Greatest BMW Special Editions

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Putting the ultimate in "Ultimate Driving Machine".

BMW has been a player in the automotive industry for over 100 years now. The German automaker's core is its premium sports sedans and racing heritage but extends into luxury cars as well as pure sports cars. Some of BMW's special edition cars have become the stuff of legend. Some showcase what BMW could do with a model for enthusiasts when unshackled by mass-market demand or final cost, while some demonstrate what BMW can do when it comes to outright performance when pushing the envelope on technology. These are the BMW special editions we hold closest to our hearts and, in some cases, would entertain the idea of putting our kids on eBay for the opportunity to own.

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1. 1990 E30 Generation M3 Sport Evolution

The 1990 M3 Sport Evolution is a Holy Grail car. Only 600 were built to homologate the car for Group A competition, and its bodywork only shares the hood with the standard E30 M3 model. The track is wider, and it sits on 18-inch wheels while the front anti-roll bar is linked to the upgraded struts, which are aided by stiffer springs. The S14B25 four-cylinder engine made a little less torque than the standard model but made 238 horsepower at 7,000 rpm - which was phenomenal at the time. It also hit the road with thinner glass, extra cooling ducts, and a more open grille, replacing the fog lights, and adding an adjustable rear wing.

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BMW
BMW

2. 1976 E12 BMW 530 MLE

The E12-generation 530 MLE was a homologation special, and you could argue on a technicality that it was the first BMW M5. Just 110 versions of the BMW 530 MLE were built in 1976 to meet the requirements for South Africa's Modified Production Series, and very few have survived. The one in the pictures did, though, and BMW recently restored it to all of its race-car-for-the-road glory, including the 3.0-liter inline-6 making 197 hp and 204 lb-ft of torque. In collector terms, the E12 530 MLE is as close to priceless as a BMW can get.

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BMW
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BMW

3. 2016 BMW 435i ZHP Coupe Edition

The BMW 435i ZHP Coupe Edition pays homage to the ZHP package that was available in the US market for the E46 BMW 3 Series. The 330 ZHP added ten horsepower, a suspension upgrade, and a bunch of BMW performance parts. While it's often called the "poor man's M3," the ZHP model filled an essential gap between the 330 and M3 for enthusiasts.

Like the E46 ZHP, the 435i ZHP Coupe Edition is a more aggressive take on on the 435i. It starts with a 35 hp and, depending on your choice of automatic or manual transmission, a 32- or 17 lb-ft bump respectively, resulting in outputs of 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque on auto models and 317 lb-ft on the manuals. The 100 435i ZHP Coupe Editions made also got a limited-slip differential, BMW's Track Handling Package, 18-inch Orbit Gray V-Spoke wheels, M Sport Brakes, Adaptive M Suspension, and Variable Sport Steering. On top of that, it got the M-Sport Aerodynamics Package and came with either Alpine White or Black Sapphire Metallic paint.

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BMW

4. BMW E46 M3 GTR

This is another Holy Grail car from the BMW special edition back catalog. The BMW E46 M3 GTR appeared in 2001 and was the first M3 to feature a V8 engine under the hood. It was built to homologate the American Le Mans M3 GTR after Porsche complained BMW didn't have the race car's V8 in a road car.

BMW didn't just put a V8 in the road going car though, and, along with the dry-sump engine making 382 horsepower at 7,000 rpm, the drivetrain also featured a twin-disc clutch connecting it to a 6-speed manual gearbox and variable locking M differential. The chassis was also stiffened, and the suspension was directly derived from the race car.

The roof, rear spoiler, hood vents, and front and rear fascias were all constructed of carbon fiber reinforced plastic to lighten the E46 M3 GTR. The front and rear fascias were redesigned, and the rear wing was added to lift at high speed. The bad news is that only intended to build ten, and only ever ended up allegedly building six road-going cars with the V8, three of which were development cars and the other three of which were retained for the BMW factory.

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BMW
BMW

5. BMW F80 Generation M3 CS

The 2018 BMW M3 CS is the ultimate expression of the M3 so far. It starts with the engine, which is boosted from 444 hp to 453 hp. That's a modest bump, but the S55 twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six peaks at 443 lb-ft of torque compared to the 406 lb-ft of the M3 Competition model. It'll hit zero to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, but there's a wonderful excess of power available all the time when you drive it and the revs peak at 7,600 rpm. Just about everything on the M3 CS was tweaked to make the 1,200 versions (550 destined for the USA) of the M3 built even sharper and more exhilarating to drive.

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CarBuzz

6. BMW 760 Li Sterling

In 2013, BMW showed off a car from the BMW Individual department in partnership with Robb & Berking silversmiths. The long-wheelbase version of the BMW 7 Series is already luxurious, but the BMW 760 Li Sterling is a whole new level of opulence on four wheels. The signature BMW grille and side trim pieces are finished in 925 sterling silver, as is the tailpipe embellishment, model badging, and the trim strip on the trunk lid. On the inside, all of the door handles and trim strips are also finished in 925 sterling silver. It could be ordered in Singapore Grey paint only, but the Merino leather interior had various color options.

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BMW

7. 2003 E46 Generation BMW M3 CSL

CSL stands for "Coupe Sport Lightweight," and the E46 BMW M3 CSL is another contender for the best M3 model yet. In the 2000s, BMW was at the height of its powers, but this model called back to the BMW 3.0 CSL homologation special model from 1971. It featured a modified version of the S54 inline-six delivered a much quicker engine response and made 355 hp at 7,900 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm.

The lightweight part of CSL is delivered using carbon-fiber. The roof is reinforced with the lightweight material and weighs 13 lbs less than the standard M3's roof. It's also used for the lower valence, and other weight-saving materials are used in various places, including sheet molding compound for the trunk lid and thinner glass for the rear window. Overall, BMW claims the E46 BMW M3 CSL weighs 3,054 lbs, which is close to 10% less than the standard M3. It also got performance upgrades like stiffer suspension, and only 1,383 were built.

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BMW

8. BMW M8 Individual Manufaktur Edition

After almost a 20-year hiatus, BMW's 8 Series grand tourer is back, and its got a serious dose of attitude. To celebrate, BMW M and, for some reason, BMW Canada got together to create the BMW M8 Individual Manufaktur Edition. Nobody quite knows why Canada was the first stop for a special edition of the M8, but we can't deny the 20 built are stunning looking machines. There are two versions, and the Fire Red Edition pays homage to the original M8 Coupe prototype from the early 1990s while the Frozen Black Edition is; basically, BMW showing off. There's no change in power, but the inside of both versions are decked out in exclusive two-tone Sakhir Orange/Black Full Merino Leather with Sakhir Orange contrast stitching throughout.

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BMW

9. BMW E92 Generation M3 GTS

While BMW has some slick engineering solutions to making cars lighter, they took a more brutal approach to the road-going E92 M3 GTS. Out came the rear seats, the center console, the sound system, the door trim, and on the 150 intended to be built, (BMW is hazy on the number but suggests only 135 were delivered) air-conditioning was optional. In race car fashion, the back and rear side glass have been replaced with polycarbonate. With no stereo, the only soundtrack is the ultralight titanium exhaust system singing the tune of a 444 hp bored out 4.4-liter engine revving out to 8,300 rpm. It also came with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and the bright orange paint didn't stop the M3 GTS from being sold out almost the moment it was announced.

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BMW
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BMW

10. BMW 1M Coupe

Originally, BMW only planned to make only 2,700 units of the BMW 1 Series M Coupe, but it was popular, so BMW made 6,309 in total through 2011. Then, that was it for the small car that quickly got a reputation as one of BMW's most driver-focused cars to date. Despite being around $10,000 less expensive than the next M car BMW was making, it delivered serious chops from the 335 horsepower turbocharged straight-six engine to the 2.9 inches wider track at the rear and extra 1.8 inches at the front.

Technically, the 1 Series M Coupe was a production car, but its low numbers and reputation as one of BMW's finest M cars have built made it a collectible, and clean versions haven't lost any money from their initial sticker price.

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