BMW iPhone Digital Key

BMW and Apple announce car keys on iPhones

BMW iPhone Digital Key

BMW is to become the world’s first carmaker to allow Apple iPhone users to use their smartphone as a car key.

The new BMW Digital Key will lock and unlock the car – and also start the vehicle.

Owners can even electronically share the car key with up to five people.

It will also be compatible with the Apple Watch.

The technology will roll out later this year and all BMWs built from 1 July 2020 will be compatible.

All iPhones from the iPhone XR and iPhone XS and newer will be compatible, as will the Apple Watch Series 5 or newer.

BMW Digital Car Key: how does it work?

BMW iPhone Digital Key

The BMW Digital Key is set up through BMW’s smartphone app. Once configured, owners can tap to lock and unlock.

To start the vehicle, owners place the iPhone into the smartphone tray, and press the ‘start’ button.

It can be accessed through Apple Wallet too.

Owners can share the car key with five others through iMessage. They can also deliver a pre-configured car key that restricts power, top speed, audio volume and others.

BMW has thought ahead in case an owner’s iPhone goes flat, too: the car key will still function for up to five hours after an iPhone with a flat battery shuts down.


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BMW M3 CSL review: Retro Road Test

BMW M3 CSL (2004) review: Retro Road Test

BMW M3 CSL review: Retro Road TestThe BMW M3 CSL sounds like nothing else I’ve driven. Its baritone blare builds to a surround-sound DTM wail as air is sucked through its carbon manifold then spat out through quad exhausts. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

Soundtrack aside, there’s little to distinguish the Coupe Sports Leichtbau from a standard E46 M3. Only the cognoscenti will spot the bespoke 19-inch alloys and subtle lip spoiler.

This is no badge-engineered special edition, though: BMW tuned the engine to 360hp, fitted a quicker steering rack, stiffened the chassis, beefed up the brakes and stripped out 110kg of weight.

Does that make a used CSL worth five times the value of an equivalent standard M3? That’s what I’m here to find out.

What are its rivals?BMW M3 CSL review: Retro Road Test

The CSL’s closest rival is perhaps the Porsche 911 GT3. Both have a track-focused ethos and are fully-paid-up modern classics.

The 996 (1999-2005) and 997 (2006-2011) iterations of GT3 cost similar money to a CSL: £50,000 upwards. The hardcore GT3 RS strays well into six figures, though.

Prefer a sledgehammer to a scalpel? The Mercedes CLK63 AMG Black is a few dollars more, while early examples of Nissan’s formidable GT-R nudge £30,000.

Don’t forget the 420hp ‘B7’ Audi RS4, too – yours from just £12,000. 

What engine does it use?BMW M3 CSL review: Retro Road Test

Cloaked in carbon and squeezed beneath a strut brace, the CSL’s 3.2-litre six is something quite special.

Power is upped from 343hp to 360hp at a heady 7,900rpm, with a modest 273lb ft of torque at 4,900rpm. Yes, this engine needs – no, demands – to be worked hard.

Find an autobahn and the uber-M3 will hit 62mph in 4.7 seconds (0.4 seconds quicker than standard) and a top speed of 161mph.

Controversially, the CSL was never offered with a manual gearbox. All cars had a quicker-shifting version of BMW’s SMG semi-automatic, which allows sequential manual changes via the lever or steering wheel paddles.

What’s it like to drive?BMW M3 CSL review: Retro Road Test

Based on a 3 Series, the M3 is already a fairly practical performance car. And while the CSL doesn’t thumb its nose at such matters – it has rear seats and a decent boot, while air-con and a radio were options – it isn’t a car I’d want to drive every day.

The ride is very firm, for starters: more akin to a tightly-damped GT3 than a regular M3. And the lack of sound deadening puts your ears under constant assault from wind noise, tyre roar and, of course, that freer-breathing straight-six.

Around town, it feels like a caged animal, the ageing SMG ’box venting its frustration with occasionally clunky shifts.

All of that is soon forgotten once you find the right road, though. With no turbo to spool up, throttle response is instant, the engine exploding to 8,000rpm, the gearbox banging each ratio home by brute force.

For all its straight-line performance, it’s the CSL’s handling that elevates it to legend status. The last car I drove that felt so tied-down yet adjustable was a Porsche Cayman GT4. High praise indeed for a BMW first launched in 2003.

The steering is sublime, too, while the chunky Alcantara-wrapped wheel and snug glassfibre buckets add to the road-legal-racer vibe.

Reliability and running costsBMW M3 CSL review: Retro Road Test

Official fuel economy for the E46 CSL is just 23.7mpg, although you’ll be lucky to see mid-teens if you drive one hard.

Likewise, CO2 emissions of 287g/km mean annual car tax (VED) of £580. Consumables, such as tyres, clutches and brake pads, are expensive too.

On the plus side, the engine – including its Vanos variable valve timing – is reliable if properly serviced. And there are plenty of specialists that cater for M cars, usually with lower labour rates than BMW dealerships.

Could I drive it every day?BMW M3 CSL review: Retro Road Test

A CSL is a bit like a Jagerbomb: stimulating and intoxicating, but you wouldn’t want one for breakfast.

As I mentioned previously, it’s a bit too single-minded for commuting or ferrying the kids to school. This is a special car best saved for special occasions.

The ideal place to experience a CSL, of course, is on-track. But I suspect very few still see action on circuits: more likely they are tucked up in air-conditioned garages. Such is the fate of the appreciating classic car.

How much should I pay?BMW M3 CSL review: Retro Road Test

Appreciating? You bet. Paul Michaels, Chairman of Hexagon Classics, says CSL values shot up in 2016, although they have stabilised since.

“You’ll pay between £40k and £50k for a car with high miles,” he told me in 2017, “but the best examples are close to £100k”. The same is broadly true today.

A total of 1,400 M3 CSLs were built, including 422 right-hand-drive cars for the UK. Only two colours were offered: Black Sapphire Metallic and Silver Grey Metallic, but black is rarer and thus worth slightly more.

What should I look out for?BMW M3 CSL review: Retro Road Test

Let’s defer once again to Paul Michaels, who sold BMWs for 46 years. “Service history is absolutely vital,” he says. “Values have increased, but it still isn’t economical to spend large sums restoring them. You could throw a lot of money at a bad CSL.”

Check the service indicator lights on the dashboard aren’t illuminated and scour the paperwork. The car should have had its first oil-change at 1,000 miles, followed by intermediate (Inspection 1) and major (Inspection 2) services at annual intervals. The Inspection 2 includes a valve clearance check: missing it could result in Vanos problems.

One well-known M3 issue, not unique to the CSL, is a cracked boot floor – caused by wear in the subframe mounts. If caught early, it’s a minor repair, but once the floor is damaged, the only option is to weld in a new one: a minimum of £1,500.

Parts are still available, but CSL-specific items, such as the carbon front bumper, can be frighteningly expensive.

Remember, originality is key to future value, so check bodywork and interior trim carefully. And steer clear of cars with aftermarket modifications.

Should I buy one?BMW M3 CSL review: Retro Road Test

On paper, the CSL doesn’t stack up. You could have 90 percent as much fun in an E46 M3 for 20 percent of the price.

However, the most iconic M Power BMWs have followed the lead of Porsches and rocketed in value. And that makes the CSL – arguably the greatest M3 of all – a potentially savvy investment.

Still, let’s forgot money and talk about the car. When the oil has run dry and we’re all moving from A to B in autonomous electric pods, the CSL will be looked upon wistfully as a legendary driver’s car. It hard-wires itself into your head like a craniotomy, leaving your mouth dry, palms damp and soul stirred.

If that sounds like hyperbole, so be it. Perhaps I’ve been swept up in the CSL’s almighty sound and fury. Ultimately, I think the lack of a manual gearbox would steer me towards a Porsche 996 GT3.

Nonetheless, the CSL has earned its place in my dream garage.

Pub factBMW M3 CSL review: Retro Road Test

The 2005-2006 M3 CS cherry-picks some of CSL’s best bits for less than half the price. These include the steering rack, brakes and springs, plus a slightly wider version of those gorgeous alloys. Pay £25,000 for a good one.

Paul Michaels also tipped the BMW Z4 M Coupe as one to watch: “Just look at what’s happened to values of the Z3 M Coupe,” he says.

“Classic BMWs don’t get the recognition they deserve at the moment, but I think that will change.”

Next BMW 7 Series will go electric, but keep diesel

Next 7 Series getting all-electric version

BMW’s flagship luxury saloon, the long-serving 7 Series, will gain a fully electric version in its next iteration.

This news was announced as part of the BMW Group’s £27 billion commitment to ‘future-oriented technologies’ before 2025. 

2022 BMW 7 Series: ‘the power of choice’

Next 7 Series getting all-electric version

The headline is that the 7 Series will get an all-electric version. But BMW also says this will be one of four types of drivetrain: diesel, petrol, plug-in hybrid and electric. This ‘genuine power of choice’ means more buyers are catered for.

The electric 7 is due to get BMW’s fifth-generation EV powertrain. We will see this first in the iNext and i4, with the latter recently previewed and claiming a 373-mile range.

The 7 Series will lock horns with Jaguar’s imminent all-electric XJ. Mercedes-Benz will likely be joining the fray, too, with a production version of its electric EQS Concept, seen at the Geneva Motor Show last year.

Next 7 Series getting all-electric version

Electrification of the next 7 Series is part of BMW Group’s plan to have 25 electrified models by 2023. More than half, it says, will be fully-electric.

BMW expects demand for EVs to double in 2021, compared with 2019. On the way to 2025, BMW expects sales of electric vehicles to grow by 30 percent every year.

At present, BMW’s all-electric range consists only of the Mini Electric and BMW i3. The iX3 is due to join them shortly, scheduled for production in China this year. The i4 and iNext will follow in 2021.

Next 7 Series getting all-electric version

All in, by the end of 2021, five all-electric models will be in production under the BMW Group umbrella. 

One of those will be the next 7 Series. As for the other six or more? We’ll keep you posted.

New BMW logo on Concept i4

BMW confirms new logo will NOT appear on cars

New BMW logo on Concept i4

BMW has unveiled a new logo that follows the trend for ‘flat’ 2D designs – but it is NOT going to replace the current roundel on its cars.

A BMW spokesman confirmed to Motoring Research that the redesigned logo is intended only for use in communications.

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“It won’t be deployed physically on cars… the existing logo remains in use there.”

Classic BMW logo

BMW’s new logo is intended for media branding and will be used in addition to the existing classic logo.

New 2D BMW logo

The new design is described as better suited to the digital age: it is “pared-down… [which] conveys openness and clarity”.

It is more transparent, deleting the black ring surrounding the ‘BMW’ lettering, which the company says future-proofs its online and offline identity.

New BMW 2D logo online

“With visual restraint and graphic flexibility, we are equipping ourselves for the vast variety of touchpoints in communication at which BMW will be present,” said senior vice president Jens Thiemer.

The transition to the new logo will take place between now and the end of May 2021. All online and offline communications will switch to it, including at trade fairs, motorshows and events.

Last year, Volkswagen revealed its redesigned logo, which is also a 2D ‘flat’ design. The brand said it helped make digital communications more consistent. 

In 2018, Mini also updated its logo with a two-dimensional design. 

BMW remains the biggest autos exporter in the U.S.

BMW still biggest exporter in USA

BMW Manufacturing achieved another record year in 2019, retaining the crown of largest automotive exporter by value. 

Recent data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce confirmed that BMW has now held the title for six years consecutively. 

It marked an impressive year of BMW Manufacturing, with the Spartanburg, South Carolina plant producing a record number of vehicles. 

Exported to the world 

BMW still biggest exporter in USA

Total exports from the Spartanburg facility during 2019 were valued at some $9.6 billion. 

BMW Manufacturing saw 246,014 X-branded SUVs head abroad from the South Carolina factory, making use of six different ports. 

Whilst the majority (195,000 units) passed through the Port of Charleston, SC., BMWs also left the country via Savannah, GA; Brunswick, GA; Jacksonville, FL; Miami, FL; and Everglades, FL. Rail travel accounted for a further 18,000 exports. 

X marks the spot

BMW still biggest exporter in USA

Spartanburg is now responsible for producing five BMW X models, along with four performance M-branded versions. 2019 saw significant investment in battery technology at the facility. 

Two plug-in hybrid models are now built by BMW in South Carolina, following on from the new $10 million production line installed last year. More than 11,000 employees now work at the sprawling factory. 

This increased capacity saw BMW make more than 1,500 vehicles each day. A total of 411,620 left Spartanburg last year, marking a new production record for the facility. 

Heading towards another milestone

BMW still biggest exporter in USA

From 2010 through 2019, BMW Manufacturing built 3,335,871 vehicles at Spartanburg. A considerable 70 percent (2,285,285) were sent abroad during the decade. 

Knudt Flor, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing, commented that “in addition to being the largest U.S. automotive exporter by value, our plant continues to be the largest facility in BMW’s global production network.

“These achievements are significant and clearly reinforce BMW’s ongoing commitment in the United States.”

The next major milestone for the facility will be producing the five millionth American-built BMW later this year.

BMW has also committed to using zero-emissions shipping by 2030.

Bonhams BMW Glas 3000 V8 Fastback

This unique BMW-badged prototype is heading to auction in Paris

Bonhams BMW Glas 3000 V8 Fastback

A shock announcement has stunned the automotive world that the Frankfurt Motor Show, responsible for some of the world’s biggest car launches, will be no more. 

Now is the chance to buy one of the cars that featured at Frankfurt more than five decades ago, with this rare BMW-Glas 3000 V8 Prototype. 

Set to be sold at the Bonhams Les Grandes Marques du Monde sale next week, this could be a serious momento of the German motor show

Heart of Glas

Bonhams BMW Glas 3000 V8 Fastback

The car in question is based on a model made by Germany’s smallest car manufacturer, Glas. Best known for producing its tiny Goggomobil range, Glas had attempted to move upmarket with a V8-engined coupe model.

However, Glas encountered financial difficulties as it began producing the new 2600 V8. The firm had tried to save money by making its own V8 engine, and also asked stylists Carrozzeria Frua to use components from existing cars where possible. 

By 1966 Glas company was seriously struggling. This meant its nearest neighbour, BMW, swooped in to pick up the pieces of the existing model range. 

Bonhams BMW Glas 3000 V8 Fastback

The 2600 V8 was now badged as a BMW-Glas, and remained on sale for a year. Then a new model, powered by a larger 160 hp 3.0-litre V8 engine, was released as the 3000 V8.

Also in 1967, BMW commissioned Carrozzeria Frua to create a concept of how a reborn 3000 V8 could look with a fastback coupe body shell. 

Unlike the slightly awkward regular Glas models, the Fastback Coupe was sleek and streamlined. 1967 saw it appear at both the Frankfurt and Paris motor shows, impressing the crowds. 

Kidney (grille) donor wanted

Bonhams BMW Glas 3000 V8 Fastback

Finished in the silver-blue paintwork seen on the car today, one of the most notable additions to the Fastback Coupe was the distinctive BMW kidney grille. BMW had previously resisted the urge to use its visual trademark on the V8 Coupe range, despite adding it to the smaller Glas GT.

The Fastback Coupe prototype would also appear at the Geneva Motor Show in 1968, followed by an appearance in Barcelona the following year. By that point the car had been painted red, but was otherwise unchanged. 

Despite the popular response to the concept, BMW dropped plans to build the Glas Fastback. Instead, the company opted to develop its own grand touring range, including the 3.0 CS coupe. 

Bonhams BMW Glas 3000 V8 Fastback

No longer needed by BMW, the Glas Fastback Prototype was sold to an owner in Spain. Records show that buyer kept the car for more than 20 years, before it passed into the hands of an employee. 

The second owner subjected the car to a thorough restoration, with the work for this being completed in 2015. Changes included restoring the paintwork to the original silver-blue metallic, and having the plush leather interior reupholstered. 

Acquired by the current vendor in 2016, the car has also benefited from recent mechanical maintenance and restoration work. 

On your marques…

Bonhams BMW Glas 3000 V8 Fastback

Ahead of the Les Grandes Marques du Monde sale, Bonhams has estimated that the 1967 BMW-Glas V8 Fastback Prototype could sell for between £210,000 to £290,000 ($275,000 to $380,000).

Being a one-off creation does values hard to compare. The car did appear at an RM Sotheby’s auction in 2015, but failed to find a buyer at a higher estimated sale price. 

The rare BMW-Glas V8 will head across the auction block in Paris next week on Thursday 6th February. Other cars set to feature include a prototype Ferrari Dino racer, and a 1938 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante Coupe.


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BMW commits to carbon-free shipping by 2030

BMW zero-emission shipping

BMW will expand its commitment to reducing emissions by focusing on transport and logistics. The company has joined the ‘Getting to Zero Coalition’, with the aim of using only zero-emissions cargo ships by 2030. 

BMW joins Volkswagen in its recent targeting of shipping to cut carbon. Overall, it plans to reduce emissions by using carbon-free fuels, along with efficient propulsion systems.

It would make a big difference, too. Maritime transport accounts for around three percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It also makes up 50 percent of BMW’s transport chain emissions.

BMW zero-emission shipping

“Maritime transport is crucial for supplying the BMW Group’s international manufacturing network and for the global distribution of vehicles,” said Jürgen Maidl, senior vice president for supply chain management at BMW.

“We see the Getting to Zero Coalition of various governments, companies and other cross-sector stakeholders as a unique opportunity to continuously minimise carbon emissions in the maritime sector as well.

“We are delighted to be the first carmaker to join this coalition and thus lead the way towards more sustainability.”

BMW zero-emission shipping

All factories operated by BMW and three joint-venture plants will be exclusively powered by renewable energy sources from next year. European plants have been 100 percent green since last year.

Then, of course, there is BMW’s product portfolio. On top of producing ever-cleaner combustion engines, the brand is aggressively expanding its electric vehicle line-up. Currently, it offers 12 models that are electrified, with the i8 and i3 being the poster children for this tech. Soon, the iNext and i4 will join them.

What an ironic picture it is, then, to see low-emissions BMW vehicles rolling onto a smoggy super-ship. Given its 2030 pledge, that’s an irony that hasn’t escaped the company.

Massive BMW diesel engine recall is expanded

BMW fire recall expanded

BMW has extended its diesel car recall again. There are concerns that a faulty part presents a fire risk.

In some diesel cars, glycol leakage from the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler can occur. In combination with soot deposits and high temperatures, this might result in smouldering particles.

This, in turn, could lead to the melting of the intake manifold and/or fire.

An initial European and Asian recall in August 2018 involved around 480,000 BMW diesel vehicles. As a whole, the extended recall campaign covered around 1.6 million vehicles by October 2018.

This included 268,000 BMW cars in the UK, but this was extended to a further 27,000 vehicles in October 2019.

Now, according to a website in Germany, the recall has been expanded by a further 232,000 vehicles worldwide.

BMW drivers in the UK can see if their car is affected by contacting BMW or by using the government’s recall website. Owners will be invited to visit their local BMW dealer where the EGR cooler will be inspected.

BMW bonnet badge

BMW vehicles affected by the recall

The Which? website has a list of all the cars affected by the EGR recall. These are:

  • BMW 1 Series (114d, 116d, 118d, 120d, 125d), manufactured between November 2011 and September 2017.
  • BMW 2 Series Coupe and Convertibles (218d, 220d, 225d), manufactured between July 2013 and December 2017.
  • BMW 3 Series Saloon, Touring and Gran Turismo (316d, 318d, 320d, 320ed, 325d, 330d, 335d), manufactured between December 2011 and November 2017.
  • BMW 4 Series Coupe, Convertible and Gran Coupe (418d, 420d, 425d, 430d, 435d), manufactured between May 2013 to July 2017.
  • BMW 5 Series Saloon, Touring and Gran Turismo (518d, 520d, 525d, 530d, 535d), manufactured between March 2011 and December 2017.
  • BMW 6 Series Coupe, Convertible and Gran Coupe (640d), manufactured between March 2011 and April 2015.
  • BMW 7 Series Saloon and LWB (725d, 730d, 740d), manufactured between January 2012 and April 2015.
  • BMW X1 (s20d, x25d), manufactured between May 2011 and April 2015.
  • BMW X3 (18d, 20d, 30d, 35d), manufactured between August 2010 and October 2017.
  • BMW X4 (20d, 30d, 35d), manufactured between December 2013 and June 2017.
  • BMW X5 (25d, 30d, 40d), manufactured between April 2013 and June 2017.
  • BMW X6 (30d, 40d), manufactured between March 2014 and June 2015.

The DVSA’s head of vehicle engineering, Neil Barlow, told Which?: “Our engineers have worked closely with BMW to ensure that the fix is satisfactory and appropriate for UK models and conditions.

“We continue to ensure BMW contacts owners of affected vehicles so their cars can be assessed and made safe.”

To find out if your vehicle has been affected by a recall, use the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) website.

BMW tech will make your phone into a key for any car

BMW digital key

BMW has announced plans to further develop smart device capabilities for its cars – and those of others. It wants to advance beyond its existing BMW Connected application, which can already lock, unlock and start a car via a smartphone.

BMW joined the Car Connectivity Consortium in 2017, pursuing the standardisation of technologies and car security across the car industry. Its vision? Something like an app that has all of your cars in, which you select as if playing a computer game, with each car controlled in exactly the same way.

At least, that’s what a ‘standardised ecosystem for vehicle access that will enable new functions across multiple devices and different manufacturers’ sounds like to us.

BMW digital key

To achieve this ultimate digital key, BMW says there needs to be compatibility across all varieties of mobile device, including smart watches, and among all car manufacturers. 

“Our customers want cross-vendor interoperability,” said Dr Olaf Müller, head of development for digital access systems at BMW.

“Standardisation is the only way to achieve this; proprietary solutions are no longer beneficial.”

The next generation of digital key

BMW digital key

BMW will launch the second iteration of the digital key soon. It will feature a physical chip that means your car can unlock even if your phone is switched off.

Future developments of this will mean the car and device will be better able to communicate with each other. That means you won’t have to hold your phone up to the door handle. The technology to enable this is already being deployed in current and upcoming smartphones.

Does this end the scourge of keyless car theft? There is obviously the question of this technology being hacked. However, security is apparently a top priority for the Car Connectivity Consortium. 

New BMW M2 CS – and the coolest classic M cars


The first production road car developed by BMW’s M division was the M1 of 1978, but the company has a history dating back to 1972 and the founding of BMW Motorsport GmbH. Later it became known as BMW M GmbH: a company responsible for developing some of the most iconic performance cars of all-time, as well as some capable but controversial SUVs.

Happily, the latest offering from BMW M is as old-school ‘M’ as they come. The new M2 CS is a feisty 450hp run-out special, and leads our list of 25 of the greatest M cars of all time.


The M2 and subsequent M2 Competition were already firecrackers. The new CS takes things up a notch, before this compact coupe is discontinued. It loses weight and gains 40hp, plus a stunning Misano Blue paint colour.

Carbon fibre parts, such as the front splitter, boot spoiler and rear diffuser, help the CS cut kilos. The vented carbon bonnet is half the weight of a standard steel item, and extracts hot air while adding front-end downforce. The carbon roof needs fewer seals, so saves on sound-deadening. And those new 19-inch forged wheels save significant unsprung weight.

There’s a general feeling that performance cars like the M2 aren’t long for this world, and with the CS being a run-out model, the end seems nigh. For now, we’re just grateful for this tyre-smoking tearaway. Now, back to where it all began…

BMW E26 M1Are these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

Commercial disaster it might have been, but the M1 holds a special place in motoring history as BMW’s first and only supercar, not to mention one of Giorgetto Giugiaro’s finest creations.

Quite why BMW felt it needed to build a supercar is still unknown, but it turned to Lamborghini for help with the chassis and production. But with the Italians falling behind schedule, BMW took the project in house and even created its own ProCar race series to help promote its new supercar.

BMW M635CSi/M6Are these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

The 3.5-litre straight-six engine of the BMW M1 found a new home in the M635CSi, known as the M6 in Japan and North America. The ultimate version of the E24 6 Series was developed by BMW Motorsport and featured a revised chassis and a number of cosmetic upgrades.

In 1989, when the M635CSi was in the twilight of its life, it cost an eye-watering £46,000 – a massive £9,000 more than the regular 635CSi. That meant it was battling with the likes of the Ferrari Mondial, Lamborghini Jalpa and Porsche 911. BMW obviously had one eye on the future when it developed the M1…

BMW E28 M5Are these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

The E28 M5 was one of the original Q-cars, but its discreet appearance was no accident. BMW knew that this handbuilt and costly super-saloon would appeal to buyers in their 40s and 50s, many of whom wouldn’t be turned on by big spoilers, wide arches and associated trinkets.

Even the rear spoiler was an option, while buyers could choose to delete the M5 badge from the boot lid. At launch, the E28 M5 was the fastest production saloon car in the world, with a 0-60mph time of 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 153mph. A legend was born.

BMW E30 M3Are these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

In common with the E28 M5, the development of the E30 M3 was driven by a desire to mess with the head of Mercedes-Benz, both on the track and on the road. By the time it was unveiled at the 1985 Frankfurt Motor Show, BMW was already playing catch-up, with the 190E 2.3-16 unveiled a year earlier.

Within 12 months, BMW had exceeded the 5,000 units required for Group A homologation – it was clear that it had a hit on its hands. As the M3’s racing career developed, so did the need to create more homologation specials, which resulted in the Evolution and Evolution II special editions. A convertible version signalled a shift from pure racing to a luxury product.

BMW E36 M3 EvoAre these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

The second generation E36 M3 highlights this move upmarket, presenting a more refined take on the performance saloon model. That it was built on standard production lines and not at BMW’s M GmbH plant only serves to highlight this point. All of which means the E36 M3 shouldn’t register on a list of all-time greats, right? Well, no, not exactly.

Contemporary reviews were quick to point out that the saloon felt sharper than the coupe, while special editions only served to enhance the E36’s reputation. And in the more powerful M3 Evo, with its larger 3.2-litre engine, the E36 evolved into a highly accomplished all-rounder.

BMW E46 M3Are these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

If the jury is out on the E36, there can be no such doubts when it comes to the E46 M3. This felt like a return to form for the M3, complete with ‘phat’ arches and 343hp from its 3.2-litre straight-six engine. The 0-60mph time dropped to a smidgen over five seconds. Properly quick, then.

In so many ways, the E46 could be classed as the definitive M3. It has the looks, the pedigree, the performance and – perhaps crucially – the soundtrack. The engine and exhaust combine to deliver a symphony for the ears, ranging from a rasp to a wail. Hard to beat?

BMW E46 M3 CSLAre these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

Yes, it is possible to improve on perfection, and it comes in the form of the CSL. It speaks volumes that the current M2 – widely considered to be one of the greatest M cars of all-time – has been compared to the E46 M3 CSL. Stripped of all but the bare essentials, the CSL was 110kg lighter than the regular M3, creating a more hardcore driving experience.

CSL stands for ‘Coupe Sport Lightweight’, a reference to the hugely successful 3.0 CSL of 1972. If any car was fit to wear the legendary badge, this was it. We’ll also give a special mention to the M3 CS, a kind of halfway house between the M3 and the CSL.

BMW 1 Series M CoupeAre these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

The BMW 1 Series M Coupe – or 1 M Coupe – was an unlikely hero. Created using bits from the M3 and the Z4, BMW turned the junior exec into a senior performance player. It might not be an M car in the truest sense – there’s no bespoke engine to be found here – but it deserves its place alongside the Bavarian thoroughbreds.

BMW squeezed 340hp from 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine, with a maximum 369lb ft of torque available on overboost. If you were fortunate enough to buy one new, you’re sitting on a little goldmine. Price then: £39,995. Price now: upwards of £40,000, but as much as £65,000.

BMW E39 M5Are these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

The all-time greats just keep on coming. If the E46 M3 CSL is the ‘A Day in the Life’ of the M world, the E39 M5 is probably ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. In fact, the E39 is a far better all-rounder – as at home on the commute as it is on the track.

Power is sourced from a normally aspirated 4.9-litre V8 engine producing 400hp at 6,600rpm and 369lb ft of torque at 3,800rpm. But the E39 M5 was more than just a terrific engine. BMW’s M division tweaked the suspension, lowered the ride height, sharpened the steering and added a limited-slip diff to create one of the greatest performance saloons of all-time.

BMW E34 M5Are these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

Back in 1990 the E34 M5 was the fastest saloon car in the world, which is why Car magazine chose to pit against the Ferrari Testarossa. Perhaps predictably, the Testarossa won the day, with the magazine claiming that the M5 was “massively competent, but not really fun to drive”.

Retrospectively, Evo magazine concluded that “it takes time to uncover this precise adjustability… but it’s worth the effort. It’s a car you could spend a great deal of time with and never get bored. Phwoar.” That’ll do for us.

BMW E90/E92 M3Are these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

The introduction of the E92 – the fourth generation M3 – is the point at which the performance 3 Series jumped from six to eight cylinders. The E92 M3 coupe came first, swiftly followed by the E90 saloon, both of which were powered by a 4.0-litre V8 engine producing 420hp.

Sure, the shift from straight-six to vee-eight might have upset the purists, but the E90/E92 soon won people over thanks to its devastating performance. Another contender for the greatest all-rounder, the E90/E92 featured a ‘M’ button, unlocking the M3’s true potential.

BMW E90 M3 CRTAre these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

The E90/E92 spawned a number of special editions, including the M3 Coupe Edition, M3 GTS and the last-of-the-line M Performance Edition. Picking the best is a highly subjective opinion and – with a limitless amount of cash – we’d opt for the super-expensive M3 CRT. The CRT stands for Carbon Racing Technology, previewing new body panels set to appear on the i3 and i8.

The CRT also received uprated brakes, adjustable coilovers, titanium mufflers and less sound deadening for a more hardcore driving experience. All were finished in Frozen Polar Silver paint, but none came to the UK. Shame.

BMW F13 M6Are these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

Aside from the ludicrously vulgar X5 M and X6 M, the M6 Coupe is the most expensive current M car in the BMW range. The M6 Coupe starts at £95,580, while the M6 Convertible manages to break into six figures. There’s also an M6 Gran Coupe in the middle, but our money – nobody mention depreciation – would be on the Coupe.

Power is sourced from a 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine developing a huge 560hp and 516lb ft of torque. Remove the rev limiter and this super-svelte M car will top 189mph, sprinting to 62mph in just 3.9 seconds. We’d add the £9,000 Competition Package for good measure. Well, if you’re going to drop the best part of £100k on a new car, you might as well do it in style.

BMW F82 M4 GTSAre these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

As the fastest production BMW ever built, the M4 GTS demands attention. Some will be unable to see beyond the slightly ‘aftermarket’ styling or the £120,000+ price tag BMW is demanding for the pleasure of owning this Top Trumps winner. But a 190mph top speed and 0-62mph time of 3.8 seconds might shift the balance in its favour.

It is, of course, at home on the track, where the GTS can make the most of its 69hp and 39lb ft gains over the standard M4. Production is limited to 700 worldwide, with a mere 30 coming to the UK. Expect the majority of these to be squirrelled away for investment purposes.

BMW Z3 M CoupeAre these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

A controversial choice, perhaps, but you only need to look at the prices being asked for the Z3 M Coupe to appreciate the greatness of BMW’s ‘breadvan’. You could understand the desire to create a Z3 M Roadster, but the Coupe required a greater leap of faith for BMW bosses.

The 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine developed between 321hp and 325hp, depending on the engine, with the 0-62mph sitting at just over five seconds. The looks might be an acquired taste, but exclusivity and the M badge will ensure classic status.

BMW E60 M5Are these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

If you want pedigree, the BMW E60 M5 has it by the bucketload. This was the first production saloon car to be powered by a V10 petrol engine, while the SMG transmission was a result of BMW’s involvement with the Sauber F1 team. Yet again, the M5 took the mantle of world’s fastest four-door saloon, with an unlimited top speed of 200mph.

The full force of 507 horses kicks in at 7,750rpm, which simply encourages you to explore the upper reaches of the rev range. And yet, the E60 M5 will happily spend its entire time on the autobahn, barely breaking sweat as it soothes away the miles. But it’s not the best all-rounder of the E60 generation…

BMW E61 M5 TouringAre these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

Because that accolade belongs to the E61 M5 Touring: the first M5 wagon to be officially sold in the UK. Everyone loves a performance wagon, right, while the M5 Touring also managed to smooth away the controversial Chris Bangle styling of the E60 saloon.

Seriously, where are the drawbacks? The performance figures are identical, and yet the Touring offers 1,650 litres of luggage capacity. BMW hasn’t built another M5 Touring, making this the last of the breed. We had a look on Auto Trader for inspiration (well you would, wouldn’t you?) where we found just two for sale, both available for less than £30,000.

BMW Z4 M CoupeAre these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

If the styling of the BMW Z3 M Coupe was a tad divisive, the Z4 M Coupe was a more sombre affair. Power is sourced from a 3.2-litre straight-six engine developing 343hp and 269lb ft of torque.

Purists rejoice, because the Z4 M Coupe and its Roadster sibling were only offered with a six-speed manual transmission, with a 0-62mph time sneaking below five seconds. Chris Bangle’s ‘flame surfacing’ has aged remarkably well, while prices start from around £15,000. Bargain.

BMW M550d xDriveAre these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

A diesel M car: whatever next? But before the purists choke on their V-Power, we should remember that the M550d xDrive features a quad-turbocharged diesel engine producing 400hp and 561lb ft of torque.

Sure, it’s a BMW M Performance product rather than a proper M car, but these are different times. Besides, a 0-62mph time of 4.4 seconds for the saloon and 4.6 seconds for the Touring will have this diesel upstart nipping at the heels of any genuine M car.

BMW G30 M5

M cars BMW

The new M5 takes the difficult-to-love F10 formula and very nearly perfects it, with the sharpened looks of the G30 combining with a great new automatic gearbox, a livelier updated engine and switchable four-wheel-drive.

It’s a 600hp stonker jack-of-all-trades car that the F10 tried but never quite managed to be. The current Mercedes E63 has a similar weapons-grade capability with switchable all-wheel-drive. The next Audi RS 6 has got a real fight on its hands.

BMW E31 850CSi (M8)Are these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

The best M car that never was? The E31 850CSi was developed by BMW Motorsport and featured a 5.6-litre V12 engine developing 385hp and 406lb ft of torque. It was, if you like, a BMW M8 in all but name.

A true M8 was planned – with a lightweight body and a 550hp V12 engine – but BMW pulled the plug. The new M8 is due out this year.

BMW E63 M6Are these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

In many ways, the E63 M6 was a two-door M5, powered by the same 5.0-litre V10 engine. And yet the coupe featured a carbon fibre roof and new dashboard, making it 80kg lighter than the super-saloon.

When new it was criticised for being more expensive and less practical than the M5, but a decade on that hardly seems to matter. Best of all: prices start from around £15,000.

BMW E9 3.0 CSLAre these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

Without the E9 3.0 CSL there might not be a BMW M division. It is, if you like, the godfather of the M badge: the very genesis of the brand.

BMW’s Motorsport division developed and raced the ‘Batmobile’, laying the foundations for the future of performance gems.

BMW E12 M535iAre these the best BMW M cars of all-time?

Again, the M535i isn’t a true M car, but as the forerunner to the M5 it warrants a place on our list. The only M car prior to the M535i was the M1, which makes this saloon the first car to be developed with everyday customers in mind.

We’ll give a special mention to the E12 530 MLE (Motorsport Limited Edition): a homologation special developed by BMW of South Africa and BMW Motorsport GmbH.