History of the BMW M division - picture special

History of the BMW M division – picture special

2014 would see a big shift for the venerable M3, when the F80 model arrived exclusively as a four-door and the coupé version morphed into the M4. Both used the same 425bhp inline six, codenamed S55, which would see the M3 embrace turbocharging for the first time. An uprated M3 CS would arrive later with reduced weight, carbon fibre front spoiler and a power hike, but it would be the M4 that recieved the most extreme variant: the BMW M4 GTS, a track-focused model with power pushed to 493bhp thanks to a water injection system – the first to be used in a production car for twenty years.

The success of the 1-Series M meant a smaller M division coupé was almost inevitable, but it wouldn’t be until 2015, when the BMW 2 Series had replaced the outgoing 1 Series coupé and convertible. New The BMW M2 became the new baby of the M line-up, and in many ways felt it, with a single-turbo six-cylinder engine and a chassis that couldn’t quite keep up with the Porsche 718 Cayman as the very best in the class for handling. That would change with the BMW M2 Competition, which was given a mechanical overhaul and a downtuned version of the M3’s twin-turbocharged straight six. Supremely balanced and composed, it quickly became one of the best driver’s cars BMW made at the time.

A new F90 generation BMW M5 would arrive in 2017, fitted with a heavily revised twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 that would allow the super-saloon to reach 190mph on the autobahn and break 62mph in 3.4sec. Much of that raw acceleration was down to all-wheel drive, a first for the M5, though drive is only sent to the front wheels when the rears lose traction. A dedicated rear-wheel drive only mode meant it could still deliver the same sideways hooliganism of previous generations, too. The BMW M5 CS took that recipe, then refined and enhanced it to near-perfection – resisting the urge to turn the super saloon into a track-day special, but imbuing it with the essence of what made the model so great in the first place. It’s comfortably the best of the current breed.

More SUVs would follow in 2019, with the BMW X3 M and BMW X4 M sharing the same twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre S58 powertrain. Power output for the Competition variants was hiked to 503bhp, though xDrive all-wheel drive and a high driving position would trim some of the dynamic playfulness we’d come to expect from cars carrying the M badge. Raw performance of each car wasn’t up for debate, though, and would act as a tantalising teaser for the soon-to-follow M3, which would use the same engine.