Update 5/7/19: This beautiful low-option E92 is on to a new owner!
While there’s no doubt that the E9x M3 was instantly recognizable as the replacement for the outgoing E46 model, there was an inconvenient truth that had snuck into the lineup: weight. Part of what had made the E30 such a curb-hopping maniac was that lack of heft even with all the accoutrements. By the time the E92 launched, the M3 had put on nearly 800 lbs of weight.
To motivate it the extra mass, BMW did effectively what it had done with the S14; it took its top-tier motor in the S85 V10 and removed two cylinders. The result was the S65 V8, and 414 horsepower was on tap for your right foot’s pleasure. That was a monumental leap from the E46; when the E46 launched with 93 horsepower more than the prior generation, I thought there was no way BMW could do it again. But they did, tacking on 81 horsepower to the prior generation’s total without forced induction. BMW topped the E46’s specific output per liter, too, besting 103 in the E9x – in a package which was 40 lbs lighter despite two more cylinders. Impressive, indeed.
Granted, if you were plunking down $60,000-odd worth of your hard earned credit, you’d want amenities like power seats, a nice radio, air conditioning – the normals that made it a better road car to live with day-to-day. But if you were clever in the boxes you ticked, you could still get the essence of what made the M3 the greatest car in its segment without a lot of frills. First would be the Competition Package, which gave you more variability on the suspension and more sideways action from the dynamic stability control. You got bigger wheels and stickier, wider tires to make use of that harder suspension.
Tick the 7-speed M-DCT dual-clutch transmission, and that track-readiness was taken to the next level. Then, you’d want to stop right about there. Of course, few people selected such a targeted, bare-bones performance oriented M3 out of the gate, which makes finding one today difficult:
We’re on a bit of a modified car kick, so I wanted to continue with a superlative BMW. In this case, it’s not a classically modified example, but rather a very recent one. For a long time, modifying cars was relatively easy – they came from the factory usually in a pretty tame form with a lot of potential – from aerodynamic tweaks to suspension overhauls and, of course, more power. But when you consider the E9X BMW M3, you have to really wonder if an aftermarket company could improve upon the design. After all, with the S65 4.0 V8 that revs to 8,400 RPMs and generates nearly 420 horsepower in completely stock form, how much better could you really make it?
That hasn’t stopped companies from trying, and relative unknown IND took on the task of making a NÃ¼rburgring-inspired E92 M3 the ultimate dual purpose street/track weapon. Did they succeed, and how have the mods held up?
Update 11/11/18: This M3 Sedan is listed as sold at $16,500
Looking towards the future and what may be a potential classic can be pretty difficult. Cars like the M2 and M4 are still on a relatively steep depreciation curve, so although they’re pretty new you’re also buying knowing you’re immediately loosing money. Similarly, as cars like the E36 and E46 head upwards in value, you either have the money to jump on board or nice examples will soon be out of reach for you.
In the middle lies the E9X. Following on the heels of the popular S54-equipped model, BMW needed to step up its game. That step came in the move from 6- to 8-cylinders, as BMW Motorsport GmbH created 80% of a S85 V10. With over 400 horsepower on tap and 295 lb.ft of torque, the S65 represented a healthy increase over the S54. As with the E46, a Convertible (E93) and Coupe (E92) version were available, but BMW also reintroduced us to the M3 Sedan.
In my eyes, these are the ones to get. The M3 Sedan is quite a bit more rare than the Coupe; 5,867 were sold versus 15,997 2-doors. Of those, over 50% were either Jet Black, Jerez Black or Alpine White – so one with a bit of color is always great to see. Here we have one of the 483 pre-LCI Silverstone Metallic (A29) Sedans with NDH2 extended Novillo Fox Red leather and the all-important third pedal:
Update 11/26/18: Although listed as sold at $7,100 last auction, this car is back again with no reserve and sold for $7,099.
Update 11/15/18: This E34 sold for $7,100.
After selling earlier this year from out Feature Listings, this built and supercharged “540i” is back on eBay with a no reserve auction and some slick new photos. Bidding is currently only at $5,600 with a day and a half to go.
In the early years of the 1990s, the writing was on the wall for the high-strung M88 derivatives. They were excellent motors, no doubt, but power levels were rising to the point where the M5 was no longer top trump. It enjoyed a small power advantage over cars such as the V8 4.2 quattro, true – with 276 horsepower and 295 lb.ft of torque, the Audi had less punch but more pull. But cars like the M119-equipped 500E changed the playing field; 322 horsepower was enough to overcome the S38 in the M5, but the big number was the 354 lb.ft of torque. That was nearly 100 lb.ft more than the S38 and it was more usable, too.
BMW wasn’t to be outdone, launching its own series of V8 for the 1992 model year. in 3.0 and 4.0 form, the modern aluminum motors dubbed the M60 brought new levels of power to the third generation 5. In fact, so potent was the 4.0 version that BMW decided the more expensive M5 was effectively redundant in the marketplace. The M60B40 was rated at 282 horsepower and 295 lb.ft of torque and and good enough to scoot the luxury car from 0-60 in 6.9 seconds even when equipped with a 5-speed automatic.
But there was a 6-speed manual option as well, and of course you could opt for the sport package that would give you better seats, springs and a limited-slip differential. These options turned the two-ton Teuton into an athlete. While this particular E34 started life as a 525i, it’s been given the full 540 treatment and then some, culminating in a Vortech supercharger for some serious punch:
Edit 12/9/2017: With new photos, a new description and apparently a few things fixed, the current owner of this ‘346i’ that we looked almost exactly one year ago has it back up for sale in a reserve auction format. Last time it didn’t meet reserve at only $10,000. Will it clear the reserve this time around?
The E21. By far, it is the 3-series we feature least frequently (barring new models). In U.S. trim, it is also by far the least sporting 3-series. But don’t throw the baby BMW out with the bath water, because it’s still a classic BMW, it looks nice and it’s quite affordable relative to some other hyperbolic models.
For one, I really like the E21. I’ve even enjoyed driving a few. Of course, never once did I think when driving one “You know what this needs? A M60 V8.” And certainly, even in the very unlikely scenario that idea sprang into my head, there’s no way I would have said “Right, now, off to Dinan to bump it out to 4.6 liters!”
But, if nothing else, this Golf Yellow example of an extreme E21 dispels the myth that they’re all underpowered?
I always get a bit of a chuckle at the keyboard warriors who love to denigrate manufacturers for not offering the full European catalog to U.S. customers. Really, you’d buy a RS6 Avant if it was offered here? You and what bank account, Mr. Sittinginhisrentedapartmentstealinginternetfromtheneighbors? Manufacturers need to live in the real world, and in the real world of the United States, while there is in fact a market who would purchase top-tier cars like the RS6 Avant, the reality is that the vocal majority of enthusiasts barking about how they’d snap them up like hotcakes would – at best – be hoping to buy a lightly used one downstream. At worst, these super wagons would only become affordable after ten years, at which point their complicated systems would render ownership prohibitively expensive for most. So, they kick tires, simultaneously ruing that such options aren’t available to them while secret thankful that they don’t have to put their money where their mouths are. We don’t have to look back far to find why this market departed the U.S., because when we were afforded the option to buy these cars, we found them unaffordable. Witness the very expensive W8 4Motion Variant 6-speed:
The words “Q-Ship” and “Sleeper” get tossed around a lot when describing the super-performing sedans, coupes and wagons from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW – but truth be told, virtually any enthusiast and most non-enthusiasts can spot a high performance model a mile away. We have to go really pretty far back to find examples that were true sleepers – models where it was only the number of tail pipes, subtly wider wheels, or maybe one single badge that hinted at their greater performance. There were no extra gills, bulges, flared fenders, red trim, flashy colored brake calipers and 29″ wheels with 375 section tires. For models like the 450SEL 6.9, you had to know what you were looking at to fully appreciate the performance. But even as we got towards the E28 M5, manufacturers were slapping badges, lowered suspensions, spoilers and special trim to help set their client’s substantial investments apart. In the vein of the 450SEL 6.9, though, Volkswagen launched a discrete performance sedan – a true sleeper – in the Passat W8:
A truism of motorsport is that to make a small fortune in racing you need to start with a large fortune. Building race cars is very expensive; strange, considering that there is much less of them when you’re done than the road car that was started with. If, for example, you wanted to go racing in the GT3 class, the ostensible car to get would be the multi-class winning Porsche GT3R. Smart choice. Now, fork over your half a million hard-earned trust fund dollars, since before you turn a key the GT3R stickers at 429,000 Euros plus taxes. Run a race weekend, and presuming you don’t crash or have a mechanical, you’ll be several tens of thousands of dollars more in the hole, since race cars consume consumables at an alarming rate. Tires, brake pads, clutches – you name it, it’s expensive if it’s top-tier racing goods. And then come the realities that after a staggeringly short amount of time, you need to completely rebuild your race car. According to the Census Bureau, the average American spends 50 minutes a day commuting in their car. In race car terms, that would mean that after a little over a month you’d have to completely rebuild your car. Nuts, right?
But you still want to do it. Okay, a much more affordable way to go really, really fast is to buy a last generation car. Just past the current vogue, they tend to be considerably more friendly on the wallet. Yet, top tier cars are still very, very expensive to run. Perhaps, then, a smarter choice would be to look at a car based upon more pedestrian internals:
While Ruf and AMG grab most of the big tuner headlines from Germany, Alpina quietly and competently produced some of the wildest and best executed BMWs ever made. Simply put, Alpina made already good BMWs better – and arguably still do today. One of the most interesting aspects of the company is the close working relationship they have with the factory; a partnership which results in truly special treatment. Take the Alpina B8 for example; any normal tuner might have simply enlarged the inline-6 under the hood of the already potent M3. Or, in the tradition of the 1980s Alpinas, they could have turbocharged the engine. But instead Alpina asked BMW to make them a special V8. And, somewhat surprisingly, BMW did – a new block was designed for Alpina since the normal 4.0 couldn’t be bored out. The result was a 4.6 liter motor which was fit to the B8 4.6 and B10 as well. The motor was so large in the E36 that a special oil pan had to be designed, and neatly a German camera maker had to be employed to design and build a special oil pump to run it. Yet in true Alpina tradition, the fit and finish was factory and accompanied a host of suspension, interior and aerodynamic tweaks. Capped off by special Alpina paint, these B8s are truly special E36s. While the B8 4.6 is the headline grabber, Alpina built a short run of 5…or perhaps 6….4 liter models that were sold in Japan:
We talk at length about the rarity of various cars, and when it comes to the W8 Passat 6-speeds, that’s more than just lip service. Only a bit over 450 6-speeds were imported to North America in sedan and Variant form, making them quite rare amongst any measure of car. But when you break down the color combinations that were available and especially factor in the wagon, you can get production numbers down to single digits in some configurations. Considering the sedan outnumbered the wagon over three to one, you’re more likely to find a 6-speed sedan than wagon, but today we’ve got one of each to look at. Which is the rarest of the rare?