Before the M3, there were pricier, limited-edition M-Series models. However, the M3 changed the game by making BMW’s premier performance brand more accessible to enthusiasts. This shift was driven by BMW’s need to compete in Group A racing, which required the production of 5,000 units in the first year.
To meet racing standards in the early 1980s, BMW equipped the M3 with a 16-valve cylinder head, similar to the one used in the M1 and M635 six-cylinder models. The 2,302cc, Bosch fuel-injected M3 engine delivered an impressive 200bhp.
While it resembled a standard E30 3-Series from a distance, the M3 differed significantly. Notable distinctions included wider front and rear wings, a more aerodynamic rear window, a raised boot, and chassis enhancements like lowered suspension, wider wheels, ventilated front brake discs, ABS, and a standard limited-slip differential. It featured a five-speed close-ratio Getrag gearbox.
The M3 made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1985, with left-hand drive models arriving just over a year later. Magazine road tests reported top speeds of around 225km/h and a 0-100km/h time of approximately 7 seconds, which were remarkable figures, even by today’s standards.