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Talk Me Out Of It: E-4-6 edition

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Surprised? Not really. 58% of you selected the Ford GEE-TEE as the ride you’d take. This week, we prep for the big E46 M3 review by giving you a real M3, and one that almost was.

2003 BMW E46 M3 vs the 2004 330i ZHP

See the E46 M3 listing here

See the 330i listing here

Gary Gordon, if you’re reading this – I blame you. All of this *points to all the BMW in my life* is because you had to get a 330i with the “PP”, or Performance Package. Black. Tan inside. Manual.

I never drove that car, I was only 15 or so. Imagine how good it was then, that it left an impression all these years later from the back seat. So pure. So clean. And if you wanted a four-door M3, this was as close as you were going to get.

I’m a big boy now, all grown up. Do you think the 330i still gives me the fizz? Let’s see…

2003 BMW E46 M3

Good from far, far from good. Photo: Cars & Bids

A mint E46 can almost hit the $100,000 mark, which is crazy for a car that might be special, but not rare. May I instead direct your attention to this example:

  • 123,400 miles
  • Lives in Canada, but is a US model, but you’d still need to import it…this all sounds like a headache.
  • Get ready…SMG.
  • A carbon fiber CSL trunklid – meh
  • An interior that’s seen things
  • Currently bid to $15,000
  • Subframe and rod bearings have been completed.
  • Chips, cracks, corrosion, an accident, curb rash…

I say meh to the trunklid, but in reality, this is a meh M3. Doesn’t need to be – swap the SMG for a manual, take it to J&B for an overhaul outside, and reupholster it. Ta-da! $15,000 later, you have an E46 that’s had botox in all the right places. That’s provided the bidding doesn’t get too high. If it does – stop overbidding for subpar examples.

But hey, no matter what, you can’t get four doors. Bring in the PP!

2004 BMW E46 330i ZHP

Subtle but clean. Photo: Cars & Bids

No M3, no care?

Stop it – look how cheap you can get one of these now! $13,450?! Before we get into this specific example, recall that the Performance Package for the 330i included an M Sport Suspension, M body kit, hotter cams that moved the redline from 6,500 to 6,800 RPM and added 10 extra horsepower (235), an M Sport steering wheel, 18-inch wheels and other cosmetic goodies.

This car was a good deal.

Yes yes, an M3 was faster. Was it better? For a current bid of $14,000, this 330i has:

  • 103,900 miles
  • Rock chips
  • Fogged over headlights
  • Tires that are seven years old
  • A long history with just two owners
  • Accident-free

This car will sell for less than the M3, but there’s no “needs works” – it just is. I happen to like the pre-LCI styling on the E46 sedan better, but there was no such thing with a ZHP – that came later.

I’m going to be honest – I think you really have to actually talk me out of this one. What a daily the 330i would make. Where’s that BID button…

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