BMW M3 Touring, BMW M8: the cars M never built

Published: 01 April 2011

BMW today opened the doors to the vaults deep within M division, where strange and unseen test vehicles live. There’s the stillborn BMW M3 Touring, a Le Mans-engined X5 and – one from the archive – an M8.

We’ve spent the day in Munich roaming around with our jaw mostly on the floor. It’s a rare instance when a car manufacturer has opened its vaults and admitted works projects that nearly were.

The stillborn BMW M products

Join us on a guided tour of the strange unmade M products:

M8 The high-performance 8-series used the V12 that eventually morphed into the McLaren F1 motor. It managed 580bhp in this application, and sported a manual ‘box – but sadly not the business case to build it. The 850 CSi was nice, but this would have been mad. Carbonfibre spoked wheels. Only 17-inch tyres despite the power…

Ur-Roadster The weird small red thing like a baby, truncated Z3. It had the 2.3-litre four from an E30 M3. The Ur-Roadster grew out of the Z1 project and the idea was a cheap way into the M brand. Evenutally begat the Z3 M.

E46 M3 Touring Strong demand in Europe but because it wouldn’t sell in the US and new territories it was axed. Huge shame! This prototype is a manual and had the keys in the centre console… Very tempting.

M3 Compact Same engine as E36 M3 Evo – with 321bhp. Marketing bosses were worried it might undermine the real M3, so the car never saw the light of day. Interestingly, they have performed a neat u-turn with the 1-series M Coupe.

X5 M An early attempt at an X5M. BMW did the sensible thing and made it rear-drive! It had the V8 motor similar to the 4.8 iS and an SMG transmission. Of course, Munich did the sensible thing and scrapped the idea. So how did the X5 M and X6 M manage to squeak through?

And the new M cars they will build

Also on show today were the 1-series M Coupe and the M3 Saloon Concept. The 1M is like a cartoon car – we can’t wait to drive one!

And the BMW M3 Saloon Concept is sort of like an M3 GTS saloon. Lightweight, power between an M3 and the GTS – and they’ll race it at the Nurburgring 24. It has GTS brakes and a rear spoiler.

Quite an eye-opening day. If only all car makers were so open…