BMW 3 Series (E46)

The BMW E46 is the fourth generation of the 3 Series compact executive cars produced by BMW, produced from 1998 when it succeeded theBMW E36.
The E46 was released in 1998 to worldwide markets in the sedan body style. In 1999, a coupé and touring body style became available to all markets, and the sedan was released in the United States. A convertible and hatchback body style was released in 2000, the latter only for Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The E46 experienced enormous success in all markets and was widely considered the performance benchmark of its class. The record selling year for the E46 chassis was 2002, when 561,249 vehicles were sold worldwide. The main competitors during the E46's production run were the Alfa Romeo 156Audi A4Infiniti GLexus ISMercedes-Benz C-Class and the Rover 75/MG ZT.
BMW M GmbH produced a high-performance variant of the E46 chassis, designated the M3. This version had a larger, more powerful engine, sportier suspension, a limited slip differential, and various aesthetic modifications. The M3 was released in 2001 and was available only in the coupé and convertible body style. It was offered with two transmissions; a standard 6-speed manual, or an optional sequential manual gearbox.
May 1998 – 2006
Model years
1999 – 2006
Leipzig, Germany
Munich, Germany
Regensburg, Germany
Toluca, Mexico (BMW de México)
Rosslyn, South Africa
6th of October City, Egypt
Kaliningrad, Russia (Avtotor)
Shenyang, China (Brilliance)
Jakarta, Indonesia (Gaya Motor) (1999–2004)
BMW 3 Series (E90)
Compact executive car
Body style
2-door coupé
2-door cabriolet
4-door sedan
5-door wagon
3-door hatchback
Front engine, rear-wheel drive / All-wheel drive
1.8L I4 16-valve
1.9L 4
2.0L 4 16-valve
2.0L 6 24-valve
2.2L 6 24-valve
2.5L 6 24-valve
2.8L 6 24-valve
3.0L 6 24-valve
3.2L 6 24-valve
4.0L V8 32-valve
2.0L 4 16-valve turbodiesel
2.9L 6 24-valve turbodiesel
3.0L 6 24-valve turbodiesel
5-speed manual
6-speed manual
6-speed sequential manual
6-speed automatic
5-speed semi-automatic
5-speed automatic
4-speed automatic
2,725 mm (107.3 in)
Sedan: 4,470 mm (176.0 in)
Wagon: 4,478 mm (176.3 in)
Cabriolet & Coupé: 4,488 mm (176.7 in)
Sedan & Wagon: 1,740 mm (68.5 in)
Cabriolet & Coupé: 1,758 mm (69.2 in)
Sedan: 1,415 mm (55.7 in)
2000-02 325i Wagon: 1,410 mm (55.5 in)
2000-02 325xi Wagon: 1,430 mm (56.3 in)
Cabriolet: 1,372 mm (54.0 in)
Coupé: 1,369 mm (53.9 in)
xi Sedan: 1,435 mm (56.5 in)
Erik Goplen (1995)


Exterior design

The E46 was developed as an evolutionary replacement for the BMW E36 chassis. In late 1995, the general exterior design of the E46 by Erik Goplen was chosen and as a result DesignworksUSA was contracted by BMW to work alongside BMW Group's in-house design team to create the exterior body work in February 1996. Based on the E36 body shell, the design team put an emphasis on improving aerodynamics and increasing the car's aggressive stance. Design patents were filed in Germany on 16 July 1997 and in the US on 16 January 1998. While the styling of the E46 was seen as an evolution of the extremely successful previous generation 3-series, it was not immediately embraced by either the buying public, or the automotive press. Word leaked out in the press that the BMW stylists were unhappy in raising the roof-line, and the general "rounding" of the body panels in comparison to the more squarish E36 series.

Flexible electronics design

Since the start of production, the entire in-car entertainment system (Radio Function, Navigation System, Television and Telecommunications systems) is based on a very flexible automotive computer system. As a result the E46 models can all be easily upgraded with the newest BMW technologies including BMW's Bluetooth System, the DVD based Navigation system, as well as BMW's CD changers that play MP3s.

Powertrain and engine design

An emphasis was put on reducing unsprung weight and increasing structural rigidity rather than increasing power output: the highest displacement model at release, the E46 328, had only 3 horsepower more than the E36 328. To counter this small power increase, the body shell of the E46 was claimed by BMW to be 70% more rigid than the E36's, and aluminum suspension components were used increasingly in order to decrease unsprung weight. In tune with BMW's core values, the E46 was released with a front engined rear-wheel drive layout with 50/50 weight distribution. This balance allows for optimal handling in regards to the drive train layout.

Petrol engines

(in cc)
0–100 km/h
(0-62 mph)
I4, 8v
105 PS (77 kW; 104 bhp)
165 Nm (122 lbft)
12.4 s
I4, 16v
115 PS (85 kW; 113 bhp)
175 Nm (129 lbft)
10.9 s
I4, 8v
118 PS (87 kW; 116 bhp)
180 Nm (133 lbft)
10.4 s
I4, 16v
143 PS (105 kW; 141 bhp)
200 Nm (148 lbft)
9.3 s
150 PS (110 kW; 148 bhp)
9.2 s
I6, 24v
150 PS (110 kW; 148 bhp)
190 Nm (140 lbft)
9.9 s
170 PS (125 kW; 168 bhp)
210 Nm (155 lbft)
8.2 s
170 PS (125 kW; 168 bhp)
245 N·m (181 lbft)
8.0 s
325i/xi/Ci/it (US)
184 PS (135 kW; 181 bhp)
237 N·m (175 lbft)
7.3 s
325i/Ci SULEV (US)
184 PS (135 kW; 181 bhp)
237 Nm (175 lbft)
7.3 s
325i/xi/Ci/ti (EUR)
192 PS (141 kW; 189 bhp)
245 Nm (181 lbft)
7.2 s
193 PS (142 kW; 190 bhp)
280 Nm (207 lbft)
7.0 s
231 PS (170 kW; 228 bhp)
300 Nm (221 lbft)
6.5 s
330i/Ci ZHP (US Only)
238 PS (175 kW; 235 bhp)
301 Nm (222 lbft)
6.3 s
M3 (US)
338 PS (249 kW; 333 bhp)
355 Nm (262 lbft)
5.3 s
M3 (EUR)
343 PS (252 kW; 338 bhp)
365 Nm (269 lbft)
5.3 s
360 PS (265 kW; 355 bhp)
370 Nm (273 lbft)
5.3 s
M3 GTR (Street)
V8, 32v
351 PS (258 kW; 346 bhp)
365 Nm (269 lbft)
4.5 s
M3 GTR (Race)
444 PS (327 kW; 438 bhp)
479 Nm (353 lbft)
4.0 s
Diesel engines
(in cc)
0–100 km/h
(0-62 mph)
I4, 16v
116 PS (85 kW; 114 bhp)
260 Nm (192 lbft)
10.7 s
I4, 16v
136 PS (100 kW; 134 bhp)
280 Nm (207 lbft)
9.9 s
I4, 16v
150 PS (110 kW; 148 bhp)
330 Nm (243 lbft)
8.8 s
I6, 24v
184 PS (135 kW; 181 bhp)
390 Nm (288 lbft)
7.8 s
204 PS (150 kW; 201 bhp)
410 Nm (302 lbft)
7.2 s

Model badging


The 316 was introduced in 1999 and has the smallest engine available in the E46, the 1.6 L BMW M43 producing 105 hp (78 kW) and 165 Nm (122 lbft). Like all 4-cylinder models, it was released into the United States market. In 2001, the 316 was given a smaller, yet more powerful, 1.8 L BMW N42 engine producing 116 hp (87 kW) and 175 Nm (129 lbft).


The 318 was introduced in 1998, the 1.9 L BMW M43. However, it was designated the M43B19TU (technical update) and had dual balancing shafts which increased horsepower to 118 hp (88 kW) and torque to 180 Nm (133 lbft). Along with the 316, the 318 received an updated engine in 2002: the 2.0 L BMW N42. It produced 141 hp (105 kW) and 200 Nm (148 lbft). The 318 was not released into the United States market.


Sold in many places, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Greece, Canada, Australia and Ireland. It was powered by a 2.2-litre in-line six-cylinder engine making 170 hp (127 kW). It was the base model in Romania, Canada, Australia, where it would be succeeded by the 323i.


The 323 was one of the first E46 models available for purchase, 1998 for the sedan (excluding North American markets) and 1999 for the coupe (and sedan in North American markets). It was powered by BMW's 2.5 L M52 engine designated M52TUB25. The M52 engine was previously used in the E36; however, this 2.5 L version added dual VANOS, BMW's mechanically continuous variable valve timing system. This improved low end torque and fuel economy over the M52B25 used in the E36 323. The E46 323, despite having a 2.5L engine, was designated "323" and not "325", to increase the apparent spread between it and the correctly numbered 328 to appeal to BMW enthusiasts.
The 323 ended its run after 2000, when it was then retired to make way for the updated E46 325.


Pre-facelift BMW 328i sedan
The 328 was released alongside the 323 as a high-performance option, still using the BMW M52 engine. The E46 328 and 323 ended their production runs after three model years (1998–2000) when it was succeeded by the 330 and 325, respectively.


The 325 took over from the market position of the 323 and uses the same 2.5 L I6 engine, however the 325's engine has improved double-VANOS and fully dual pipe exhaust system. The European version makes 192 hp (143 kW), while the U.S./Canadian version had a catalytic converter installed which reduces the output to 184 hp (137 kW).


The 330 succeeded the 328 as the top-performing E46 (excluding the M3), with the M54B30 making 231 PS (170 kW; 228 bhp) at 6500rpm and 290 Nm (214 lbft) at 3500 rpm, while the performance package (ZHP) version had an output of 235 bhp (175 kW; 238 PS) at 6800 rpm and 301 Nm (222 lbft) at 3500 rpm.

Trim levels

United States market

Premium Package (ZPP)

The premium package has been available on all 3-series cars. It typically included:
  • Different wheels and tires (if ordered with the sport package, the sport package's wheels and tires are supplied)
  • A multifunction steering wheel (If it was not already standard on the vehicle)
  • Wood grain interior trim (if ordered with the sport package, the premium package wood is typically installed, unless specifically requested otherwise)
  • Rain-sensing windshield wipers (not available on the 323; became standard equipment in 2004)
  • Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
  • Power seats
  • Lumbar Support (not available on the 325)
  • Moonroof (note: moonroof can also be ordered separately)

Sport package (ZSP)

The sport package was available on all E46's, excluding cars with the Performance package and the M3. It consisted of a three spoke sports leather steering wheel and had improved grip over the standard "square" steering wheel. The sport package also included cruise control. The car was also given sport seats which provided better bolstering and support than the stock seats. They also had adjustable thigh supports and were available in manual or power. The sports package also offered 17-inch wheels standard, which came with staggered (323 excluded) lower profile tires. Rear-wheel-drive models ordered with the Sport package also received sport suspension, which offered improved handling by way of firmer springs, a lower ride height, and tighter dampers.

Cold weather package (ZCW)

The cold weather package has been available on all 3-series and M3 cars. It typically included:
  • Pass-through ski bag
  • Heated seats
  • Headlight washers
  • Fold down rear seats

Performance package (ZHP)

2005 BMW 330Ci ZHP in Titanium Silver
2004 BMW 330CI ZHP in Silver Grey Metallic
The performance package was an inclusive option given to E46 sedans from 2003 to 2005, coupes and convertibles from 2004 to 2006. It included various aesthetic changes over the regular 3 series, as well as functional and mechanical enhancements. It had M badges on each of its Style 135 wheels, with additional M badging on the multi-function steering wheel and atop the 6-speed short throw weighted shifter. In addition to the standard color options, the ZHP was available in the "Motorsport-only" color Imola Red. It received the "M-Tech II" bodykit standard, 18-inch staggered Style 135 wheels, high gloss anthracite window trim, and the coupe received clear turn signals (headlights, side-markers, and tail-lights) instead of the amber turn signals found on the standard 330Ci. The interior had also been modified with half cloth-half alcantara sports seats (optional upgrade to leather), analcantara-wrapped sports steering wheel (switched to perforated leather in mid-2005), a shorter M-badged shift knob, anthracite colored cloth headliner, and aluminum "cubed" faux-carbon fiber interior trim (available in silver or black). The instrument gauge cluster was also modified with red needles and polished metal trim rings.
In the performance department, the ZHP was equipped with the more aggressive DME tune to increase power from 225 hp (168 kW) to 235 hp (175 kW). The engine redline raised from 6,500 rpm to 6,800 rpm to take advantage of the new power band and higher power output at higher RPMs. As a result of the higher redline, the nut that fastens the oil pump's sprocket came with threadlocker pre-applied from the factory to keep the nut from falling off. The car also received a shorter final drive ratio which allows for faster acceleration; 3.07 vs. 2.93 for manuals and 3.64 vs. 3.38 for the automatic. Car and Driver magazine track-tested the car, which returned a 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds and passed through the 1/4 mile in 14.3 seconds. In 2003 the ZHP was the only non-M 3-series to feature a 6-speed manual transmission (the Steptronic automatic transmission was not available the first model year (2003), but it was offered from 2004 to 2006).
Suspension was modified over the standard suspension with firmer springs and dampers, larger anti-roll bars, stronger front control arm ball joints, a lower ride height, and slightly more negative camber. The Style 135M wheels also came equipped with the much stickier compound, Michelin Pilot Sport tires, in a staggered configuration with 225/40-18 tires in the front and 255/35-18 tires in the back.

Other markets


The ES trim level was supposed to be the base level available for the European E46s from 2003, however, it included various safety features as standard equipment, such as anti-lock brakes, 6 airbags, dynamic stability control, and a factory installed alarm which were not common as standard features when the E46 was released. Comfort items such as heated and electric mirrors were also fitted standard. The ES trim did not include cruise control, a multi-function steering wheel (MFSW), leather steering wheel or gearknob, although these were offered as "at-cost" options. For a short period during 2003 BMW offered optional extras for the 320d & 330d Touring from the M-Tech Sport range including M-Tech Sports suspension and when this option was selected the leather M-tech gearknob & steering wheel were included in the upgrade.


The SE trim level included the options the ES trim level was given, but added cruise control as part of the multi-function steering wheel, headlight washers, parking sensors, leather steering wheel and gearknob. It was the mid-range trim level that offered luxury items, but lacked the sporting items the M Sport and M Clubsport trim levels had, although the drivetrains of both SE and M Sport models were identical.

Sport / M Sport

The Sport (later M Sport) trim level included the options given on the ES and SE trim levels, but had additional performance-orientated items added. It came with the "M-tech" I or II bodykits (depending on when the car was ordered), half leather-half alcantara sports seats, sports suspension (comprising stiffer springs, dampers, and altered suspension geometry) The M sport package shares the same suspension set up as the performance package (ZHP) in America, as well as the "cubed" interior trim and 18-inch style 135 wheels, gloss black external trim instead of the chrome trim of the SE, sports steering wheel and 17" lightweight style 68 alloy wheels. The drivetrain of Sport / M-Sport models is identical to that of base / ES / SE variants.

M Clubsport

BMW 330Ci M Clubsport
The M Clubsport trim level is aesthetically similar to the United States Performance Package. The main difference is that the M Clubsport trim was not given the BMW performance camshafts that the ZHP obtained. Instead, it had 20 kilograms (44 lb) of sound deadening removed from the car. The M Clubsport trim shares the same suspension set up as the performance package (ZHP) in America, as well as the "cubed" interior trim and 18-inch style 135 wheels. However, changes from the ZHP include plastic front splitters on the M-Tech II bumper, a M-tech II styled rear spoiler (instead of the M3 trunk lip), and clubsport door sills. The M Clubsport also came with two "BMW Individual" color options that were carried throughout the car, Estoril Blue, Velvet Blue and Carbon Black.
Unlike the other trim levels, the M Clubsport trim was only available on the 330 and the 325.

Luxury Package

This Canadian-only package offered the same options as the United States premium package.

Initial release

BMW Alpina B3S 3.3 (1999-2006)

It is a version of BMW 330i with natural aspiration engine rated 305 PS (224 kW; 276 hp) @7200rpm and 500 Nm (369 lbft) @3800-5000rpm, 6-speed switch tronic manual transmission, ALPINA Classic 18-inch wheels with Michelin tires (225/40 ZR18 front, 255/35 ZR18 rear)
The B3S 3.4 Coupe went on sale in limited quantities (100 units) via ALPINA GB.

Model nomenclature


The "i" badging originally indicated that the car had a fuel injection engine (Petrol) which first appeared in the E3/E9 and E21 chassis. As electronic fuel injection replaced carburetors the "i" badge was reused to indicate that the engine had an inline cylinder configuration. BMW is one of the last auto manufacturers still producing cars with this engine configuration.


With the introduction of the xi models in 2001, BMW brought back AWD which hadn't been an option in the 3-series since 1991 when the E30 325iX was discontinued. BMW produced the 325xi and 330xi in the US between 2001 and 2005, but only in Sedan (4-door) trim and the 325xi Sports Wagon.
The AWD models were well received by reviewers for giving customers in severe winter climates the option of an AWD 3-series. At the same time, the xi was criticized for its added weight, slower acceleration, decreased gas mileage, softer suspension, and poor original equipment tires.
The transfer case used in all BMW E46 xi models is manufactured by New Venture Gear, Inc., which is owned by Magna Powertrain. The NV 124 transfer case used in the E46 xi models is a full-time four-wheel-drive gear driven transfer case.
The xi models have a permanent front/rear 38:62 torque split which differs from the E46's successor, the E9X, which incorporated BMW's new xDrive platform. Both the front and rear differentials in the E46 xi are open differentials which are aided by DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) to control wheel spin and oversteer/understeer.
The xi models were only produced in left-hand drive, and as such were not sold in RHD markets such as the United Kingdom.

Alpina B3S 3.3

Alpina produced a specialist version of the 3 Series dubbed the B3S 3.4. one version were produced, taken from the standard production line.
B3S 3.4 Sedan was based on the 330i, powered by the 3.4-liter M54 engine producing 276 bhp (224 Kw; 305 PS), and available only with a switch tronic 6-speed manual gearbox.
The "d" indicates that the car has a diesel powered engine.
The "Ci" indicates that the car is a coupe with a petrol powered engine.
The "Cd" indicates that the car is a coupe with a diesel powered engine.
The "Cic" indicates that the car is a 2-door convertible with a petrol-powered engine. These cars were badged Ci.
The "T" in "iT" stands for "Touring", the BMW nomenclature for a 4-door wagon. It has a petrol powered engine. These cars are just badged as "i".
The 'ti' badge on the E46 compact stands for 'Touring International' This harks back to the BMW 2002 tii touring.
The 'td' badge indicates a compact powered by a diesel engine (a variation of the ti badge for petrol-engined variants)

Changes by Model Year

Mid-year 1998 (MY 99)

  • 316, 318, 320, 323, and 328 sedans are released to worldwide markets, designated "i"(excluding the US).


  • 323 and 328 E46 sedans introduced in the US (The 316 to 320 models were not released in the US to the general public at any point).
  • E46 coupe is launched into worldwide markets, designated "Ci" (excluding the US).
  • E46 Touring is launched into worldwide markets, designated "iT" (excluding the US).


  • E46 coupe is launched into the US.
  • E46 Touring is launched into the US.
  • Dynamic Stability Control replaces Automatic Stability Control.
  • Auto Recirculation becomes standard.
  • The 323 has 15-inch alloy wheels standard (replacing hub caps for no-option package 323s).
  • The Premium Package has wood trim and moonroof standard, with 16-inch wheels only (no more 15-inch offered).
  • The 323 gets the Sport/Premium combo package offered.
  • Power seats are a stand-alone option on 323.

Mid-year 2000 (9/99)

  • Power seats with driver's seat memory upgraded to include exterior mirror memory.
  • Radio has clock function: as a result, an onboard computer function and the time can be displayed at the same time.
  • Child seat tether anchorages added as standard equipment.
  • Redesigned center console buttons.
  • New key design
  • Automatic transmission changes to Steptronic


  • 323i (2.5) is replaced by the 320i (2.2) and receives the new M54B22 engine
  • 328I is replaced by the 330i and receives the new M54B30 engine
  • 325xi and 330xi all-wheel-drive models are introduced
  • All 2001 325xi for U.S. market has Their VIN numbers registered as 325i since the 'x' was considered an option to the base 'i' car instead of a Separate model.
  • New sport steering wheel with circular airbag cover.
  • Xenon / HID equipped with larger projector lens.
  • New dual exhaust from headers to muffler.
  • 325i sports package gets 17x8 style 44 wheels.
  • 330: lumbar adjustments standard with leather seats.
  • 330: 17 "rims are standard
  • 330: Sports package rims are changed to style M68 with 17x7.5 up front and 17x8.5 in the rear.
  • 330: Brakes are 1 "larger
  • 330: Headlight washer jets standard on cold-weather package
  • 330: Silver trim around headlights
  • 330: "Updated" steering (more power assist)
  • Coupes get titanium front spoiler trim.

Mid-year 2001 (3/01)

  • 325i and 325iT: New standard equipment: foglights, cruise control, & automatic climate control
  • 325Ci and 325Cic: New standard equipment: automatic climate control
  • 330: Due to customer feedback, there was a mid-year change back to a steering system with less boost, more than Although she had 323s and 328s. BMW Offered a free "steering retrofit" to reduce the boost for some time. You now must pay for this retrofit. This only affected 2001 cars.
  • 330i: New standard equipment: power seats, Harman Kardon stereo, & sport suspension
  • 330Ci & 330Cic: New standard equipment: Harman Kardon stereo


  • NAV systems now have a widescreen 16x9 display.
  • E46 sedans and wagons Receive a facelift: New headlight and taillight designs, side marker Directional moved and re-shaped, new wider grille, new hood, new front bumpers for 325i and 330i without sport package.
  • 330i 18-inch wheel option Offered
  • 318i receives an engine boost to 2.0L
  • 320d receives new engine 148 bhp (110 kW; 150 PS)
  • Xenon headlight option upgraded to Bi-xenon configuration

Mid-year 2002 (9/02)

  • Sirius satellite radio now pre-wired on non-navigation cars


  • NAV system becomes DVD based (Mark IV NAV system). In addition, the navigation system will now be available with in-dash CD-player or cassette player.
  • The sound system head unit now has a new auxiliary input (aux input kit required)
  • Receive Sedans third rear headrest and 3-point seatbelt.
  • 325: Rain sensor and automatic headlight control will now be part of the Premium Package.
  • 325: Front armrest will be standard in the sedan and sport wagon.
  • 325: moonroof will be standard in the sport wagon.
  • 325: SULEV 325i, 325Ci, and 325iT are introduced with the M56 motor to meet new emission requirements. The SULEV M56 motor was Offered optionally and only comes with the Steptronic transmission.
  • 330: Tire Pressure Monitor replaces the Flat Tire monitor on vehicles with run-flat tires. The alarm display and button in the middle console remain unchanged.
  • 330xi with Sport Package will come with 17 "all-season run-flat tires with styling 98 wheels (same as the current run-flat tire option).

Mid-year 2003 (3/03)

  • Performance package introduced on the 330i sedan. It's only Offered with a manual transmission and NOT offered with the premium package.
  • All E46s are now pre-wired for the BMW Bluetooth kit
  • All 330 manual transmissions now 6-speed instead of 5-speed

Mid-year 2003 (6/03)

  • M3 CSL production (1400 units)

Mid-year 2003 (9/03)

  • All 330i/330xi Sedans, and 330Ci Coupes must be ordered with option 403 - moonroof.
  • All 330Ci Convertibles must be ordered with ZPP - premium package.
  • Myrtle wood is no longer available as a stand-alone option. It will only be available when the Premium Package is ordered.
  • A new interior trim will be made available on all 3 Series. SA 426 or Aluminum "Brushed Columns" trim will be available as a no cost option when the Premium Package is ordered. If the Premium Package is ordered and SA 426 is not specified, the car will be equipped with Myrtle Wood trim (as before)
  • Cars equipped with Navigation are now pre-wired for Sirius
Mid-year 2003 (10/03)
  • SMG or Sequential Manual Gearbox available in conjunction with the sport package (not available in conjunction with the Performance Package or all-wheel-drive models).


  • Performance package now available on coupes and convertibles, shet as well as with the automatic transmission and the premium package (on all 330s).
  • The climate control head unit has a new control button layout (temp, fan and recirculate control buttons) for simpler operation and ease of use.
  • The rain sensor and automatic headlight control standard for all Sedans and Sports Wagons. These features were previously only available with the Premium Package (ZPP).
  • Automatic STEPTRONIC transmission will be available in conjunction with the Performance Package.
  • New Sport Package wheel for 325i Sedan and Sports Wagon. Styling 119 replaces Styling 96.
  • New base wheel for the 330i/330xi Sedan and 325xi Sedan/Sports Wagon when equipped with the Sport Package. New wheel replaces Styling 73.
  • Titanium exterior trim on the front grille and headlights is no longer different for 330i and 330xi Sedans. (The headlights are black and the front spoiler is a combination of black and body color.)
  • Coupes and convertibles receive a face lift with a new front grille (larger "BMW kidneys"), revised lower bumper design and front/rear light redesign including LED tail lights, repositioned side turn signal lights and clear front corners on sport package cars.
  • The Xenon headlight package was upgraded to the Adaptive Xenon package for coupes/convertibles only.
  • 325i and 325iT: Styling 119 (17 x 8) with performance tires replaces Styling 96 when the sport package (ZSP) is ordered.
  • 330i/330xi get a new base wheels. 325xiT and 330xiT get new Sport Package wheels.
  • The M47N diesel engine was revised, the main changes being a redesigned swirl flap design in the intake manifold and an electronically-activated turbocharger wastegate, both of which increase reliability.
  • Styling 137 (17 x 7) with all-season tires replaces Styling 73, also known as the Radial spoke.


  • Lumbar seat support added to the premium package on the 325.
  • CD shuttle became MP3 compatible

Mid-year 2005 (5/05)

  • Performance package 330s get a perforated leather steering wheel instead of alcantara.


  • Sedans discontinued.
  • LCMs now support "comfort blinker" function (triple flash). Must be activated by dealer


BMW introduced a super ultra low emission vehicle (SULEV) into the select regions of the United States to meet stricter emission standards. California, New York, and Massachusetts received the SULEV E46's in 2003, and Vermont in 2004. They received a variant of the M54 engine, the BMW M56. The M56 meets SULEV standards, as well as partial zero emission vehicle (PZEV) and zero evaporative emissions requirements. The M56 is claimed to have identical power as its M54 counterpart.

Information sticker on the SULEV radiator
Engine bay of a 2004 325i SULEV


Main article: E46 M3


A silver BMW M3 CSL

The BMW M3 CSL (coupe sports lightweight) was a limited edition version of the M3, with 1,400 cars being produced for its 2004 model year run. The CSL was never released into the North American market, and was only available in two colours - Silver Grey Metallic and Black Sapphire Metallic. In South Africa it came in limited numbers and cost nearly R1 million ($125k US) at the time (2004).
As its name suggests, an emphasis was put on reducing weight. The M3 CSL has a kerb weight of 1,385 kg (3,050 lb), 110 kg (240 lb) lighter than the regular M3. The CSL features many weight saving technologies taken from Formula One racing applications. A large proportion of the M3's sound insulation has been removed, as have the power windows, electric seats, and navigation systems. Air conditioning and stereo systems could be retrofitted free of cost, but were not available standard. The CSL's unique body pieces are all crafted from carbon fiber reinforced polymer. Glass-reinforced plastics are used throughout structural points in the car. The rear glass window was replaced with lightweight plastic. Although the CSL loses a considerable amount of curb weight from its original version, the focus was put on strategically reducing or moving the weight in the car rather than the raw amount of weight that could be lost. This is to retain the ideal 50:50 weight distribution characteristics the E46 has. For example, the roof is constructed from carbon fiber reinforced plastic. While this only reduces the curb weight of the car by 7 kg (15 lb), it lowers the center of gravity of the car and decreases body flex.
A black M3 E46 CSL

In order to improve the handling ability of the car, the entire suspension system was further refined. Specially developed racing springs and dampersare given to the CSL, and a tightened steering ratio (14.5:1 vs 15.4:1 on the regular M3) improves responsiveness. The braking system is also modified, with larger front and rear floating rotors and calipers from the E39 M5. The CSL is given a retuned dynamic stability control system with a "M track mode" setting that allows the car to be pushed to its absolute limits before being activated.
The 3.2l engine used in the M3, the BMW S54, has been modified to increased output by 17 hp (13 kW) and 5 N·m (1 lbf) over the European M3. This is achieved through a high flow carbon fiber air intake, modified valve and camshaft timing, and a retuned DME. However, the engine is further modified in order to reduce weight - it features a lightweight exhaust manifold and thinner exhaust piping. Additionally, the intake and exhaust manifolds are slightly straightened to improve engine responsiveness.
The CSL also has various aesthetic modifications over the standard M3. It received an aerodynamic lightweight body kit which included carbon fiber front splitters that improved downforce at high speeds by 50%, as well as a carbon fiber rear diffuser. The front bumper has a distinct hole that is used to draw cool air into the newly designed air intake. The boot lid is redesigned to incorporate a raised lip, unlike the standard M3 where one is simply added on to a flat boot. The CSL was sold with distinct 19-inch lightweight forged BBS alloy rims that came with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup semi-slick racing tires.
The interior of the CSL is redesigned with a sporty-weight saving theme. The CSL obtains fiberglass front racing bucket seats, permanently angled at 90-degrees and fiberglass backed rear seats. The center console, door panels and trim, and headliner are all formed from carbon fiber, and the steering wheel is redesigned with cruise control, stereo, and phone controls removed to include just a single button that activates the M track mode. Although some markets went without this feature, South African examples were fitted with air conditioning.
The SMG II drivelogic semi-automatic transmission is a Getrag 6-speed conventional manual transmission, but with an electrohydraulically actuated clutch pedal, similar to an Formula One style transmission. The regular M3 has the manual transmission as standard and the SMG II automated manual as an option, however the CSL is only offered with the SMG II and that unit also received a more advanced drivelogic unit that was capable of making shifts in 0.08 of a second.

North American competition package (ZCP)

As the M3 CSL was not available to the North American markets, BMW released an optional "competition package" (option code ZCP) to fill the market void. It upgraded the normal M3 by way of 19-inch cast lightweight CSL style wheels, detuned CSL suspension components, a tighter steering ratio, and the CSLs brakes. It also included a detuned version of the CSLs dynamic stability control.


Like all car models, some common faults or premature failures have become apparent with the E46 over time. These include:
  • Front lower suspension control arm bushes and/or balljoints wear out as early as 30,000 miles, causing knocking and sloppy handling. The whole arm normally has to be replaced but this is a quick workshop job.
  • On Touring models, rear coil springs frequently break and the wiring to the rear tailgate components often suffers from breakage where it flexes between the body and tailgate.
  • Steel brake pipes corrode and may need to be replaced at a relatively young age. The rear pipes pass over the fuel tank, making this a lengthy job.
  • The more powerful six-cylinder cars (330d and 330i) can suffer from rear subframe cracking caused by torque reaction at the differential mounts.
  • Pre-2004 diesel engines can suffer from swirl flap failure, which often writes off the vehicle due to extensive engine and turbocharger damage. The flaps can be removed by independent workshops with little effect on performance.
  • All diesels can suffer from turbocharger failure. The early type of oil breather is implicated in this, as it blocks easily, restricting the oil feed to the turbo bearings. Post-2004 cars have a vortex-type breather which can easily be retrofitted to earlier cars. As with all oil-cooled turbochargers, it is important not to turn off the engine for a few minutes if the car has just been driven hard (with significant turbo boost).
  • The final stage resistor on cars with climate control partially burns out, leading to a loss of proper heater fan control. The resistor, located in the footwell area, is replaceable although somewhat difficult to access.


Andy Priaulx was the champion of the 2004 European Touring Car Championship season and 2005 World Touring Car Championship season driving a 320i. Franz Engstler won the 2006 Asian Touring Car Championship season in a 320i.
A range of different drivers have won the Spa 24 Hours from 1995 to 1997. The car has further competed in the 2006 British Touring Car Championship season, the 2008 European Touring Car Cupand the 2006 Russian Touring Car Championship.
Super Tourenwagen Cup
European Touring Car Championship
Danish Touringcar Championship
European Touring Car Championship
World Touring Car Championship
Danish Touringcar Championship
Italian Superturismo Championship
British Touring Car Championship
Asian Touring Car Championship
European Touring Car Cup


BMW 3-Series E46 Coupé front view
BMW 3-Series E46 Coupé rear view
BMW 3-Series E46 Cabriolet front view

BMW 3-Series E46 Cabriolet rear view

BMW 3-Series E46 Wagon front view

BMW 3-Series E46 Wagon rear view

BMW 3-Series E46 Hatchback front view

BMW 3-Series E46 Hatchback rear view

Back to BMW 3 Series
Back to BMW
Last updated on 28 August 2013 at 01:12.


Back to Top