The E46 BMW M3 is a car loved by many enthusiasts but it always seems to me that the love is anything but unconditional. During its six year production run the third generation M3 had its fair share of issues that have led to it being a very divisive car. Many swear that these cars are the pinnacle of BMW engineering before they lost their way, others point to them as a prime example of what happens when a community is in denial. Honestly I don’t fall into either camp, but I can see how both sides would have a valid argument. On the one hand these cars can be your ticket to having insane amounts of naturally aspirated fun and on the other they can drain your savings account faster than a fantasy sports gambling site. As with any used vehicle there are specific years and specific issues you need to look out for: VANOS failure, cracking rear subframes, snapping rear springs and of course the whole SMG unit. Most of these issues affected all years of the E46 M3 but if you got your hands on a manual you could avoid that final one all together. However, there was one particular model that I think warrants consideration despite it being saddled with BMW’s fancy manumatic transmission, the M3 ZCP.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2006 BMW M3 ZCP
Engine: 3.2 litre inline-6
Transmission: 6-speed sequential manual
Mileage: 66,371 mi
Price: $29,950 Buy It Now
6-SPEED SEQUENTIAL MANUAL TRANSMISSION (SMG)
COMPETITION PKG -inc: 19″ x 8.0 front/19″ x 9.5 rear cross-spoke wheels w/P225/40R19 front/P255/35R19 rear performance tires alcantara steering wheel & handbrake Competition Pkg aluminum trim cross-drilled compound brakes M track mode for DSC more direct steering ratio
NAPPA LEATHER SEAT TRIM
ON-BOARD NAVIGATION SYSTEM
PREMIUM HARMON/KARDON SOUND SYSTEM
PREMIUM PKG -inc: pwr front seats w/driver memory adjustable seat width & lumbar support pwr moonroof BMW Assist
PWR FRONT SEATS W/DRIVER MEMORY
PWR GLASS MOONROOF
REAR PARK DISTANCE CONTROL
How good does a sports car have to be for one to consider purchasing it sans a third pedal? Damn frickin’ good and from what I am told, these cars qualify as such. The ZCP competition package took what was already an exceptionally good chassis and dialed it in even more. Having only driven one E46 M3, I’m not qualified to comment on just how different the ZCP cars are, but my go to BMW buddy has told me it doesn’t take long for them to feel like an extension of your body. He has only driven a manual equipped vehicle so I don’t have direct source on how SMG transmission effects the overall experience, but back in 2009 Road & Track did say that it was “one of their favorite sports cars of all time.” I wonder if they would still stand by that statement in today’s market? I should probably ask them one of these days.
Anyhow, this particular example of the M3 ZCP is covered in the very pretty, blueberry-esque, Interlagos Blue paint which is second only to the Oxford Green in my eyes. Inside the Nappa leather appears to have been well cared for over the past nine years and overall the interior shows very little sign of wear. This bodes well for the integrity of this car because many of the E46 M3s I’ve come across in my searches have absolutely thrashed interiors, especially the SMG equipped ones. I don’t know if that’s because the majority of people who opt for an automatic are simply less inclined to take care of their vehicles or if it’s just a coincidence but it’s what I’ve seen time and time again. This car continues to buck the trend with the Alcantara covered steering wheel and e-brake both appearing to be in great shape, always a problem area on these older cars. The 19″ BBS wheels are curb rash free, something you rarely see on these cars and even the original floor mats look tidy.
So given all of these pluses, the cleanliness, the relatively low miles, the desirable color, the endorsement from the wizards at Road & Track, would you be ok dropping nearly $30,000 on a track focused M3 without a third pedal? I can’t say I would be, in fact, I wouldn’t be ok with it at any price. I’ve learned my lesson with the S4. Don’t settle, you’ll only end up regretting it. Sports cars of this ilk are best enjoyed when you’re rowing your own gears but for those folks out there who can’t be bothered to learn how to do so, this is the car for them.