Every BMW M3 Sports Car Ranked Best to Worst

  • The E46 BMW M3 is the best one ever made
  • BMW’s newest M3 is simply too controversial to take the top spot
  • The F80 generation M3 is a usable sports car with modern amenities

Let’s talk BMW. Rather, let’s talk BMW M3. In the eyes of many, it’s the sports car from the Fatherland. Bimmer has been making their racing machine since 1986. Over those many long years, the M3 has undergone many changes. In the eyes of some, too many. Apparently, Doug DeMuro feels the same. He put out a video ranking every single one. But I have some problems with it.

A black BMW E36 M3 shot in profile
The E36 M Car | Yianni Mathioudakis via unsplash

But the E36 generation isn’t one of the problems I have with DeMuro’s list. He’s got this one right. It’s probably the least “M” 3 Series out there. That’s largely due to the fact that across the model’s run (1992-1999), those of us in America got burned. Like the everywhere-but-America Toyota GR Yaris, we didn’t get the cool one. Euro-spec M3’s got the hotter S50 inline-six that made 282 hp to our piddling 240 hp from a detuned straight-six. But, credit where it’s due, the E36 did introduce the classic inline-six layout still present in M Cars today.

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BMW’s E30 M3 is too overpriced to be worthy

A red E30 BMW M3 sports car shot from the front 3/4
1989 BMW M3 | National Motor Museum via Getty Images

The much-worshipped E30 BMW M3 is where I disagree with Doug. DeMuro says the OG M Car is the best one ever. I don’t think it is, but not because it’s a bad car. In fact, it’s a great M3. But the problem with it is that the values of E30 M3s (even E30s as a whole) as gone absolutely insane. As Doug points out, even a relatively nice example is now a six-figure car. Frankly, the E30 M3 is just not a six-figure driving experience. Maybe the hype will die down one day. That 192 hp S14 four-cylinder is too special to be confined to the top tax bracket buyers.

The F80 M Car isn’t a classic sports car- yet

A yellow F80 shot from the front 3/4
The F80 | Zuka Zurabishvili via unsplash

Another sticking point between Doug and myself. The F80 generation BMW M3 sits in 5th place on Doug’s list. I think it’s better than that. And yes, better than the E30, if only because these cars can actually be had for a reasonable sum of money. Though, as Doug says, many are heavily modified now. This car sits at the very end of a line that encompasses the E46 and E92; just modern enough to be usable, and still fun and analog. This is the sports car you can use every day, something the brand’s perennial sports car has come to symbolize.

You know why the 2022 BMW G80 isn’t the best M Car ever

A green 2022 G80 shot from the front 3/4 in London
BMW’s new G80 M Car | Eugene Tkachenko via unsplash

Ok. Let’s get this out of the way. The M3’s new kidney grille isn’t for everyone. I certainly don’t like it, but I do see the community coming around to it. Doug ranks it as the 3rd best BMW M3 ever. He says it’s the last of the truly analog M’s. He might be right. 5 years from now a big-motor, RWD, stick shift, sports car won’t be such a common thing. For that, I’ve got to give the new kid credit. It also manages to take the usability of the previous generations into the modern age. Plus, 400+ hp ain’t a bad thing.

The E92 BMW M3 is a time bomb, but at least its fun

A white E92 BMW shot from the front headlights in black and white
E92 M3 | Nathan Mendes via unsplash

Fourth on Doug’s list is the E92 M3. He and I can agree that the E92 is a massive money pit. Where we disagree is the M3’s V8. Doug says the V8’s 8,300 RPM redline is useless because you’ll be too afraid to get there on account of the reliability. Moreover, he says the V8’s lack of low-end torque eliminates the purpose of the engine. But 414 hp is still a lot, and the S65 V8 is a truly special engine wrapped in a truly special package. The market reflects that, and values are rapidly climbing.

The E46 BMW M3 is the best M3 ever

A silver E46 BMW M3 sports car shot from the front 3/4
The E46 coupe | National Motor Museum via Getty Images

Of course, that leaves the E46 BMW M3. Doug puts it into the #2 spot. He cites the reliability (rod bearings, VANOS, etc.) as the primary reason for leaving it out of the #1 spot. However, so long as those issues are resolved, the drive is more than enough reward. It embodies everything the M3 stands for: usable performance, practicality, and understated style. It’s just a shame the market reflects that, as these too are becoming far too pricey. For now, at least, the price still justifies the experience. We’ll have to see if that list changes as the market recognized one of the best German sports cars out there.

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