Bang For Your Buck: 2003 BMW M3 E46

I’m not one to go around making blanket statements like some kind of high horse ridin’ pundit…but here goes; the E46 M3 is the M3 you want to buy right now. Before we go any further, I want to state that this isn’t my car, although I have one that is very similar in spec/ color /condition /miles…give or take. Suffice to say, I know what I’m talking about when it comes to M3s and I know a little bit about the M3 market…more later. Find this 2003 BMW M3 E46 offered for $9,500 in Oldsmar, FL via eBay.

But back to the E46 M3 being the best M3…let’s start at the beginning and make it easy for you. The inline-4 powered E30 (1986-1991) are way overpriced these days with ratty examples pulling $20k because they were imported in lower numbers (5300 coupe, 476 ragtop) and they are hip/cool/neato etc. The US market E36 M3 (1992-1999) was saddled with a de-tuned inline-6 that was almost 100 horsepower down from ROW engine and with 18961 coupes, 7760 sedans, and 6211 verts, they are plentiful, many slushboxes, and cheap…but not that ///MMMMMM. I did own a 5-speed coupe a few years ago and it was a good car…just not great. Enter the E46 M3 (2000-2006) where Northmerica got the S54 inline-6 good for 333 horsepower and no slushbox (a 6-speed manual or 6-speed SMG automated manual…more on that later) and these were built in larger numbers 39,000 sent to US market, but they have a very special ///M feel with unique 8000 rpm naturally aspirated inline-6, big LSD out back, chassis strengthening, sport tuned steering, and suspension that let’s you dance a fine line between apex hugging and daily driving. It is the best trade-off of sport and street of any car I’ve ever driven…no BS. In 2007 BMW introduced the E90/92/93 M3 that is powered by an S65 414 hp V8 (gasp!) that is known for burning through rod bearings but these E9X M3s are still expensive and few are below $20k without serious issues. The F80 generation (2014-2018) reverted to inline-6 power, but with the addition of twin turbos and these are still in the over $40k price range. The cheapest M3s might still be the E36, but the nice ones are gaining ground and the best bang for your buck is what you see here.

Enough about the reasons why the E46 is the best bang for your buck — you get it…let’s talk specifically about the dreaded SMG equipped versions, which sell for $4k-$6k less than an equivalent 6-speed model. First, the SMG is not a conventional automatic where you just press the pedal and slushiness makes power ooze into the wheels…or a modern snick-snick dual clutch that shifts like a well oil Winchester…the E46 SMG uses the exact same gearbox as the standard 6-speed, but with the addition of some Rube Goldberg inspired hydraulics to actuate the clutch and shift the gears. Ham-fisted journalists always complained about low speed theatrics and recalcitrance in auto mode…but here’s the rub. Don’t drive it in auto mode. Ever. Maybe if you are trying to eat a double-double animal-style on the 405, you could shift into auto for a few precious moments, but otherwise drive it in manual mode and adjust the shift speed to as fast as it will shift…at all times. This is counter intuitive, but the smoothest shifting is with the gearbox in full race mode with the TCS off. Don’t ask why. Just drive it like a manual without the clutch. You still need to anticipate and lift for shifts, blip the throttle on downshifts, and generally pay attention to your gear changes. But if those journalists had owned an SMG car instead of just driving one for a few moments in a press fleet, they might have come to appreciate the combination of fun around town shifting and blazing track performance of the SMG. And if an SMG is REALLY not for you, spend a few hundred bucks at the junkyard and a few weekends turning it into a manual.

From the seller:

Vehicle Description

We have a 2003 E46 BMW M3 for sale. It is equipped with an SMG transmission and Topaz Blue Metallic paint. The motor pulls exceptionally, and runs smooth. Likewise the transmission shifts through the gears and the clutch has no slipping of any kind. During shifting there is a clunk in the rear, you can easily lift the differential by hand, it will need new bushings. The A/C does not blow cold, and the interior shows signs of wear and tear, such as the driver window switch being broken but functional. This car has been owned by the same family since 2004 at 15,783 miles, ownership has changed between father and son a few times since. We can also ship anywhere in the US.

We have no maintenance records on the car.

We have no idea if the Vanos or rod bearings or sub frame support was done. We included a few pictures from the under body and sub frame if that helps.

Please contact us if you have any questions, we specialize in right hand drive Japanese Domestic Vehicles, so we can not speak on any BMW specific questions.

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Item specifics

VIN (Vehicle Identification Number):WBSBL93403JR19927Mileage:123788
Model:M3Number of Cylinders:6
Make:BMWDrive Side:Left-hand drive
Drive Type:RWDFor Sale By:Dealer
Body Type:CoupeExterior Color:Blue
Warranty:Vehicle does NOT have an existing warrantyVehicle Title:Clean
Fuel Type:Gasoline

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