Here’s how the US spec E36 M3 saved the M brand despite being less powerful than the ‘real’ M3


BMW’s M division is one of the largest in automotive history. He brought speed to the masses and both created and contributed to some of the most spectacular cars ever built. A car that is not often as praised is the US specification E36 M3 as it is not as powerful as the version sold outside the US. But now Jason Cammisa is arguing that not only is it the one to have, it saved the M brand in America.

It’s also a heated debate as many hardcore BMW fans will argue that the E36 M3 we received here isn’t a ‘real’ M3. This same debate continues to this day now that BMW has started selling cars with M-Sport packages, but it started with the E36. And that’s understandable to some extent because the car that came to America produced 240 hp (178 kW) compared to the European spec car which produced 316 hp (235 kW).

Why the difference? Well, BMW had a hard time selling the E30 M3 here in America and there was a sincere concern that the E36 would suffer from the same slow sales. So BMW sold it with the same engine as the regular 325i but with more displacement and different cams. This kept the cost and final price lower while providing more power than the 325i.

Also Read : BMW Introduces Only E36 M3 Compact Factory Ever Built

The result was an M3 that sold so well that BMW struggled to make them fast enough for the US market. It sold about three times more than originally expected. Then the North American branch of BMW convinced the headquarters to build a four-door variant which later sold even better than the coupe. This is how much the North American market has impacted the M brand.

Oh, and there’s another big difference: reliability. As Cammisa points out, just like many other high-revving M engines, the S50 has serious maintenance issues that American cars don’t have to worry about, including but not limited to spun bearings. So yeah, maybe the US didn’t get the stick shortcut after all. They end the video below with a drag race and guess what, these cars come out neck and neck despite the power difference.

Main image credit: Hagerty on YouTube



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