WATCH | Drag race - BMW E46 M3 vs E36 M3 vs M2 Competition

BMW drag race. Image: Youtube
BMW drag race. Image: Youtube

• Three small M cars line up for an epic drag race. 

• The BMW E36 and E46 M3 models meet the modern small M car in the form of the M2 Competition. 

• The two older models might sound better than the turbocharged M2 Comp, but which car will win the drag race?

What a way to end the week. Three of the finest small BMW M cars line up for a race never seen before on Youtube streets. 

Each model has written its name into motoring folklore and garnered thousands of sales over its lifetime. Kicking us off is the E36 M3, it was the second generation 3 Series compact executive performance car BMW built. 


The E36 was the first M3 to use an inline six-cylinder engine and first launched with a 3.0-litre cylinder displacement but was increased to a 3.2-litre. 

The hallmarks of an M3 is its rear-wheel-drive layout, powerful six-cylinder engine up front, 50:50 weight distribution and a manual gearbox. 

When it came out in 1992 the E36 had 213kW and 320Nm from its S50 engine, in 1995 the performance car received a facelift and emerged with bored out 3.2-litre engine that produced 236kW and 350Nm. 


This particular M3 is the one I grew up idolising. Billed as one of the purist driving experiences offered in a road car, the E46 emerged from the new millennium with 252kW and 365Nm. It red lined at 8000 r/min and its raspy engine note is one of the most recognisable. 

The E46's S50 is the final evolution of the one seen in its predecessor and was mated to either a six-speed manual gearbox or an automated manual labeled SMG. 

It boasted a 0-100kmh/h sprint time of 5.1 seconds. 

M2 Competition

I haven't had the opportunity (yet) to drive the previous two M cars, but I have thankfully has spent time behind the wheel of the latest small M car: the M2 Competition. 

Similar but different in its layout the M2 Comp features a turbocharged version of the S55 3.0-litre straight six-cylinder engine.

It has 302kW and 550Nm and will sprint to 100km/h from standstill in 4.2 seconds. One could call it the modern version of the M3, as it boasts similar proportions to the E36 and E46 models. 

All we need to know now is, which one will win in a drag race... 

Carow says: "We've brought together two classic M3s, and they’re going up an M2 Competition! Mat’s sat in the E46, which will put down 252kW and 365Nm thanks to a 3.2-litre straight-six under the bonnet. As for the E36, its three-litre straight-six engine helps push it to 222kW (thanks in part to some modifications cameraman Jack's added) and 320Nm."

As for the M2 Competition, well it’s clearly the most powerful competitor here, with a three-litre straight-six twin-turbo 302kW and 550Nm! But what do you think - will the lighter E36 have what it takes? Or will the M2’s pure power advantage lead it to victory? There’s only one way to find out… LET’S RACE!

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