There is much more to automobiles than just driving around, the world of automotive motorsports is very versatile. It includes racing, such as Formula 1, DTM, Le Mans, and many other types of events. Drifting is one such popular event that is loved by enthusiasts, and it has become an industry in the car modification sector.
BMW has not only established a name in the luxury car world, but its M division has a graceful heritage in motor racing and other motorsports as well. Let’s take a look at the 3 legendary BMWs that are best for drifting and have been the top choice of drift enthusiasts since the 80s.
1. BMW E36 M3
The E36 M3 has been the most sought-after BMW sports sedan and is regarded as a legend. Thanks to its monster of an engine, lower center of gravity, exclusive styling, and drifting potential. E36 M3 comes with a 3.0L straight-six naturally aspirated engine, mated to a 5-speed manual for instant power and control over this beast.
Which Engine in the E36 M3 is Best for Drifting
The S30B50 engine, offered in the US, is a 3.0L straight-six engine producing 243 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque. This monstrous powerhouse is perfect for drifting due to max output at 4,000 RPM and control over the car, all credits to the very engaging 5-speed manual transmission.
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Why is E36 M3 Good for Drifting?
It’s not just the power that keeps the M3 rolling, there’s much more to it that keeps this beast rolling;
- A rear-wheel drivetrain connecting the powerful engine to the rear wheels and delivering the maximum torque, when and where required.
- Thanks to its limited-slip differential, the E36 is always under your command and never loses traction.
- A responsive 5-speed manual transmission, always keeping the power and gears under your control.
- Low center of gravity and intuitive handling keep the E36 M3 planted in the corners and give you the confidence to roll.
- It is lighter in weight due to the extensive use of aluminum, making it ideal for throwing around corners.
A good example of a 1996 BMW E36 M3 would cost you less than $10,000 in today’s market. Before making a deal, get it thoroughly checked, along with a CARFAX report.
The annual insurance cost of an E36 M3 would be $1,450, for a full-coverage plan.
Also read: Is BMW E39 Reliable? (What to Expect)
The BMW E36 series is regarded as one of the most durable line-ups by consumers and enthusiasts likewise. The engine, transmission, and suspension are very solid on these models and would easily last 250,000 – 300,000 miles without breaking down much often. Still, it should be kept with care and maintained extensively, as the parts and labor are expensive for M division cars.
Don’t expect too many miles from this beast with a gas-guzzling engine and superb performance figures.
21 MPG combined is the normal fuel economy an E36 M3 would get you.
Also read: Is BMW E36 Reliable? (with Buying Tips)
2. BMW E46 M3
Every Need For Speed fan knows what an E46 M3 is? An absolute legend of the game and a monster of a sports sedan. Known for its outstanding handling, immense power, and the character it has developed over the years. Packed with a powerful engine, sporty transmission, and suspension, you’d never go wrong with an E46 M3 around the corner.
Which Engine in the E46 M3 is Best for Drifting
The legendary S54 engine in the E46 is best for drifting. Boasting a 3.2L naturally aspirated straight-six engine that produces 338 HP, and 269 lb-ft of torque. This mean machine gets from nothing to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. This is a complete package and a much better package than its predecessors.
Why is E46 M3 Good for Drifting?
The engine is only one side of the story, the drifting capability of the E46 is based on the complete package;
- A much-refined steering assembly for better handling on tricky spots.
- Enhanced drivetrain, sending all the power to rear wheels at your command with the very responsive 5-speed manual tranny.
- Improved power figures and an optional supercharger can help further enhance the output on the track.
- A limited-slip differential keeps your traction intact and keeps you planted on the tarmac.
- Overall, it is better than E36 in every aspect, even the legend has grown with the odds-defying capability and endurance of E46, which could be your best BMW for drifting.
You can easily find a good BMW E46 M3 in the range of $10,000 to 13,000. Based on the overall condition, mileage, optional equipment, and modifications, the price can slightly increase.
Also read: 12 Best Drift Cars for Under $5k (For Beginners)
The full-coverage insurance package of the BMW E46 M3 would cost you around $1,600 for a year.
BMW E46 is known for its endurance and long-term reliability, but be very careful with the M version. It is known for a few mechanical faults, mostly due to rough usage and neglect. These problems include water pump issues, high-pressure fuel pump failure, electronic problems, and other mechanical hiccups.
If maintained regularly and driven with care, even an M3 E46 would last 200,000 miles without breaking a sweat or spending weekends at workshops.
Combined 20 MPG is the fuel economy figure for this drift machine, and don’t expect it to get better as the massive horsepower and instant torque require a good supply of fuel.
Also read: BMW E46 M3: Maintenance Costs (Calculation)
3. BMW E39 M5
Sitting up a level higher in the BMW line-up, the E39 M5 is the elder sibling of the E46 and other m vehicles. A massive upgrade over the previous generations, the E39 had a much-advanced engine, drivetrain, sport-tuned suspension, and transmission for the ultimate sporty experience. It is one unique machine to accompany you on the drift track and it wouldn’t let you down.
Which Engine in the E39 M5 is Best for Drifting?
The 5.0L V8 S62 is the ultimate engine to have in your E39 M5 for drifting. With 400 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, it is the best powerhouse with a drift-oriented RWD system. It also has electronically controlled individual throttle bodies, a double VANOS system, and a semi-dry-sump oil lubrication system. You cannot ask for a better engine than this monster.
Why is E39 M5 Good for Drifting?
There are many reasons for E39 being the perfect drift machine;
- A Getrag 420G six-speed manual transmission is ideal to command all that power on the rear wheels.
- The power S62 engine has electronically controlled throttle, and massive torque below 4K RPM, ideal for power management.
- A modified suspension with reduced spring height, polyurethane auxiliary springs, a shock valving system, reinforced front and rear anti-roll bars, and steel ball joints for ultimate track performance.
- The recirculating-ball steering system gives better traction and road feedback for better handling.
- It also packs a Servotronic vehicle-speed-sensitive power assist which provides two levels of resistance. The Sport button also alters the electronic throttle system for an enhanced response.
A good example of E39 M5 should cost you around $20,000, in good condition. A model with fewer miles can cost significantly more than this.
The insurance cost for a full-coverage package per year would cost $1,750.
The BMW E39 M5 is a durable car to own and use, and while it has loads of advanced electronic systems and sport-tuned equipment, it can become faulty if neglected or not maintained at regular intervals.
A well-kept E39 would easily last over 250,000 miles with no major issues or breakdowns.
The 5.0L V8 engine is not so frugal at fuel and would only give 15 MPG of combined fuel economy.
Also read: Is BMW E92 Reliable? (All You Need to Know)
Why No Modern BMWs on the List?
Although Modern BMWs have substantially more power, onboard assistance, tech features, sturdier parts, and reliability, they are not well-suited for drifting. There could be many reasons for that, but the most important is the restriction and hindrance caused by built-in safety features, these include;
- Electronic stability control
- Self-engaging limited-slip differential.
- Traction control and anti-skid system.
- No manual handbrakes, as they have been replaced by electronic parking brakes.
World Record in Drifting
Just to suffice the craving of BMW fans and prove that BMW still had it in its DNA, they set a world record of the world’s longest drift. It lasted for 8 hours, where 2 BMW M5 cars drifted in a specific pattern, and covered a distance of 232.5 miles, requiring refueling midway.