BMW M3 E46 2003

Allow me to indulge in a bit of nostalgia: I think many of you remember Need For Speed Most Wanted, which personally struck me as the most dynamic and interesting NFS of all. The game was literally packed with new, fast, and subsequently iconic cars. But undoubtedly, the main car of the game was the M3 E46, which the main character lost at the beginning and regained at the end – a kind of story about a princess in a castle with a dragon. Since then, I can’t help but love this car, and our story will be about it.

The BMW 3 Series dates back to 1975, when the Bavarians introduced the first generation E21. The car was only offered as a coupe and convertible, immediately positioning the model as more accessible and appealing to the youth. The new lineup settled in the market, selling around 128,000 units in its debut year, and received active development, successfully reaching our times.

In 1997, BMW changed generations and the quite successful but somewhat outdated E36 was preparing to head to the storage of history. New times required a departure from angular design in favor of more oval shapes, but the Germans didn’t want to abandon their traditions, so the E46 can reasonably be called an evolution of its predecessor. A wide range of engines, transmissions, and body types were available, totaling five, which, combined with German configuration options, allowed you to get the car of your dreams exactly as you wanted. Let me describe a few “features” of the new car to make clear the level of comfort we’re talking about.

You could order up to four keys for each driver, allowing the car to remember your settings and adjust the seats and mirrors depending on the key. The rear windows in the coupe could have electronic drives, allowing you to “crack” the vents. A multi-wheel with cruise control management, TV tuner, phone – no, really, I can list the possible options for a long time, but the sports community was concerned with another question: where’s the M3?

Since the E30 model, the Bavarian C-class has acquired an M version. M – stands for Motorsport, which unambiguously explains the essence of the new car. A tuned chassis, good engine, aggressive exterior, and refined interior – these are the postulates followed by all cars in the 3 series M. And due to the weight, there was no need to install a large and heavy engine under the hood – an inline-six solved all dynamics issues. Well, it did until recently. Nevertheless, by correctly combining all elements, the cars in the lineup became some of the most popular track tools (cars for racing tracks).

So, with the announcement of the new M3 E46, the Germans delayed, but there was a very good reason for this. Rather, a whole series of reasons: unlike its predecessors, the new model had many differences from the “civilian” version. The main news: now ///M is only a coupe and convertible, no sedans. The body, due to inflated arches, became wider, the car itself – lower, the slope of the windshield changed, reducing the height of the roof. This became possible due to the changed seating – the seats also became lower. In other words, there were not many common parts with the regular version.

The chassis was approached thoroughly, making, according to many authoritative people and publications and the lap time on the “North Loop” Nürburgring, one of the best in terms of handling. The experience of BMW factory teams in various touring races and all sorts of encouragement of engineering departments paid off – let’s guys, make the fastest city car! And they did, creating the S54B32 engine, repeatedly becoming “Engine of the Year” in the category from 3 to 4 liters. 6 cylinders, a working volume of 3.2 liters, a power of 343 hp – let’s get the calculators and count, it turns out 107 hp from each liter of volume! At the same time, engines of the M54 series (to which S54 belongs) are famous for oil consumption in normal condition, which is one of the reasons for jokes about BMW and oil consumption, but the M-engine is minimally susceptible to this. “By the book” it can consume up to a liter per 1000 km, but this depends on the oil and driving style. The potential allows the power unit to drive not one hundred thousand kilometers, but, uh, the peculiarities of operation “will eat” the bottom in the cast iron block approximately after 150 thousand km. But again, if you do all the work on time, you can get away with replacing inserts, rings, and other small parts, the block withstands 1000 hp with minimal modifications!

On the intake, there are 6 throttles as the best solution for a naturally aspirated ICE. If the power is not enough for you – either other camshafts, exhaust, and other tuning according to the list, or a driven compressor, which easily “blows” 0.4 bar and 470 hp, will come to the rescue. For these characteristics, the engine was popular with drifters for some time as an alternative to JZ, especially since its weight is only 150 kg.

You could switch gears either with a 6-speed manual or SMG II. If everything is clear with the “stick”, then SMG already indicated new compromises – in fact, it is a “robot” that allowed to control the mechanical gearbox through the “brains” and electric drives. Here I can afford to say the main thought: M3 has ceased to be utilitarian sports, it has become somewhat softened and began to give comfort first. Just think, a city sports car once had to have 3 pedals, and now BMW sets the style of “comfortable in traffic jams, fast on the track”, for which it was initially perceived with hostility. This automatic gearbox has a whole bunch of modes that make you feel confident on the track and on the way to work, which BMW thought a lot about. Paddle shifters give a feeling of Ferrari, and the speed of operation at that time resembled a machine gun. Only if I could forget that around the same years, such paddles appeared on the Peugeot 206 CC…

The exterior of the car will be called ascetic by someone, but this is the very non-aging German classic! Everything is as functional, strict, and tasteful as possible. Plus, the controls are located as conveniently as possible for the driver – although the maximum speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h, the car still provides for very. Active. Driving. I’m sure many will miss such simple and understandable buttons and “twists”, because now for us has come that very digital future that car manufacturers have been bringing closer as much as they could.

Yes, all this time I’ve been talking about this red beauty, but it’s not just an M3! The story of its purchase is simple and devoid of long stories of searching and torment of choice – there was just an amount, just liked it in the photos. Arrived, fell in love, bought – that’s exactly how cars should be bought, so as not to sit for weeks on car sales websites.

Originally, the car was already not quite in stock: the springs were lowered, there were expensive forged wheels. At that time, the stance movement was just gaining popularity, and the owner succumbed to temptation: a DGR suspension was bought, the struts were turned to the very bottom and the first low M3 E46 appeared in Russia.

Later, a Pandem body kit appeared – one of the most beautiful body kits for this body. Was it a pity to cut the body of a legend and “how could you bring yourself to do it, it’s an M3” – the hand was raised, it turned out beautifully. That’s how it should be. The body kit is attached with threaded rivets – a beautiful and, alas, not the most popular solution, a sealant is laid around the perimeter, which allows you to hide small flaws of the body kit.

The wheels are a separate chic. Originally, I wanted BBS – well, you understand, the stance in 2013 simply sparkled with an abundance of wheels from this manufacturer. But in Russia, it was not easy to buy wheels with the desired parameters – so they were bought in the USA, and the seller even polished the shelves for free. Straight service. The width parameters were 11 and 10.5 inches at the rear and front respectively. It turned out to be somewhat narrow at the back, so an expensive and not very common solution was undertaken, but first, let’s remind what composite wheels consist of. The central part – the center – is the part of the wheel that is directly screwed to the hub. The outer part of the rim we call the shelf, the inner part of the wheel – the inner. So, to assemble truly wide wheels, you just need 2 inners so that the outer part of the wheel is the same as the inner! The offset turns out to be 0, the wheel width – 13J! That’s real madness with a 295mm tire. By the way, wide wheels at the front also fit so radically that the steering wheel does not turn about 20 degrees – the wheel rests wherever it can. Beauty requires sacrifice, you know.

So it is, a static low M3. Has it become more aggressive and unique? I think this is a purely rhetorical question, it’s not so easy to meet the second one like this in the world. Has it retained its M-features? Yes, also definitely, although it will never show a time on the track similar to the original car. We hope that there will be more and more such radical projects over the years!

See you soon, friends!