With Goodwood celebrating 50 years of BMW’s M division, it seems fitting to check out one of the cars that has the closest ties to the division – but isn’t actually an M. I came of driving age during the reign of the E31, and I still remember magazines taunting that the M8 would soon be with us. Of course, it never came – at least, not until today. But we still did get an E31 breathed upon by the Motorsports division in the spectacular 850CSi. Like most Ms, the heart of the CSi was a special “S” motor. In this case, BMW Motorsport GmbH took the M70 and beefed it up seriously. Bored out to 5.6 liters and with compression bumped up and revised electronic programing, the resulting S70 took BMW’s V12 from 296 horsepower to 372 with 420 lb.ft of torque. But there were a host of other changes; offered only with a manual 6-speed gearbox, the CSi also got a quicker steering rack, Euro M5 brakes, shorter and stiffer springs, and M System II “Throwing Star” 17″ staggered wheels. A new body kit made the elegant E31 look much more menacing, too. Europeans even had the option of 18″ M Parallels and, amazingly, 4-wheel steering.
In 1994, this car cost almost $110,000. Today that’s nothing, as you can spec a special-order M3 up to that amount. But back then? That was nearly the price of three M3s. These super coupes have never really come down in price, as with the contemporary 928GTS, they have maintained an aura of unobtainium and sacredness to a generation of motoring enthusiasts. Just 225 made it to the U.S., and this one is extra-mean looking in all black: