With the newest generation of the BMW M3 and M4 recently being released, it is always interesting to see how much these iconic sport saloons have changed over the years.
This includes the transformation of their price tags.
30 years ago, the starting price of the 3-Series was R39,310 – compared to the R690,900 for today’s model.
Prices have most certainly been upgraded – even when taking inflation into account – but so has everything else.
The E46 BMW M3
While the new “G80” M3 is on its way to our shores, we decided to look back at the most successful BMW M car in history – the E46 M3.
The third generation of the M3 was introduced in 2000, and became an instant hit.
During its six years in production, the E46 became the most successful M car ever – according to the company – as a total of 85,000 units were delivered to customers during this time.
The E46 M3 was clearly distinguishable from the standard 3-Series sedan it was based upon thanks to aesthetic changes such as widened fenders, special side skirts, and a modified front apron that gave it a more aggressive look.
The new exterior features also saw the addition of a “Gurney flap” spoiler on the rear – which noticeably reduced lift as well as increased traction.
Along with several exterior tweaks, its technical abilities were also enhanced.
Under the hood, the M3 received significant upgrades in the shape of a new, more powerful 3.2-litre, inline 6-cylinder engine along with several other mechanical components that improved performance.
This new engine increased the output of the previous generation by nearly 24kW, and brought the total power of the E46 M3 up to 252kW and 365Nm of torque.
This power was sent directly to the rear wheels.
The powerful new engine allowed for an 8,000rpm redline, it could be mated to either a manual or automated manual transmission, and it sent the car to 100km/h in just over 5.0 seconds.
This made the E46 a standout model in its segment, and assured it a huge following.
During its lifetime the sports coupé assumed many roles.
Starting life as a “normal” coupé, it soon saw the addition of another body style and several special editions – and ultimately the E46 M3’s abilities stretched from a daily driver to a Le Mans competitor and everything in between.
The most powerful variant that was available to the public came in the form of the M3 CSL.
This version featured a redesigned engine which pushed power to 265kW, and improved acceleration from 0-100km/h to 4.9 seconds.
An M3 GTR road car, which featured the same 4.0-litre engine as the race car, was also made available in a very limited number of vehicles.
But after deliveries took place, however, it became apparent that only three M3 GTR road cars were delivered to the public – while the others were used as prototype and testing vehicles.
A touring car version was then researched by the M division, and even went into the testing phase, but was ultimately not released to the public.
The official starting price of the E46 M3 in November of 2004, as provided to us by BMW South Africa, was R545,000.
Since the E46 went off the market two years thereafter, it has slowly started the cycle of turning into a modern classic – and sellers have clearly noticed as prices started increasing accordingly.
As well-kept models are becoming fewer and further apart, buying a good-condition E46 M3 can almost cost as much today as it would have when the car was still new.