with batteries that make them even more thrilling to play with. It all starts with the BMW i4 M50 – BMW M’s first dedicated all-electric high-performance saloon.

For five decades, BMW M has re-imagined and redefined the idea of track-bred race-honed performance, and how it makes the cars that we drive on the road more potent, more engaging, and more fun. Now, after 50 years of looking forward, it’s clear that the future is electric. The secret to how BMW M will manage that transition without losing the key qualities that define a BMW M car is the fact that the brand has always been more about a mindset and an attitude than an engine type.

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Over the last 10 years, BMW has pioneered an extensive line-up of electric cars that meet every need – from the iconic city-friendly BMW i3 to the all-new BMW iX1 and i7. But the BMW i4 M50 is where the focus on thrilling electric performance and sublimely engaging handling gets really amped up for the BMW M generation.

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As a mid-size family-friendly saloon, it sits right at the heart of BMW M’s brand DNA. Its all-electric powertrain delivers 544hp and up to 795Nm of torque, meaning it can sprint from 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds. It’s in the bends, though, where the BMW i4 M50 truly changes the game for electric cars.

Thanks to its slim low-slung battery (which impressively offers up to 318 miles of range), the BMW i4 M50’s centre of gravity is an impressive 53mm lower than a regular 3 Series. Add in Adaptive M suspension, M Sport brakes and BMW’s first fully-electric xDrive all-wheel drive, and the BMW i4 M50 delivers all the taught engaging handling and sheer driving pleasure that you’d expect of a BMW M model.

Finally, if you’re concerned you’re going to miss BMW’s iconic high-revving straight-six engine note, worry not. BMW has partnered with Academy Award-winning movie composer Hans Zimmer to create a unique digital engine sound for the BMW i4 M50, with a rich deep resonant timbre that reflects BMW M’s performance heritage.

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BMW iX M60

The second pillar of BMW M’s all-electric line-up – the BMW iX M60 – adds an extra dose of range-topping amped-up potency to BMW’s performance SUV line-up. Its dual-motor powertrain delivers 619hp and 1,100Nm of torque, helping the BMW iX M60 dash from 0-62mph in as little as 3.8 seconds. Stiffer M-tuned dual-axle air suspension delivers a more assured, engaging and confidence-inspiring ride. Plus, you’ve got plenty of range to enjoy it, with up to 348 miles on one charge\

Our Autocar road test team recently got behind the wheel of the BMW iX M60 in Germany, and had plenty of good things to say in their four-star first drive review.

“One notable feature of BMW’s motors is that the rate of acceleration doesn’t conspicuously tail off at higher speeds, as is so often the case with electric cars,” they said. “On the autobahn, the 155mph limit is reached with such ridiculous ease.In the corners, the BMW iX M60 feels fundamentally rear-driven. It’s more reassuring when you want to get from A to B just a little quicker than you normally might, while in Comfort mode it still slinks around in very laid-back fashion indeed.”

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BMW Concept XM

Revealed at Art Basel’s 2021 Miami Beach Show, the BMW Concept XM is a bold statement about the direction of BMW M’s next generation of performance SUVs. It’s also the first standalone BMW M model that the brand has created since the limited-run BMW M1 – the race-bred 3.5-litre six-cylinder mid-engined supercar that helped define BMW M’s reputation on-track and on-road the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The BMW Concept XM’s plug-in hybrid powertrain blends electric motors with latest evolution of BMW M’s twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 to deliver an anticipated 750hp and 1000Nm torque, making it the most powerful BMW M car to go into series production. Crucially, it can also deliver up to 50 miles of purely-electric range through its BMW M xDrive all-wheel drive. As a result, it’s urban- and commuter-friendly, while also being confidence-inspiring and thrilling on twisty B-roads.

Our Autocar road test team got behind the wheel of an early development prototype of the BMW Concept XM, and came away impressed. “In electric mode, the BMW XM sets off in silence,” they said. “Still, buyers will want to use the newly configured V8 every chance they get. Its performance is mesmerising and intimidating in equal measure. Electrification has brought a crisp quality to the power delivery without any detriment to the wonderful high-rev character of BMW M’s twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8.

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“Even with a good deal of development to come, the BMW XM steers with the weight, precision and feel of a well-sorted sports saloon. It’s genuinely athletic in character, involving the driver on a level unmatched by any other M-badged SUV. Despite its size, it can be positioned with outstanding accuracy and confidence, feeling every bit as wieldy as cars half its weight.

“The most impressive aspect is the way it controls body movement. The secret: a new 48V electric roll stabilisation system employed in the BMW XM for the very first time. There is some roll in faster corners, even in Sport Plus mode, but it is never excessive, even when pushing hard. Pitch and dive are also terrifically well resolved.

Questions remain unanswered, but the performance and driving character of this particular XM prototype leave us in little doubt that it will be a resounding success.”

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BMW M has always been driven by a philosophy of race-bred performance – taking lessons and knowledge learned at the track in the white-hot crucible of competition, then applying them to BMW’s production models to make ever-better and ever-more-engaging cars for the road. So, no BMW M 50th anniversary wish list would be truly complete without a couple of race cars. You’ll just have to spend a few years training to be a racing driver to get yourself behind the wheel.

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First, there’s the BMW M4 GT3, which was developed alongside the road-going BMW M3 Competition and BMW M4 Competition. Designed to regulations that let pro and amateur drivers compete in a wealth of race series around the world, the 3.0-litre M TwinPower Turbo straight-six-powered car has already won races in the German-based DTM touring car championship alongside class victories in the US-based IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and a strong showing at this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours.

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BMW M Hybrid V8

Finally, there’s the BMW M Hybrid V8: designed to meet a new breed of LMDh prototype sportscar rules that have been engineered to encourage the ongoing electrification of motorsport, while also allowing more manufacturers to compete in championships in both the USA and Europe.

The BMW M Hybrid V8 blends a chassis sculpted to reflect BMW’s modern design DNA and some of the iconic cars from its extensive heritage with a well-honed 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 engine from BMW’s German DTM touring car campaign and a hybrid unit that electrically boosts power and torque to around 640hp and 650Nm.

It looks set to make its race debut in early 2023 in the US-based IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship: a gruelling 12-race series that includes the high-speed oval banking of the Daytona 24 Hours, the bumpy airfield perimeter roads of the Sebring 12 Hours, and the rough-and-tumble of the city-based Long Beach Grand Prix, alongside races at iconic US venues such as Laguna Seca, Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, Road Atlanta and Road America.

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A year racing in IMSA is the perfect preparation for BMW M’s return to the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2024: the gruelling twice-round-the-clock race, where over 60 competitors battle flat out on the long straights of the 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe at speeds of 200mph+ in all weathers, and through day and night.

The BMW M Hybrid V8 follows in the footsteps of an impressive lineage of BMW Le Mans cars – capped by the BMW V12-powered McLaren F1 that took a shock win in 1995, and the BMW V12 LMR that gave BMW its first outright Le Mans victory in 2000. But, if there’s one thing that BMW M has shown in its 50 years, it never does things by half, and the BMW M Hybrid V8 is going to Le Mans to repeat that success.

A victory at one of the world’s most iconic races, in a car that hints at BMW M’s electrified future? Now there would be a birthday present to remember.

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