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BMW E46 M3 vs E9X M3. Back to Back Comparison.

boba fett

Racing Driver
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I did this back to back comparison on the two arguably most popular M3's. This is my experience of owning both at the same time and having them out back to back and together and thought it might add some value to the forum!

Having owned the E46 M3 Coupe and E9x togther and covered quite a few miles in both, many may ask is it worth changing up from the "considered more pretty" E46 M3 to the Brute V8 E9x. So a review was in order with my findings and also taking them out back to back with a friend to help with whats the fastest out of the two and dismiss old wife's tales as well.

Looks:

For a number of years prior to owning, I have always looked at pictures and video's of the V8 and thought it looked wrong, for some reason it never seemed to pop! there is some very good shots of what people have tried to capture is the "V8 money shot" but its a car you simply need to see in he metal or on the road as it has so much presence. In Pictures, to me it look to big, to top heavy and a little cumbersome at the rear with its hunched stance, however, over some time and seeing them on the road they started growing on me. The E46 M3 on the other hand does photo well and all the bulges and bumps seem to pop out. The E46 is one of the rare cars that looks good from every angle, and the CSL version is just perfect, however I feel the V8 does not picture well at all and like already said, in the metal, it really is a looker and has so much presence especially when you see one on the roads when all the arch's seem to pop out. Anyone wanting one, just needs to go see a V8 in a nice contrasting colour as it suits the car the best, and now every time I see one it turns my head and I think what a pretty car with really aggressive looks. Is the V8 better looking than the E46? that is a tough one, in pictures the 46 all day long, in the real world up close and personal, I'm on the fence, one thing I will add though, in recent months to me the E46 is starting to show its age and the V8 still looks very good indeed.

Performance:

I think the V8 should be faster as most will know, you can push buttons, which makes it seem faster (but in reality you just don't have to push the loud pedal so far) but I've reached a point where I think do you know what, its Ok, its fast enough, and there is more than just traffic light grand Prix and numbers. A good E46 M3 strangely feels more eager and willing, it feels faster and has a slightly better throttle response and contrary to the V8 you actually don't have to ring it's neck out and feels more torquey, but, the V8 when you do explore it, it makes you tingle and you get the noise and with this in mind, coupled with the DCT box, its very very exciting. Head to head the V8 is faster, but, those that say a standard V8 blitzes a good E46 M3, I would say are over exaggerating, the V8 is faster and so it should be, but there is not the Gap some would suggest.

The Engines:

Well the real reason you would buy the V8. Its a Gem, pure and simple, some say its a masterpiece. It is silky smooth, super refined, feels ageless and revs to nearly 9k in a V8! It just keeps pulling and getting harder and stronger with Revs and the more you spank it the better it becomes. Its at 5k revs onwards where it sings! The noise is up there with the best, but the V8 needs a mandatory exhaust mod or aftermarket exhaust. If we are honest its the V8's trump card it will win you over with its voice so to speak. The 46 is unique with its rasp, an acquired metallic noise, those that know, know, those that don't think your back box is full of loud wasps. I like it, the engine is a legend nowadays, humble eager, ready and instant. Not many car's around at this price point with a better throttle response when warm and ready. The V8 though is top dog here, it just walks home with the win, and its special.

Handling:

This is where the E46 feels more of a track car in comparison; it feels lighter more direct, agile and nimble, more go cart like in comparison to the more refined V8. It probably is in the real world as well. The V8 just feels safer, quieter more solid and easy, a nicer play to be and more refined. Both are very composed and easy to have its back side out, but the 46 feels more of the edgy car and a bit better (probably because its simply older) but the V8 is better through refinement and is an awesome balanced power slider.

Kit:

I have had fully loaded E46 and although good, its 90's tech really, nice and all that, but the V8 is streets ahead. Mines just about got everything, most of which you won't use as usual, internet /TV/DVD/hardrive this and media that, but apart from maybe a kitchen sink, the V8 has all you need really and quite up to date considering there age. This will not be important if its your weekend toy, but it still needs to be mentioned.

Gearbox:

I have drove a few manuals, and its Ok, both V8 and E46 can be at times a bit of a notchy sod, which is slightly worse in the E46, but I also think they got the ratios wrong in the V8, so look at it this way, both manuals will command more money at some point in future, but we are all getting lazy! I am a manual fan, and although I have had manual’s and SMG’s in the 46, but the autos versions of both these cars are seriously at other ends of the spectrum, the SMG being total Garbage and the DCT being utterly sublime. With the SMG Unless you are on track giving it 10 bells its just shocking, jerky, Old, lethargic, frustrating, unreliable and expensive when it goes wrong. The DCT though is just so good and so right and compliments the V8 engine perfectly. It was one of the first auto's I had driven that gives you a surge when it changes gear. Where the SMG for me was so wrong, slow, snappy, jerky and crud, the DCT is so right. Lightening fast, brutal, throttle blips, fun and super smooth when you want it to be. The DCT is a very good box indeed.

Practical:

Who cares, but if you do you can get 4 in both comfortably and some shopping. The V8 does come in a 4 door version if that’s your thing.

Costs:

Both are sh1te on fuel if used as an M, with the V8 being some what sh1tier! 18 mpg as a rule for the V8, and 22 mpg for the 46, some get more, some get less, but if you like your M, expect the aforementioned, but every car has an Achilles heel. The E46 is proving to be a costly so "n" so the older it gets, it has more money worries than the V8, so don't think its a Honda now. The V8 though, Service is every 2 years, but I do mine yearly (old habits die hard) and it has 8 plugs and 9 liters of oil, so its not cheap from the off. No adjusting this / guides that, everything else is pretty much normal BM Tax. It is worth looking at inherent issues with both as neither is perfect, but the V8 has less flaws and will prove more reliable mainly because its newer, more refined and well built.

What goes wrong:

E46 M3 - well, Vanos, boot floor, head gasket, timing chains, rust, diffs, SMG pumps, Springs, exhaust flanges and cuddly toy, oh and did I mention Rust, this is getting to be the main major issue with these cars now !! A previous car I bought the previous owner spent 6k in 2 years and then I had to spend as well, I'm not saying this is normal, just be warned, you can buy it one for 12k, but could end up costing you a hell of a lot more!!

V8 - Not a lot really. Actuators which are well documented, and some cases of rod bearings on high miler unloved cars, but you can do preventative maintenance on these items and I would do the bearings if they have not been done as at the price of around £1500 (or buy a loved car with this already done) it’s a no brainer. Late cars can still be bought from BMW, so under warranty so you can just enjoy it.

What do others think.

In the “M community” there is a lot of love for the 46, my mate turned up in his E28 M5 and loves the underdog, he would in reality take the V8 of course, but if it was to keep forever, I'm not so sure. Others just see them as sporty BMW’s and just see the newer car for what it is, newer and more expensive, and the 46 as an old dated BMW. I have not had a single negative vibe from both. Those in the know give me the thumbs up, and people come over and want to talk about the car's (and the colour) they are cool car's, truth be told the V8 looks better in the metal, gets more looks and is more modern and up to date, it just looks the newer more classier plusher car.

Round up:

God its tough, I really like them both, my wife likes the V8 all day long, and between my mates its a hung parliament, I liked driving them both, one is way better and more grown up and the other is more raw and edgy. If they where dogs the V8 would be a greyhound, graceful with great strides and quick once up and running, and the 46 would be a terrier, shot to bits with bags of character. But we need to mention the noise the V8 makes, its the greyhound that's had lots of BBQ beans with a Nascar dip, it sounds awesome, Its such an event and for me its so important, it's what separates current cars with the electric future.

So to sum up and what most will want to know "Which one"

The V8 is a better car in every single way make no mistake (I also think its better looking in the metal) and each evolution is better so don't kid yourself, so for me, today, It would be the V8, its just a better car with less problems and with the 46 showing its age. The V8 for me is the last of a dying breed (last of the V8's we will say one day Mad Max style) and it just looks more modern and aggressive. Its also “the jack of ALL trades master of none"
 
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