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2006 BMW M3 ZCP

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.


Year: 2006
Model: M3
Engine: 3.2 litre inline-6
Transmission: 6-speed sequential manual
Mileage: 66,371 mi
Price: $29,950 Buy It Now

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
PREMIUM PKG -inc: pwr front seats w/driver memory adjustable seat width & lumbar support pwr moonroof BMW Assist

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.




  1. Vic
    Vic April 15, 2015

    You had me until SMG. Criticism over done? Maybe, but having put 110,000 miles on a manual E46 M3 I have no complaints and wouldn’t risk going manumatic. The E46 M3 is perhaps my favorite car ever – at least favorite daily driver. Intuitive, quick, fast, handling is sublime and on the practical side maintenance has been akin to a Camry and fuel economy nibbles at 27mpg (if you keep your right foot out of it).

  2. Brad
    Brad April 15, 2015

    I just couldn’t sit inside that gray all day. It looks like coffin lining! The shade of gray is very “medium”: uninspired and dead. There is no contrast for the eye to rest on, in desperation. Even the sheen on the seats bug me — it looks like fleet vehicle cheap! The kind of Chinese leather jacket that used to bark …

  3. Chris
    Chris April 15, 2015

    I have the same car in black… same miles. Bought it 18 months ago and have had zero problems other than a window switch failure… Best car I ever owned. As with any M car buy the best one you can afford.

  4. Andrew
    Andrew April 15, 2015

    Yup, that dang SMG is just a deal breaker for me.

    Do you still have your M3?

  5. Andrew
    Andrew April 15, 2015

    Interesting point Brad, I don’t care for grey leather either, in fact I’m not a huge fan of leather seats overall. I like alcantara or nice cloth inserts trimmed with leather, even slight variations can add just enough contrast to make an interior look better.

    As for the sheen, probably used a cheap cleaner!

  6. Lee
    Lee April 15, 2015

    Overpriced. I picked up a 06 ZCP in IB with a 6-speed and 80k miles for 20k. Black interior not grey. No way I would pay 30k for this car with SMG and grey interior. The e46 is a great car and you can find a good car, just be patient and look around.

  7. Chris G
    Chris G April 15, 2015

    It’s definitely a deal breaker for me, but these are truly great cars. I haven’t owned an e46 M3, but do own and or have driven my fair share of M cars, and can safely say they just aren’t right without the third pedal. I do own an e46 though and can also say that it’s actually quite reliable. Just keep up with cooling system maintenance and chase the occasional leak and bushings. That’s all it requires.

  8. Tk
    Tk April 15, 2015

    That interior is black. Grey would be a very light grey. It’s the way the pictures came out.

  9. Carter
    Carter April 16, 2015

    2nd this is black interior. Interesting comments @Brad, since to me the all-black interiors on the E46s are the ones that look really drab. There are some great leather colors BMW offered on the E46; the grey isn’t the best, but personally I think the grey works better with the blues (Interlagos, LSB, Mystic, etc.) than the black interiors. Maybe that’s just me though. A friend has a LSB/black M3 ‘vert and personally I think that was a poor choice for an open-top car and the brilliant exterior color.

  10. Howard S
    Howard S April 16, 2015

    The SMG makes the car unusable in my opinion. I just dumped a 2007 M6 cabrio with 17k miles for a price thousands under what it would have brought if it were a manual. I didn’t even want to hold onto it and drive it a bit, that’s how little I think of the SMG. It takes the joy out of driving a great car.

  11. John
    John April 16, 2015

    For those like me that haven’t driven the M3 this is a pretty good video review. They also don’t like SMG. Also, make mine with the cinnamon brown interior.

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