The BMW M3s We Never Got

Paul Barshon

The Sport Evo came with adjustable front and rear spoilers as well as some weight-saving measures first seen on the Evolution I, including thinner and lighter side and rear glass and a restyled trunk lid. The Sport had lightweight bumpers, and the foglights were replaced with cooling ducts for the front brakes, which were outfitted with more aggressive pads. The front suspension was lowered by 0.4 inch, and the front wheel arches were enlarged to fit bigger wheels for the track. At sixteen inches, the Evo's BBS street wheels were also an inch larger than the M3's and were painted brake-dust gray.

Inside, the Sport Evo was fitted with more supportive seats, and the steering wheel, emergency-brake handle, and (lighted!) shift knob were covered in suede. Optional electronically adjustable shocks tailored the damping according to three modes: K for Comfort, N for Normal, and S for Sport. A green indicator light in the instrument cluster mirrors the center-console-mounted switch's position. Move between Normal and Sport, and the dash indicator changes immediately. Switch into Comfort, though, and the light goes out for a moment before the "K" finally deigns to illuminate. It's as if the Sport Evo is clenching its eyelids deliberately and asking, "Seriously? Comfort? Do you have any idea what I am?"

You'll know what the Sport Evo is the second you start driving it. Unlike the base M3's well-adjusted 2.3-liter, the 2.5 doesn't really wake up until the farthest reaches of its rev range. The engine guns for its rev limiter as if its tach needle were magnetically attracted to the color red-the surge to the redline is more frenetic than even in modern variable-valve-timing engines.

Although the Sport Evo is a whole order quicker than the base M3, its trump card is actually its chassis. With no sacrifice to comfort (we can only wish modern big-wheeled cars rode like this), the baddest M3 makes a stock E30 M3 feel like a wet noodle. The Sport Evo eliminates all perceptible roll and pitch, and its steeringreplaces the M3's trace amount of bushing compliance with immediate responses. Understeer is almost nowhere to be found in this car's repertoire, and yet at the limit it is docile and predictable. The Sport Evolution does to the standard M3 what the M3 did to the lesser 3-series-which itself was a revelation.

E30 specs

U.S. M3
PRODUCTION: 4996 (1988-91)
ENGINE: DOHC DOHC 16-valve I-4
CODE NAME: S14B23
DISPLACEMENT: 2302 cc
POWER: 192 hp @ 6750 rpm
TORQUE: 170 lb-ft @ 4750 rpm
REDLINE: 7300 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual
0-62 MPH: 7.7 sec
TOP SPEED: 143 mph

M3 Sport Evolution
PRODUCTION: 600 (1990)
ENGINE: DOHC 16-valve I-4
CODE NAME: S14B25
DISPLACEMENT: 2467 cc
POWER: 235 hp @ 7000 rpm
TORQUE: 177 lb-ft @ 4750 rpm
REDLINE: 7300 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual
0-62 MPH: 6.5 sec
TOP SPEED: 154 mph

chriscotech
This is an interesting article, and good reading.I have an E36 M3 here in Australia. We got the "Euro spec" cars (Called "Evo" in the UK market). Not that it's a big difference but the power output is not 317bhp but 321bhp at 7,400 rpm, with a 7,500 rpm redline. This was an important design goal to BMW as it was their first road legal car to put out over 100bhp per litre. One of the significant advances (excuse the pun) of this engine is that the VANOS was not stepped, as noted above but was continuously variable, on both camshafts. The power delivery is very smooth and there is a lot of it. Although the maximum power is at 7,400 rpm, the maximum torque (258 lb/ft) at only 3,250 rpm. That was the great achievement of this engine design and it was evolved through the following series of M cars. The Euro M3 has a stronger (and heavier) limited slip differential and a fairly long list of other differences including those in the braking and ABS systems. The US car came close to the "rest of the world" car in the chassis but unfortunately not in the propulsion department. All M3s are exceptional cars, I agree.

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