BMW’s M division turns 40 this month, and to mark the occasion we’ve collected reviews and tests of the most iconic M machines from our archives. First, though, a brief history of BMW’s in-house tuning arm. The brand first assembled under the BMW Motorsport name in 1972, and for much of the 1970s its activities were limited to BMW’s racing efforts. This changed, of course, with the M1 supercar in 1978. Essentially a homologation special, the production M1 was sold so that BMW Motorsport could send it racing. It was BMW’s first M-badged road car, and it set the stage for more M models down the road.
Although its focus remained on racing, BMW Motorsport followed up on the M1 with M versions of the 6-series coupe (M635CSi) and 5-series sedan (M535i) in the early 1980s. In 1984, the inline-six from the M1 found its way under the hoods of the M635CSi coupe and the M5. The first M3 arrived in 1986; this fantastic, E30-based model was yet another M car created to fulfill racing homologation rules, and was quite literally a race car for the street. In 1993, BMW Motorsport changed its name to BMW M GmbH, and went on to craft M versions of virtually every BMW street car. More recently, the brand has widely adopted turbocharging and M-ified vehicles heretofore thought to be un-M-ifiable, namely SUVs. Some see such practices as heresy, but there’s no denying the brand has churned out some pretty special stuff over the past four decades. Here’s to another 40 years of iconic machinery like the cars featured here. Enjoy.
BMW M1 Trilogy: A History, With Tests of the Road Car Race Car
We delve into the history of BMW’s stunning mid-engine M1 supercar. We also strap our test gear to both the road car and race car in this brief retrospective on the first M car.
Instrumented Test: 1984 BMW M635CSi
James Bond would feel right at home in a BMW M635CSi. Emergencies in the Balkans would be in easy reach of the motorway-gobbling big coupe. More critical to 007 than life and death, the Bavarian coupe has the proper blend of racy lines…
Instrumented Test: 1987 BMW M6
Logic and order go out the window when a car like the M6 rolls into the Car and Driver parking lot. Before the editorial “we” turns a wheel, the standards by which we judge normal automobiles are locked away in the back rooms of our minds. This is as…
Instrumented Test: 1987 BMW M5
For proof that automotive evolution can be nearly as miraculous as God’s more basic monkey business, you have only to go out and strap on the new BMW M5. Under the M5′s hood rages a twin-cam, 24-valve, 3.5-liter, six-cylinder ghost of an engine…
Instrumented Test: 1988 BMW M3 Coupe
Let’s put an end to the BMW-yuppie link. These days, all you have to do is whisper “BMW,” and everyone immediately thinks “yuppie.” Enough of the yups! This M3 is not a car for yuppies. This is a car for us—BMW is back on track with a fleet of drivers‘ cars…
First Drive: 1991 BMW M5
This litigious society of ours puts warning labels on everything from lawn mowers to baby toys. So we suggest one for the windshield of every M5 sold in the U.S.A.: “WARNING: Attempts to appreciate this automobile’s capabilities upon the public highways will…
First Drive: 1994 BMW M3 Coupe
Talk about a case of delayed gratification. At first, BMW said we were not going to get the M3 version of its seductive 3-series coupe. Then it said we were, but with the less-than-tantalizing proviso that it would not have the European M3′s engine…
Comparison Test: 2000 BMW M5 vs. Jaguar XJR, Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG
On the day it went public, your dot.com company’s stock was wildly oversubscribed. Despite a complete inability to return profits, its stock is rising on a trajectory steeper than the space shuttle’s. Time to stock your adult toy chest before the investors wise up…
First Drive: 2001 BMW M3 Coupe
BMW’s M3—the motorsports version of the 3-series—has been universally coveted since 1994 when the second-generation M3 appeared with a smooth, broad-shouldered 240-hp in-line six. Like a decathlete, the M3 did it all…
Instrumented Test: 2001 BMW M Coupe
The BMW M coupe makes you do bad things. Your descent into deviance starts innocently enough—you blip the throttle at stop lights just to feel the body shiver slightly. Then maybe you try the occasional faster-than-necessary freeway pass…
Comparison Test: 2007 BMW M5 vs. Audi S6, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG
These are the sedans that stir men’s souls. Yeah, that’s not quite what Thomas Paine said in 1776. But if he’d been with us while we were putting this threesome through its paces, he might have…
Instrumented Test: 2011 BMW 1-series M Coupe
BMW has given M purists plenty of reasons to dislike the BMW 1-series M. It is not much quicker than the 135i, and—gasp!—is not powered by a high-revving, small-displacement, naturally aspirated engine. But there are plenty of parts borrowed from the M3…
Comparison Test: 2012 BMW M3 Coupe vs. Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe
With its five-comparison-test winning streak, the current BMW M3 is our very own Ken Jennings, engineered to dominate our comparos. Up against the M3 this time is the 6.2-liter V-8–equipped Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG coupe…
Instrumented Test: 2013 BMW M5
The gulf between track and street that opened up years ago means that BMW’s speed shop no longer puts motorsport specials on the road with detuned race engines. But that doesn’t mean new M’s are nothing more than Big Macs with barbecue sauce…
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