When the E46 released in 1998, the first impression that came to mind was growth. Not only in size, but in overall performance as a vehicle. The E46 did grow in size from it’s previous platforms, but the chassis lost weight and the mechanics of the vehicle were tuned smoother. The one low point of the E46 was BMW’s decision to go with 18 inch rims, heavier brakes, and an overall heavier curb weight (which is not very surprising considering the increased weight you typically see each succession). This caused a lower quality ride compared to the E36.
The E46 was offered in a 5 and 6 speed manual transmission. Automatic transmissions were offered in 4, 5, and 6 speed options as well. Diesel and gas engines were both available. The 316, 318, 320, 323, 325, 328, 330, and M3 were all available as gas motors and ranged from 103 -355 horsepower/122 – 273 lb. torque.
The 318d, 320d, and 330d were the diesel offerings and ranged from 114 – 201 horsepower/195 – 302 lb. torque.
Model types included a:
2 Door Coupé
2 Door Convertible
3 Door Hatchback
4 Door Sedan
5 Door Station Wagon
Many revere the E46 M3 as the greatest BMW of all time. It was offered from 2001 – 2006 and built upon the E36 M3 that had it’s flaws. The main issues were created by BMW when they decided to release a dumbed down version of the M3 to the USA. What, did BMW think US customers wouldn’t complain about the lack of power that the Europeans so luckily got? Sure, BMW likely thought the expensive and fast car wouldn’t sell very well in the states, but to dumb down your hopefully flagship sport sedan in the US is a mistake, especially when Europe got the full fledged version. Due to the complaints from US customers, BMW made all of the proper changes for the E46 that released in the US which produced 333 HP from a naturally aspired inline 6 cylinder engine. Not only does the E46 M3 generate amazing power, especially in mid range, but it does this with minimal effort and smoothly too. The other factor I think influences the love for the E46 M3 is it’s “old school” feel. In today’s day, cars are becoming more automatic/electronic with each release. The E46 M3 not only utilizes a manual dip stick but also lacks steering controls, damper settings, along with every other knob and setting for everything that you see today. This gives the E46 more of a connected feel that simply cannot be replicated by today’s standards of what makes a car “attractive”.