The BMW M3 is a high-performance version of the BMW 3-Series, developed by BMW’s in-house motorsport division, BMW M. M3 models have been derived from the E30, E36, E46, E90/E92/E93, and F30 3-series, and sold with coupe, saloon and convertible body styles. Upgrades over the “standard” 3-Series automobiles include more powerful and responsive engines, improved handling/suspension/braking systems, aerodynamic body enhancements, and interior/exterior accents with the tri-colour “M” (Motorsport) emblem. The last M3 coupe was produced in Germany on 5 July 2013. Part of BMW’s renumbering to move the 3-Series coupe and convertible to the 4-Series, the M3 name will remain with the saloon version as the coupe version has ceased production and has been replaced by the M4 Coupe starting with the 2015 model year.
An M3 Lightweight, with the characteristic checkered flag motif on the bonnet and wing corner
A LTW (Lightweight) M3 was produced in limited numbers for the 1995 model year.
The 1996–1999 model years had displacement bumped up to 3.2 litres, still with 240 bhp (179 kW; 243 PS), but torque increases to 320 N·m (240 lb·ft) which is the same S52B32US engine used in the early M Roadster and M Coupe. The manual gearbox remains a 5-speed despite the European versions being upgraded to 6-speed. It was also available as a saloon starting in model year 1997, and as convertible in 1998. Production of the saloon was halted in 1998, while the other models continued until 1999.
US sales figures include a total of 18,961 coupes, 7,760 saloons and 6,211 convertibles.
Other notable differences between North American and their European counterparts were as follows: Floating rotors were standard on the Canadian and European cars, but absent from the American variations. As well, the differential and rear axles on the North American cars were of lighter duty builds than the Euro cars.
All late model M3’s received subframe re-inforcements and more aggressive front end suspension geometry due to the differences in caster and camber yielded by top hat design and lower control arm bushings.
Team GotOrgans E36 M3 in the Yukon, Canada, while on the Alcan Winter Rally
In 2012, an E36 M3 driven by Daniel Merkins and Ryan Smiley of Team GotOrgans? competed in the Alcan 5000 Winter Rally, a rally starting in Seattle to the Arctic Circle and back, marking the first time that an M3 had competed in this gruelling motorsport event. The M3 was an unprecedented vehicle choice for this rally, however, it proved to be one of the most reliable cars competing that year, never citing a breakdown or hard start in the cold, as well as never becoming snowbound.