Everyone dreams of having a luxury vehicle. The feel you get from it and the attention to detail are unmatched. But what happens when you mix together speed, luxury, and German engineering? You get the BMW M series!
Other European manufacturers also have their premium+ models (e.g. Audi’s S-line, Mercedes’ AMG). However, with BMW it is a bit more confusing. That is because the “M” letter can mean a standalone lineup or an augmentation to the mainstream BMW models.
Today, I am going to clear up all the confusion around the BMW M series. Together we will delve a bit deeper into the history and see what makes these cars so appealing. You and I will also explore the lineup’s future to see where the entire industry is going. Shall we begin?
The naming confusion: BMW M vs M-sport
BMW has done a pretty poor job with the marketing of its M series. That is because most people confuse the BMW M line with the M-sport models of the regular lineup. And while there are some similarities between them, they are different.
Let me start by explaining how BMW names its vehicles. They have the 2-to-7 lines, aptly named “2-series”, “3-series”, and so on. Each model within a series has its own name, which represents the engine inside. Thus you have BMW 330i from the 3-series, or 530e from the 5-series, for example. Yet people often shorten the models to something like BMW 3, as it is easier to say.
Now about the M-sport – it is not a real lineup. It is the highest equipment package for BMW’s mainstream series. Yet it is also a facelift of sorts. For instance, a BMW 3 has a bit different exterior from a BMW 3 M-sport. And the latter also becomes BMW 3M for short.
The confusion comes with the models in the M lineup. They are named M2, M3, and so on. This is made worse by the fact that M3 and 3M (also M4/4M, M5/5M, etc.) look similar to most people. It is easy to understand why some of us may think that BMW 3M and M3 are in fact the same car.
Their SUV line is even more confusing. There you have BMW X6 M-sport and X6 M. The former is the regular one, the latter is the M-series. Why they did not name it something like XM6 is beyond me. But enough with the M-sport naming nonsense. Let’s see what there is to the true M line.
What does make BMW M different?
The main goal of all M models is performance. From the engine to suspension, transmission, and overall design, everything is done to make you feel the speed. But it does not stop there! Usually, the M line also includes the best equipment options out of all BMW models.
The interesting thing here is the overall simplicity you have when choosing a model from the line. While the naming scheme is obviously confusing, the rest is not. For example, you only get one engine option, but it is the best. You also do not get random facelifts to the externals, because they are superior already.
BMW is actually marketing the M line as racing cars you can drive every day. Honestly, this is not a sham statement. All M models are personally tested by BMW at a racing circuit in Germany. So you can drive them in the city, but with more than 600 horsepower on BMW M5 Competition perhaps you should indeed hit the track.
The last thing that makes the M line quite different is obviously the price. The most expensive 5-series model will run you about $95,000. You can easily get that down to $80,000 if you skip on certain unnecessary additions. However, with the M5 (its corresponding M model) you are starting at $102,000. But as they say – you get what you pay for. And people have been paying for it for more than 40 years. Speaking of which…
The history of BMW M
It all started in 1972 with the subsidiary company BMW Motorsport GmbH. However, the first ever M model came out in 1978. This was not your regular car though. The BMW M1 was developed alongside Lamborghini with the idea to have it as a race car. With only 453 such vehicles produced it is one of BMW’s rarest cars.
For a few years after M1, BMW Motorsport only did M-badged cars from the regular BMW lineup. An M-badged car is a vehicle that has been touched up by the Motorsport division. It is not exactly an M model, but it is not just an M-sport package either. Seems like the naming confusion all over again, right?
Anyway, after a couple of M-badged models, Motorsport came up with the M5 in 1985. This was the first model that was actually built as a superior version to the BMW 5-series. It marked the start of what the M line is all about – the ultimate models for each regular series.
But while the M5 was alright, the true winner turned out to be the M3 a year later. With more than 16 thousand vehicles produced BMW saw that their Motorsport division had filled quite the niche. It seemed people just craved a compact race-capable vehicle, and BMW gave it to them. Since then BMW M3 has remained the company’s most iconic sports model, outselling all the other M-cars combined.
To this day the M line is selling quite well, although a lot has changed. Its engines are no longer developed separately from the mainstream lines. They are still different but borrow many of the same parts. Additionally, there has been more of a push towards hybrid and all-electrical M-cars. Want to know what all that is about?
Will the M-series go completely electric?
It is no secret that the automobile world has been rocked by a recent revolution. We are seeing the rise of EVs with companies like Tesla leading the way. And although most people have not jumped on the bandwagon yet, they soon will.
Because of this, a lot of companies are considering the move towards electric cars. Some have decided to transition slowly, others have jumped straight ahead with a few options already available. Even BMW offers some hybrid models, as well as their two I-models, which are completely electric. However, we are yet to see an EV in the M-series.
The CEO of BMW M has previously stated that electric M cars are coming. He has also said that all M models will be electrified by 2030. What does that mean though? Many think that he speaks of full-on EVs. Others bet just on hybrids.
In my opinion, BMW M is waiting for their mother company to develop its EV technology first before they make a major transition. Still, they will probably push at least a hybrid M3 or M5 in the near future to bank on all the hype. The gas engine may indeed be on its way out even in sports cars.
Are you now dreaming of a BMW M vehicle?
I am a fan of German engineering. Whether it is Porsche, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, or BMW – I do not care. Just give me that sweet luxury and I am set. However, there is something about the M-cars that is just a tad sweeter than the rest. I can honestly see myself enjoying a top-of-the-line M3.
But what about you? Do you think that an M-car is worth the money? Is it something that you would dream of having? Perhaps you are not a fan of BMW. Yet, I believe you should give the M-series a chance – they are something special.