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Old 21st February 2011, 03:45 AM   #1
suraj
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Default E46 M3 Buyer's Guide

I thought I would have a go at redoing the guide, the old one was old and tired plus had some out of date stuff etc, etc.

Before buying an E46 M3, or indeed any car you are purchasing, you should at the very least learn a little about it. That way, if someone tells you the car produces 400BHp, you know they're lying. Or if they tell you the rear LED lights only came factory fitted after 2004, that again, they're either lying, or just wrong and don't know themselves. In either case, if this happens then you immediately become aware that perhaps other info being given to you by the seller may also be lies or just wrong.

The more you learn, the better armed you will be when it comes to negotiating the best possible deal for yourself when you finally find your M3.

BMW M3 E46 Vital statistics
  • Engine: 3245cc in line 6 cylinder, 24-valve (4 valves per cylinder)
  • Power: 343PS (252kW; 338BHp) @ 7900 rpm (Wikipedia)
  • Torque: 365N-m (269 lb-ft) @ 4900 rpm (Wikipedia)
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual or 6-speed SMG II Drivelogic gearbox, rear-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
  • Double VANOS continuously variable valve timing
The 6-speed “full manual” and 6-speed SMG gearboxes are identical. The SMG gearbox is not an automatic gearbox. The only difference between the two is that the normal clutch/clutch pedal operation of the “full manual” is replaced by an electro-hydraulic clutch which is instead operated by shift-paddles located behind the steering wheel (F1 style) or the SMG short-shift stick which replaces the standard manual shifter in the centre consul.

BMW M3 E46 Chassis
  • Brakes: vented discs, ABS anti-lock braking, DSC (Dynamic Stability Control), CBC (Cornering Brake Control)
  • Suspension, front: uprated MacPherson struts with anti-roll bar, gas damping (shock absorbers) and 3mm aluminium plated load-bearing raft
  • Suspension, rear: central location arm, independent rear with double track control arms and aluminium upper wishbones, gas damping, anti-roll bar
  • Steering: rack and pinion, power-assisted (PAS)
  • Weight: 1570 kg approx.
  • Length * width * height (mm): 4492 * 1947 * 1372
  • Wheels: 18” standard (front: 18x8J, rear: 18x9J), optional upgrade to 19” (front: 19x8J, rear: 19x9.5J)
  • Tyres: 18”: front: 225/45 ZR18, rear: 255/40 ZR18; 19”: front: 225/40 ZR19, rear: 255/35 ZR19
  • Body styles: coupe and convertible
See this thread for some more in-depth discussion of wheels, tyres and brakes.

BMW M3 E46 Performance figures
  • Top speed: 155 mph electronically limited; 174 mph delimited (Wikipedia)
  • 0-62 mph – 5.1s for Manual and SMG, convertible will be a tad slower (~+1/2 sec)
  • 30-70 mph: 4.3 seconds
  • Standing mile – 13.3s @ 104 mph (Wikipedia)
The M3 CSL was a hardcore, limited edition version of the M3. It sacrificed the creature comforts of the regular M3 for light weight modifications, better handling and increased power.

BMW M3 CSL Vital statistics
  • Power: 360BHp (265kW) @ 7900 rpm
  • Torque: 370N-m (274 lb-ft) @ 4900 rpm
  • Engine modifications included: High flow carbon air intake, modified valve and camshaft timing, retuned DME (Digital Motor Electronics) (Wikipedia)
  • Weight reduction modifications included: lightweight exhaust manifold, thinner exhaust piping, carbon fibre reinforced plastic body pieces, carbon fibre reinforced plastic roof, lightweight wheels (Wikipedia)
  • Chassis modifications included: stiffer, specially developed springs and shock absorbers, improved steering rack, larger front and rear brake discs and callipers (Wikipedia)
  • Weight: 1385 kg approx.
  • Wheels: front: 19x8.5J; rear: 19x9.5J
  • Tyres: front: 235/35 ZR19, rear: 265/30 ZR19
BMW M3 CSL Performance Figures
  • Top speed: 155 mph electronically limited
  • 0-62mph – 4.8 s
There are some great resources for the M3, which have lots more information and detail:
BMW E46 M3 Datasheet


BMW E46 M3 CSL Datasheet



BMW M3 Model revisions by year

This list is taken from Madrussian.net. Be sure to check out the website.

2001 to 2002
  • SMGII available
  • In-Dash CD Player replaces In-Dash Tape Player (non-Nav cars)
  • Bi-Xenon option replaces single Xenon
  • Titan Shadow Trim replaces Gloss Black Trim
  • Navigation Screen changes from 4:3 to 16:9
  • Topaz Blue Metallic added as standard colour
  • Automatic Headlight option
  • 19" Wheels option added (mid year)
  • Strut Bar added as standard equipment (mid year)
2002 to 2003
  • Basic Scheduled Maintenance Plan extended from 3/36 to 4/50
  • DSC/ABS unit moved from rear left of engine compartment under the brake fluid reservoir (leaving large empty space).
  • Aluminium Trim added as an option
  • DVD Navigation replaces CD-ROM Navigation
  • In-Dash CD Player available for Navigation equipped cars
  • Revised HVAC controls
  • Topaz Blue Metallic & Steel Gray Metallic dropped from standard colours
  • Mystic Blue Metallic & Silver Gray Metallic added as standard colours
  • LED Tail Lights (mid year)
  • Trunk Handle extended (mid year)
2003 to 2004
  • BMW Assist (BMW version of OnStar)
  • Square rear view mirror with BMW Assist and Fin at the back of the roof
2004 to 2005
  • Laguna Seca Blue and Oxford Green Metallic discontinued
  • Alcantara available as a standard option
  • Eucalyptus Malt Wood Trim available as a standard option
  • Competition (try not to laugh) package (ZCP) added including 19" CSL "style wheels", Alcantara steering wheel and hand brake, aluminium interior trim, slightly larger (front) cross drilled rotors, M track mode for DSC, modified suspension and steering ratio, cruise control deleted. Available starting with 12/04 production.
  • Interlagos Blue Metallic added for ZCP equipped cars only
Additional information of model revisions can be read here (under “What changes were made during the production of the E46 M3).

BMW M3 Servicing and maintenance

Whilst running an M3 doesn’t cost the earth, it isn’t really cheap either. Though you can now purchase one for under 10,000, it’s still a 47,000 performance car and the cost of parts and services still reflect this to some extent - remember this. This is [sometimes] the reason some M3s have such a high number of previous owners – people fell into the trap of believing they could afford the car because the purchase prices fell into their budgets – only to discover they’re not so happy with the cost of running and maintaining it properly.

Independent specialists are (more often than not) cheaper than BMW main dealers. I personally would hold a stamp in the service book from a well rated independent specialist in as high esteem as a main dealer one. Check out the Dealers and Garages section or search the forum to see if there are any well rated main dealers and/or independent specialists near you.

See below for some useful links.
Purchasing tips
  • Test drive a few cars, try not to buy the first one you go to see
  • If you’re unsure about whether you want a manual or SMG, try both and do some searching on forums. You’re probably not going to get the hang of it on a short test drive
  • Get a proper HPI check done on the car. When I say proper I mean one that guarantees the information they provide you and will pay out should it turn out the information they gave was wrong
  • It may be a good idea to have the car independently inspected. Again preferably by a company that will pay out should they give you some bad information
  • The last two bullet points count for double if purchasing private or from an independent dealer, and not a main dealer
  • There are lots of M3s for sale on Autotrader and Pistonheads however I’d say the best place to buy is from a member of an enthusiast forum. It’s sure to be well looked after and hopefully not have any secrets
As with most cars, the M3 has its share of common faults. Whilst not comprehensive the following is a good list of things you should check when purchasing an E46 M3.
  • Check all service history is present and check the service schedule outlined by BMW has been followed correctly
  • In particular, check that the 1200 mile running-in service was completed (BMW will not honour any warranty the car may have if it wasn’t)
  • Wherever the car has had work done, ring up garages/dealers with the registration or VIN number to see if the work carried out pairs up. This should determine if any of the history has been faked
  • Check the car all over for any accident damage
  • Check the rear suspension coils – these break easily and are a common fault. A broken spring will fail an MOT. Replacement springs aren’t massively expensive and the labour shouldn’t be more than 1.5 hours for getting both sides done – but why should you pay for it? Get the seller to have it rectified or get the cost knocked off the purchase price
  • Check when the clutch was last changed. If it was changed a while ago and the car looks or feels like it may have been driven hard then you may have to fork out for this – again try to reflect this in the purchase price
  • Check ALL recalls have been completed. Cars built pre 2003 had a recall for engine connecting rod bearings. In the case of the E46 M3 I believe this is the only recall
  • Check the sub frame for cracks and see if any work has been carried out on it. This model is susceptible to a cracked sub frame which gets worse over time. Some main dealers will repair this free of charge – usually by using a foam filler to reinforce the sub frame. Depending on how bad it is – they may replace the whole floor. See this extensive thread for information as well as searching the forum and Google to find out more.
  • Check the condition of the rear trailing arm bushes
  • Check the rubber door seals as the glue used seems to be rubbish and can allow them to off. Fairly cheap and cheerful job to repair yourself
  • Check the rear-view mirror has not leaked of the monochromatic fluid
  • Check the door mirrors are in good condition and working properly – because they are not cheap to replace!
  • Check the tyres have lots of tread and at if the car does not have the same brand tyres on all corners, at least check that the car is the same tyre on each axel. Again, tyres are not cheap! If you are looking for some budget but relatively well performing tyres take a look at the Kumho brand (search the forum and Google for ratings)
  • Check the diff for a grinding noise at slow speeds whilst turning (all the way to full lock). If it grinds it may be a simple problem of the diff not having the updated diff oil which contains additives which reportedly stop the noise completely.
When looking at an M3 with SMG II

Generally the SMG II is bulletproof and is not plagued by the horrific problems found on the SMG I system from the E36 M3, however things can go wrong. Repairs range from a simple relay swap (search for "salmon relay") which costs about 20, to replacing a compression spring within the gearbox which while itself is cheap is fairly labour intensive (as the gearbox has to be dropped) and probably cost in the region of ~600, to having to replace the pump which I think dealers sell new for about 1200 excluding labour which again is intensive.

Be sure to check the car enages all gears properly, in all modes, at all speeds. In S5 or S6 mode at full throttle, the gear change (do not lift throttle whilst changing) should be lightning fast with a neck-knocking jerk. If the car isn't like that there may be something up with it. The change should be slightly less jerky if you part or fully lift off the throttle in between changing gear. If the seller isn't willing to let you test the car properly I'd walk away. It's understandable if the seller won't let you test in S6 mode, especially on a wet day, as this requires DSC off - which you if not used to handling so much rear-wheel driven power could easily find your self trying to put an M3 shaped hole in a tree.

The video below shows SMG II changing gear (bare in mind he only changes once). It's hard to tell but it looks like he might be in S5 or S6 mode and he isn't lifting off the throttle:


More useful links
If anyone has any corrections or some more stuff to add be sure to post up

Last edited by suraj; 21st February 2011 at 04:05 AM. Reason: Updated again
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Old 26th February 2011, 07:08 PM   #2
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nice touch to the site
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Old 28th February 2011, 11:43 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by ///FOX View Post
nice touch to the site
Should hopefully help a few people. I want to get an E9x one written up now, dunno where to start though!
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Old 28th February 2011, 03:18 PM   #4
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Nice one Suraj...
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Old 28th February 2011, 11:21 PM   #5
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Thanks for that Suraj, currently on the look out for one myself, lots of tips I never knew about.

Cheers.
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Old 1st March 2011, 04:24 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frazbo View Post
Thanks for that Suraj, currently on the look out for one myself, lots of tips I never knew about.

Cheers.
Glad it's helped
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Old 3rd April 2011, 12:25 AM   #7
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Excellent information
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Old 15th April 2011, 03:28 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by EDz View Post
Excellent information
Agree excellent info
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Old 23rd April 2011, 07:58 PM   #9
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cool, thats all good info, i am new on here and keen to buy my first m3 in a couple of months cant wait, need all the inside info i can get!.

should i keep away from high miles on a car?, you guys seem to have all motors with 45/55k on the clock.

i did see a great looking m3 with one prev owner, looked mint but had done 113k, would i be buying trouble?

cheers
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Old 18th May 2011, 10:47 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marshy View Post
cool, thats all good info, i am new on here and keen to buy my first m3 in a couple of months cant wait, need all the inside info i can get!.

should i keep away from high miles on a car?, you guys seem to have all motors with 45/55k on the clock.

i did see a great looking m3 with one prev owner, looked mint but had done 113k, would i be buying trouble?

cheers
With these cars most owners say how well it's been maintained is far more important than the mileage - even at the mileage you're talking about. Personally I'm a sticker for low miles but that's just me.
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Old 31st October 2011, 07:57 AM   #11
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Thanks for the info
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Old 7th November 2011, 07:23 AM   #12
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Great guide!

I'm looking into getting a used E90 so a guide to those would be great too !
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Old 9th November 2011, 03:57 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by suraj View Post
With these cars most owners say how well it's been maintained is far more important than the mileage - even at the mileage you're talking about. Personally I'm a sticker for low miles but that's just me.
Unfortunately Suraj, one thing you omitted in your buyer's guide was the potential weak spots for potential theft, and how we, as owners can make our cars more secure.
just had my hardtop nicked as I slept. Had no idea that the E46 was susceptible to the same sort of crime that the E36 had succumbed to, otherwise I would've taken the appropriate steps. Are my bumpers next, or are these more secure....?

Last edited by Lukec4ge; 9th November 2011 at 03:58 AM. Reason: Wrong spelling
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Old 11th November 2011, 02:25 PM   #14
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This is a fantastic guide - Thanks!

I've just signed up as I am searching for a late E46 M3 and has heard positive comments of this board. Look forward to hopefully becoming more active on here!
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Old 19th December 2011, 12:07 PM   #15
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thanks for the guide!! have book marked this now as i'm on the hunt for a M3 cabby.

Good Work!
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Old 21st December 2011, 01:31 PM   #16
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What a great guide this is.
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Old 31st December 2011, 08:16 PM   #17
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Very informative thanks I'm on the long search for a M3 seca blue 04..Ooops 03 was the last
in seca blue,,

Last edited by Rb2nice; 12th January 2012 at 10:28 AM.
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Old 9th January 2012, 02:31 AM   #18
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cheers for the info, also in the market for a carbon vert smg, will try and use all the help I can get on here to find the right 1
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Old 12th January 2012, 10:31 AM   #19
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Can't believe the lies I hear when people our selling there cars,yet it's so easy to find out the truth in many cases

Last edited by Rb2nice; 12th January 2012 at 10:36 AM.
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Old 12th January 2012, 12:57 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rb2nice View Post
Very informative thanks I'm on the long search for a M3 seca blue 04..Ooops 03 was the last
in seca blue,,
My Laguna Seca Blue coupe is on a 54 plate!!!
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