The BMW M badge is one of the icons of the world of performance cars, thanks to generations of superior handling and acceleration from road cars such as the BMW M3, the BMW M5 and of course the original BMW 3.0 CSL and BMW M1.
In fact, all those M cars have the history and credentials to become performance icons in their own right, but they’re certainly not the only machines to be touched by the M magic. Many more run-of-the-mill machines have been given a little extra showroom appeal – and driver appeal, of course – through the use of BMW M Sport badges as well.
Cars like the BMW 1 Series M Sport may not be the ‘full Monty’, but it – and all other BMW M Sport cars – help keep the M legend at the center of enthusiasts’ minds. They’re not for ‘M Power’ purists though, so for those who love the genuine article, here’s our list of the best BMW M cars ever made: there have been 29 so far and the competition is hot. .
A Brief History of BMW M
BMW M was originally founded as the motorsport arm of the Bavarian brand (M stands for Motorsport) in 1972 and soon started with its first car, the 3.0 CSL. The success of the CSL on the track led to the decision to expand the M brand into the production car arena with the M1 supercar launched in 1978. That started with the M-series of production cars that have become a fixture at the top of BMW’s model lines today.
Over the years, models such as the BMW M3 and M5 have become synonymous with cutting-edge road car performance, with M Division engineers taking conventional BMW sedans and using their magic to produce powerful machines that are perfectly at home on the road. road or on the track.
There has also always been diversification from that core range. M Roadster and M Coupe arrived in 1998 bringing M expertise to smaller sports cars and the M6 gave sharper teeth and a stinky V10 to BMW’s 6 Series grand tourer in 2005. The Z4 M Roadster and Coupe models were introduced in 2006 for a brief production run and the 1 Series hatchback finally got a true M car derivative in 2011 in the form of the 1M Coupé.
In more recent years, BMW M has further spread its wings with the X5 M and X6 M, performance versions of BMW’s large SUVs and the move to even-numbered naming conventions for BMW’s smaller coupes has brought us the M4 and the M2. With the M-badged SUVs, BMW’s M division has branched out into the four-wheel drive realm after staying true to the usual rear-wheel drive layout and the technology has been used throughout the M car range.
We’ve also seen a range of M Performance models that aren’t quite the full BMW M car ticket, yet offer a taste of that uncompromising, driver-centric nature. The M135i and M235i did the job in the 1 Series and 2 Series, while the mighty X5 M50d and X6 M50d brought crushing diesel performance to the SUV sector. There was even an M760Li version of the 7 Series sedan for the ultimate blend of luxury and scorching M car pace.
Five decades later, the M Division has built more than half a million cars while perpetuating BMW’s reputation as the maker of some of the world’s best rider machines. It’s a reputation that many manufacturers have tried to emulate, and largely failed.
What is your favorite BMW M car? Join the debate in the comments below…