Inspired by M’s 50th anniversary, we’ve been on the hunt for a used BMW M3.
Not the original, E30-gen M3, which has become so revered that prices can range anywhere from £30,000 up to the heights of £100,000. Nor is it the latest generation, the G80, which first went on sale in 2020 and will cost you from £65,000 on the used market.
Instead, we’re looking at spending a fraction of that. Our choice is the E46-gen M3, produced from 2000 to 2006, which to this day remains the most successful M car ever, with more than 85,000 sales globally.
Under the bonnet sits a 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine producing 343bhp, outgunning that of the previous M3 by a hefty 65bhp.
As a result, the car can whizz from 0-62mph in 5.1sec, with power managed by either a SMG-II six-speed automatic gearbox or a Getrag six-speed manual. Top speed is electronically pegged at 155mph.
You also get the choice of a coupé or a soft-top convertible bodystyle. The coupé was significantly more popular, selling 56,133 units, compared with 29,633, but both are great choices.
We loved this M3 so much when it was new that we described its S54 straight six as “one of BMW’s best engines of any kind” and its chassis as “superb”. Its versatility also impressed us, because it was easy to live with yet “outstanding to drive”.
Not convinced? Then perhaps second-hand prices will sway you. This generation of M3 will today cost you from just over £10,000 for cars with the highest mileage. You can’t even get a new Dacia Sandero for that any more.