Amazing balance of performance and practicality. Research the VANOS, cam bolts, and rear subframe. Upgrade kits and parts are available for all. They can cause major damage if not inspected and addressed (if nec., as far as the subframe). Convertibles are reportedly less likely to have the rear subframe problem. Skip the SMG - arguably hard to live with, unreliable, expensive. Consider removing the manual transmission's Clutch Delay Valve (CDV). The car can be hard to shift smoothly and fellow owners recommend it, saying doing so solves the problem (I'm planning to do it). Car is a remarkably comfortable tourer on the highway and is equally adept at carving up mountain roads. Seats are the best I've ever had and upgraded stereo (Harmon Kardon) is the best OEM I've ever had as well. The convertible does flex a bit. Top up, there are blind spots. It's also hard to judge the corners of the car from the driver's seat and easy to scrape the front spoiler. Parts and oil can be expensive, but considering the car's performance, it's still a good value. You can drive it like a Honda all day or get on it and accelerate like a hoon. UPDATE 11/28/16: Still love this car. Had the CDV removed and it does shift much more smoothly. The strong online enthusiast community for these is helpful, friendly and informative. Some people find the e46 M3's ride too harsh; I suspect this is regarding the coupes and the convertible's extra weight improves things. Also, the 19-inch wheels reportedly result in a much firmer ride (I have the 18s). As the cars get older parts can be crazy high, but here again the online forums are a great resource. And a quality, well-reviewed independent mechanic is invaluable.
Bought this amazing car last year with 55k orig miles. I've since driven it for 12k miles and can only say great things about it. It runs, drives and handles outstanding. The solid build, craftsmanship and styling of this car is top notch. The exterior color is called Carbon Schwartz. At first glance, it looks Black; but, in sunlight it seems to change to metallic dark Blue. Have to see it to believe it! Interior is Black with Black convertible top and 19" wheels. All original, non SMG, regular 6 spd. No problems at all. A practical yet powerful convertible sports car with room for 4 people and suitcases. A powerful, great handling sports car that gets 20mpg!! BMW got it right!!
I special ordered my m3, my first bmw, and my last. It's been serviced 11 times in the past year, mostly for problems with the smg. the smg is the most overrated transmission ever and should not be sold until perfected. It's sluggish in first, sometimes choppy, and most recently just stalled completely. it had to be towed back to the dealership to replace the relay...again.
Had a lot of fun with the top down, great acceleration and speed -- loved the SMG. Not enough space for all the bad. Twice transmission died on the freeway at 90 mph, flying in neutral. Manage to get to the side, tow-truck guy says "these have been dropping like flies." GPS never worked. Took into different dealers totaling 5 times, everytime they said it was fixed. It actually works now. Intermittent glitch on windows rolling up, still not fixed. Tire pressure light is on now and won't go away (tires checkout). Took to dealer and they said it was fixed, drive it away and light still on. Anyway, tons of other basic quality issues. Frayed steering wheel leather.