Evolution of the M3 to the new M4

Details have been released on the new BMW M3 and M4 range. The new models will be released with a six-speed manual gear box as standard. A seven speed dual clutch box will be available as a cost option. BMW have also decided to ditch the 4.0L V8 engine for a 3.0L twin-turbo charged six cylinder engine officially churning out 424bhp with rumours of over 369lb/ft of torque. This is officially the first twin-turbo engine to be inserted into a production M3 even though we have seen turbo-charging along some of the other M cars. It is also one of the smallest engines fitted into an M3 since the original E30.

With such a different range of engines and styles varying throughout the history of BMW M3s, lets reminisce about the older models before diving into what is now the new M3 and M4 (the only difference between the two is largely the amount of doors).

E30 M3
The original M3, which was a hit among the BMW M enthusiasts was fitted with a 16-valve 2.3L normally aspirated four-cylinder engine  producing around 192 bhp coupled with a 5 speed manual gearbox, when the E30 M3 debuted, and subsequent special-edition “Evolution” models produced up to 238 bhp (in the 2.5L M3 Sport Evolution).  Cosmetically, the M3 was extremely different to the standard 3 series, with flared arches, large rear wing and that front apron. With nearly 18,000 of these models sold worldwide, they have become quite a rarity to find on the classifieds. I found a tidy looking M3 Evo, 1988  model for just over £21,000, check it out here. The car which is over 25 years old, has aged well and is in still high demand.

Spec Sheet

Engine: 2.3L 16V straight four-cylinder

Power Output: 192/238 bhp

Torque: 177 lb/ft

0-62mph: 6.5sec


E36 M3
As the grandfather E30 is now becoming a rarer commodity, people are sifting through the classifieds for a potential classic M3. The E36 carried a 3.0L straight six cylinder naturally aspirated engine pushing 286bhp to the rear wheels with 320 lb/ft of torque, giving the car just under 100bhp more than the older car. This was the first M3 to be fitted with a straight six and later on it was increased from a 3.0L to a 3.2L increasing the bhp to 316. Cosmetically, this car is the most inconspicuous, one which can easily get lost among executive saloons.

Spec Sheet

Engine: 3.0L Straight six cylinder 

Power Output: 286bhp

Torque: 320lb/ft

0-62mph: 5.5sec

With over 70,000 produced, it is much easier to find one to suit your tastes. Here is one in Daytona Violet, ad can be found here.


E46 M3

Once BMW M settled with the idea of using six cylinders in an M3, they built an all new straight-six 3.2L which was the most powerful naturally aspirated engine the company had ever built and fitted to their productions vehicles. The car produced 338bhp with 269 lb/ft of torque at the rear wheels. BMW M had found the balance with performance and usability with this model. When the car was originally released in 2000, The car was offered with a six-speed-manual and an SMG (sequential manual gearbox) which all though freed up some leg room around the clutch pedal area, did not get rid of the clutch in its entirety.

Spec Sheet

Engine: 3.2L straight six cylinder

Power Output: 338bhp

Torque: 269 lb/ft

0-62mph: 5.2sec

Here is a clean example of a stunning E46 in silver, with under 50,000 miles. Why not take a look here and see if you can resist?  

bmw-e46-m3E90/2 M3

This specific M3 was given a change when it came to powertrain, by substituting the 3.0L straight-six for a 4.0L V8 engine coupled to the company’s new M-DCT (double-clutch) gearbox allowing 414bhp and 295lb/ft of torque to shred the rear rubber. With this specific M3, the car was produced as a coupe and a 5-door saloon. With that, BMW M had decided to split the two, and call the five-door version the M3 and turn the coupe into a new line known as the M4. However this idea was scrapped in order to keep the M3 brand alive.

Spec Sheet

Engine: 4.0L V8

Power Output: 414bhp

Torque: 295 lb/ft

0-62mph: 4.8 secs

Here is an E92 with full extras and only 13,800 miles on the clock. Original ad can be found here.


F80/82 M3/4

BMW’s M division claiming an overall weight of “just under 1500kg” for the new M4 coupé, which uses selected carbon fibre reinforced plastic panels and bracing components as part of a weight-saving initiative allowing the car to save about 80kg of weight from the current E92, the new two door promises to boast a power-to-weight ratio better than the discontinued fourth-generation M3 coupé’s 262bhp per tonne. For the saloon version (M3), this will be the first time, that the carbon-fibre reinforced plastic roof will be readily available to try to keep the weight down as it was previously only available for the coupe version.

There are no official power to weight figures as yet, but it is rumoured that it will be in the region of 284bhp-per-tonne.  Along with that BMW M have claimed that the new model will be greener too with CO2 emissions dropping to 200g/km from the E92’s 263g/km. Prices have not been released as of yet, however it is rumoured that it will be in the range of £60,000.

Albert Biermann, Vice President of Engineering at BMW M said to expect a similar performance increase as from E46 to E92, which managed 5.2 and 4.8 to 62mph respectively.

Spec Sheet

Engine: 3.0L twin-turbocharged straight-six

Power Output: 424 bhp

Torque:  rumoured over 369lb/ft

0-62mph: N/A

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Author: Nikolai Attard

Just a Malteser living in London, working as a PR/social media consultant and writing about things I find interesting on the side.

One thought on “Evolution of the M3 to the new M4”

  1. Great idea for an article! I’m a huge BMW fan and it was definitely cool to see all the models side by side and watch their evolution. The new M4 really is gorgeous too.

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