As a car enthusiast, you’ve probably thought of the one car you would buy if you had a certain amount of money – and no strings attached.
For me, if I had R500,000 and was told to buy any car – no matter the insurance premiums, maintenance costs, or fuel economy – I would buy a second-hand E92 BMW M3.
The M3 sports sedan is one of the most well-known ranges in the world and is widely regarded as the gauge for what a sedan should be capable of.
It might not be the absolute fastest in a straight line or the most nimble around corners, but give it everyday car challenges and see how it trumps the competition.
In this iconic line of vehicles, the E92 was the fourth iteration – and the last to be naturally aspirated.
Below its hood lies an F1-inspired 4.0-litre V8 engine for which the designers had to add a power bulge on the bonnet – which serves to give the E92 M3 its signature soundtrack and 8,000rpm redline.
Thanks to this 202kg mammoth of a motor, the car was able to generate 309kW of power – only 8kW less than its F80 M3 successor – and 400Nm of torque.
The job of delivering all this power to the rear wheels was given to a 6-speed manual transmission, or the newly-developed, 7-speed M dual-clutch transmission with Drivelogic.
Both did quite well, as acceleration to 100km/h could be achieved in 4.6 seconds.
Since the E92 was released alongside many technological revolutions in automobiles at the time, it also featured numerous advances that were firsts to the bloodline.
For example: it received intelligent energy management system with brake energy regeneration, as well as an adaptive chassis which changed driving dynamics at the driver’s whim.
Furthermore, the new automatic transmission illustrated the abilities of modern software.
It offered 11 electronically-controlled drive programs, six of which were exclusively made for manually changing gears from the paddle shifters.
BMW’s designers also got to have their fun with this M3.
They had a baseline to work from, which was the standard version of the 3-Series, and they decided all they would need from there will be the chassis, doors, windows, and lights.
The rest they would make themselves from scratch.
They went to work on three body styles – a first for the M3 range – and were so fond of the E92 generation that they built a one-of-one E92 M3 bakkie to haul goods around the BMW factory grounds.
The frontside kept the critical kidney-grille, ring headlights, and large air intakes that BMW was known for – but now sported a significant power bulge which was not only functional, but also improved the look over the standard model significantly.
The low roofline made the car even more attractive from the sides, and the 18-inch alloys and M3 model designations improved that.
A fin was placed at the back of the roof for the first time, a small lip-spoiler gave the boot lid a sporty impression, and four exhaust tips treated onlookers to an amazing sight and sound.
The combination of all these attributes led to a truly fantastic-looking sports car, and one which has stood the test of time.
14 years later, the E92 M3 still stands out from the sea of more affordable sports cars now on the road and will likely remain an icon for a long time to come.
Several special models of this revered sports car, including art cars, were also built for the public – including the more track-focused GTS model.
An extensively carbon clad derivative – aptly called the M3 CRT, for Carbon Racing Technology – also made the cut, and was produced in the sedan guise.
Additionally, a year before BMW moved onto the next model, a last hoorah came in the form of a DTM Champion Edition model.
54 units were assembled to celebrate the numerous DTM victories and titles won by the acclaimed BMW racing driver, Bruno Spengler.
The driver’s seat
As the saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – which is the principle that BMW follows when they approach interior design.
The instruments are slightly angled towards the driver’s seat, everything is easy to control through the multifunction steering wheel and iDrive master dial, and the cabin was expertly crafted with high-quality materials.
It is the epitome of the BMW value offering, which is giving you everything that you need and nothing that you don’t – with no frills attached.
Interior trims could be customised by colour; the leather seats could be optioned in black, grey, red, white, or more; and the instrument cluster had chrome details which added to the sporty undertone.
Additionally, placed firmly on the centre console were three buttons where you could individually adjust the behaviour of your M3 to suit your mood – whether you wanted a soft suspension, a jumpy throttle, or comfortable handling.
If you wanted a completely different mixture, that was also possible.
The E92 BMW M3 was meant to be a special car from the first line that was drawn on paper, and 14 years later it still is.
It offers a design that is timeless and beautiful and it has a brute of a naturally-aspirated engine from when BMW had fewer emission standards worry about.
E92 BMW M3 – Photos