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The Top 5 BMW M cars

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Welcome to Friday. A reader notices some of my recent M complaints, so let’s make this one a happy question about my top five BMW M cars.

Hit me up!

Question

I’ve been following along for awhile. Seems like you’re not a fan of the 1M, the M4 GTS, and the E39 M5. What gives?

Do you actually like any M cars? (har har – Mike). Do you have any favorites?

– Luke

Answer

Ah, Luke, you bring up a good point – I do not like some of BMW M’s recent efforts. That mostly comes from what expectations are, vs the reality of driving and owning the car itself.

But there have been plenty of good M cars., so I’ll give you a a list of my top five modern BMW M cars. If you’re looking for an M1 or E30 M3 on here, keep looking. I can only rate cars I’ve driven.

#5 – The E60 M5

E60 M5

I think this is an odd M car. It’s not very good-looking, with its Kabuki Theater face. The SMG transmission was atrocious, yet BMW needed to have its arm twisted to give us a manual option. Never really felt that luxurious either, considering it was one of the most expensive M cars of its time.

But all of that goes away when you start this car. BMW’s first and only V-10, it sounded…well, here, listen:

How glorious is that? With a proper exhaust setup, it stimulates like nothing else on the road. Meant to tie into BMW’s F1 program at the time, I think it was a brilliant move. The engine was so good in fact, that it made you forget about the mediocrity of the rest of the car. Made you forget about the E39’s V-8 too.

So really, it isn’t so much the E60 that’s amazing on its own. If you strapped the S85 to a shopping cart, then the BMW M Shopping Cart would be number five on this list.

#4 – The F87 M2 Competition

BMW M2

If the E60 M5 was all about the engine, the M2 was about everything else. The chassis was so good, what you expect from M’s lightest and smallest car from the F years. Looked great too, and improved upon the lowly 1M in every regard.

But the cheapness was evident in the original car. No “S” motor? Seats from a 3 Series? Come on guys, give us the good stuff. Then they did.

The M2 Competition was so good, it made me wonder why you’d need an F82 M4. Sure the S55 was down a little on power here, but you never noticed. Take it to a track, then pick up your date. Pulling up in one might get the stink eye from Dad because you have a loud exhaust and you’re ’bout dat drift life, but just walk her to the door and you’ll be fine.

I’m sure the new G87 will be better, and it already feels more refined inside. But it weighs as much as an M3. Gone will be that go kart-like feel. I’ll go ahead and call it – the original E30’s lineage ends here.

#3 – The G8X M3 and M4

g80-m3

A BMW 3 Series is a good car. It’s packaged so well and does everything you want. If the world was more 330i and less Toyota Camry, we’d all be much happier.

So here comes the G80. People that turn it into their “special” car and don’t daily it might just miss the point. It’s M5-comfortable inside. Choose all-wheel drive to take advantage of the power and crush snow into pulp (just add winter tires). There’s never any reason to leave it home.

The engine too – maybe their best inline-six yet. It’s hard to miss the DCT when the ZF here feels so smooth and precise. Pick up the kids from school, then take the long way home. I do.

The biggest criticism I can level at the car will always be that it feels less “M3” and more “best 3 Series available”. Understand that difference, use it to your advantage, and you can have the best daily driver ever made.

#2 – The F90 M5

F90 M5

If the G80 is the best 3 Series, than the F90 M5 is the best 5 Series. M cars used to have engines and chassis that sounded and felt so much different from their regular counterparts. Can you imagine a V-10 in this thing today?

Of course, the S63 underhood is amazing, as it always is. But this car is all about being effortless.

No other M car has such a dual nature built in. Pick up your mother-in-law from the airport, and she’s none-the-wiser. Once that’s over with, put the car in Sport + and head for the nearest back road. Just make sure it’s a back road with a speed limit of super sonic.

The CS takes that goodness and adds more – including more special. Those lights. Those seats. That paint. Even a bit more power. Looks like no other M car before. It’s the only CS or CSL model that makes me go “ohh”.

It doesn’t make sense to track a car that weighs 4,300 lbs, and yet I can tell you that the F90 handles it all so well.

If I could only have one single car in my garage for the rest of my life, this easily tops the list.

#1 – The E9X M3

e92-m3

Let’s say you took alllllll the M cars from the past 20 years, broke them up, and mixed the parts together in a giant bowl. Then, you put it in the oven baked it at about ohh, 414. Ding! Your E9X is ready.

It is by no means the best at any single thing, but it is really good at everything. A special engine, just about as special as the V-10, brings something really unique to this car. It’s why the E46 M3 isn’t on this list. Why would you want that one, with its buzzy S54, when you could have this?

The DCT works the best here of any M car, probably because it was designed specifically for the S65. But it’s just as fun with a manual.

Let downs? The seats aren’t the best. They are at all-time silly prices right now. And the chassis was simply meh. Not bad, but so soft compared to an F80 that would come later.

You can fix all those things. But the goodness that’s baked in – oh no, you can’t add that to any other M car. Maybe a shopping cart though.

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