Originally Posted by ZeroG
The true E36 released in 1995 had 298 HP (S50 B30), and was then upgraded in '97 to 315 HP (S52 B32) also know as the M3 EVO. Now of course these cars were only offered in Europe.
IMHO the US Spec E36 was nothing more then a 328 with cams a sport suspension.
The E46 M3 was the first time since the E30 M3 that both the US and European version of the M3 had the same power plant.
Its incredible that BMW still shorts M buyers in North America, which has become the largest market for BMW in terms of unit sales of M cars. The euro E60 M5, for example, has a far more effective launch control that launches at a higher rpm than the US version and upshifts through each gear at redline as well, unlike the US version. This leads to far better accelleration times for the ROW cars -- which usually are the cars tested by the media at product release.
BMW is not alone in this practice. The RS4 in North America does not come with the more extreme steering wheel and seats that are available in the ROW; the GT3 does not not come with the extreme seats either. But in these two examples, the differences are merely cosmetic (although real sport seats of course make it easier to exploit the performance of the car on the track).