BMW M3 - Performance Par Excellence

13 February 2017 11:49AM

Few performance cars come to define their particular niche in quite the same fashion as the BMW M3. Rivals have come and gone, but the M3 has evolved to represent the benchmark for real world performance.

Yes, you could buy a two-seat open-topped sports car that would lap a track quicker, but the M3 is built for everyday use. It's comfortable, reliable and accessible, and above all, rapid.

The E30 M3 was first introduced in 1987, BMW needing to build 500 cars for homologation so that it could go toe to toe with the Ford Sierra Cosworth and the Mercedes 190 in the German DTM racing series. It was a markedly different car from a standard 3 Series coupe. In fact, it shared only the roof and its bonnet with its humbler sibling.

The engine was rather special too, an overbored 2.3-litre four-cylinder unit with 16 valves. Closer inspection of many of the other parts, from the big 284mm vented front brake discs, to the quicker steering rack and twin-tube gas damper suspension, demonstrated that this was not a rushed job. A dog-leg five-speed Getrag gearbox, a limited slip differential and a bigger fuel tank were all fitted, as were beefier anti roll bars and heftier springs and bushings.

By any measure, it was a serious piece of kit. It worked too, destroying all comers in the DTM and provoking pages of rapturous gushings from road testers of the time. A real performance car - par excellence.