2002 BMW M3

My dad’s E46 M3 was by far and away the best car he ever owned (though I guess that’s not saying much, since he mostly owned Fords). It was a convertible and, as a result, the chassis was somewhat compromised – the dash would shake at the slightest provocation from a pothole. Still, it was a great car, mostly because it was such a perfect all-rounder. It was fast, handled like a precision instrument and looked sufficiently aggressive without being too shouty. It was also very practical. If you took it down to the shops to pick up a pint of milk, and resisted the temptation to mash the throttle, it could be a very docile car to drive. But if you did open it up, the sound of that 3.2 liter straight six was pretty incredible. There’s nothing else I’ve heard that’s quite like it. It wasn’t a growl. It was a rasp, a sinister, menacing one. I hope that one day I’ll own one too.

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2001 BMW M3

Of all the various iterations of the M3, the E46 version is my favorite (and the only one that I’ve actually driven. My dad owned one for a while). I love the S54 engine. The 3.2 liter, straight six powerplant emits an intoxicating, raspy howl when you mash the throttle and puts out just over 330 hp, enough to get the car to 60 in under 5 seconds – numbers that remain respectable today. I love the looks. The standard E46 coupe is attractive, in a sober and responsible way, but the bulging wheel arches, wider track and squat stance dial up the menace and aggression without overdoing it. And finally I love the everyday usability of these cars. The E46 cabin, for example, is a study in perfect ergonomics, offering a comfortable driving position and thoughtfully laid out controls. The chassis is taut and communicative, equally at home on the track or on the street doing the grocery run. Either way, it’ll put a smile on your face every time you drive it, which you can comfortably do, every day. These cars were produced in large enough numbers that finding one isn’t difficult, but you might have to wait a while (and spend a bit more) to get one in your ideal spec. For me, that would be a 6-speed manual coupe in a dark metallic color.

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2002 BMW M3

1When I went away to university, my dad finally got his hands on the best BMW he ever owned: a six-speed E46 M3 convertible in carbon black. He would put the roof down whenever he could, just to hear the raspy S54 motor sing from those quad tail pipes, even if the weather was crap (which, being England, it frequently was). With 333 hp squeezed from that naturally aspirated, race-tuned straight six it was fast, comfortable and relatively practical; a performance car you could daily drive. I’d like to own one myself one day, though I’m not willing to put up with the compromises made for the convertible, so I’d go with a coupe instead. I even have my ideal spec picked out: a six speed manual in stahlgrau (steel gray), a gun metal color discontinued after the facelift of ’03 and replaced by the more mercurial silver gray. While steel gray was not unique to the M-cars, I’ve always thought it suits the bulging lines and wider track of the M3 very well.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 BMW M3 on Bimmerforums

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