E30, E36, E46, E92... Since 1985, spanning four generations, BMW's M3 badge has attracted thousands of sports-car enthusiasts due to its all-round performance.In 2014, the fifth-generation of the iconic M3 sedan arrived in South Africa accompanied by its coupe variant, badged as the new M4.Gallery: BMW M3 through the agesIn late 2013, Wheels24 first reported on the new M3 and M4 headed for South Africa. In the article was a little history lesson of the M3's journey from the iconic 333i to the brilliant CSL and the outgoing E92.A LITTLE HISTORYAt the launch event in Midrand, Wheels24 snapped up examples of the M3 through the ages courtesy of the guys at the BMW Car Club Gauteng, who were kind enough to showcase their vehicles at the Kyalami race track in Midrand.THE FIRST GENERATION - E30It was at BMW Motorsport’s HQ in Munich, 28 years ago, that the automaker's then managing director Paul Rosche developed the idea for the BMW M3. Production began a few months later at the original BMW factory next door. In July 2014, almost 30 years later, production is back there.It was in early 1985 when BMW Motorsport began development of a new machine to compete in Touring Car racing. The road-going version required for homologation - 5000 had to be built to satisfy the sporting regulations - was conceived from the outset as a race-ready Group A machine. The 2.3 four-cylinder model made its debut in 1986 and today would be out-accelerated by many hot hatches: 0-100 in 6.8sec, top speed 230km/h.According to BMW, 17 970 were sold worldwide when production ceased in 1991.THE SECOND-GENERATION - E36Its successor was not designed as the basis for a race car and came as a two-door coupe, convertible and four-door sedan. A six-cylinder, three-litre, 213kW engine powered all three to sub-six 0-100 times and top speed went up to 250km/h. A short-run 219kW M3 GT variant was added to the range in 1994; 1995 saw the engine grow to 3.2 litres, power to 240kW.In 1997 the M3 became the world’s first volume-produced car to be available with a Sequential M Gearbox (SMG). This transmission was based on the conventional gearbox for the M3 but with a clutch that was activated electro-hydraulically.According to BMW, 71 242 units of the coupe, convertible and sedan combined were produced.THE THIRD-GENERATION - E46The third-generation arrived in 2000, Coupe or Convertible, six-cylinder still 3.2 litres but now making 256kW and reaching 100km/h in 5.2sec. New were a variable diff lock, second-generation SMG and shift paddles.The pinnacle of this generation was the M3 CSL (2003) - Coupe Sport Lightweight. It had a carbon-fibred roof, centre console and door panels, and numerous comfort features were stripped to reduce its weight. It weighed 110kg less than the standard M3 and all 1383 units of the 268kW car sold in a few months.THE FOURTH GENERATION - E90/92/92It was 2007 and in came an all-new, four-litre, 313kW/400Nm, V8 - the first time an M3 was without the now classic straight-six. Coupe, sedan and convertible eventually arrived. Carbon-fibre strengthened plastic roof, power dome on the aluminium bonnet, aluminium chassis parts.Eventually an M3 GTS morphed from the original: 4.4 V8 producing 335kW, special chassis, two-seat cabin for track use and only painted orange. Only 135 were delivered.FIFTH-GENERATION - F80The fifth-generation BMW M3 (F80) arrived in South Africa on July 2 2014. The 2014 version is now exclusively a four-door sedan; the two-door coupe has a unique naming strategy in this case as the first-generation M4.The 2014 BMW M3 will set you back R955 592, the M4 R997 500.Click here to read more about the new M3 and M4!