2002 BMW M3: Spoiled By The S54
February 10, 2009
We've had a lot of desirable long-term cars over the years, but I think our 2002 BMW M3 has been praised more consistently than any other long-termer for the way it drives, bizarre Austrian rants notwithstanding. As the odometer approaches 70,000 and the e46 M3 generation marks the third anniversary of its demise, this is still arguably the most fun-to-drive car in our fleet, as I was reminded while caning the M3 through the canyons in Malibu on my lunch break today.
However, I do blame this car for causing one of my biggest professional headaches: the M3's 333-hp S54 inline-6 has become the standard by which I judge sporting engines, and most of them just don't measure up.
The 370Z's 3.7-liter V6? Reprehensibly truckish. The A4's new 2.0T? Sounds like a Scion. Evo X? A turbocharged blender. Hell, BMW's own twin-turbo six seems soporific compared to the M3's gloriously free-revving powerplant.
I still love me some V8 (Z06, R8, S5, current M3, any AMG product), but those extra two cylinders usually don't come cheap. Particularly in the $25-35k price range, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better motor than a used e46 M3's.
Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com @ 67,202 miles