BMW’s Motorsport or ‘M-Power’ division has long been a staple of the top ten most desirable on any self-respecting petrolhead’s dream list. Why? Because its machines tend to be brilliantly engineered, eminently usable daily drivers, with the ability to put a smile on your face on any journey. They also tend to be relatively subtle (M3 GTS excepted), reliable and properly quick. They’re also within reach. The good thing about having a long, mass-produced history is that there are loads of older M-cars that are now very reasonable money. Which means you can have a little piece of legendary metal in the garage, without breaking the bank…
Photography: Rowan Horncastle
This feature was originally published in the December 2015 issue of Top Gear magazine.
Founded in 1972, BMW Motorsport is actually a fully fledged subsidiary of BMW originally intended to handle its racing exploits, starting off with the legendary 3.0-litre CSL back in the early Seventies. It wasn’t long before ‘M’-badged and tweaked machinery (usually, engine, suspension and styling/aero upgrades) arrived, though 1978’s M1 was more a racing car converted to road use than an upgraded road car, something that is probably more realistically encapsulated by the M535i in 1979.
These days, it’s a legendary outfit, having made some of the most accessible ‘real-world’ performance cars ever. It supplied the 6.0-litre V12 for the McLaren F1, has competed in – and won – many kinds of motorsport and currently M-Powers (sorry) most of the BMW range in some form or another.
As with most of the famous in-house tuners, there’s been a little bit of liberty taken in terms of the badging, though. The famous ‘M’ badge also denotes ‘M’ styling and accessories, so the only ‘real’ M cars tend to have the three-striped M before the model designation (M2, M3, M4, M5, M6, etc). Anything else is lager in a champagne glass.