Our Favorite Limited Production M3 Variants

Posted by Andrew Snyder on

In honor of Michelin retiring their E36 M3 LTW test car, we wanted to run down our top 5 limited editions of BMW M Cars. Because one letter just isn’t enough, right?

E30 M3 Sport Evolution

BMW's first attempt at a more hardcore version of the M3 led them to reduce weight and create a more precise machine in the E30 Sport Evolution. The Sport Evo cars went through numerous revisions, often referred to by numbers (i.e. sport evo II, III, etc.) but the formula remained the same: lighter on its feet and more power to the rear wheels. Standard Sport Evo treatment included a bored out, 2.5-liter version of the S14 and lightweight body panels and glass. Fog lights were gone and instead replaced by air ducts to cool the brakes. Adjustable front and rear splitters complimented by a large motorsport style rear wing completed the race-ready M3’s exterior appearance. Inside, luxuries were again omitted, but could be added as options. Less than 600 of the Sport Evolutions were made and as usual, the United States market was deprived of the most desirable enthusiast model of the range.

E36 M3 LTW

 

The E36 LTW is a somewhat forgotten version of the M3. With less than 200 units made for the United States, it is pretty likely that you will never see one of these machines on the road. Although now fetching prices over $100,000 for pristine examples, when BMW brought the M3 LTW to the states in 1995, they practically had to give them away. Dealers were offered incentives and rebates after the sale to get rid of these cars. The lack of amenities and a higher price point when compared to the standard M3 tended to drive buyers away from the LTW.

The LTW in the name stands for lightweight, and the E36 went on a pretty significant diet in order to live up to that moniker. Gone were such superfluous luxuries such as a/c and a radio. The E36 eschewed these features to keep weight to a minimum and enhance the driving experience. Manually adjusted, cloth seats were the only option available. The exterior of the LTW benefitted from an adjustable front splitter and aluminum door skins, and was finished in Alpine white with the Tricolor M racing flag painted in the front and rear of the car. This M3 was such a pure driving machine that Michelin used an LTW for the past 17 years as a test bed for new tire technology.

 

E46 M3 CSL

Coupe, sport, lightweight: the recipe behind the E46 M3 CSL. Before you ask: yes, BMW took the CSL under the knife to shed some weight. And yes, it is awesome. The CSL took the mantra of lightweight to another level and increased power while they were at it. Instead of aluminum, carbon fiber was used in many areas of the car. Interior amenities were kept to a bare minimum. One of the most interesting choices BMW made was to only offer the CSL with their SMG automated manual transmission. Most enthusiasts would prefer a manual, but the SMG can shift faster and more precise than a human ever could. The SMGs brutal, lightning quick shifts complimented the CSLs character nicely. The CSL enjoyed a higher production volume than some of the earlier lightweight editions, but yet again, no USA version (seeing a pattern here?)

E92 M3 GTS

The M3 GTS again used the tried and true formula of shedding weight, but did so in a more conventional manner. Many lightweight materials were used but the bulk of the weight was lost by removing the center console and rear seats (although a standard issue fire extinguisher and factory roll cage ate into those weight savings). The E92 GTS saved around 100 pounds compared to standard M3s. The real peach of the GTS is the reworked S65 under the hood. Bored out to 4.4 liters, the GTS produces 30 more horsepower and an additional 30 lb-ft of torque on its way to a blistering sub 4 second 0-60 time and a top speed of over 190 mph.  The GTS only comes in a bright orange color, and only comes equipped with the 7-speed M-DCT to match. Yet again, American buyers must look elsewhere.

F82 M4 GTS

Finally! The souped up M-variant the states have been waiting for since the E36 LTW! BMW took the standard M4 and yet again put it on a diet. The most interesting feature of the GTS has to be the water injection system fitted to the S55 under the hood. By injecting water into the combustion chamber, temperatures can be greatly reduced. These cooler temperatures help power the S55 to an additional 49 horsepower over the standard M4. Lightweight materials and suspension and braking upgrades complete the track ready beast that is the M4 GTS.


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