The Generation Game: BMW M3

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BMW M3

  • Fifth Generation (2014-2019 F80)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Sixth Generation (2020-present G80, G81)

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    35
  • Poll closed .

Liquid

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Welcome to a pilot thread for The Generation Game. In it, we simply poll and discuss a car which has gone through multiple generations.

Which one is the best?
Which one is your favourite?


Remember:

It's not the cool wall, but you can judge it that way.
It's not a like wall, but you can choose the one you like the most.
You might have a personal link to it.
You might have a video game memory of it.
You might love its motorsports credibility.
You can change your vote after voting.

The poll question is open-ended because I don't want to put the discussion on rails where we have to pick the objective "best" as opposed to your subjective favourite. Information and specs in the original post are kept to a basic minimum or rounded figure at this stage to avoid overexplaining every facet of every variation but feel free to add whatever you wish in your own posts.

It's entirely up to you and hopefully we get some interesting discussion about each generation and why one is good, others are bad and anything in between. With that in mind...

The Generation Game: BMW M3

1986-1991 BMW M3 (E30)

bmw-e30-m3-by-redux.webp


Bodystyles: 2-door coupe, 2-door convertible
Engines: 2.3-2.5L I4
Drivetrain: RWD
Length: 4.34m / 171in
Weight: ~1,200kg / 2,700lbs

---

1992-1999 BMW M3 (E36)

P0036771-1-e1624372594853.jpg


Bodystyles: 2-door coupe, 2-door convertible, 4-door saloon
Engines: 3.0-3.2L I4
Drivetrain: RWD
Length: 4.4m / 174in
Weight: ~1,420kg / 3,100lbs

---

2000-2006 BMW M3 (E46)

bmw-m3-e46.jpg


Bodystyles: 2-door coupe, 2-door convertible
Engines: 3.2L I6, 4.0L V8 (M3 GTR)
Drivetrain: RWD
Length: 4.49m / 177in
Weight: ~1,570kg / 3,400lbs

---

2007-2013 BMW M3 (E90 saloon, E92 coupe, E93 convertible)

im02387-1-bmw-m3-limousine.jpg


Bodystyles: 4-door saloon, 2-door coupe, 2-door convertible
Engines: 4.0L V8, 4.4L V8
Drivetrain: RWD
Length: 4.6m / 180in
Weight: ~1,700kg / 3,650lbs

---

2014-2019 BMW M3 (F80)

BMWM3_21.jpg


Bodystyles: 4-door saloon
Engines: 3.0L twin-turbocharged I6
Drivetrain: RWD
Length: 4.67m / 183in
Weight: ~1,620kg / 3,500lbs

---
2020-present BMW M3 (G80 saloon, G81 estate)

G80-M3-3-1240x775.jpg


Bodystyles: 4-door saloon, 5-door estate
Engines: 3.0L twin-turbocharged I6
Drivetrain: RWD, 4WD
Length: 4.79m / 188in
Weight: ~1,780kg / 3,900lbs
 
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E30 M3

It's the M3 that earned the M3 its motorsport stripes. It's the one that got the wins when it was relevant to the road car. Race winning E36's were mostly 318's and 320's, the E46's most well known race winner was the GTR, which is a unicorn - not an accessible road car. By the E92 the GT/GT2 weren't that successful and the DTM car was a silhouette - the GT4 became a thing, but no one cares about that, and again, it was the 320si that got the (many, many) touring car wins. By the F30, we had the 4 series, so the GT cars were M4's... same for M versions of Gxx models, and again the touring car isn't an M3.

Bottom line, it is the E30 that did decades worth of heavy lifting for the M brand.. the rest are just nepo-babies inheriting their hype, and from a motorsport perspective are upstaged by their less gym-bro brothers.
 
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E46 was the M3 at its best and the CSL was peak M Division. The N/A S54 straight-6 is one of the best sounding engines of all time and the body made it one of the last truly good looking M3s. Sure the i6 returned from the F80 onwards with turbo torque in the S55 but it sounds awful compared to the free breather.
 
It's the M3 that earned the M3 its motorsport stripes. It's the one that got the wins when it was relevant to the road car. Race winning E36's were mostly 318's and 320's
1715975061461.png


Perhaps in Europe that was the case.


On that topic:
You might have a personal link to it.
You might have a video game memory of it.
You might love its motorsports credibility.
 
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Race winning E36's were mostly 318's and 320's
I often forget about this. We're not polling the 3-series, it's the M3 specifically. When you think of championship-winning E36 drivers like Tim Harvey, Steve Soper and Jo Winkehock, they didn't drive M3s.
 
they didn't drive M3s.
Yup, 24 non-M3 wins in the BTCC alone for the E36

And to quote TcT...

"The BMW 320i E36 is another car that was around from the start until, almost, the end of Super Touring. There is no other Super Tourer with more titles or outright race victories than the BMW, and touring car legends such as Jo Winkelhock, Roberto Ravaglia and Johnny Cecotto were in the top of championships around the globe. "
 
Yup, 24 non-M3 wins in the BTCC alone for the E36

And to quote TcT...

"The BMW 320i E36 is another car that was around from the start until, almost, the end of Super Touring. There is no other Super Tourer with more titles or outright race victories than the BMW, and touring car legends such as Jo Winkelhock, Roberto Ravaglia and Johnny Cecotto were in the top of championships around the globe. "
For the public at large, I didn't mistype by the way; Steve Soper was Japanese champion in 1995 in an E36 318i. But again, not an M3.

I voted for the E30. If I could own one M3, it would be the E30. It looks like brilliant fun and is the only M3 with that classic four headlight BMW look.
 
I often forget about this. We're not polling the 3-series, it's the M3 specifically.
Like the E36 M3s that won 4 straight championships across the end of IMSA/the first season of ALMS; and only didn't win a 5th in a higher class simultaneously for a season they already were slaughtering because PTG only competed in half the races (seemingly to prove a point since they won every one of them)?


It dominated just as much, if not moreso, as the cheeky V8-powered E46 M3 GTR that Porsche got banned did. It did better than the E46 did in the E46's initial ALMS races in 2000 (though the splitting of development between the two cars is probably why the E46 did so poorly until they put that bespoke engine in it even when BMW focused on it exclusively).
 
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As I switch tabs...

Not an M3.. 320 pedigree.

View attachment 1356321
I saw that FB post in a Super Touring group and saved that pic last night to post(haven’t done it yet) in a GT7 thread. Good stuff!

Of course, my choice will always be E30 M3. It’s one of the main reasons I bought my A2 Jettas. I didn’t have to spend E30 money on insurance and maintenance, but has that three box look being the same size(Jetta has a bigger trunk) and with trademark German short front overhang. Got to experience it vicariously through my brother’s E30 M3.
It’s like the Datsun 510. Perfect proportions in that iconic shape. Doesn’t get any better for M3s: lightweight, four-cylinder, five-speed that has useable power to have fun with and not get into trouble beyond first gear. ;)
 
I'd like to add that I think the E90 is the ugliest M3. I really like the 5-series of the same design style but the E90 3-series just looks off, like a texture that hasn't quite loaded correctly.
 
I guess I can understand why you dislike the E90 with the pre-facelift tailights (I personally like them but eh, each to their own):
1716027449702.png


...anyway, the E92 is my personal favourite, and possibly my fav car in general. Love the looks, love the V8 :cool:
 
E46.

Race pedigree be damned, to me it's the best looking, and in 2001 ALMS livery it's a car I have unexplained nostalgia for, having never watched it race in period and not used it much in Gran Turismo.

m32001_5.jpg


It's one of the only sports/sportyish cars I've seriously entertained owning one day. Manual coupe for me please.

(I've never "got" the love for the E30. I don't hate it, but it just doesn't move me; the only M3 I have less interest in is the F80. Can't even explain why. shrug)

Edit: good idea for a thread series, @Liquid!
 
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E90 generation M3 post facelift is in my opinion the best overall, however I would say the best looking is the E46. I really like the look of the E46, late E38, and E39 BMWs.
1716046407583.png
 
I like the F80 and the G80 (shock horror) but I spend way more time thinking about the E46. It's the M3 that I want more than any other because it still provides a mostly analog experience compared to the newer models. The performance is definitely modest by today's standards but I really don't care because it has character, a proper engine and a design that isn't overly fussy or controversial. They're also a lot less common than F80's and G80's which tend to be purchased by rich Asians here in Melbourne. E46 M3s aren't driven by typical "BMW drivers" so they don't have a reputation for being ripped down the street at the traffic lights and making offensive sounds with horrible crackle tunes. The people who own E46's are true enthusiasts.
 
E46 M3s aren't driven by typical "BMW drivers" so they don't have a reputation for being ripped down the street at the traffic lights and making offensive sounds with horrible crackle tunes. The people who own E46's are true enthusiasts.
Here in the states, half of the E46 M3s are pristine unmodified cars and the other half are lowered, wrapped, and have a turbo kit that makes the car ridiculously fast.
 
OK why that reaction? How utterly wrong am I?

Perhaps the E46 M3 is a different proposition in the UK because there's more of them, but here in Australia, they're very rare. I hardly ever see them outside car meets and they aren't driven by yobbos.
 
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OK why that reaction? How utterly wrong am I?
Well it implies that the 'true enthusiasts' that for whatever reason don't drive an E46 M3 aren't actually 'true enthusiasts' for starters - it's a bit 'No True Scotsman'. And, well, what exactly are they 'true enthusiasts' of?

Conversations about whether the people we observe driving them are 'true enthusiasts' or yobs (no reason they can't actually be both - car enthusiasts can be total dick heads too) are obviously anecdotal, I'd suggest that the phase when a car reaches an age where it's fully devalued acts as a purification filter for both owners and the examples of the car still on the road. Once all the ratty ones that were bought at their cheapest and were owned by people that couldn't really afford to look after them are scrapped, it will of course makes the owner base, and the fleet of cars on the road, look better...

... but - that's only a perception. Having - or not having - the money to own and indulge in such cars is a reflection of life circumstances, not what degree of enthusiast you are.
 
It's got to be the E30 with all that pure motorsport pedigree. Not a quick car by today's standards (or even by 2005 standards) but a great chassis is a great chassis.

The E92 comes in second for me. A high-revving small capacity N/A V8 beats a 6-cyl turbo in the aural stakes.
 
Yes, perhaps overpaid middle managers would be more likely to own a modern M3/M4 than an E46, but not all car enthusiasm manifests in trying to keep 20+ year old notoriously finicky performance cars on the road. Implying that one specific car is the "enthusiast choice" begins approaching the kind of gatekeeping in line with the people who get mad at others when they say they don't change their own oil.
 
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I’m glad the M3 went back to an inline-6 than continuing with a V8. I think it would be cool for M3 to go back to the I4. Save some weight, downsize the M3/M4 and 2-series bodies.

I feel the E36 was enough. In a way, it became the M6 when it didn’t need to be. The E30 was a success for eons could still be the size of a Corolla and deliver high performance today. Guess I’m tired of many brands continuing to add power and not admit they have size & weight problems. Many used to be clever at packaging. That’s another of many reasons why E30 is the best. It marries light weight with the right amount of power for perfect balance(literally) in overall performance without compromise.
 
I’m glad the M3 went back to an inline-6 than continuing with a V8. I think it would be cool for M3 to go back to the I4. Save some weight, downsize the M3/M4 and 2-series bodies.
link

You're really only saving 100-200 pounds when they switched to the I6. What they really need to do to save some weight is remove all the stuff they added to make the car more comfortable.
I feel the E36 was enough. In a way, it became the M6 when it didn’t need to be. The E30 was a success for eons could still be the size of a Corolla and deliver high performance today. Guess I’m tired of many brands continuing to add power and not admit they have size & weight problems. Many used to be clever at packaging. That’s another of many reasons why E30 is the best. It marries light weight with the right amount of power for perfect balance(literally) in overall performance without compromise.
I will agree the E36 was probably all you needed if you wanted the real deal. It's wayyy more appealing to enthusiasts than a pampered up new car. Car brands probably add power in order to make it look more appealing when you see the numbers as well as allowing them to add heavier items in the interior that make the car more daily drivable for the everyday person.
 
Well it implies that the 'true enthusiasts' that for whatever reason don't drive an E46 M3 aren't actually 'true enthusiasts' for starters - it's a bit 'No True Scotsman'. And, well, what exactly are they 'true enthusiasts' of?

Conversations about whether the people we observe driving them are 'true enthusiasts' or yobs (no reason they can't actually be both - car enthusiasts can be total dick heads too) are obviously anecdotal, I'd suggest that the phase when a car reaches an age where it's fully devalued acts as a purification filter for both owners and the examples of the car still on the road. Once all the ratty ones that were bought at their cheapest and were owned by people that couldn't really afford to look after them are scrapped, it will of course makes the owner base, and the fleet of cars on the road, look better...

... but - that's only a perception. Having - or not having - the money to own and indulge in such cars is a reflection of life circumstances, not what degree of enthusiast you are.
Yes, perhaps overpaid middle managers would be more likely to own a modern M3/M4 than an E46, but not all car enthusiasm manifests in trying to keep 20+ year old notoriously finicky performance cars on the road. Implying that one specific car is the "enthusiast choice" begins approaching the kind of gatekeeping in line with the people who get mad at others when they say they don't change their own oil.
I suppose I shouldn't have gone after the owners and made such sweeping statements. No, not every car enthusiast is a nice person because personality is distinct from the amount of money you have. Nice people aren't always rich and bad people aren't always poor. I do not wish to be a gatekeeper of E46's or any car for that matter so please excuse my ignorance.
 
I'm gonna have to go with the E30, though I do like the E46 and E90/E92. For some reason I never got on with E36, even though I know how underrated it is. At the end of the day, for me, I prefer the spartan experience.
 
I suppose I shouldn't have gone after the owners and made such sweeping statements. No, not every car enthusiast is a nice person because personality is distinct from the amount of money you have. Nice people aren't always rich and bad people aren't always poor. I do not wish to be a gatekeeper of E46's or any car for that matter so please excuse my ignorance.
:cheers:
 
link

You're really only saving 100-200 pounds when they switched to the I6. What they really need to do to save some weight is remove all the stuff they added to make the car more comfortable.

I will agree the E36 was probably all you needed if you wanted the real deal. It's wayyy more appealing to enthusiasts than a pampered up new car. Car brands probably add power in order to make it look more appealing when you see the numbers as well as allowing them to add heavier items in the interior that make the car more daily drivable for the everyday person.
100-200 lbs is a lot. How much more with an I4 turbo though?

I can understand smooth six-cylinder power when spending majority of time on highways. When I had the VR6 swap in my A2 Jetta GLI, making trips to VA Beach were a snap. Not having a 123hp 1.8L screaming all the way from W.230th St to Princess Anne made those trips way more comfortable. As for an M3, the other 99% of time in street traffic, would I really need the power of an M Power inline-6 for stop light Grand Prix every single time?
Not downplaying any of the more powerful M3s at all. E30 was at a time when there were different tiers of sporting cars. Today, an EV can thrash a petrol car and some low cost petrol cars can nearly hang with high end sports cars. I just bring up that line by Syndrome in The Incredibles, "When everyone is super...no one is."

The ethos of the (E30)M3 was the requirement to build these race cars in street trim. I don't think the other M3s in the poll have kept that principle alive. Maybe the E36 Lightweight and I guess the E46 GTR. Neither have the pedigree of the E30(though the GTR did have some major victories!). The E30 is still the best at being the M3. In my humble opinion.
 
The ethos of the (E30)M3 was the requirement to build these race cars in street trim. I don't think the other M3s in the poll have kept that principle alive.
This.

I like all M3's but E30 was built to take it racing, every other M3 has been built because they know they'll sell them.
 

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