Keepers: BMW M3 E46—Shopping

Features I By Christopher Smith I July 02, 2009

The current state of the auto market makes for some tantalizing possibilities when it comes to performance cars, and with good-condition E46 prices dipping well into the $20,000 range, it’s currently one of the best performance purchases available. Unfortunately, perhaps the biggest stumbling block on the road to M3 ownership has nothing to do with the car itself, but rather the cost to insure it. Running a quick check for a squeaky-clean, 22-year old driver returns a frightening range of $300 to $700 per month for full coverage, thanks to a perfect storm of popularity (as in popular among thieves) and performance. Yes, the early-20s insurance bracket is one of the highest in the nation, and that figure doesn’t include anything like multi-car discounts or occasional-use driving. Regardless, this is one expensive car to cover, so before getting your hopes up, better call your insurance guy to see if it’s even feasible.

Otherwise, the E46 is a fairly reliable car as far as performance vehicles are concerned. BMW did receive some bad press early on for engine-related troubles, specifically problems with oil pumps and rod bearings that led to numerous engine failures. BMW ultimately issued a service action to address concerns, stopping short of a full-blown recall but still offering to repair or replace the damaged or defective equipment while extending the engine warranty to 6 years or 100,000 miles. Other occasional issues include trouble with the advanced Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) transmission, excessive clunking in the suspension, failing coil packs, and window trim that doesn’t seem to enjoy staying around the windows.

The engine issue affected 2003 and earlier cars, which may be a contributing factor to their lower overall price. The entire E46 M3 lineup remained relatively unchanged through its life cycle however, though a special “Competition Package” was available in 2005, featuring a number of performance-inspired upgrades from the limited-run (and overseas-only) M3 CSL. The resulting suspension tweaks became standard equipment on all subsequent M3s, but the bigger brakes, tighter steering ratio, revised “Track Mode” setting for the stability control system, unique wheels, and specialized trim were all unique to the Competition Package, making it one of the more desirable M3s to own.

The Guide to Road Racing: Winding Road Magazine's ultimate guide to getting your start in racing.

Table of Contents

Related Articles

Ask Ross: Square Corners & Min Speeds

Historically, we at Winding Road have hosted Ross Bentley’s Speed Secrets on our site. Ross’s wisdom and expertise stacked alongside his ability to communicate to…

April 04, 2024
Volvo Restomods Soften My Heart

There are ways of leveraging the industrialized world within which we live to draw goodness out of everyone who encounters that which is produced. Struck…

April 04, 2024
EV Inspired Automobile Renaissance

By the start of the 20th Century, the development of consumer automobiles was in full swing, and, seemingly, everyone was throwing their hat in the…

March 14, 2024
BUGATTI TYPE 35: The Making of A Champion

Setting the blueprint for all Bugatti cars that followed, the Type 35 was designed and engineered like no other, and featured world-firsts to ensure unmatched…

March 14, 2024
Audi accelerates preparations for successful entry into Formula 1 and significantly expands its commitment

Supervisory Boards of Volkswagen AG and AUDI AG vote for complete takeover of Sauber Group Oliver Hoffmann takes over responsibility for Audi’s Formula 1 commitment…

March 08, 2024


Get the latest driving and racing news straight to your inbox.

no thanks

Begin typing your search above and press return to search.