I previously owned a 2000 M Roadster. Loved the car - a beast. Tight handling, throaty exhaust, a rocket launcher. My buddy owns a 2002 330Ci - refined car, snappy, loved the top. I thought the 2003 M3 w/SMG would marry the best of both. It does - in a way - but after owning it, I still find myself longing for the purity of the M Roadster. It's just as fast (01-02's would actually smoke the E46 M3), handles better, and it's way lighter. The M3 outputs 333HP but it weighs 3780lb. The SMG trans screams at high RPM/track driving, but it takes getting used to around town. For an awesome daily driver for the fam, save the $ and get the 330Ci & buy the M Roadster for the weekend.
SMG (for race/track driving only, though), Sport mode, HP, excellent handling for the weight, good DSC, power top, 19"s, hard top (improves chassis rigidity) overall appearance, love/hate relationship w/the the back seats for practicality/performance reasons.
The exhaust note stinks. C'mon, for 333HP and this kind of $, I want to be reassured of my purchase every time I step on the gas. The car could go on a 400 - 600lb diet, or beef up with more HP - new vettes and 911's will still smoke ya, along w/majorly modified tuners - the M3 is not invincible.
This car is a driver's dream. The complete package of comfort and performance. Outside of the door trim losing adhesiveness, the car has been worry and problem free. You can't help but get out and push the 333hp to the limits. The brakes, steering and DSC help make it as safe as it is fun to drive. There is not other car on the road, providing as much fun as the M3 for the money.
The 8200 rpm redline seems like the power keeps coming. The overall design, the most beautiful of any BMW. Sport mode, turn up the fun another notch.
Better adhesive to hold the door trim, this seems to be a prominent problem with the M.
I was on the wait list for the Porsche 997 and decided to get the M3 instead. I would love to own both but do not regret my decision to get the M3. I have been in or owned and/or driven Audi S4, Ferrari 550, Porsche 911T, Corvette Z06. All are outstanding in their own way. Bottom line is that there is no comprable car for the money. Corvette Z06 is a fantastic performance machine but still in essence a 'Chevy.' The C6 may be different. The S4 (2001) was a great car and easier to modify for more horsepower but had severe understeer and turbo lag. I would rather have the 911 turbo or Ferrari but obviously both are in a different price class.
SMG, appearance, high speed stability, handling, 4 seats, usable trunk
Better speakers, can never have enough torque or horsepower
My car is a late '03 and it's been nothing but a wonderful driving experience so far. I've put nearly 30,000 miles on it in 18 months and it's been perfectly reliable as a daily driver...no warranty issues. I've even driven in light snow with it, thanks to the abilities of DSC. The best thing you can do for yourself is to take the one day M-school course offered by BMW at their performance delivery center in Greenville, South Carolina. You'll learn all about how to properly use the M3's capabilities. It's cheap insurance!
1. Acceleration 2. Handling capabilities 3. Build quality 4. Styling inside and out 5. Nav system (a must!) 6. Park distance control (decadent but worth it) 7. Rain sensing, variable speed wipers (trés cool)
The '06 will be totally redesigned so it's hard to know whether my few complaints will be addressed but: 1. Get rid of the annoying buzz in the exhaust system 2. Make a high quality stereo system available; the HK unit is terrible 3. Make the driver's mirror turn down when shifting into reverse