BMW touts itself as “the ultimate driving machine.” And even though Mercedes is trolling the Bavarian automaker with an ad reminding the world Mercedes is older, BMW has earned the right to celebrate its 100th birthday. In honor of BMW’s first 100 years, here’s a list of the greatest cars the company has ever produced:
1. BMW 2002 tii
When BMW need an overhaul in the 1960s to compete with luxury car makers, it came up with square-edged sedans with rear suspension, which skyrocketed in popularity very quickly. One awesome example is the 2002 tii, a touring model powered by a 130-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-4 engine.
2. Z8 Roadster
The Z8 Roadster was a modern version of BMW’s classic roadsters. The unique look was created by Henrik Fisker, the designer of the Aston Martin DB9. The V8, 400-horsepower car is wrapped by a great-looking aluminum frame, making it a pleasure to drive and look at.
3. E39 M5
If you demand performance, the M-powered E39 5-Series was the sedan for you. It had a V8 engine and almost 400-horsepower. Its M-tuned suspension, 4-wheel vented disk brakes, and more responsive electronic sport throttle settings made it one of the top luxury cars of the era. The car is also remembered by enthusiasts for its role in BMW’s “The Hire” short film marketing campaign.
4. E46 M3
When we think European sports sedan, we think first of the M3. The E46 is tough to beat, with its 333-horses from a kick-ass 3.2 liter inlne-6 cylinder engine. The car did 0 to 60mph in a nice sub 5.0 second 0 seconds. Best of all, it was an affordable super car.
Rare and valuable are the buzzwords for the M1, which was BMW’s only mid-engine vehicle. Produced in limited quantities only to accommodate homologation requirements for the Procar Championship Series, fewer than 500 cars were produced for the driving public. If you can get your hands on this 277-horsepower racecar with a 161mph top speed, do it post haste.
6. 507 Roadster
If there’s an ideal convertible in this world, it’s the 507 Roadster was a V8, 140hp with plenty of celebrity style. This car is a beauty, and even thought its steep production costs nearly killed BMW, there’s not a driver alive today who wouldn’t want to take this for a spin.
Weird can sometimes become legendary, which is what happened with the little microcar Isetta. This was a little 2-seater that had about an 8 year lifespan. Its top speed of 50mph came from a nifty little 13-horsepower, 1-cylinder engine. Its boxy style has lots of fans, particularly now in the age of the microcar aficionado.
8. 1-Series M Coupe
Yes, this is an entry-level family car. Although skepticism was high before it was released, it didn’t take long before critics and consumers were raving about the M Coupe. This 1-Series M ran on a 3.0-liter twin-turbo, direct injection straight-6, which was directed through a 6-speed manual gearbox. We all cheered.
The future is best represented by the BMW i8. Made of carbon fiber and sporting a brilliant hybrid powertrain, the i8 is a trendsetter. Although it’s a wee bit expensive for the everyday consumer, the i8 is a good example of what BMW’s top engineers are still capable of.