The BMW M3s We Never Got

Paul Barshon
#BMW, #M3

Kind of makes our M3 sound a little square, no? Well, on the plus side, we got the same brilliant chassis, wonderful clutch and shifter, and communicative steering. The M3 that came to America was, arguably, just a sixth gear, five throttle butterflies, and 1100 rpm short of perfection.

Go, Canada
Before the U.S. version was developed, a bunch of E36 M3s made it legally to North America in 1994 with the "real" 3.0-liter S50 engine. Tom Plucinsky, an enthusiastic product planner at BMW's Canadian arm, convinced his bosses to bring in the 282-hp M3s-and they agreed to import as many as he could find takers for. That turned out to be forty-three buyers, plus one car to shine at auto shows and one for the press to flog. The S50B30 M3s were available with all options à la carte, and each received a numbered plaque. Plucinsky, who now works for BMW of North America's PR department, didn't have the money to buy one himself, but the proud papa still has the paperwork on all of his S50 babies, and it warms his heart to see them pop up on eBay Motors from time to time.

E36 Specs

U.S. M3 (3.2)
PRODUCTION: 27,573 (1996-99)
ENGINE: DOHC 24-valve I-6
POWER: 240 hp @ 6000 rpm
TORQUE: 236 lb-ft @ 3800 rpm
REDLINE: 6500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual
0-62 MPH: 5.8 sec
TOP SPEED: 137 mph

Euro M3 (3.2)
PRODUCTION: 62,062 (1995-99)
ENGINE: DOHC 24-valve I-6
POWER: 317 hp @ 7400 rpm
TORQUE: 258 lb-ft @ 3250 rpm
REDLINE: 7600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
0-62 MPH: 5.5 sec
TOP SPEED: 155 mph

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.

New Car Research

our instagram

get Automobile Magazine

Subscribe to the magazine and save up to 84% off the newsstand price


new cars

Read Related Articles