A small design detail that made the E46 superior to the previous E36 was the location of the front wheels. The E36 had such poor rear legroom that an improvement was mandatory for the new car – BMW was determined to meet or exceed their rivals in terms of interior space and legroom. The solution was to push the front wheels as far forward as possible (25mm), which provided many benefits
One benefit is that interior space increased without increasing the overall size of the car, solving the rear legroom dilemma. Second, it allowed the engine to sit farther back, improving steering dynamics and helping the car achieve a near 50/50 distribution
With peak power occurring @ 7900 RPM and paired with a 3.62 axle ratio, the drivetrain practically begs the driver not to shift until the 8,000 RPM redline. It was obvious how proud BMW was of the S54, as it produced the highest specific output of any naturally aspirated engine in BMW’s history (minus the limited production V12 developed for the McLaren F1)
The piece de resistance is a set of 6 motorsport-inspired DBW individual throttle bodies that provide the required airflow for an 8,000 RPM redline. During development, however, BMW had difficulty fitting this intricate intake setup underneath the hood of the standard 3 series. Their solution was to create a sporty-looking bulge in the center of the hood to accommodate the intake. This bulge is commonly referred to as the “Power Dome”
It was also realized during development that the side fender vents (which were intended to evacuate heat from the engine bay) weren’t very effective. However, the design was already approved by the management team, and since everyone liked the added design touch, BMW decided to keep them. These tiny vents stayed put as a signature design trait of all BMW M cars moving forward
In an unusual attempt to provide increased steering feel for the driver, the M3’s rack and pinion steering features a slower steering ratio than the base 3 series (15.4:1 on the M3 vs 13.7:1 on base cars). However, the ratio might have been too slow, as BMW found the need to upgrade to a faster ratio (14.5:1) for buyers who opted for the driver-focused Competition package (offered in ’05 and ’06)
BMW’s M division was highly against the idea of putting an automatic transmission in the E46 M3. The development team must have put up quite a fight against corporate because, in the end, they got what they wanted – no automatic transmission was to be offered in the M3, despite the push from corporate. The car was to be built exclusively with one transmission: a 6spd manual. There was one caveat: buyers could opt to have the transmission electronically controlled, without a clutch pedal. This computerized setup, referred to as SMG (Sequential Manual Gearbox), was as close as buyers could get to an automatic trans. Using one transmission for all cars not only saved BMW money, but it made it extremely easy to convert an SMG car to a gated 6spd
Key Model Year Changes:
In cars with no Navigation system (such as this one) an in-Dash CD Player replaces the tape player
First year of the Bi-Xenon option (replacing the single Xenon lights) as well as the Automatic headlight option
First year of Titan Shadow trim (replacing Gloss Black trim)
The Navigation system is now wide-screen (16:9 instead of 4:3)
Strut Bar is now standard equipment (occurred mid-year). 19″ wheels became available for the first time as well. Mid-2002 models w/out Navigation are now pre-wired for Sirius satellite radio
The infamous Competition package (ZCP) wasn’t available until 2005
34k original miles
Factory 6spd gated manual
Ordered new through Crevier BMW
Carbon Black over grey Nappa leather
All maintenance and recalls done
Currently wears OEM ZCP wheels (original 18″ wheels incl)
*SAE rated from factory. May not reflect current output.
*Performance numbers pulled from either the factory brochure or reputable automotive road tests.
*Base price when new does not reflect original MSRP of this particular car, nor does it reflect what the original owner paid for it.
*Advertised price at time of posting. Sellers can raise or lower prices on their original ad at any time. Click on the original ad to view current price/availability.
Mileage Disclaimer: NOC has not confirmed if the mileage stated by the seller is true and accurate. It is up to the buyer to verify these claims. Vehicle history reports, service records stating mileage, and even inspections of odometer tampering are recommended.