The Best BMW M cars

BMW and its M division have built some awesome performance cars over the years, ranging from sporty two-seaters to powerful grand tourers and even mid-engined supercars.

But which of them stand out as some of the best BMW M cars ever? Check out our top 10 in the video below.

Here’s the rundown and some essential stats

10: BMW E30 M3

Engine: 2.3l 4cyl
Power: 195hp
Torque: 230Nm
0-60mph: 6.7s
Top speed: 150mph

The BMW E30 M3 is deservedly seen as one of the best sporty BMWs of all time. It’s guaranteed a spot in the annals of motoring history by being the first ever M3 and, even though it only has 195hp, the boxy Beemer is still great fun to drive. However, considering the E30 M3 is widely revered as one of the greatest ever performance cars, does it deserve to be higher on this list? Let us know in the comments section in the video.

9: BMW E34 M5

Engine: 3.4l 6cyl
Power: 315hp
Torque: 360Nm
0-60mph: 6.3s
Top speed: 160mph

Not long after BMW scored a home run with the E30 M3, the German car maker knocked it out of the park again with the E34 M5. With a 315hp six-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet, the E34 is still has a decent amount of power by today’s standards, and it was quite advanced for its time, too, thanks to features like the electrically adjustable suspension.

8: BMW M1

Engine: 3.5L 6cyl
Power: 277hp
Torque: 330Nm
0-60mph: 5.6s
Top speed: 162mph

The BMW M1 holds a very special place in the history of the brand. As well as being the first ever BMW M car, the M1 is also the only supercar BMW has built to date. Back in the day, the wedge-tastic M1 was a bonafide rival to the Ferrari 308, and the 277hp six-cylinder engine was so good, BMW decided to use it again in the original M5.

7: BMW E39 M5

Engine: 4.9L V8
Power: 400hp
Torque 500Nm
0-60mph: 4.8s
Top speed: 155mph

While this generation of BMW M5 didn’t get the M1 supercar’s engine, it nevertheless has a rather special motor under the bonnet: a 4.9-litre, 400hp V8 that was enough to send the E39 roaring to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph. With only small exterior details like the quad exhausts and the discreet front spoiler hinting at the performance potential, the E39 M5 also ranks as one of the most subtle sporty cars ever made.

6: BMW Z3M Coupe

Engine: 3.2-litre 6cyl
Power: 321hp
Torque: 350Nm
0-60mph: 5.1s
Top speed: 155mph

The BMW Z3M certainly stood out from the crowd in the 1990s sports car scene. With brakes and a 321hp six-cylinder engine lifted straight from the BMW M3, the Z3M wasn’t wanting for performance and made the BMW a worthy rival to cars like the original Porsche Boxster. Arguably its most distinctive feature, though, was the bodywork – you can clearly see why the Z3M Coupe is jokingly called by some “the bread van”.

5: BMW E60 M5

Engine: 5.0l V10
Power: 500hp
Torque: 520Nm
0-60mph: 4.7s
Top speed: 190mph

Many great engines have been used in BMW M cars over the years, and few are as special as the 507hp 5-litre V10 that was slotted under the bonnet of the E60 series M5. As well as being a very unique engine (the only other V10 M car is the first-generation BMW M6), it also sounded tremendous as it screamed towards the 8,250rpm rev limiter. If it had a better gearbox than the clunky seven-speed automatic, the E60 M5 would probably be even higher up this list.

4: BMW 1M Coupe

Engine: 3.0L 6cyl turbo
Power: 340hp
Torque: 500Nm
0-60mph: 4.9s
Top speed: 155mph

If you were in the market for an M car in the early 2010s, but felt the 414hp M3 of the time was a bit much, BMW handily had an alternative in the form of the 1M Coupe. Despite being the baby of the range, the 1M Coupe had plenty of speed courtesy of a 340hp turbocharged six-cylinder engine, and the chassis was up to scratch, too, thanks to its M3-derived brakes and suspension. It’s also pretty unique: to date, it’s the only time the BMW 1 Series has been given an proper M division makeover. No, the M140i doesn’t count…

3: BMW M8 Competition

Engine: 4.4L V8 turbo
Power: 625hp
Torque: 750Nm
0-60mph: 3.2s
Top speed: 190mph

The BMW M8 Competition is the current flagship of the BMW M range, so it’s no surprise this luxury GT car made it onto Mat’s list. While it’s ostensibly a comfy cruiser, don’t go thinking the M8 Competition is a softer-edged M car: under the bonnet is a 625hp twin-turbo V8 (the most powerful BMW road car engine ever, no less) and, if you tick the right options boxes, it can top out at a supercar-quick 190mph.

2: BMW M635 CSi

Engine: 3.5L 6cyl
Power: 286hp
Torque: 340Nm
0-60mph: 6.2s
Top speed: 158mph

Long before the M8 Competition arrived, BMW brought to market a grand tourer M car in the form of the M635 CSi. While the name’s a bit of a mouthful, the thinking behind the car was very simple in comparison: take the M1 supercar’s six-cylinder engine, up the power to 286hp, and shoehorn it into a BMW 6 Series. As its ranking in this list shows, the end result was a mighty fine BMW M car.

1: BMW E46 M3 CSL

Engine: 3.2L 6cyl
Power: 360hp
Torque: 370Nm
0-60mph: 4.8s
Top speed: 161mph

It’s testament to how good the BMW E46 M3 CSL is that more than 15 years after its launch, it’s revered by many (including our own Mat Watson) as one of the greatest ever BMW M cars. The razor-sharp steering upgraded suspension and grippy semi-slick tyres made it great fun to drive, and the 360hp six-cylinder engine had an epic soundtrack to match its power. So good is the E46 M3 CSL, even its jerky SMG automatic gearbox wasn’t enough to spoil this otherwise incredible car.

BMW M3

A practical saloon with a very powerful engine
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