I have always been an E46 fan, having three cars in the family already: 320i, 325ci and a 330i. All great cars and loads of fun to drive. I always dreamed of owning an E46 M3, having test-driven numerous cars. I was scared away by the M-Tax on replacement parts, and so could not commit to buying one.
I instead looked for an E46 330ci ZHP, but these are hard to find in reasonable condition, so I then decided to look at thedue to the awesome 3.0-litre, six-cylinder twin-turbo motor.
After test driving and mountains of research, I focussed on the facelifted E90 sedan due to the upgraded tech specs and more aggressive front-end styling. I was never a big fan of the earlier tail-light design on the earlier E90 models nor the front bar design, and with all the aftermarket clip-ons available to make it look like a facelift model, why not just get a facelift model?
The tech upgrades from the E46 just brought the car into the present day with great Bluetooth connectivity and hands-free tech. The stereo system was lacking somewhat, so after more research, I changed out the subs under the front seats and added Bavsound speakers to the rest of the system, along with an amp upgrade due to the BMW product losing channels. Not that I listen to the stereo too often when the engine/exhaust sound is the best sound I've ever heard.
It lets you know that subtle beast lies under the bonnet and is itching to get out and be heard. Let the right foot remain planted for a while and the beast comes out with a slightly throttled roar, and on to a full-on scream that propels the car along at a rate that matches my pulse rate, then exceeds it leaving me grinning ear to ear.
The gear changes are super quick and smooth in full auto, or use the steering wheel paddles to let it rev out even further for a better feel for what this car is capable of. Matched with the M Sport suspension and perfect weight distribution, the car handles beautifully in everyday traffic, and when travelling along at higher speeds feels effortless in response and cornering.
Servicing costs are in line with a late-model Holden or Ford, and as with every BMW, preventive maintenance is the key to avoiding those big repair bills. Although, now that the car is eight years old, there are many options for parts, which can save you money.
The one main styling point I could never understand with the stock car was the rear exhaust tips. They had a cut-out in the rear bar that was five inches round and yet they produce the car with 3.5-inch tips? I had these replaced with 4.0-inch tips that make the car look awesome, and let everyone behind you know why they are behind you.
The price of these cars today is very affordable (I paid $20K). Considering that just eight years ago they were $100K+, this allows Joe Average to get a taste of what all these motoring journalists are saying in all the articles we've read – about cars that we were only dreaming about owning. Here's a car that allowed me to live the dream.
A Note from the Editor - A stock image has been supplied with this review