The Big Car Database

Bmw M Division

BMW Motorsport GmbH (1972-1993)
Subsidiary (GmbH)
Industry Automotive industry
Founded 1972
Products High performance engines and cars,
Automotive sports accessories
Services High Performance Driver Education, Automobile tuning
Parent BMW AG

BMW M GmbH (formerly BMW Motorsport GmbH) is a subsidiary of BMW AG that manufactures high-performance cars.

BMW M ("M" for "motorsport") was initially created to facilitate BMW’s racing program, which was very successful in the 1960s and 1970s. As time passed, BMW M began to supplement BMW's vehicles portfolio with specially modified higher trim models, for which they are now most known by the general public. These M-badged cars traditionally include modified engines, transmissions, suspensions, interior trims, aerodynamics, and exterior modifications to set them apart from their counterparts. All M models are tested and tuned at BMW's private facility at the Nürburgring racing circuit in Germany. BMW M also remains the only performance based company to cater motorcycles at the same time, specifically the BMW S1000RR.



BMW E36 M3 in United Kingdom

Established in May 1972 with 35 employees, it grew to 400 employees by 1988, and is currently an integral part of BMW's market presence. The first racing project was BMW’s 3.0 CSL.

After the success of BMW M products like BMW 3.0 CSL in racing venues and the growing market for high performance sports cars, M introduced cars for sale to the public. The first official M-badged car for sale to the public was the M1, revealed at the Paris Motor Show in 1978. The M1, however, was more of a racecar in domestic trim than an everyday driver. The direction of the M cars changed with the 1979 release of the M535i, which was a high performance version of BMW’s popular 5 Series mid-size sedan.

In 1993 BMW Motorsport GmbH changed their name to BMW M GmbH.

BMW Motorsport GmbH supplied the 6.1 litre V12 DOHC 48 valve engine that powers the McLaren F1, which, like its engine supplier and manufacturer, has enjoyed plenty of racing success, famously winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995, the first year of competition for the GTR racing variant.

Recent history

At present, BMW M has offered modified versions of nearly every BMW nameplate, except for the Z1, 7 Series flagship luxury sedan and the X1 compact crossover SUVs. There is no BMW M version of the 7 Series, as BMW did not want its flagship saloon to be powered by a high-revving engine, and as the recent top-performing versions (usually the BMW 760Li) have V12 engines which while powerful are considered too heavy for a sporty offshoot. So far the unofficial "BMW M7" is the Alpina B7, which is produced on BMW's assembly line though its engine and finishing touches are done by auto tuner Alpina. However, as BMW M shifted to turbocharged engines, there are rumors that there is an in-house BMW M7 in the works, and it is speculated that its performance may exceed that of the BMW 760Li and Alpina B7.

The BMW X5 and X6 sport activity vehicles received M derivatives for the 2010 model year onwards. These are the first M vehicles with xDrive four-wheel drive and automatic transmissions, and also the first M-badged SUV models. However, the E70 and E71 X5 and X6 M were actually developed by BMW Group rather than by BMW M.

Although these are considered the most well known in-house tuning divisions, BMW M has a considerably different philosophy than Mercedes-AMG. BMW M has emphasized tuning only vehicles with "Lateral agility" (which has long been the 3 Series, 5 Series, and roadsters), while AMG has created high-performance versions of many of its nameplates, including flagship sedans and SUVs. Accordingly, "an M car has to be responsive and fundamentally keen on turning as well as accelerating. The M5's technical spec is all about connecting the driver to a car that reacts blindingly fast, whatever request the driver hands down." Until the 2010 model year, BMW M has also never used supercharging or turbocharging, unlike Mercedes-AMG or Audi; for instance the E39 and E60 iterations of the BMW M5 (using naturally-aspirated engines) competed against the Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG (with a supercharged V8) and the Audi RS6 (twin-turbo).

BMW M vehicles typically used manuals and semi-automatic transmissions (the most recent type being a dual clutch transmission), in contrast to Mercedes-AMG which largely has automatic transmissions (the 7-speed AMG SpeedShift MCT, which is multi-clutch, but not a dual clutch transmission, was used on new models from 2009 onward). However, the North American market E36 M3s in sedan and convertible form were the first M-vehicles offered with a traditional torque-converter automatic transmission.

BMW M engines were traditionally large displacement naturally aspirated high revving engines, particularly the S85 V10 in the E60 M5 and E63 M6 and the related S65 V8 in the E90 M3. These are the most powerful engines BMW has ever built (not including the BMW S70/2) without supercharging or turbocharging, with an output of 100 hp per liter of displacement, and each has won numerous International Engine of the Year Awards. As late as the early 2000s, BMW regarded forced-induction (supercharging or turbocharging) as low-tech shortcuts to boosting horsepower, stating that this adds weight and complexity while reducing throttle response. BMW purists have noted that while forced induction and/or large displacement does produce more torque for better day-to-day driving, most of them like the "character" and sound of low displacement naturally aspirated engines with high redlines.

However, the late 2000s international regulations trends on reducing CO2 emissions and fuel consumption are cited as the reasons not to continue further development on naturally aspirated high redline engines. The N54 twin-turbo inline-6 which debuted in the 2007 BMW 335i (E90) gives almost equivalent performance to the E46 and E90 iterations of the BMW M3, while being much more practical and fuel-efficient as a daily driver. Starting with the X5 M and X6 M, and featured in the F10 M5, BMW used the twin-turbocharged S63 which not only produces more horsepower and torque, but is also more efficient than the S85 V10. Also unlike the S85 and S65 which do not share a design with non-M BMW engines, the S63 has significant parts commonality with the base N63 V8 engine (which is also has twin turbochargers) making them less expensive to build. At the present (2012), BMW has not considered supercharging yet.

As of the 2013 model year, the BMW M3 (E92/E93) is the only "traditional" M car left, as the rest of the M lineup features turbocharged engines, and the next iteration of the M3 (F80) and M4 (F82/F83) features a twin turbo straight-6 engine.

M-Cars vs. M-badged cars

There are several BMW models which BMW Motorsport made changes on, without them becoming M-Cars. This succession of styling (M-tech I, M-tech II) and performance cues came from BMW Motorsports; e.g. BMW 530i M packet or 325i M packet etc.

Vehicles which have been modified by BMW Motorsport, but are not full M Cars, may feature "M" badges, whilst full M Cars will have "M" badges with the model number (e.g., "M4" or "M5"). Two exceptions would be the M Roadster and M Coupe models, both Z3, Z4 and 1 Series variants, which only have an "M" badge with no number displayed on the trunk. These cars are full M Cars.

In recent years, there have been 'M'-badged accessories available on BMW's standard fleet as factory options or as part of the "M Sport" package (which is more expensive than the optional Sport package). Examples of this include the E39 and E60 5 series sedans which had optional aerodynamic packages that were strongly influenced by the M5's styling (for example, bumpers with larger intakes). It is not unusual to see "standard" BMW vehicles with "M" badges or ribbons accenting their design. The plain motorsports badge simply stands for the 'M-tech' upgrades equipped on the vehicle (e.g., suspension, brakes, looks or any other modification that has been developed by the M division), therefore the 'M' badge on these vehicles should not be confused with the true 'M' vehicles (except the Z-cars, as mentioned), as they are not fully fledged 'M' cars, just equipped with 'M'-tech upgrades. BMW has offered these 'M' options on their standard vehicles since the late 1970s which explains why these vehicles carry 'M' badges straight from the factory. In comparison, vehicle maker Audi also employs this same type of nomenclature. There are fully fledged 'S' models (S4, S5, S6, S7 and TTS), as well as an optional "S'-line package that can be equipped to their standard vehicle lineup.

An example of 'M'-badged vehicles in recent times include the E60 BMW 550i and E63 BMW 650i. The standard BMW 5 Series and 6 Series only had a choice of either a manual or automatic transmission, but the 'M' Sport package had an optional Sequential Sport Gearbox (SSG) (a gearbox similar to M5 and M6 (SMG) until after the 2007 model year.

M Performance models

Recently (2012) BMW has introduced a new category for 'M' cars, which was branded as the 'M' Performance. They are the first M diesel cars that BMW produces.

To date this includes the M550d in touring and saloon variants, the X6 M50d and X5 M50d which all share a 381 bhp 740NM triple turbo diesel engine, the former pair are only LHD drive markets currently due to the xDrive layout in the F10 series not being compatible with RHD markets (a RWD F10 M550d was mentioned by Auto Express but has not been confirmed). Official figures put the M550d xDrive’s 0-to-62-mph time at 4.7 seconds and top speed at 155mph (limited).The first petrol M Performance car is the M135i which is a 320 bhp 1 series car. M135i is available with rear- or all-wheel drive.

The M550d is available in both sedan and touring chassis, with a ZF 8HP eight-speed sport automatic transmission including auto start/stop function. Manual and non-sport automatic gearboxes are not available. Unique features on the M550d are the twin trapezoidal exhausts in dark chrome and both wing mirrors and air-intake bars in ferric grey. Other 5 series models have wing mirrors in the same colour as the rest of the vehicle. The front fog lamps, standard on all other F10/F11 5 series models are removed, to make space for additional air-intakes. The door-sill plates are also unique on this vehicle, having a "M550d" inscription. In addition, the F11 Touring model features air suspension on the rear axle, with automatic self-levelling.

Nothing yet has been announced as regards the F30 3 Series M Performance line up but BMW have trademarked (amongst many other monikers) M335, M340 and M350. Further to this M President Friedrich Nitschke has confirmed that the new triple turbo diesel engine will "easily fit" within the F30 engine bay but did not elaborate any further.

Nomenclature exceptions

  • The 2010 X5 and X6-based M vehicles bore their normal model designations followed by the "M" stripe badge (the X5 M and X6 M). Had the nomenclatures followed tradition, the vehicles would have an MX5 and MX6 model designation, already used by Mazda.
  • The Z3/Z4-based M Roadster and M Coupe bore numberless "M" badges as standard fitment.
  • The M635CSi followed the M535i naming tradition but was a fully fledged M-Car (the M6).
  • The BMW 1 Series-based M vehicle is called the BMW 1 Series M Coupe to avoid confusion with the original BMW M1.


Current Full M cars

  • M2 - F87 Coupe (2016 to present)
  • M4 - F82 Coupe, F83 Cabriolet (2014 to present)
  • M5 - F90 Sedan (2018 to present)
  • M8 - F92 Coupé, F91 Convertible (2019–present)
  • M8 - F93 Gran Coupé (TBA)
  • X3 M - F97 (2019 to present)
  • X4 M - F98 (2019 to present)
  • X5 M
  • X6 M

Current M Performance models

  • M135i xDrive – F40 five-door hatchback (2019 to present)
  • M240i and M240i xDrive - F22 coupe and F23 convertible (2016 to present)
  • M340i xDrive - G20 sedan and G21 wagon(2019 to present)
  • M550i xDrive and M550d xDrive - G30 sedan and G31 wagon (2017 to present)
  • M760Li xDrive - G12 sedan (2017 to present)
  • M850i xDrive - G14 convertible, G15 coupe and G16 four-door coupe (2019 to present)
  • X2 M35i - F39 (2019 to present)
  • X3 M40i and X3 M40d - G01 (2018 to present)
  • X4 M40i and X4 M40d - G02 (2018 to present)
  • X5 M50i and X5 M50d - G05 (2019 to present)
  • X6 M50i and X6 M50d - G06 (2019 to present)
  • X7 M50i and X7 M50d - G07 (2019 to present)
  • Z4 M40i - G29 (2019 to present)

Previous M cars

years model code capacity cylinder power body style global production total image
1978–1981 M1 E26 3.5 liters l6 204 kW (277 PS) Coupe 453 BMW M1, front right (Brooklyn).jpg
1980-1984 M535i E12 3.5 liter l6 160 kW (220 PS) Sedan with 4 doors 1,410 1981BMW M 535i (5969143588).jpg
1984-1989 M 635 CSi E24 3.5 liter l6 191 kW (260 PS) to
210 kW (290 PS)
Coupe 5,859 Bmw 6er sst.jpg
1985-1988 M535i E28 3.5 liter l6 136 kW (185 PS) to
160 kW (220 PS)
Sedan with 4 doors 9,483 1986 BMW M535i (E28) sedan (2015-06-04) 01.jpg
1985-1988 M5 E28 3.5 liter l6 210 kW (290 PS) Sedan with 4 doors 2,191 M5sig (E28).jpg
1986-1991 M3 E30 2.3 liter
2.5 liter
l4 143 kW (194 PS) to
175 kW (238 PS)
17,184 (Coupe)
786 (Convertible)
BMW M3 E30 front 20090514.jpg
1988-1995 M5 E34 3.6 liter
3.8 liter
l6 232 kW (315 PS) to
250 kW (340 PS)
Sedan with 4 doors
Station wagon (since 1992)
11,336 (Sedan);
891 (Station wagon)
BMW M5 (16249758041).jpg
1990 M8 E31 6.0 liter V12 410 kW (558 PS) Coupe 1 prototype  
1992-1999 M3 E36 3.0 liter
3.2 liter
l6 179 kW (243 PS) to
236 kW (321 PS)
Sedan with 4 doors
71,242 BMW M3 E36 coupe.jpg
1996-2002 M Roadster
M Coupe
3.2 liter l6 179 kW (243 PS) to
236 kW (321 PS)
6,318 (Coupe);
15,375 (Roadster)
BMW Z3 M - Flickr - Alexandre Prévot (cropped).jpg
1998-2003 M5 E39 5.0 liter V8 294 kW (400 PS) Sedan with 4 doors 20,482 BMW M5 (2002) - Flickr - The Car Spy (24).jpg
2000-2006 M3 E46 3.2 liter
4.0 liter (GTR)
252 kW (343 PS) to
279 kW (379 PS)
85,744 BMW M3 Coupé E46 (14245863196) (cropped).jpg
2005-2010 M5 E60
5.0 liter V10 373 kW (507 PS) Sedan with 4 doors
Station wagon (since 2007)
19,522 (Sedan);
1,025 (Station wagon)
BMW M5 E60 - Flickr - Alexandre Prévot (2) (cropped).jpg
2005-2010 M6 E63
5.0 liter V10 373 kW (507 PS) Coupe
Convertible (since 2006)
9,087 (Coupe);
5,065 (Convertible)
BMW M6 E63 - Flickr - Alexandre Prévot (15) (cropped).jpg
2006-2008 Z4 M Roadster
Z4 M Coupé
3.2 liter l6 252 kW (343 PS) Roadster
4,275 (Coupé);
5,070 (Roadster)
BMW Z4 M Roadster02.JPG
2007-2013 M3 E90
4.0 liter
4.4 liter (CRT & GTS)
V8 309 kW (420 PS)
331 kW (450 PS)
Sedan with 4 doors
9,606 + 68 M3 CRT (Sedan);
39,954 + 138 M3 GTS (Coupé);
16,219 (Convertible)
BMW M3 E92 - Flickr - Alexandre Prévot (8) (cropped).jpg
2011-2012 1M Coupe E82 3.0 liter l6 250 kW (340 PS) Coupe 6,342 BMW 1M - Flickr - Alexandre Prévot (7) (cropped).jpg
2009-2013 X5 M E70 4.4 liter V8 408 kW (555 PS) SAV 8,974 BMW X5M (9314586495).jpg
2009-2014 X6 M E71 4.4 liter V8 408 kW (555 PS) SAV 10,678 BMW X6 M (E71) – Frontansicht, 26. Juni 2011, Düsseldorf.jpg
2011-2016 M5 F10 4.4 liter V8 412 kW (560 PS) to 441 kW (600 PS) Sedan with 4 doors 19,533 BMW M5 F10 (8694398487).jpg
2012-2018 M6 F06/F12/F13 4.4 liter V8 412 kW (560 PS) to 441 kW (600 PS) Sedan with 4 doors
6,719 (Sedan with 4 doors);
4,515 (Coupe);
4,318 (Convertible)
2012 BMW M6 (F13) coupe (2018-11-27) 01.jpg
2013-2018 X5 M F85 4.4 liter V8 423 kW (575 PS) SAV 12,915  
2014-2018 M3 F80 3.0 liter l6 317 kW (431 PS) to 338 kW (460 PS) Sedan with 4 doors 33,414 + 1,263 M3 CS 2017 BMW M3 (F80) sedan (2018-08-31) 01.jpg
2014-2019 X6 M F86 4.4 liter V8 423 kW (575 PS) SAV 9,794 BMW X6 M (E71) – Frontansicht, 2. Juli 2011, Düsseldorf.jpg

M badged cars

All these cars are true BMW Motorsport models, not M-line sport models that bear BMW Motorsport features such as sport body kits, and interior specs.

  • E12 M535i (1979–1981) - Often considered the first mass production vehicle built by BMW Motorsport
  • E31 850CSi (1992–1996) - An M car in all but name; it had a BMW M–sourced engine and its VIN indicated that it was developed by BMW Motorsport, like all other M cars.

M engined cars

In the late 80s, due to prohibitive taxes for cars above 2.0 liters of engine displacement in Italy and Portugal, BMW decided to build the E30 320is as an alternative to the 2.3 liter M3. This car was equipped with a shorter stroke S14 engine and produced 192 PS. BMW produced a total of 3648 units between 9/1987 and 11/1990 of which a majority of 2542 units were made available in two door form (code name AK95). No catalytic converters were installed on this limited version. The steering rack, springs, shock absorbers, and brakes were similar to the normal E30 6 cylinder models (i.e. 325i) with sports suspension. The engine was mated to a Getrag 265 five-speed gearbox in dog-leg configuration.


Audi's RS models, Mercedes-Benz's AMG models, and more recently Lexus F model(s), are often reviewed in direct competition to a similarly-sized BMW M car, such as the Lexus IS-F vs. Audi RS4 vs. Mercedes C63 AMG vs. BMW M3.

In contrast to aftermarket tuners, Alpina BMW-based automobiles are currently mostly built by BMW on its production lines and are more comfort-oriented. Alpina is recognized as an automobile manufacturer and works very closely with BMW, sometimes participating in the development of BMW models and engines. Some Alpina models are even sold in North-America by BMW and either compete with the BMW M6 Gran Coupé, in the case of the Alpina B6 Gran Coupé, or replace them, in the case of the Alpina B7 as there is no M7 variant of the 7 Series to compete with the model.

BMW M also faces competition from several independent companies offering their own performance versions of BMW models; some performance packs can be retrofitted to existing cars while others are applied to new cars bought directly from BMW AG and converted prior to first registration. Such companies include Hamann Motorsport, Dinan Cars, G-Power, AC Schnitzer and Hartge.