|The BMW M3 generations from left to right - E30, E36, E46 and E92|
The BMW M3 is a motoring icon that has endured for 29 years now. It is the performance upgrade version of BMW's most successful 3 series brand. Originally produced as a racing car, it quickly caught on with car enthusiasts and the hunger for a street legal version had to be satisfied by the Munich based company. The first edition E30 rolled off the production line in Regensburg, Germany sometime in 1985. It was in response to the Mercedes Benz 190E (W201) which was released in 1983. Since then the M3 has gone through evolution from the E30 to E36, E46, and the current E90/92 and 93 models.
Traditionally the M3 has always had the coupe and convertible body styles, but from the E36 which started in 1992, a limited amount of 4 door M3s have been built. The cult followership of the M3 has made it a worldwide commercial success, spurning other M model variants in the 5 series, 6 series, X5 and X6. BMW announced that they had made the last M3 Coupe and convertible models in July of 2013 with the E92 and E93. An enduring legacy of the M3 will be their masterful naturally aspirated engines churning out tons of horsepower without a turbocharger. They have now been replaced by M4 Coupe in 2014. The M3 shall, however, continue in its 4 door E90 variant.
The closest I have come to owning an M3 has been a 1988 4 door 325 Coupe with M Technique kit (European edition). We bought this car in 2002 with about 80,000 KMs on it. Still one of the best handling cars I have ever driven. It had everything the E30 M3 had without the 230hp engine. Personally, I will continue to chase my dream of owning a proper M3. My focus right now is the 2006 E46 M3 with 330 horses and the traditional in-line straight 6 engine. The 2007 and beyond E90/92/93 engines are a little too heavy and thirsty for me, what with their V8, 414 horses and 14 mpg city gas mileage! As before, if all else fails and the cost of M3 parts and maintenance scares me, there's always the 2006 (E46) 330i (with ZHP performance package) to fall back on...it will be 2002 all over again.
Here's a video link of the M3 generations for your enjoyment.