19 of the Best BMW cars ever made

BMW currently has one of the best sets of performance cars and SUVs in its lineup. But history has chosen a few that stand above the rest.

The M3 is currently one of the most iconic names in sports car history and the M badge is recognized as a symbol of performance.

These are some of the most iconic cars made by BMW:

19. BMW 328

The BMW 328 1936-1940 was the car that started BMW’s motorsport career. The car had many new innovations and racing technology fitted to it as well as being very aerodynamic. It had a 2.0 inline 6 engine which is still the main engine layout for most BMWs today. This car had over 100 wins in its class, including the Mille Miglia with an average speed of 103MPH as well as winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1939.

18. BMW E60 M5 V10

This car has many flaws but all is forgiven because of that beautiful sounding formula one derived 5.0 liter naturally aspirated V10 making 500HP. This car with a proper exhaust made some of the best noises ever in a family car. You would think BMW would reserve the manual for the European market but they never got any, instead, America was able to get this car with a manual transmission. It was also available as a touring which makes it just as cool as the original E34 M5 touring.    

17. BMW E36 M3 LTW

This car was surprisingly only sold in North America, the world got every available E36 except this one. The E36 platform is still one of the best dynamically affordable sports cars for any purpose. But the E36 LTW was a result of the E36 being homologated for racing in the North American market in 1995. It was a lightweight version of their DTM car which was 200 pounds lighter than the M3.

125 of these cars were made and every one of them came in alpine white with a checkered BMW racing flag on the front left side of the hood. It also had a special kit with some race-ready adjustments meant for track-only use. This car was famously owned by Paul walker who had 6 in his possession which recently sold for a total of more than $1.5M.     

16. BMW E34 M5 Touring

The E34 M5 was a great car to begin with, but the touring was even better with extra luggage space. It had a 3.8 cylinder 6 cylinder engine making 335 horsepower sent to the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission. It is also the first-ever M car to be available as a touring in 1991.

15. BMW E31 850 CSI

2018 saw the return of the 8 Series nameplate after production of the last 8 series almost 20 years ago. It was BMW’s attempt to take a market share in the luxury grand tourer segment. Almost $1 billion was spent developing this car which saw the early use of CAD (Computer-Aided Design) in the car’s development. It was a very beautiful car in the end but the engines available were more enticing. It had a V8 making 282 horsepower and a V12 making 375 horsepower which was an earlier version of the engine that went into the McLaren F1.      

14. BMW Z3M Coupe

Popularly known among enthusiasts as the “clown shoe” because of its weird design but that’s where the jokes end. It borrowed a lot of underpinnings from its E36 M3 brother at the time. It had brakes from the M3 as well as the 3.2 liter NA straight 6 making 321 horsepower.  

13. BMW E39 M5

All-out performance wasn’t the main goal of this M car as luxury was necessary. This is the first M5 to be fitted with a V8 engine, the 4.9 liter naturally aspirated V8 produced 400 horsepower with the help of VANOS. VANOS is a German acronym for the Variable valve Timing system that helped adjust cam timing in order to provide extra performance similar to VTEC in Honda’s.  It had a 6-speed manual which sent all power to the rear wheels. It is one of the beautiful modern BMWs and is quite subtle in its design and doesn’t look like a proper performance car. 

12. BMW 1M Coupe

The first time the 1 series got the M treatment was the 1M coupe but wasn’t seen as a real M car. This was partly because the M1 badge had already been given to BMW’s M1 supercar. It had a 3.0-liter turbo straight-6 making 340 horsepower. It had a 6-speed manual which drove the rear wheels only. The 1M borrowed a lot of suspension components from the E92 M3 in a shorter and lighter package making the car a joy to drive. 

11. BMW M2 CS

The M2 was an eye-opener to sports car fans when it launched in 2016. It had the ethos that made old BMW cars so good but with the aid of modern technology. The CS had the 3.0 liter straight six borrowed straight from the M4CS making 444 horsepower. It was available with a 6-speed manual or dual-clutch transmission. This is a small car with as much horsepower as its bigger brothers with a focus on handling just like the previous 1M coupe.     

10. BMW M3 GTS

This is the first and only M3 to offer a V8 as its only engine. The E90 M3 made 414 horsepower from its 4.4 liter naturally aspirated V8. The GTS is the most track-focused variant with the V8 now making 444 horsepower. The only transmission was a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. It is also 300lbs (136kg) lighter than the regular M3.

9. BMW E24 635 CSI

This car is known as the M6 in the US and was released in 1983. It uses the 3.5 liter Straight 6 found in the road version of the M1 supercar making 286 horsepower. People love it for its simple but elegant design and distinctive long body and shark nose fascia.  

8. BMW E28 M5

This has a similar design to the E24 and was made between 1981-1988. It is said at the time the only computer used for payroll by BMW was borrowed in its free time to develop the drivetrain and chassis. This super-saloon has a 3.0 liter inline 6 making 278 horsepower but was the quickest 4 door car at the time. Only 2,241 cars were built making it the rarest 4-door M car ever.

7. BMW 507 Roadster

The BMW 507 roadster was made between 1956-1959 and is currently considered one of the most collectible BMWs. Only 252 of these cars were made and had some high-profile owners and businessmen. One of which was ELVIS PRESLEY alongside Formula 1 champions. It is amongst the most beautiful cars of all time as well being produced in low numbers. It had an aluminum alloy dual carbureted pushrod V8 which was a newer version of the engine in the BMW 502.  

6. BMW Z8

The Z8 was the first true roadster made by BMW since the 507. It shared the 4.9 liter naturally aspirated V8 found in the E39 M5 making 395 horsepower. It has a 6-speed manual transmission and a 0-60 time of 4.2 seconds. The Z8 even outperformed a Ferrari 360 Modena in Acceleration, braking, and handling.

5. BMW M1

This was the first M car made by BMW, A mid-engine supercar made between 1978-1981. It was designed in collaboration with Lamborghini for the purpose of dominating Group 5 racing. The road version had a 3.5 liter 6 cylinder making 277 horsepower sent to the rear via a 5-speed manual.  BMW made 450 road cars   

By the time the car was finished Group 5 was no more so BMW had to start their own race series for the car. The PRO CAR series was created exclusively for BMW to be able to race the M1. PRO Car was the opening act before the Formula 1 races and featured a number of F1 drivers including wealthy BMW customers.

It had its engine borrowed from the BMW 3.0 CSL which was an inline-six engine but with a turbo attached and now produced 850 horsepower. But BMW was good at using their front-engine rear-wheel-drive layout, and thus returned to that form later.  

4. BMW 2002 Turbo

The 2002 turbo started out life as an entry-level car for BMW but has now become one of its cars ever made. It was one of the first cars to makes use of the turbocharger which made 170 horsepower. It had a 50/50 weight distribution and claimed 1st place at the Nurburgring 24 hours in 1970. The oil crisis in the 70’s together with ancient turbo technology made the car get bad gas mileage which didn’t help. Only 1672 of these cars were made.    

3. BMW E46 M3 GTR

E46 M3’s are being seen as the sweet spot for BMWs with the perfect mix of modern tech with old-school driving sensations. The M3 CSL is the best widely available version of the E46 M3. It ditched the 6 cylinders for a new 4.0 liter V8 detuned from 444 to 385HP. In 2001, the year the M3 GTR raced it won 6 out of the 8 races it entered, beating Porsche which was the main competitor at the time, and won the manufacturer’s championship title. BMW had to make 10 road cars in order for the car to be raced but it seems 6 were only made. The road versions made 382 horsepower and kept many of the racing parts available.   

2. BMW E30 M3

The E30 series is the most famous BMW made to date and is the reason the M3 is an icon and is still in production today. It was basically a homologated version of their race car. This was the first BMW to wear the M3 badge in 1986. It had an NA inline 4 cylinder with 200HP instead of a 6 cylinder with the race cars making as much as 300 horsepower. The E30 M3 has won the most races than any BMW before and after it. It is also one of the most successful race cars of all time winning at race tracks and rally stages.   

1. BMW 3.0 CSL

This is to many the greatest BMW ever made, it was built between 1971 and 1979. It was the car that saw BMW’s return to international racing. It was a pure racing car made available to the public in low numbers in order to meet homologation requirements to allow the car to be raced. The 3.0 CSL was a very successful racecar and that helped with its popularity. It is one of the coolest cars made by BMW and the racing version was even cooler.

The car was dominant at the European touring car championship until it entered Group 5 racing. The rules here were changed to cater to production cars than prototypes which saw the engine increase to 3.5 liters. It was great but not as successful as anticipated which gave rise to the entry of the E21 BMW 3 series which saw massive success.

Conclusion:

BMW has made some of the most exciting cars in its 105-year history. Its road cars are just as great as the race cars making them one of the most desirable sports car brands in history. Have you owned a BMW? What do you think of them and would you consider buying one?    

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