BMW M3 CRT (E90) | Spotted

Gather round M fanboys, the special one is here

By Matt Bird / Saturday, 16 September 2023 / Loading comments

The E9x generation of BMW M3 is well on its way to classic status. Which probably wasn’t predicted when it was new, given the grumbling about unnecessary extra weight, too much luxury and a V8 when, of course, an M3 should have a straight-six. How things have changed. Now the E90s are revered for their modest yet handsome styling, rip-roaring V8 and fantastic handling, which values are now reflecting. In May 2020, a high mileage but seemingly nice E92 was inducted into the Brave Pill Hall of Fame, all £12,495 of it. Now you’ll do well to find a similar car for less than £15,000, and you’re going to want £20k really. The very best V8s currently command £50,000, or basically what they cost new a decade or so ago.

This generation was notable, too, for the return of the M3 saloon, which never made it to the E46 lineup. It followed soon after the coupe and was praised in a similar fashion. Now they’re very desirable, in fact, as the lesser-spotted bodystyle and with four-door practicality for family folk. Many see them as the spiritual successor to the E39 M5, in fact, which is hardly a bad comparison to enjoy, with similar power, a manual gearbox (in some of them, at least) and smart but subdued styling.

This looks like another very nice E90 M3 saloon, only it isn’t. This is a CRT, or Carbon Racing Technology, and that makes it one of the most special M3s of all time. Probably one of the most special BMW M cars, full stop. Ostensibly it existed to show off what BMW could do with the magic black stuff ahead of its extensive use in the i3 and i8 that were to come, but that always felt like a token gesture. In truth this was a whole lot of the M3 GTS in a saloon body, one surely deliberately restrained after the frosty response to the furiously orange two-door the year before. And all the cooler for it.

So the CRT made use of the GTS’s stroked V8, meaning 4.4-litres, 450hp and 324lb ft – a very good start. The use of carbon was extensive, too, including the bonnet, seats, the rear spoiler and ‘an air-channelling element’ of the front apron. Taking so much weight off the front end actually altered the weight distribution compared to a standard saloon. And while 45kg was the claimed saving, the real figure was nearer 70kg once the kit of the CRT has been added to a regular model. With the M cars we’re used to nowadays, 1,580kg sounds positively svelte.

As if that wasn’t enough, the CRT also received manually adjustable coilover suspension, a rigid rear axle subframe and bigger brakes with upgraded lines and pads. The assists were recalibrated to take advantage. It looked like any other M3, but the CRT really was a different animal altogether. The five-star verdicts came flooding in, reviewers unable to get enough of that 8,000rpm V8 or superb handling. Even at about twice the price of a standard saloon, the CRT beguiled all who drove it.

But then we never heard very much about it, because there wasn’t a UK allocation. Just 67 CRTs were made (or 68, according to some sources), all left-hand drive with the DCT, and all Frozen Silver with the Melbourne Red accents. But never officially sold to UK customers, not even with the six-figure asking price it would have had to carry. Perhaps the response to the GTS swayed that decision.

Now, however, there is one here, and absolutely marvellous it looks as well. The advert for number 19 doesn’t state when it came to the UK or how, but that seems kinda immaterial. It’s done less than 2,500 miles, and is freshly serviced (including new tyres) for whoever wants to take it on next. Time has done nothing to dim its specialness, either – the seats in particular are a real work of art.

Want to guess the price? It’s currently listed with BMW specialists Munich Legends – who clearly love the car given the enthusiasm of the advert – for £159,995. No doubt there will be some sharp intakes of breath after that. But remember this was €130,000 new, it’s rare enough to make pretty much every other M car look common, and the very best BMWs are big money at the moment. If an M3 CSL can command £125k, with more than six times as many produced, perhaps a CRT can justify £160k. Whatever the case, let’s all take a minute to appreciate a seldom-seen M car hero, the M3 unlike any before or after it – there won’t be another for sale anytime soon…


Engine: 4,360cc V8
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto (M DCT), rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 450@8,300rpm
Torque (lb ft): 324@3,750rpm
0-62mph: 4.4sec
Top speed: 180mph
MPG: 22.2mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 295g/km
Year registered: 2011
Recorded mileage: 2,500
Price new: 130,000 euros (not available in UK)
Yours for: £159,995

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