Keepers: BMW M3 E46

Features I By Christopher Smith I June 23, 2009

Let’s be honest, every generation of the M3 is a keeper. Balance, grip, performance, you’ve heard all this before. In 23 years of M3 production, approximately 2863 various adjectives, adverbs, present and past participles, sexually-charged metaphors, and other automotive clichés have been blasted across print and electronic media, describing the greatness of the car. Far be it for us to add to the hype, so we’ll simply say yeah, it’s that good, and the third-generation E46 model is among the finest of the breed, delivering a driving experience that is pure M-ness. M-ness…guess that makes 2864.

In production from 2000 until 2006, the E46 M3 took everything that made the previous-generation car great and injected more horsepower, which is never a bad thing. With 333 ponies from a naturally-aspirated 3.2 liter inline six-cylinder, the high-revving powerplant kicked the M3 to 60 in about 4.5 seconds and carried it to an electronically-limited 155 miles per hour, far outpacing the earlier M3s and equaling the 394-horsepower BMW M5 of the day. These performance figures served to catapult the M3 close to supercar territory, nearly matching the Ferrari 360 Modena despite a price difference of over $100,000 dollars. The E46 also upped the ante in this segment by offering an F1-style, six-speed Sequential-Manual Gearbox (SMG) as an option over the standard six-speed manual, and though the hardcore, track-inspired M3 CSL edition never saw U.S. shores, the Competition Package found in the later Yankee-bound Bimmers did bring some of the CSL goodness to American drivers.

What really makes the E46 stand out however is the price-per-performance factor. Now that many of these cars are dipping into the mid-$20,000 range, M3 shoppers may have a hard time justifying $70,000 for a brand new E90 M3 when the E46 offers nearly the same performance at a substantial discount. We’ll talk more about E46 specifics in the next round of Keepers; in the meantime jump into the forums and share your own creative description for the M3, a vehicle that is the quintessentially-sublime definition of performance motoring perfektion. Yup, that makes 2865. Think you can come up with 2866?

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

Table of Contents

Related Articles

Spotlight: Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach Auction

Gooding & Company will be holding an auction next week in Pebble Beach, California during the 71st Pebble Beach Concours. After going through their online auction catalogue of 160 incredible cars, these are our top-10 favorites.

August 12, 2022
Consulier GTP – One Man, One Supercar Vision

The Consulier is one of those ahead-of-its-time stories. Built between 1985 and 1993, the GTP had the specs, the street cred of a supercar.

August 10, 2022
Why We Love Willy T. Ribbs

Just one week into F1’s summer break, we’ve found ourselves rewatching some of the 2022 season’s highlights.  One of the most memorable moments so far has to be Willy T’s podium interviews after the Miami GP.

August 08, 2022
Spotlight: Über-Rare Mercedes-Benz 300SC

A rare Mercedes-Benz has hit the market at Fantasy Junction – a Mercedes-Benz 300SC Coupe.  This numbers matching example, built in 1957, is one of…

August 05, 2022
Bring On The 2027 El Camino?

A Chevy dealer in Texas is doing high-trim single cab half ton trucks. Shows a gap in the market? Maybe, but a handful of resto-mind U-Hauls won’t fill it.

July 28, 2022


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

no thanks

Begin typing your search above and press return to search.