In search for more power, a V8 engine was planted at the front of the slickest and most digitized M3 so far.
At the 2007 Geneva Motor Show, the E90 M3 made its first public appearance, but was lightly disguised as a concept. Six months later the first and likely only M3 with a V8 engine (bar past racing M3s) was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in its coupe version (E92). The sedan (E90) and hard top convertible (E93) versions were to follow a few months later. As with all of its predecessors, the M3's configuration remained front-engine and rear- wheel-drive.
Installing a V8 engine in an iconic BMW model was probably a traumatic experience for traditionalists, but a happy one for Teutonic engineers who had been wanting more horsepower for their most important sports car. Its S65 engine is derived from the 5.0-liter V10 engine that powered the E60/E61 M5 and was developed with some input from the V10 Formula 1 engine that represented the manufacturer in F1 racing during the previous decade. The engine weighed 33 lbs. less than the outgoing six-cylinder and its output stood at 420hp at 8300 rpm and maximum torque of 295lb-ft at 3900 rpm was squeezed from the naturally aspirated power plant.
Acceleration from a standing start to 62 mph took 4.8 seconds and top speed was once again electronically limited to 155 mph. A six-speed manual gearbox came standard and an optional seven-speed Getrag double-clutch gearbox was optional. It reduced shift pauses to less than a tenth of a second and shortened the car's 0-62 mph sprint time by 0.2 seconds verses the manual. Befitting some 21st century creativity, electronic and digital equipment and many other gizmos became prominent features. Those traits of slickness and sophistication were also evident in the car's sleeker exterior design.
The kidney grill received a treatment that softened its corners and the headlamps were elegantly built into the bodywork and were made of two halogen bulbs. The front bumper received three air intakes, the air vents were cut behind the front wheels and two air vents were also cut in the hood. In addition, four exhaust pipes were threatening things from behind. It wasn't flamboyant styling but rather a solid one in which the designers were quite sure of their goals. The front axle was designed as a double-strut and all of its components were made of aluminum. The rear suspension was a five-link arrangement of a lightweight construction.
More weight was saved by using a high-performance braking system with compound discs. The rear axle was equipped with the variable M differential lock which could provide up to 100 percent locking power and therefore ensure optimum traction. Also included were Servotronic power steering, a high-performance braking system with all-round vented discs and an electronically managed Dynamic Stability Control. An option of selecting the Electronic Damper Control was also available. The CRP roof also weighed significantly less than a steel equivalent.
This further reduced total weight and contributed significantly to a reduced center of gravity which improved cornering performance. As with previous generations, the new M3 couldn't avoid the racetrack. "Sportiness is undoubtedly in the genes of the series model of the BMW M3," exclaimed BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen. "That's what motivated us to develop a racing version of this car." The M3 GT4 was almost a road car, though it was aimed at privateers while the M3 GT2 was for professional racing drivers and teams, long distance racing and was also used to compete as a works car.
The GT2 version boasts a 500hp engine and that power unit propelled it to overall victory at the 2010 24 Hours at the Nurburgring and numerous other prestigious races. An M3 GTS, directed toward club sport, and was powered by the V8 but with increased displacement, 4.3-liters, and enhanced output at 450hp. It also has an optimized seven-gear M DCG Drivelogic gearbox as well as modified chassis technology combined with strategic optimizations in aerodynamics and lightweight design. The car's top speed is 190 mph, which certainly isn't too bad for a Sunday racer.
With a new M3 due to arrive sometime next year, the E90/91/92 will forever be remember as the only M3 generation equipped with a V8 in all versions, regardless of whether it was for the road or track. A twin-turbocharged inline-six will likely power the new car, and all reports are indicating it will be even more powerful than the outgoing V8. Editor's Note: This was the final portion of our featured BMW M Evolution series. We hope everyone enjoyed it.