It's just so Great

About the car - and why it's so Great....

Quick-links: Great Design Throughout    Will it last   

Many people consider a car simply as a means of transportation from A to B. BMW E46 M3 is not for such people. Some, especially young, people just want a fast car so that they can win the drag-race from the traffic light. For those the E46 M3 is an overkill since it delivers so much more than a fast 0-100. Others are interested in impressing neighbors and other “common” people with their car. For those people E46 M3 is not either the best choice since “common” people only see a somewhat understated classic design without having a clue about what the M3 really is. They even don’t see the beauty of the design unless prompted to look more carefully.

No, the E46 M3 is not a car for “the people” but for a small select group of people who love driving (a bit spirited perhaps), who appreciate extraordinary engineering and good craftsmanship, who value classic beauty and who have not “outsourced” their taste and preferences to others.

Some talk of a “sleeper” others use the term “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Neither is to the point.
The E46 M3 is a Wolf in Dior Suit.

The fact that the E46 M3 seems to grow into being a good investment is, if not beside the point, secondary. If you don’t already have an E46 M3 it most likely won’t be cheaper than now to get one. See Byuing a M3.

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Great design throughout *)

Look at the lines! The car is simply beautiful. It’s classic, timeless and tasteful. It’s really a rare successful design. Perhaps a bit understated considering the cars performance, but isn’t that just adding to the class?

Everybody can design an aggressive looking car with all the contemporary design features, but very few succeed in making a design that after many years still look gorgeous, is a treat for the eyes.  

It’s not for me to talk down the E30 M3, but the E30 design is more “special” than beautiful – and in a way more “ordinary” – if it’s possible to be “special” and “ordinary” at the same time. And when it comes to performance the E30 is no match for the E46.

But looks alone is not what makes the E46 M3 so great. The engine is simply a masterpiece – it’s the heart of the car.

The S54 inline 6 cylinder naturally aspirated engine was ground breaking when it was introduced. 343 HP from a 3 liter engine was in the super car class. 107 HP/liter without the use turbo, was top of the engine engineering at its very best. It’s a high revolution engine that is at its best between 4.000 and 8.000 rpm. Use it all the way up – it’s rewarding. On top of it’s performance you get a wonderful sound track, very characteristic with its particular rasp.


When you step into the car you will immediately feel at home if you are a previous BMW owner. There is nothing fancy – it’s traditional BMW when it is best. Even though the car is 17+ years old you will not experience the interior as old – rather as classic. In most cases the switches work as new.

More is coming.

Of course, in the above I’ve been referring to a well-kept, well-maintained and well-serviced specimen. All cars can be abused, neglected and beaten to pieces – honestly, quite a few E46 M3 are in that category. See Buying a M3

The BMW E46 M3 Is An M Car Masterpiece


BMW E46 M3 | The Best M3 Ever??

The History of the BMW M3's Engine

BMW E46 M3 CSL Tribute | The Best Generation of M3

10 Things Everyone Forgot About The BMW E46 M3

Why The BMW E46 M3 Still Captures The Hearts Of Enthusiasts Today

The best BMW M3s ranked

In April 2023 Fifth Gear compared the E46 M3 with the G80 M3. Naturally the G80 was faster round the track (app 5 sec) – but the test driver felt rather unsafe in the G80 – it is so nervous and driving it is stressfull. As he said after both drives: “I know which car I rather drive in” – despite it’s 20 years older.  

BMW M3 OLD E46 VS NEW G80 : Shoot-Out | Fifth Gear

Sometimes the prices go a bit wild.
In May 2024 there was a bidding contest in USA for a Laguna Seca E46 M3 with only 28.689 miles. The auction ended somewhat dramatic on USD 111.000. Normally this is the price tag for a CSL, but this was not a CSL – “just” a rare Laguna Seca over Cinnamon interior with low mileage.
See the video: I Spent Six Figures on a BMW e46 M3...

*): However not quite without a few flaws; see M3 Issues

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Will it last?

Actually it’s entirely up to you. Treat it well and even the high-rev engine will last much longer that you would expect. There are several examples on E46 M3 having done 380.000 km (240.000 miles) with only one change of rod bearings and VANOS refresh. I have specific knowledge of one M3 that had made 235.000 miles (376.000 km) and was still going strong. The owner reported rod bearings and VANOS were done at 180.000 miles (288.000 km). He was not aware if rod bearings / VANOS had been done by previous owner – but even if we assume this was done at, say, 100.000 miles (160.000 km) it’s still impressive.

The formula to reach these high numbers is straight forward: Keep all prescribed services, change oil & filter every 5-6k miles (8-10 k km), never use “cheap” oil or filter and take your time at every start to allow engine to reach normal operating temperature (look at oil temperature, not the yellow lights).  

As for other mechanical issues it is possible to drive high mileage without RACP issues – but not likely. The car has power and it doesn’t really make sense not to use it. However, if RACP is done once and properly (see xxxx) it should last for the rest of the car’s life – unless, naturally, you track the car.


Of course there is the aspect of rust. Steel rusts and that’s a fact everybody have to live with. You can do a lot yourself to avoid rust – most of which you already know as a car owner.

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