BMW E46 Side

In this article Mike talks about the beautiful and legendary BMW M3 E46.

You may recall that I claimed in a previous blog a few days ago that the Jensen C-V8 made me feel like a man. A gentleman to be exact. A sophisticated powerful and stylish fellow.

I also shared my secret that Jenny the C-V8 was almost knocked off her top spot by another car, a car that I was embarrassed to admit had posed this threat.

A car that transformed this same three day stubble and leather jacket wearing chap into a rogue – a thug. A thug without the guilt and consequences of actually being one. Epic feeling.

Enter the mighty BMW M3 E46. Sitting purposely on her low suspension, hunched into muscular arches front and rear, she gracefully aired her authority as a performance BMW, the perfectly sculpted quad exhaust and sleek lip spoiler wrapping it all up nicely. However, it was not love at first sight.

But settling into the gorgeous red leather interior and looking over the carbon blue bonnet, subsequently feeling the aggressive instant response of the legendary straight six with a spine tingling exhaust note to match, I suddenly wished I was driving all the way to Scotland, not just Ealing. I was enjoying being inside this car very much, it was a nice place to be.

Hustling the perfectly weighted steering, clutch and gear-lever through some back roads in London I thought “this the best car I have driven”. But immediately felt tortured in my head, how could I have fallen for an M3? How could I have settled on something so ordinary?

Then it dawned on me, a car is all about “fit”. Catching a glimpse of myself in a shop window, arm on the sill, the blue tinted tear drop door mirror reflecting my elbow and the exhaust shrieking as I pulled away…that was it. Rogue and thug mode was here, and I wanted to feel like this daily. It was good for my soul. It “fit” me.

BMW E36 Side

BMW E36 Side

And it wasn’t the first or last M3 I had ever driven. I grew up thinking that if one owned an Estoril blue BMW M3 E36 coupe, one had made it in life. Oh to be 17 again! Driving the E36 M3 was always exciting, it felt raw, ready to go constantly and I always felt smug driving it quickly knowing it didn’t have traction control. This particular M3 I mention actually has a baby named after it – a client joked that his wife almost gave birth on the way to the hospital in the M3, so I responded with “you should call her Emily, it rhymes with M3”. And they did just that.

BMW E93 Side

BMW E93 Side

The E93 M3 was a shock to the system though. It was bigger, feeling more like a 6 series. The metal folding roof was amazing, the design intricate and accurate, and gave me the impression it would never go wrong.

But something was missing. It had gained two cylinders but lost the sharp edged, metallic and aggressive performance that I had become accustomed to from the M3. I also felt like I should be wearing a suit, a bluetooth earpiece and be clean shaven. It was however a mighty fast machine, I’ll never forget what my boss said about it – “never mind a Ferrari 360, that feels quicker”. And I think in real world driving he might be right.

So why is the E46 the pick of the bunch for me? Well, the E36 felt like a fast road car but I got used to the power and the E93 was just a little too clinical and “button happy” for me. The E46 is just always on it, it is an M car from the moment you open the door, even without activating the Sport button. It does absolutely everything well, whether you commute, take it on fast roads and tracks or you want to bring your new born baby back from the hospital.

It is the perfect M car in my opinion. An M car should frighten you into thinking whether or not you can actually push this car to its limit, and this one maintained that grip over me throughout the years.

Having said that, I haven’t driven an E30 M3 yet. But I do know where I can borrow one, so watch this space…


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Mike Atwall MIKE ATWALL This article was written and published by Mike Atwall. Mike works for Trade Classics as an in-house journalist and copywriter and has many years’ experience in the classic car sector – for over 8 years he was the General Manager of the Classic Car Club in London and responsible for a fleet of over 100 cars worth multi-million pounds. So there’s not much Mike doesn’t know about makes, models, maintenance and idiosyncrasies of these old cars. Mike’s a true petrol head with a deep passion for the classics and he loves to talk cars all day, so why not write a reply on this article below. Google+

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