2002 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test - Miscellaneous

2002 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test

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Editors' Favorite Number Five: 2002 BMW M3

March 08, 2010


We had to put a lot of money into our 2002 BMW M3, but its addictive and irrepressible spirit allowed it to crack the top five. Even better, it never actually broke, despite 25,000 miles of our own plus fanboy editor Sadlier treating the redline hash mark of its straight-6 as a "shift here" indicator. Rumor has it he got an "E46 Forever!" tatoo on his shoulder...

2002 BMW M3 Intro and Wrap-Up

Editors' Favorite Number Four posts tomorrow at 9 a.m.

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2002 BMW M3: I Miss It. Do You?

September 07, 2009


Yesterday I was tooling along in and quite enjoying our long-term 2009 Audi A4 Avant. Then I stopped at this redlight behind the black E46 M3 pictured above. Look closely and you'll notice it's an M3 with the Competition Package, which means its rides on a set of supercool 19-inch BBS wheels and packs other goodness from the Europe-only CSL model. It's the one the have.

When the light went green I tried to stay with the guy, but he was on it and the A4 just didn't have enough guts. He knew I was trying, so he really pushed it, eliminating any chance I would have of getting another look at the car.

About a half-mile down the road he caught a green, but I was lagging so far behind I got stuck at the light. All I could do was sit there and watch him disappear over a rise. By the time I got moving again he was long gone.

Now all I can think about his how much I miss our beloved black E46 M3. Am I the only one? Some cars just stay with you...ya know?

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

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2002 BMW M3: Parting Shots

August 13, 2009


" ^ 'nuff said" Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor.

That's right, our 2002 BMW M3 is gone (Read the Long Term Wrap up here.) As sad as it is (for some of us-- the ones who weren't responsible for keeping the cabinet full of liquid-gold M3 oil), let's pick up the pieces of our shattered lives and take a walk down memory lane with the latest installment of Parting Shots. Walton said it best above, but follow the jump for more, and don't forget to leave your own Parting Shot in the comments.

"A car for the ages. Timeless. A true modern classic. Not exactly cheap to own, but greatness rarely is. In a few years E46 M3s will be under $10,000. I think I see some late night internet shopping sessions in my future. I'll own one eventually. My wife will just have to deal with it."

-Scott Oldham, Editor-in-Chief, Inside Line


"The lesson here is to never, ever loan your M3 to a friend. This car is a victim of serial abuse - every shift ripped at peak rpm. Is it any wonder that the engine swills oil, the second gear synchro is toast and the shift linkage is worn? This car needs on on lengthy spell in rehab and a careful elderly owner."

-Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Inside Line


"I'd like to use my space to mention the navigation system. In short, avoid it on a used BMW. You might as well have a big hole in the dash with a nice potted bamboo growing inside. It's slow, unintuitive and somehow manages to make first-gen iDrive make sense. This certainly shows the folly of this decade's rapidly evolving in-car electronics interfaces. The latest-and-greatest in your new car quickly becomes a hapless dinosaur in somebody else's used car."

-James Riswick, Automotive Editor


"If I remember correctly, the original idea was to see what kind of cool car we could get for about the same price as a new, nicely equipped Altima or Camry. Would I rather have this used M3 rather than a new car that's at the same price range - yes, yes, 100 times yes!!!

What a blast to drive - it still feels fast and still looks good. Price of maint. and/or repairs might ultimately keep me away however."

-Brian Moody, Road Test Editor


Nav sucked. Stereo sucked. Shift linkage sucked. Clutch sucked. Maintenance sucked. Trim pieces sucked. Stinky crayon smell sucked. Dropping it into 3rd gear with a quick blip of the throttle as you approach a 60mph bend, feeling the front wheels grab hold of the road surface as you will the car through the corner only to have the car will you back, urging you to go faster as you crest the next rise with the engine tearing past seven thousand rpm's... I'm sorry what? I'll take it.

- Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor


"My favorite memory of our E46 M3 is the weekend I autocrossed it. It got so loose through the cones, but its precise, communicative steering made it a friendly car to gather up. It soon became a game of how big a slide I could get it into and still bring it back. And once I figured out how the M3 wanted to be driven, it ran some pretty good times, too"

- Erin Riches, Senior Editor Inside Line


Sadlier: "I've never gotten such satisfaction out of simply starting a car up -- there's nothing like the e46 M3's unadulterated growl at ignition. You know this car is special from the first time you turn the key."

Magrath: "Do you mean "you know it's special" because it's always asking for oil when you start it? Or because you're high from the crayon smell?"

Sadlier: "You should include your replies to the parting shots as well."

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant & Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor


"I'm going to miss this M3 for many, many reasons. I have fond memories of sliding it around Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, slinging it through the local mountain roads and listening to its 8000-rpm swan song before every shift. But, the memory I'll never forget, the one that is forever etched into my cerebral cortex, is that of my wife -- in labor -- screaming at me from the passenger seat as I searched for a gas station on our 1:00 am trip to the hospital for the birth of our first child.

To say I have some memories in this car is, as they say, an understatement."

-Josh Jacquot, Senior Road Test Editor


"It's the dream car. Can't afford an M3? Wait a few years and it's still an awesome car, now affordable. The new M3 may have a better nav system and hill-hold, but the old one has character. Just add a 99-cent air freshener and you're all set."

-Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor


Remember that spare quart of oil in the trunk that sprung a leak? And we didn't realize anything was wrong until it was almost empty? Well that was me. Sorry.



"Proved beyond a doubt that the M badge is more than a fashion accessory.

Every time we beat on it, it shrugged it off and came back for more.

I'm amazed at how excellent the leather still looks.

I don't recall the Crayola-scent option from 2002, but this M3 definitely has it."

-Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor (again)


Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

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2002 BMW M3: Sold to Buyer Who Says it is "Car of My Dreams"

July 22, 2009


A few days ago when I posted about the 20-year-old who wanted to buy our 2002 BMW M3 I got quite a few comments.

Most of you said in no uncertain terms that it was too much car for someone that age. Others felt it was inappropriate for his family to fund this purchase. Still others were very negative about the outcome of putting a car like this in a young driver's hands.

But one commentor said something I really liked: "This kid's been in love with that model of M3 since he was 13. My guess is he'll be very careful with it. If anything, the worst that can happen is he'll damage the paint from over polishing it."

I'm not sure if this is true, but I'm going to keep this in mind. Because the kid bought the car.

Here's what happened.

When the kid came last Sunday, he asked a million questions about how the car had been driven and serviced. Looking back through records and blog posts I found it had been maintained better than I realized. I emailed him Monday morning with followup info but I didn't hear anything back all day long.

Fine, I thought, I really wanted to wholesale it anyway. And $16,000 (minus a $500 broker's fee) wasn't bad. In my Craigslist ad I had listed it for $18,000.

But then on my drive home my phone rang. It was the kid. We talked about the service records and I said I would be willing to deduct a certain amount for various issues. "I want to negotiate face-to-face," he told me. Okay.

An hour later my wife looked out the front window and said, "Here comes the committee." The kid came with his mother and uncle. Standing by the M3, we talked about maintenance and other issues. The uncle test drove the car. And then he said, "We want to make an offer."

This is always an interesting moment since you have no idea what will come next. But I was thinking that if I could get $17K it would be a $1,500 improvement over the wholesaler.

"We'd like to offer you $17,000," the uncle said.

Now, it would be a mistake to say, "Great! I'll take it." Instead, I winced and said, "I was hoping to get a bit more than that. But there are a few outstanding issues. And I know how much he wants the car. So, okay, I'll accept $17,000."

We drove to the bank where the mother got a cashier's check for the full amount. As we drove back the kid was really babying the car (which is hard to do). I couldn't help being like a dad either, and said, "You know, in a car like this it's easy to go way faster than you realize. And keep an eye out for cops."

He dropped me off at my house and I watched the black BMW disappear around the corner. I'm hoping he takes great care of it. And I hope the worst he does is damage the paint by overpolishing it. Good luck and safe driving.

Philip Reed, Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor @73,900 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Buyer Opens A Pandora's Box of Questions

July 20, 2009


Last week I got a quote from a wholesaler for our 2002 BMW M3. It was a good price but I was interested to see what kind of respons it would get on the open market.

So over the weekend I decided to throw it up on Craigslist. Maybe I could improve the wholesaler's quote. The TMV for this car is $18,400 and I decided to drop the price slightly to $18,000 since time was short.

Friday night I got an email from an interested buyer. Saturday I got several more emails. Sunday morning I got a call from a young guy who wanted to see it right away. "I'll be there in 30 minutes," he said. "I promise I'll be there." Well, since he promised...

Sure enough, in 30 minutes, here comes this nice kid, only 20 years old. He wanted to take out a loan from his uncle to buy the car of his dreams. On the test drive he told me he had been following this car, this year, since he was about 13 years old.

He immediately began asking questions about what service had been done to the car in our 20K plus miles of driving. Digging through records I found that we had done the 60,000 mile inspection 11, oil changes, replaced tires, upgraded the brakes and performed several other repairs.

Then he asked if the car had been driven hard. All I could say was, "It's an M3. What do you think?" Basically, the car asks -- no, demands -- to be driven hard.

I gave him all the information we had about the car and its condition. But frankly, I hope he doesn't buy it. I hope he saves his money, buys a Honda Civic and waits until he has a little less testosterone before he gets an M3. As for our car, this is a good one for the wholesaler.

Philip Reed, Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 73,850 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Is There Any Depreciation on Driving Pleasure?

June 29, 2009


I don't know about you, but I can't afford a new BMW M3. But now, I might be able to afford a used one.

Our 2002 BMW M3 Coupe is going to be leaving home soon, and it will be my job to push it out the door. So this morning I took a look at what we paid for it and what we hope to sell it for.

About 18 months ago we paid $30,000 for our menacing, black, freeway rocket. It had 50,000 miles on it, definitely not a spring chicken. Still, the needle on the fun factor registered a high reading.

Now, our True Market Value price is $18,508 at 72,951 miles. That means the car has depreciated $11,492. If you were leasing the car, that would be the equivalent of $638 a month (before taxes and DMV fees). That's still a pretty steep monthly payment for me.

But on the other hand, that's a lot of car.

Philip Reed, Edmunds senior consumer advice editor @ 72,951 miles.

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2002 BMW M3: Keeps On Tickin'

May 22, 2009

Deer Creek M3.jpg

The thing about the new cars in our long-term fleet is, they really shouldn't be having serious problems. We get 'em fresh off the lot and ditch 'em after 20,000 miles. Any modern car should be able to handle that.

When you're talking about a used performance car, though, that's a different story.

We added our long-term 2002 BMW M3 to the fleet in January of 2008 with 50,000 miles on the clock. People don't buy stickshift M3s to putter around at 3,000 rpm, so it's safe to assume that our example had already led a pretty hard life. And over the past 17 months, we've added almost 22,000 ...erm... "enthusiastic" miles to the tally, including drifting, autocrossing, repeated performance testing, and generally treating the red hash mark north of 8,000 rpm as the "shift here" light.

Yet despite having weathered the full Edmunds treatment for an unusually long period, this thing absolutely refuses to break. You can almost hear it scoffing at us: "Is that all you got?" The M3 pulls just as hard and clean today as it did when we bought it, and it still feels tight. Color me impressed.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com @ 71,826 miles

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2002 BMW M3: I Heart the M3. Again.

May 20, 2009


Having driven the 2002 BMW M3 for the weekend, I should've written this blog post on Monday, but I was dragging my feet, fearful of the Bavarian Backlash after I admitted I was so totally over the coupe.

But this morning a great thing happened. I took the M3 out to run a quick errand and turns out, I do like the car. It was my crappy weekend full of mindless errands that was annoying, not the M3 coupe's lack of rear doors or updated nav system. In fact, it wasn't the M3's fault at all that my kid was invited to two birthday parties in the same afternoon (one pool, one beach) that had her climbing in and out of the back seat, trailing wet towels and sand over my seat back as I ferried her from one group of shrieking girls to the next.

Once back in the M3 this morning BY MYSELF, the BMW and I had a perfectly lovely drive together.

Although it did make me promise to take home an SUV or a minivan this weekend instead.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 71,820 miles

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2002 BMW M3: How old is that in dog years?

May 11, 2009


Personally, I have never kept a car more than five years. I let go of cars for a variety of reasons -- got bored of them, blew up an engine (or two), I wanted to go faster or my tastes have changed. Buzzing around town this weekend in our "old" M3 got me thinking -- is there and automotive equivalent to dog years?

As it is, I get the feeling that our E46 would be in its early-40's in human years. It's got plenty of athleticism and enthusiasm left in it, but those crow's feet are starting to show. As noted in earlier posts, it's got some wear here and there, but it's holding up fairly well. As hard as I suspect this black beauty's been flogged, I think it's actually surviving exceptionally well.

Scratches and wear from daily use are showing on the ashtray lid (even though we don't smoke in our cars), as DiPietro posted, the weatherstripping is losing is adhesion, there are a couple of nicks in the upholstery and there's a wear spot where our thumbs rub against the handbrake well. Most obvious for me though, was the steering wheel -- it's now smooth and shiny from years of shuffling by sweaty-palmed pilots.

Unlike some cars though, the M3's buttons are still in excellent shape. I once had a Ford Mustang Cobra that had several black buttons that had worn to white plastic. Those worn bits were completely illegible after only two years on the most frequently used buttons (volume and track skip). I can't see even a hint of this type of wear on the Bimmer.

Given my judgment of its equivalent human age, the automotive aging comes in just under six years per human year. Of course, this equation relies heavily on what kind of car it is, how hard it was driven and where it was driven. In the case of our '02 M3, I could easily see it as the Keith Richards of the car world -- still rockin' hard well past its "sell by" date. What say you?

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 71,300 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Would You Trade It In For The New M3?

April 30, 2009

LT blog.jpg

I drove our new M3 like I meant it for the first time this week, and while I'm totally with Jacquot on the color choice, here's what I texted back to the office:

"A race car that seats five, with a supple ride and a killer stereo. Best all-around car in the world."

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2002 BMW M3: Chugs past 70,000 Miles

April 14, 2009


As I mentioned recently in a previous post, we bought our E46 M3 15 months ago with a tick less than 50,000 miles on its odometer. Well, last night I jumped in the black coupe to drive home and noticed its odometer read 70,000 miles exactly.

To commemorate the milestone I drove it home like I stole it. Great car.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

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2002 BMW M3: Cracks 20,000 Miles in Our Hands

March 30, 2009

milestone-banner-blog.jpg BMW-M3-odo.gif

When we bought our beloved E46 back in December of 2007, the 2002 BMW M3 had covered 49,750 miles. Well, that was 15 months and 20,000 miles ago.

The good news: We haven't spent a dime on maintenance since we had that alternator problem dealt with back in September around the 62,000 mile mark. Well, not unless you count tires. I'm also astonished at how tight this car feels. We don't baby it, believe me, yet there is not a squeek or a rattle to be heard. Tight as a drum, and I swear the suspension feels new.

The bad news: The steering and shifter are feeling their age. Especially the shifter.

By the way, a new M3 Sedan will be joining our fleet in April, and its arrival will mark the end of this car's time with us. I for one will miss it. Will you?

Anybody out there want to buy a well preserved 2002 BMW M3?

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 69,789 miles

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2002 BMW M3 vs. 2008 BMW 135i: Self-Contradictory Nonsense

February 20, 2009

M3 lead textcast 2 950.jpg

This week's textcast gets to the heart of the recent 135i vs. M3 brouhaha. Eventually. We promise. Click on the photos to enlarge.

(1:58:52 PM) Sadlier: Legacy GT: best car subaru makes. and quite possibly the best-handling family sedan, period. despite body roll and gooey steering. tell me why i'm wrong
(2:07:14 PM) Magrath: I'll agree that it's the best car they make now that the Forester has jumped the shark.
(2:08:07 PM) Magrath: As for the rest of your nonsense, self-contradictory nonsense....well, it's just not right.
(2:09:07 PM) Sadlier: seriously, all that suspension needs is some firming-up. it feels like they started with a sport sedan and dumbed it down for americans
(2:09:41 PM) Magrath: ...some firming up and some being better at being AWD.
(2:09:45 PM) Sadlier: how so?
(2:10:31 PM) Magrath: It doesn't rotate off throttle. It plows or oversteers. There's no middle ground that a good AWD setup can usually find. It was one of those things that I was glad was verified by the test data because I just thought I was bad at driving it.
(2:11:43 PM) Sadlier: well, i definitely tossed it around with more abandon than any previous family sedan. you know what it reminded me of -- a softer and less sharp but more entertaining A4
(2:20:55 PM) Magrath: More entertaining = less stable? You're quickly falling down the hole of "less confidence means more fun!"
(2:21:30 PM) Sadlier: that's my motto. the less confidence the better
(2:21:34 PM) Magrath: Soon you'll have a '65 mustang with one seat, no carpeting, bias-ply tires and no seatbelts.
(2:21:47 PM) Sadlier: now that sounds entertaining

(2:25:39 PM) Magrath: In what way? Honest question.
(2:26:54 PM) Sadlier: well, i suppose not in any way that would involve an accident (seatbelts)
(2:27:08 PM) Sadlier: maybe just doing donuts in my high-school parking lot

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2002 BMW M3: If It Was My Money

January 26, 2009

The tenure of our M3 isn't going to last much longer and there have people often remark "Well, I should buy this car when we're done."

And just to answer a question you might have right now, no we don't gets deals on them.

We bought it used to see what the ownership would be like. I've loved this car. I love the sound, the ease of blip shifting, the power, the handling and the looks. But when I get into it during the day and see how the rubberized surface has been scratched up, the missing overhead light, and dangling trim it makes me wonder if our thoroughbred is on the backside of it's spunk.

A car like this need attention, and as it gets older it needs more and more. I don't think age is a deal killer. This M3 has plenty of big time pros, but the maintenance on a maturing performance vehicle isn't something to take lightly.


Would I buy it after it's tour is done? I thought about it a lot last night as I drove home from a late night movie. I pulled up next to a gray buzzard hunched over the steering wheel of his yellow GT500 at a stop light. Game on.

Once you get that rush of acceleration and growl of it's purebred engine, it's really hard to say it isn't worth it all.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer @ 66,986 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Road Booger

December 03, 2008

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Not to put too fine a point on it, but our 2002 BMW M3 picked up what looked like a nasal secretion while visiting California Speedway yesterday.

Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be an ancient piece of chewing gum. Our crack forensics team says the M3's projecting and sticky front tires picked it up off the parking lot somewhere and spit it back onto the rear quarter-panel.

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2002 BMW M3: Spiritual Successor?

November 12, 2008

m3 135i.jpg

Our E46 M3 is a runner to be sure, and hopping in for a run through the gears reminds you just how solid and capable a car it is. The straight-6 revs like a weedwacker and makes noises so scintillating you'll cackle out loud and keep the sunroof open so you can howl along with it. The chassis is still rock solid and provides feedback that's direct enough to make you feel like you're chatting with the contact patches. After a week with time in the E46 M3, the latest M5 and new 135i, it begs the question, where's BMW's DNA headed?

Our E46 is definitely showing its age, with its antiquated GPS, slightly sloppy shift action (is there an abuse hotline?), and old-school, colored-cut-outs gauges (Will the variable redline slowly creep down the tachometer as the car ages? "Sorry boys, don't have much more than 5000 rpm in me today. You know, the knees..."). All the M3 goodness is still here (due in part to new brakes and rubber), and the car retains a mechanical directness that is wildly appealing. You feel like a hero when you drive the M3, rev-matching shifts into your own driveway just to hear the mill one more time.

The new M5 feels like tech overkill by comparison. Its steering has lost that beautiful telepathic sense, and the first-gen SMG gearbox is so good at annoying it actually makes you long for an automatic (well OK, maybe not that bad, but it's close...). The dreaded "i" word (no, not iDrive: isolating) has actually entered the vernacular when describing a BMW. Make no mistake, the M5 is an awesome and formidable machine, with a stellar chassis and a truly fantastic powerplant, it just seems like BMW has lost its way a bit in trying to fix things that weren't broken. Understand, of course, that the SMG gearbox was always money when driving the car above 8/10ths, and the M5's steering setup can pay dividends on other fronts (low-speed-steering effort, autobahn-speed stability, etc.).

Enter the 135i, and you suddenly feel like BMW's E46 M3 DNA is thriving completely intact. Though no uber-taut M3, the 135i's directness, chuckability and revvy thrust make you giddy again for the brand. Like the E46 M3, you walk away from the 135i shaking like a junkie: You know you need one of these things like extra GM stock, but you don't care. You want one. This with a regular ole' manual gearbox and steering that never seems confused.

All this begs the question: At $30K used, would you rather a warranty-less E46 M3, or a whip-cracking 1 Series? To get the real fun, you'll need a 135i to tart up a skosh (think $40K), but heck, we've already spent $10k wrenching on our long-term E46 M3. Or, you could snag both for the M5's $85K+ sticker.

With BMW's current lineup - if driving fun is the mission - does what you spend equate to how much joy you get back? Our E46 M3 can certainly make you long for simpler days, but maybe that's because we're driving it like hoons, while someone else picks up the maintenance tab.

Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 63,855 miles

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2002 BMW M3: The Hills Are Alive

October 30, 2008

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I have a handful of recurring thoughts when I'm driving our long-term M3, most of them having to do with desperately wanting to own it. But last night I couldn't stop thinking about how it sounds. It's ferocious. It's a snarling tiger rapaciously pouncing on its prey. It's Riswick at a James Bond memorabilia convention. No other car sounds like this, whether you're blipping the throttle on a downshift or banging off a 2-3 upshift at 8,000 rpm. It demands to be driven with the windows down and sunroof open -- even if you have to don a fleece and crank up the heat, as I did yesterday en route to the original Tommy's in downtown L.A. at 10 pm.

Which got me to thinking about Das Vaterland and its automotive soundtracks. It's easy to buy into stereotypes of German austerity and soullessness, but outside of Italy, I think the Germans have got the best-sounding sporting cars on the market. Practically any Porsche sounds sublime, of course, but what's remarkable to me is the recent rise of the bad-ass German V8. Audi's 4.2-liter V8 rumbles with an awesome combination of attitude and refinement, and AMG's 6.2-liter V8 bellows like a Detroit big-block that was sent to finishing school. In fact, the least aurally impressive high-performance German V8 might well be the 4.0-liter V8 in the current M3, and it's certainly no slouch.

In any case, you gotta give props to our M3's inline-6. Definitely one of the most distinctive-sounding engines in recent memory.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com @ 63,355 miles

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2002 BMW M3: What M3 Would You Buy?

October 20, 2008


If you had $20,000 to $30,000 to drop on a performance car, would you end up with an E46 M3? And if you did, what year M3 would you chose?

Having the keys to someone else's M3 (in this case, Inside Line's 2002 M3) makes me think of stuff like this. No question in my mind -- the E46 is one of the all-time greats. It's great enough that you think of liquidating what's left of your 401K to live the dream. (No, I really don't know what the "dream" is. Presumably, it involves Halle Berry somehow.)

Because I'm all for national service, I've even devoted a whole hour (!) of my work day to help you with your M3 purchase. Here's some background. The E46 M3 was produced from 2001 to 2006. Following is Edmunds True Market Value pricing, dealer retail for ZIP code 90404 as of 10/20/08. Note that these prices are comparable but don't include any variation for options, condition or mileage.

2001: $19,070
2002: $21,105
2003: $24,440
2004: $27,876
2005: $31,474
2006: $34,875

There weren't many changes to the M3 during its run. Perhaps the most significant item was the availability of the Competition Package for 2005 and 2006, which included forged 19-inch alloy wheels, upgraded brakes, quicker steering, revised suspension tuning and a less intrusive stability control.

A scary amount of stuff has broken or failed on our M3. So maybe stay away from the older cars and get a 2004 or a 2005 with the Competition Package. Then again, it seems like we've fixed just about everything on our car short of an engine rebuild. And it has those nifty tires and brakes don't ya know? So maybe think about buying ours when we sell it in a few months. It might as well be a celebrity car.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 63,082 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Cold Start

September 30, 2008


I've always thought the variable redline tachometer in the M3 was a cool feature.

When I got into the car the other morning it was light up to 6,500 rpm. Even though I've stared at this gauge many times, it was at that moment that I noticed for the first time it lights up to 4,000 rpm.

It sent a cold shiver up my spine.

I've never lived in a climate where block heaters were needed. My hat's off to you folks who weather that kind of cold, but I'd rather stay here on the southern coast.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer @ 62,590 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Not Completely Irresistible

September 19, 2008

SF blog.jpg

It's pretty rare to hear a bad word spoken about our long-term 2002 BMW M3. Okay, it happens -- rubbery shifter, CD changer in the trunk, maintenance issues, etc. But when it comes to the way our Bimmer drives, no one not named after a European country has expressed anything but admiration for it.

Enter a college buddy of mine, code name Professor Tea Bag, who's in town to start a Ph.D program at UCLA but can't move into his place till Monday. Last night we drove the M3 over to his new neighborhood -- and when I say "drove," I mean the usual drill in this car: windows down, sunroof open, zero-to-the-speed-limit acceleration runs from every stop, ferocious throttle-blips on every downshift.

The Professor was petrified.

"Is that really necessary?" he fumed as I grabbed second and floored it, throwing him back against his seat. "I mean, what's the appeal?"

I slowed down and then goosed it again. "Listen to it!" I shouted over the din. "It's the engine of the gods!"

But he just stared at me blankly. Which got me to thinking. You know what? Being an automotive enthusiast is like being an oenophile. You might be serving one of the finest red wines in the world, but it won't matter if you're serving it to someone (like me) who thinks red wine tastes like bitter grape juice. Similarly, even the all-time greatness of the M3 will, alas, be lost on a man who thinks that as long as a car will eventually reach the speed limit, it doesn't matter how long it takes to get there.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com @ 62,220 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Wheels That Never Get Dirty

September 08, 2008


The best thing about our M3's stock 18-inch wheels compared to the optional 19s? Their finish. Instead of brightly polished spokes, the 18s have a slightly duller, matte gray color. I think BMW calls it ghost chrome, but I could be wrong about that. More importantly, a nice coat of brake dust barely shows up. In fact, you would have to neglect this car for weeks before you would ever notice the wheels were seriously dirty. And trust me, if you owned this car, or I owned this car, neglect would not be a problem.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 60,842 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Make Some History

August 28, 2008


So, last night I had an opportunity to drive our 2002 BMW M3. Normally, The Man doesn't let me near the nicer, more performance oriented cars in our long term fleet. Something about him being worried about me cutting the exhaust off the car and running straight pipes. Just because I did that on my personal car, doesn't mean I'd do it to the M3. Even if I did, I'd totally put it back...

Anyway, how much did we pay for this thing? That's right, 30 grand.

Walking out of a local liquor store last night, brown paper bag in hand, I strolled toward our black M3. There was only one working light in the parking lot and it illuminated the ground around the BMW. Not to get sappy, but it was one of those moments. A moment that every car guy needs to have and one that you're not likely to get with a lot of other cars costing $30k. Walking over to a beige Accord? A light blue Camry? Please.

When you grow old, and your kids ask you about the cars you used to own, don't you want to be able to tell them about the years you owned an M3? Maybe a Corvette or a Ferrari? Your kids aren't going to want to hear, "Well, we had to sell one of the Corollas after we had your sister, so we bought a Camry. What color was that, dear?" No. Even the most Communist of children want to be regaled with stories of sport seats, power slides and exhaust pulses ricocheting off the walls of tunnels.

Suck it up and buy something really cool, just once. Ok, maybe twice. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your kids. Oh, and make sure to have your picture taken next to it too.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 60,333 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Something Beyond "I Lust After This Car"

July 08, 2008

M3 blog 7.8.08.jpg


Well, I wish it had the optional 19-inch wheels-- I don't think those 18s do the car justice.

And I wish it had the model year 2004-and-up tail lights -- I just can't get down with the awkward-looking backup lights on our '02. It's like an early version of the X3 mismatching tail light syndrome (credit goes to Automotive Editor John DiPietro for pointing this out and thereby causing my permanent obsession with e46 M3 tail lights).


Did I mention that I lust after this car?

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com @ 58,309 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Buying a Used Classic

June 19, 2008

As I drove our long-term M3 last week with the windows down and sunroof back, I reveled in the luscious engine sounds amidst a beautiful Southern California day. As I pulled into the Edmunds garage and briefly considered going back out just for the hell of it, it dawned on me how much of a wise buying decision this M3 was. Here is a car that with the right care will be a classic someday, a car that is more fun at six years old than most cars are at mile 1 -- and we bought it for less than 30 large.

In between spouts of doing actual work (if you can really call what I do "work"), one of my favorite diversions is to trawl eBay motors for used cars that fit into the M3's bargain future classic category. I'll spend time looking at mid-80s Porsche 911s or first-gen Boxsters, or checking out BMW M Coupes or old Aston Martins (not so much bargains here). I'm not sure why I think it's fun, maybe it's my great desire to have a Leno-sized garage someday...

However, after buying what I think of as my own future classic, I've realized a good tip for buying one. Find one with an old year and low miles, one that could be described as a toy rather than day-to-day transportation. This not only increases the chances of you buying someone's well-treated baby, but the way auto pricing works, the older year ensures a lower price despite mileage. Our M3 doesn't quite match this, but I certainly hope we keep this in mind when we start to search for a pre-loved replacement for the Ferrari. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to wasting time on eBay motors.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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2002 BMW M3: Welcome to the Twilight Zone

June 04, 2008

Remember the Twilight Zone episode ("The Eye of the Beholder") where this woman is in the hospital awaiting plastic surgery to fix her heinous face? At one point in this episode the woman's mug is all bandaged up, and the surgeon is calming her, telling her he believes he has corrected her appearance to look normal -- like everyone else. But when the surgeon removes the bandages, he and the nurses recoil in horror -- the procedure is a total failure. She has retained her pre-operative appearance.

The camera then exposes her face -- she's a gorgeous blond! The camera pans over to the surgeon and the nurses -- they're hideous, porcine freaks.

To my mind, our long-term M3 is like the woman in this episode, except the other way around. When you take the bandages off, you see that it's really not all that special -- yet it's somehow the darling of our long-term fleet, the vehicle over which almost all of our staffers are effusive in their praise (JRiz isn't as enthused as the others).

For me, it's a good driving experience, but nothing to get excited about. Though it spins freely, the engine is not as powerful as its reputation would suggest, and the clutch feels a bit strange compared to the impressive clutches of the new BMW models. This M3's clutch pedal has a bit of dead travel, then a heavy stroke that suddenly falls away – not progressive at all. It's similar to the trigger pull on a double action revolver.

I know this car is old, but my outlook on this M3 also wasn't helped by all the interior creaking and the fact that it stinks. I don't mean the performance stunk, I mean olfactory-stink. Like someone left a cadaver in it.

I'll let the other porcine creatures gush over the E46 M3. This Twilight Zone viewer prefers the 135.

Albert Austria, Senior Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 56,665 mi

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2002 BMW M3: Helpful Mirrors Keep the Wheels Looking Good

April 29, 2008

Call me lazy or even paranoid, but I like the fact that the M3’s passenger side mirror tilts down when you throw it into reverse. It takes all the fear out of curbing those beautiful deep dish wheels. And judging by the pristine condition of our 18s, the little extra help has worked.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 55,843 miles

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2002 BMW M3: 5 Months and 6,000 Miles

April 21, 2008

We bought our black 2002 BMW M3 exactly five months ago. We paid exactly $30,000 for it on 11/21/07. And since that day we've driven the car almost exactly 6,000 miles. The day we drove her home from the Santa Barbara, California BMW dealer the odometer read 49,042 and just the other day it crossed the 55,000 mile mark...

So are we happy with our purchase? Does Barack Obama have a funny name? Even with 55,000 miles under it, the black M3 is the best car in our fleet. It's fast, comfortable, solid and just plain cool looking. One run behind the wheel and you wonder why all cars don't feel as good.

Still, we're always looking down the road. Come November the M3 will have to go. What should we replace it with? I'm thinking a C5 Z06 Corvette.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 55,370 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Does It All

April 21, 2008

Photo by Doug Lloyd

After a long weekend with the 2002 BMW M3, I can join the chorus of voices praising this car for its stunning capability in any situation. So many aspects of this car are so commonplace now that we almost take them for granted, like a tire pressure monitoring system or a sport button for the throttle, or defeatable stability control, but they were still relatively new at the time, and make this car such a wildly capable machine.

And they serve so many purposes. Feel like canyon-carving?.. Sport mode, DSC off and away you go, wagging your tail around corners. Wanna ride smoothly but maybe with a little more pep? Hit the S button and feel what seems like extra strength forcing your right leg down on the loud pedal.

And it's so supremely confident. It's gorgeous. It sounds like a dream. And it's got an interior like a Bourbon Street bordello, awash in smooth red leather. And you can carry a couple passengers, play six CDs from the trunk-mounted changer, fill the large trunk with gear, and hit the road for hours of fun. And arrive looking stylish. As the song says, I'm the friendly stranger in the black sedan. Won't you step into my car?

Doug Lloyd, Senior Copy Editor @ 55,364 miles

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March 28, 2008

Photo by Doug Lloyd

I don't know what I did. I must have saved an entire class of quadraplegic kids from a burning schoolhouse, because the Gods smiled, took on the benevolent form of Deputy Managing Editor Caroline Pardilla, and handed me the keys to our 2002 BMW M3 last night. Good God!

There does not exist a word or phrase of such otherworldly grandeur to describe how this car feels. I have always been a BMW guy, from my 2002 tii to my current 535i, but I always forget how incredibly good they feel, the stunning competence in which every part of the steering, shift action, clutch, brakes, and loud pedal work so seamlessly...

Multiply that by about a billion and you have the M3. I'd rather not go into detail about the speeds reached or the moves performed last night. My only regret is not being able to drive it on some deliciously curvaceous mountain road, where every nerve, every synapse, would surely be on edge, heart beating, breath shortening as you challenge yourself, ripping through every turn on the razor's edge.

When I got home last night, I felt as if I had been electrified. My body was literally buzzing as if I had taken a quintuple shot of espressso with a crack chaser. Me likee!

Doug Lloyd, Senior Copy Editor, @ 54,114 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Poor Man's Dream

March 03, 2008

Here's something I really love about our 2002 BMW M3: I could afford it.

I've long been a fan of buying used cars. But never have I felt stronger about how it maximizes your dollar than when you buy an older performance car. We paid $30,000 for this car, roughly half of what a new one costs. While it is half the price it is almost as much fun as a brand new one. Sure it's a little loose in the transmission and suspension. And the beautiful red leather has been worn smooth. But five minutes behind the wheel and all regrets melt away.

I spent the weekend in the M3 pretending I was a different person, someone who has rarefied taste (perhaps a wine swirler) a man who knows quality when he sees it and demands the best, dammit. The M3 was the perfect costume for me. I had to go to a fancy OC raquet club (not a "racket club" mind you) and I was careful to park near the front door. As I pulled out of the parking lot I let the German engineering growl disdainfully at lesser vehicles around me.

The driving dynamics of the M3 are so superior to other cars that you aren't really driving the car until you begin to push it well beyond the normal requirements of traffic. Merging onto the 405 Freeway where it meets the 22 and the 605 there are about eight lanes of traffic, a vast expanse of asphalt. With all the mid-range and high-end acceleration I was through there like a hot knife through butter.

One thing that surprised me was how good the visibility is in this car. With all this speed on tap, and a desire to try moves you wouldn't attempt in other cars, it's a good thing you have a clear view of the landscape around you.

The only thing that scares me about this car is the potential repair bills. If I bought one I'd probably go the certified route.

Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 52,680 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Way Out of My League

February 21, 2008

Photo by Caroline Pardilla

By some amazing stroke of luck, I ended up with our 2002 BMW M3 last night instead of the Honda Fit that I was scheduled to drive. Wee! (OK, the above picture isn't the best picture of the BMW but I thought it was pretty cool that it had the Ferrari, our other used long-termer, in its sight.)

Anyhow, as a play on Brian Moody's analogy between a cute girl and the G35 on his G35 post yesterday, I found our luxurious and very fast M3 to be like that extremely good-looking guy who seems to have lived a charmed life and who, in turn, is wayyy out of my league. It's not that I'm down on myself, it's that it's sort of intimidating and I wouldn't be able to appreciate it the way it SHOULD be appreciated... I could jump a green light and speed up to the speed limit, maybe rocket onto the freeway via on-ramp, but I can't take this baby canyon-carving like it seems like it wants to.

All that power and I just wouldn't know how to handle it. It wouldn't be fair to the car and it wouldn't be fair to me. BUT I wouldn't mind being a passenger going along for a ride with a very experienced driver.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2002 BMW M3's First Ticket

January 30, 2008

Photo by Caroline Pardilla

It's not for the reason you think though. I didn't get it because I was speeding down PCH or...dancing in and out of slower-moving freeway traffic. Nope, our 2002 BMW M3 got a ticket just for sitting still. That's how bad ass it is... Kidding. It got tagged for not wearing a front plate, a violation in California. Thing is, it's not going to wear one, at least while we own it, because Inside Line Editor in Chief Scott Oldham doesn't want to mar the car's beautiful front end. Understandable. It IS pretty but getting tickets can be expensive, too. Solution? Maybe we'll just throw the front plate on the dash from now on when we park. Hopefully that'll appease the parking gods.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 51,919 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Oh, Happy Day

January 22, 2008

Late Monday morning I got the call from Engineering Editor Jay Kavanagh:

"I need an SUV to pick up a car exhaust," he said. "Can we swap?"

I smiled. I had the 2008 Hyundai Veracruz. Jay had the 2002 BMW M3... I smiled bigger.

Thirty minutes later Jay and I were exchanging keys in my driveway, just before I needed to take my daughter's friend home to Oceanside, Calif., 70 miles south of my Long Beach residence.

I buckled both girls into the M3's bright red, bowl-ish rear seats and we took off.

Hope Jay needs to move a set of tires next weekend.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 51,180 miles

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2002 BMW M3: Hoping For a Catastrophe

January 18, 2008

I sincerely hope that within the next 11 months, one of our M3’s pistons goes rocketing through the hood. Or we receive a service bill for a mysterious $2,000 “valve adjustment.” Short of such calamities, it’s likely that I’ll continue to believe that I should buy this car when its year is up. I don’t need a car, certainly not a $30,000 one, but the thought enters my mind every time I drive it. As much as I love the Ferrari, it does not generate the same response... Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 51.107 miles

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Past Long-Term Road Tests