I wanted an e46 M3 or e39 M5 since they were introduced. Finally bought '02 M3 MT coupe in 2010.
WOW, what a machine! Perfectly balanced, high-revving and powerful engine (love the exhaust note), great in the corners, stops on a dime.
Other cars, including the M5, may be faster but this one is just a blast to drive every day.
If you're accustomed to owning non-M BMWs, be prepared to spend 3X or more per year to maintain this vehicle.
If that's not a problem, then you're going to love this car - it is a true performer!
I understand why Edmunds says this will be one of their favorites of all time. I also understand why none of the editors bought it after the long-term test :)
The pure performance of this vehicle is outstanding.
Power, handling, braking, exhaust note.
The car goes 100+ in 3rd gear - whoah.
Did I mention the exhaust note approaching 8k under full throttle?!
If you want to really have the ///M driving experience, stick with the expensive, super-sport/summer tires.
I made the mistake of opting for all-seasons due to cold weather.
The car handled like it was on rails with the summer-only tires. Don't sacrifice in this department - I will be going back to the sticky tires!
Build quality/durability of non-drivetrain parts (roof lining, exterior mirrors, door lock system, audio system, others...).
Some of the other reviews cited clunky transmission/differential noises - I experience this in my car too.
It is only noticeable during "normal" driving and does not seem to hinder performance while driving spiritedly.
Independent service shop says it's normal for these cars.