We defend the most unloved BMW M3 of all-time.
Driving enthusiasts are typically fans of BMW M products, but for some reason the E36 M3 — sold between 1995 and 1999 — is the Rodney Dangerfield of the BMW Motorsports family; no respect. But I think there's a case to be made for the E36 as the best M3 of all time.
Now, to be fair, "best" is highly subjective and nearly impossible to define, but I think the E36 M3 is far better than the sum of its parts and, more critically, far better than people give it credit for. It's from BMW's golden era when its cars were light and simple and the company placed a far greater emphasis on driving dynamics than all-out luxury.
Moreover, the E36 is new enough to feel modern, with things like dual airbags and stability control, and old enough to still feel analog. It's plucked from a magical time in automotive history — a time before the advent of electric power steering but after the doldrums that were the 1970s and 80s.
There have been some great M3s since the E36, I'll admit, but I think the 90s' version of BMW's hot 3 Series stands up against them all.