It seems that during the last few generations of BMW M3, the marque has produced a glut of special-edition models. The tradition can be traced back to the original E30 M3 and there are too many to mention all of them. These are the most significant additions to the family, however...
BMW M has produced more special editions of the M3 over the last 2 generations since a glut of original (E30) versions saw the light in the Eighties (we never got those, unfortunately).
Perhaps a standard M3 is no longer enough for the Bimmer fan who wants something more exclusive, or with more power, or with more of a matte paint job, let alone aerodynamic paraphernalia and other motorsport-inspired go-faster bits. BMW seems more than happy to oblige and ramp the price up to suit the customer’s wishes.
If you look into the BMW history, you’ll find countless special edition models, so instead of listing them all, we’ve just picked the ones that we really like or are of special interest here in South Africa. For sake of being thorough, we have included derivatives of the M4 (because that is what the two-door successor to the first 4 generations of M3 is now known).
Special Edition BMW M3/4s
BMW M3 Evolution (E30) 1988
The first special edition model of the original M3. Limited to just 505 units worldwide, the Evo appeared in conjunction with the M3's successes in several countries' touring car racing series (including the European and World Touring Car Championships); its 2.3-litre 4 cylinder motor packed more power (147 kW, the Evo2 version packed a further 15 kW and the ultimate 2.5-litre Sport Evolution/Evo3 version topped out at 175 kW) and incorporated several weight-saving measures. Additions to the bodywork included a bigger front and rear wings, the latter of which was adjustable. Because the original M3 was a left-hand-drive-only model, it was never released in South Africa, but local Bimmer aficionados got to sample locally-developed motorsport homologation-special 6-cylinder E30 coupes in the shapes of the 3.2-litre 333i and, in the early '90s, the star of production car racing, 2.7-litre 325iS Evo1 and 2.
BMW M3 4-Door (E36) 1996
The E36-generation M3 was the first M3 to be made available in South Africa, first as a 3.0-litre and then as a 3.2. While this listed car is not technically a special edition, there are a few special things to know about the E36 M3 sedan. Firstly, the sedan variant was the first M3 to feature 4 doors (its successor, the E46, didn't, but the E90 and subsequent version does). What's more, this M3 was built in South Africa from 1996 to 1998 at BMW's Rosslyn facility, albeit in very limited numbers. South Africa's E36 M3 sedans had to be specially detuned to run on our low-quality fuel. In addition to a palette of special exterior colours, the cars were laced with more standard kit, such as Nappa leather and the GT style front splitter.
BMW M3 CSL (E46) 2004
The first of the truly hard-edged M3 specials. The CSL was limited to 1 400 cars and just 2 colours, silver or black. It was loud inside as much of the sound deadening and comfort features were removed in order to shed the 110 kg it dropped over the standard car. The roof was made from carbon fibre reinforced plastic, dropping weight and lowering the centre of gravity. Power was only increased by 13 kW but felt like more and 100 kph was reached in 4.8 seconds.
BMW SA pre-sold its consignment of M3 CSLs (rumoured to be only 65 units). All the models were fitted with SMG (sequential semi-automatic gearboxes) and retailed for R940 000, which was R400 000 more than the standard car. At the time this list was compiled, a used example with just 80 000 km on the odo', was listed on Cars.co.za for R1 349 000.
BMW M3 GTS (E92) 2010
The one we didn’t get! BMW SA was unable to secure any of the 135 units produced and, as a result, went on to build the local only Frozen edition. The GTS was a pukka track-oriented M3, replete with a roll cage in the rear. The GTS dropped 140 kg and its sonorous 4.0-litre V8 (which was said to have been developed from the E60-generation M5's screaming F1-inspired 5.0-litre V10) gained 20 kW in terms of peak output. According to many reviews, the car was amazing to drive – in fact, many aficionados regard it as "the best M3 ever".
BMW M3 Frozen Edition (E92) 2010
This was our substitute for the M3 GTS. BMW SA produced only 25 units; all of which featured M-DCT dual-clutch transmissions and were finished in either Frozen Grey and Frozen Black matte paint. Apart from the bespoke paintwork (including bespoke red calipers), AC Schnitzer parts such as a cold air induction kit, upgraded EMS and performance exhaust were added to ramp up the power to 330 kW at a lofty 8 400 rpm. Suffice to say they were the wildest-sounding M3s to ever leave BMW South Africa's depot.
BMW M3/M4 Competiton Pack (F80) 2016
Go faster bits from the factory are added to the M3 (or M4) in order to produce a more precise and faster driving tool. With revised peak outputs from the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight 6 of 331 kW and 550 Nm, the 0-100 kph time is improved to 4.0 seconds. Small details changes to the bodywork and suspension improve both the kerb appeal and handling.
BMW M4 GTS (F82) 2016
With the advent of the 4 Series (BMW now differentiates its sportscars by giving them even-numbered model names), the M3 became the M4 and, finally, a GTS version made it to our shores: only 23 units of the M4 GTS were allocated to South Africa. In conjunction with a reduction in kerb weight, the peak power output jumps to 368 kW courtesy of an integral water-injection cooling system that keeps air intake temperatures low. A roll cage in the rear adds some stiffness and adjustable wings allow operators to fiddle with the M4's downforce levels.
BMW M4 CS (F82) 2017
The latest special edition to wear an M badge (April 2017), the CS is the in-between BMW M4 you need/want. Said to be the perfect balance between a Competition Pack M4 and an M4 GTS, the CS has 343 kW and a 0-100 kph time of just 3.9 seconds. Suspension from the Competition Pack and aero bits from the GTS might just make it the perfect roadgoing M4.