BMW’s M Division launched back in the early 1970s to bring the brand’s iconic motorsport race cars to the road, to allow the average Joe to experience what it’s like to be sitting behind the wheel of one of the world’s best handling and performing vehicles in the world. This statement requires no debate; its slogan has always been and will forever be “the ultimate driving machine”. Straight away, I’m going to put this to rest; this list contains no SUVs or the BMW X range. A vehicle with the centre of gravity of a skyscraper cannot be an all-around M car; it simply isn’t worth my effort or time for this top 10 list. That’s with the nonsense put to rest. Let’s begin.
1: BMW M5 CS
BMW’s M5 range has been around for what feels like a thousand years, and year after year, they’ve found ways to improve it and make it that much better. Think of the M5 as a chilli sauce; now and then, they’ll release a newer and improved recipe version, still consisting of the same ingredients but with an added twist to keep you coming back for more. That’s exactly what the BMW M5 is and their latest M5 CS model, which I pretty much wrote a lengthy love letter about recently, just about tops everything on the market currently. Its 4.4 litres twin-turbo V8 packs a mighty punch, and the added cosmetic, interior and performance improvements over the standard M5 makes it worthwhile paying extra for it. The M5 CS is the pinnacle of BMWs engineering capabilities as of right now, and I’ve got a feeling that they’re only just getting started.
2: BMW M2 CS
The M2 CS is the love child of the old BMW 1M and the M3, and it is a match made in heaven. It is packed with the same engine found in the M3 CS, and honestly, god only knows how BMW has managed to cram that massive engine into that tiny car. I’ve said this before; the M2 CS is what the M3 should’ve been in a way. It’s small, compact and mighty powerful. It is a toy for the grown adult, but at the same time, it is a rather practical car that requires no tuning or modifications since it’s already perfect straight out of the factory. If anyone wants to modify it and add more power, you honestly either have steel balls or a death wish. Whichever way to look at it thought, the M2 CS will not be a disappointment to own. It pushes the envelope for small performance cars; it opened up a new market and created a new demand. That is why the M2 CS is on this list.
3: BMW M8
When I heard about the BMW M8, this is what the i8 should’ve been. Had the i8 been made to look and been powered in the same way as the M8 and albeit with a hybrid configuration. Without a shadow of a doubt, it has probably been one of the best cars in the world. However, the M8 is just the perfect Grand Tourer; it’s much cheaper than its rivals though it doesn’t sacrifice anything. It’s perfectly comfortable and quiet when need is, but a complete mile muncher and track killer when you want to have some fun. Its handling capabilities with x drive make it the perfect allrounder; I admit the crystal gear lever (optional extra) can be a bit much. Though I have grown to like it, and all in all, the M8 breaks into the Grand Touring world with style and much presence.
4: BMW 1M
I was still a teenager when I saw the 1M for the first time on Top Gear, and when it was put into certain video games, it was my go-to choice to drive it. Sure it looks a little swollen and a tad wide, but for a car introduced at the turn of the decade, it was something magically new and completely different. A super-fast, support hot coupe that was strapped with a 3.0 litre inline 6 was just unheard of. No wonder it is so sought after and has gone up in value, as the car speaks for itself. It’s rare, unique, and whoever owns one is driving a piece of history. The 1M also sparked the creations of the M135i, the M140i and the mighty M2; and for that, the BMW 1M sits comfortably on this list.
5: BMW M3 GTS
The E92 M3 with that naughty naturally aspirated V8 was the noise that summed up the late noughties. The summer of 2007 was filled with bankers, playboys and boy racers hooning around blasting the V8 soundtrack. The iDrive system back then was beyond crap, absolutely useless and laggy. Thankfully the iDrive system now is top-notch and the best in the business. Though an M3 was never bought for the comfort or the iDrive system, it was purchased for the performance, racing pedigree and driving feel. This leads me onto the M3 GTS; BMW took the standard M3 and literally turned into an absolute beauty. Only 150 were ever made, making it one of the rarest BMW M models ever produced. It was a hard choice between choosing the M3 GTS and the M3 E46 CSL, but ultimately the M3 GTS is a far better, more powerful and better-looking model. The impressive thing about the M3 GTS is that it went up against its more expensive rival, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, and it held its crown. The GTS cost a fair bit cheaper than the GT3 RS back then, but now, it’s considered a classic and has gone up quite a fair bit in value. Overall, the M3 GTS showed precisely what BMW is capable of; it was much faster, sharper and more aggressive than its standard counterpart. While also showing that you didn’t need to compromise everything to have fun for a fair priced value at the time of the recession.
6: BMW M760Li
Every car enthusiast has demanded and been desperately waiting for an M version of their top of the range luxury limousine; Mercedes has the S63 and S65 AMG, Audi has the S8 and the A8 W12. So where’s BMWs answer. Well, here it is, the M760Li. It is precisely an M7 that we’ve been waiting for, but it does come with plenty of M badges on it, so it must be true, right? The V12 powerhouse is what’s impressive the most for a cruise ship on wheels power and performance aren’t an issue. It will beat most sports cars off the line, even some Porsches. The suspension is a little firmer than your standard luxury limousine, but you’ll be able to forgive it as the interior is just sublime to be in. They are drenched in comfort, luxury and carbon. It is the vehicle of choice when driving to Monaco, and the new 760Li will also turn heads with its controversial design and appeal. The 760Li is on this list as it packs the M badge pedigree the performance, and it is a highly underrated car.
7: BMW M5 E39
Where do I begin? I remember being a young lad when I saw this driving around town. Every time I saw someone getting out of one, I honestly thought it was a mafia hitman; the car had presence, styling, and a car’s appeal to be taken seriously. It was a no joke and no laughing matter. This M5 launched around the turn of the century; BMW wanted to leave its mark; equipped with a mighty 4.9 litre V8 that made almost 400 bhp and 370 lb-ft of torque. That’s powerful even by today’s standard, and it ignited the power war between Audi, Mercedes and BMW. Sure Audi and Mercedes answered, but they were no match for the E39 M5; thus, the E39 M5 will forever be remembered and regarded as one of the all-time greats.
8: BMW M5 E60
Another M5 that will also be remembered as one of the all-time greats is its younger brother, E60 M5, launched a mere five years after the E39. Though it meant business, the E39 M5 was no joke, but the E60 M5 was a no-nonsense monster. It had a Formula 1 derived 5 litre V10, a V10 in a family saloon. It was insane; the soundtrack alone sounded like Hercules undertaking one of his Labours. The exhaust note became so iconic that everyone knew about the E60 M5, though it wasn’t perfect. It had a rod bearing issues that meant that the entire engine would go when it went, and the price of a new V10 from BMW from some sources quoted between £15 to £30k for the engine alone. Having an extended warranty for this was a must, being honest, though, the E60 M5 was a car you would love to see others drive but not own yourself. It was unreliable, the iDrive system was useless, and it wasn’t that good looking of a car. Above all else, though, it was a beautiful piece of engineering. It’s a car with a heart of gold and soul; for that reason, it has a place in our hearts and on this list.
9: BMW M3 E30
No top 10 list is complete without including the most significant hit, the BMW M3 E30. Honestly, this needs no introduction or description. We all know the E30 M3 by default has a place on this list; it was the first-ever 3 series to carry the M3. It kickstarted the sports saloon, and all the other M3 models can be traced back to this ancestor. The older you get, the better this thing becomes. Sure it wasn’t that powerful, fast or practical. But it made BMW what it is and ignited the Ultimate Driving Machine.
10: BMW M1
Last of them all is the daddy, the one that started it all and inspired not only the i8 but the M8 as well. The BMW M1 launched back in 1978 and was co-developed with Lamborghini, and it was a joint project that kickstarted the entire BMW M range. Funny to think that Lamborghini was involved in the creation of the BMW M range. However, the engine was solely built by BMW and was a 3.5-litre inline six-cylinder. 0-62 mph was achieved around 5.6 seconds and went onto a top speed of 161 mph, making 274 bhp and 239 lb-ft of torque. At the time, the BMW M1 was the fastest BMW production car that the company had ever made. The BMW M1 holds its place in the list as it is the ancestor of all its successors; it started the entire BMW M range and was the sole vehicle that helped establish the M brand and inspired the cars that we love today.