The idea behind this blog sprung to mind as I was chatting with colleague and office mate, Nicol Louw. Mr Louw had just admitted that he has not yet piloted an E92 M3 i.e. the soon to be replaced V8 model and he asked my opinion of the car. I have made little secret about the fact that it is one of my favourite cars in the current market, at ANY price.
On the way home that day I got to thinking about all the BMWs that I like, and while I may not have driven all of them (and may never do) I lust after these cars for all the right reasons. Regular readers of CAR and this site may know of my performance slant, so you’ll forgive the number of “M” cars on this list. So, here are my favourite BMWs in no particular order.
Just look at it. Does one need a better reason to desire this car than the stunning looks? It could well be designed by an Italian and could’ve comfortably worn a Lancia, Alfa Romeo or Ferrari badge when launched. I am HUGE fan of the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL and often proclaim it to be the most beautiful car ever made; this BMW was created at the same time, arguably to take on its rival from Stuttgart. It did not boast the same success as the “Gullwing” and was produced in a limited run of roughly 250 cars. The 3,2-litre V8 produced a modest 112 kW, but power is of no consequence as this is car you want to be seen in.
Launched in 1985, the E28 M5 created the supersaloon segment. The time seemed to be right for a horridly fast family car and BMW capitalised by fitting the multi-valve in-line six from its M1 supercar into a four-door shell. Boasting 210 kW the saloon could sprint to 100 km/h in under six and half seconds and flat out it threatened the 250 km/h mark. When I attended the launch of the all-new M5 last year, I could not peel my eyes away from the mint E28 on display (the very same car pictured here), even though the F10 M5 was supposed to be the star of the show. I don’t know what it is but this car sits high on my “must-own” list.
Local BMW fans lust after the 333i and 325iS and while I have driven the latter, which is a very entertaining car, I think I’d prefer to have an original M3. The E30 M3 was not sold here and the 325iS was BMW SA’s locally-developed answer. However, the German model employed a four-pot motor as opposed to the local car’s in-line six, which probably created a more balanced package. There was little in the way of electronic aids, just a manual transmission and rear-wheel drive for the driver to tame. The M3 went on to win in many forms of motorsport as varied as touring cars and rallying, all over the world. One day, I’ll get my hands on one…
Before the X5M and X6M, even pre-dating Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo there was this, the X5 V12. Built in-house by the fundis at BMW Motorsport this loony SUV boasts a V12 motor from the Le Mans-winning BMW LMP1 car of 1999. Without that racecar’s mandated air-intake restrictor the powerplant cranked out a whopping 522 kW and 720 N.m of twist effort. Power was delivered to all four wheels via a manual gearbox and it rode on 20-inch alloys shod with wide section rubber. Performance figures were impressive for the time: zero-to-100 km/h took just 4,7 seconds and flat out it did near 280 km/h. Just imagine pitching up at your local track day in that. Check out the X5 V12 in action in this video.
I remember driving this car like it was just yesterday. Very early one morning I was slowly (and quietly) making my way out of the neighbourhood I lived in Johannesburg. The engine had warmed up sufficiently but the semi-slick Michelin rubber hadn’t… unbeknownst to me. As I approached a traffic circle I click the down paddle shifter twice to get into a lower gear and hoof it through the roundabout I negotiated on a daily basis. Halfway around I whacked open the gas and the rear end let go so quickly that it nearly caught me off guard. I exited the junction with an armful of opposite lock and an elevated heart rate. This car didn’t need respect, it commanded it.
The modern CSL was lighter by 110 kg than a “normal” M3 and it boasted a power output elevated by 13 kW, to 268. There was no manual option just the automated SMG transmission that was all the rage at the time and those semi-slick tyres were a real treat when warmed up. And that noise… wooohoooo boy. The E46 M3 CSL is considered by many to be the purest M3 ever produced. Even BMW employees spoken to will admit to this fact… after removing their nametags.
I remember piloting this car through the mountains near Marbella in Spain on the international launch. The engine’s bark was addictive as was the ease with which the V8 could overpower the grip of the rear tyres. From the moment I first drove it I knew that it was special. With over 300 kW on tap from a small-ish capacity bent eight the E92 series had taken the M3 to a new level. Not only is this car a serious performance machine that punches way above its weight (see CAR, Jan 2010) it is also docile enough to be a daily driver and can easily double as a family car. With stringent laws relating to emissions coming into play the V8 will sadly make way for a six-cylinder once again. Could this be the zenith M3?
This concept car was created to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the illustrious 328. I have to say that I prefer the retro/neo-classical/post-modern roadster looks of this car over its predecessor. Carbon-fibre has been used extensively in the construction phase, which results in a claimed mass under 800 kg. No details were released about the powerplant but an in-line six seems to be a good bet; make mine the same 250 kW unit that does duty in the 1M Coupé.