Nov 09, 2011 | 5 minutes read

Tags: blog

It was only a matter of time, really. A BMW post. Really, Cian? How predicable.

Having owned two different E46 generation BMW’s over the past number of years, I think it’s worth putting some thoughts to paper. Or a MySQL table – whatever.

E46 325Ci M Sport

E46 325ci on Ballinacourty Pier

The 325 was my first *very nice *car. I bought it with a full BMW service history at 55,000 miles, and at 20, I was pretty proud to be the owner of a 192bhp sportscar.

I compromised when purchasing, in choosing an automatic car with a bulletproof service history over a number of manual cars that didn’t look so well looked after. Turned out to be a minor compromise – the gearbox was very smooth, and far quicker through that gears  than I’d ever be. Although the tiptronic mode always felt pointless, ‘sport mode’ vastly improved throttle response & shift speed. Having driven an extensive number of automatic vehicles, the BMW’s 5 speed automatic proved by far the smoothest and easiest to live with – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

E46 325ci at the Ice House, Helvic
The car was quick – noticeably more than 85% of cars on the road in Ireland. It was an effortless sort of power, and it never felt urgent or lacking.
0-60 was achieved in 7.2 seconds, which I subsequently verified on numerous occasions. The traction control was never overly intrusive, and when in ‘half-off’ mode notably improved the sporty driving sensation with only minor slip.

E46 325ci on Helvic Pier
The boring bits? Fuel consumption averaged 27mpg with a slightly heavy foot in mixed city and town driving. In terms of reliability, the only issue outside of regular maintenance (which was costly in itself) was a burst expansion tank leaving me without a cooling system.
Otherwise, 100% reliability over 53,000 miles (2 years) of ownership.

Considering a similar car now fetches little over €4k used, epic value is to be had.

E46 M3 SMG Convertible

E46 M3 at Ballyvooney
I had many debates on if, after 2 years of owning an E46 BMW I really wanted to buy another. At face value, it looks like an almost identical car, same year. This didn’t bother me, but another E46? The competition consisted of a BMW 535d, a Porsche Boxster S, with a Porsche 911 just a little out of budget.

Realistically, there was no competition. The only contender was the 911, which was no quicker, and a less pleasant place to be once inside.

I bought an E46 M3 SMG Convertible, and again with a degree of compromise. I didn’t want a silver or a yellow car. I didn’t want grey or yellow leather. Not much to ask, right?
I bought a silver car, with grey leather. Subsequently, both have grown on me hugely. It was a small compromise to make in exchange for an incredibly well looked after car, with an irrefutable service history.

E46 M3 overlooking Inch Strand, Co. Kerry
The first thing that struck me is the power. It really is, as far as the confines of a regular road are concerned, endless. Depending on the level of throttle attack, it can be a rapid, urgent surge through the gears or a lazy effortless overtaking maneuver.

It’s a car of multiple personalities.  The boring weekday commuter box is covered – the M3 does 27mpg with cruise control. The convertible roof makes for an unrivaled GT car experience while traversing an alpine pass. It’s even a viable track weapon if the need arises.

E46 M3 at Clonea This car has a high level of specification. My favorite has to be the SMG gearbox. A pig when cold, but outside of town driving it defines perfection. Instantaneous shifts, with an occasional racing style throttle blip which leaves the most glorious sound. Most importantly, the €2,000 hydraulic pump has been replaced recently.
All that’s missing is heated seats, a very ‘nice to have’ in a convertible car.

The navigation & onboard computer is slow and clunky, but considering the car was manufactured in 2002 this is to be expected – the screen makes a nice addition to the dash. The Harmon Kardon sound package is only a moderate improvement over the regular sound system from the 325.

The convertible top operates quickly and reliably, with no laborious latches to undo. When moving roof down at 100kph, wind around the cabin is quite significant compared to the convertible Saab 9-3 I’ve owned in the past. A wind deflector has since improved this no-end.

E46 M3 Fuel Consumption The boring stuff? A bit surprising, really. Fuel consumption in the first week averaged 28mpg, showing this figure achievable.
Around town? I dread to think, but somewhere in the region of 15mpg.
The average is bottoming out at 23mpg – expensive, but still within the confines of affordable, thankfully.

So, is the legendary M3, the last straight 6 M3, and the end of an era, all it’s made out to be? No doubt, it’s an expensive hobby. I’ve been told the car is more expensive to run than a small child. Or a heroine addiction.

But is it worth it? One word – yes. Unbeatable performance, a noise to die for, all wrapped up in a subtle & comfortable sportscar? Epic.