BMW 3 Series (E46)

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Early E46 320i
PredecessorBMW E36
SuccessorBMW E90, E91, E92, E93
ClassEntry-level luxury car / Compact executive car
Body style(s)2-door coupé
2-door convertible
3-door hatchback
4-door saloon
5-door estate
LayoutFR layout/AWD
Engine(s)Petrol and diesel engines
I4, I6
1.8-3.2 L, 77-252 kW
Transmission(s)5- and 6-speed manual
Sequential manual (SMG)
5-speed automatic
5-speed semi-automatic (Steptronic)
Length4,471 mm (176.0 in)
Width1,739 mm (68.5 in)
Height1,415 mm (55.7 in)
RelatedBMW Z4
Rover 75
ManualsService Manual

The E46 automobile platform is the fourth generation of BMW's 3 Series entry-level luxury car / compact executive car. The sedan was introduced in 1998 and replaced the E36 sedan the same year. The touring and coupé models appeared in 1999 with BMW's newly designed steptronic transmissions (available in all 3 series models), and the convertible and M3 later in 2000. The E46 Compact, a 3-door hatchback, was revealed in 2001 to be sold in European and Australian markets.

In 2000, the E46 lineup received an engine boost when the new M54 engines appeared for Model Year 2001 cars; with the new 3.0 L 330 replacing the 328, BMW renamed the 2.5 L car the 325. Outside of the engine and exhaust upgrades, there were few cosmetic changes, the most noticeable being the 330 receiving silver accents on the front fascia.

Also in 2000, the E46 lineup expanded to include the new (model year) 2001 M3 Coupe. The M3 only came in a coupe and convertible (model year 2002) platform, with either a 6 speed manual or SMG transmission. Unlike its predecessor, the E46 M3 shared very few parts with the standard 3 series. The exteriors of the two cars only shared the doors, roof, and trunk. The exterior of the M3 had wider fenders and "M styled" bumpers, side skirts, mirrors, a protruding hood, spoiler, and the new tradition of M marked grills on the front fenders and four exhaust pipes. The interior of the M3 was accented with an M steering wheel, seats, rear view mirror, and instrument cluster.

The first major overhaul occurred when the E46 sedan underwent a facelift in 2002, which included re-designed headlights, new bumpers and a stiffer chassis. Also, the 316i and 318i models received new, more powerful engines. Then in 2004 the coupe and convertible had a facelift which included new headlights, new front wings and bumpers, new selections in exterior colour, and redesigned sidemarker lights and LED tail lights. The M3s got a much more mild facelift that same year, with the inclusion of the updated boot and LED tail lights from the coupe/convertible.

Despite being introduced last, the E46 compact was the first to be replaced when 1 Series was launched in September 2004. In mid-2005 the E46 sedans were phased out with the introduction of the new E90 saloons. The E46 touring was also replaced later that year with E91. The E46 remained in production as coupé, convertible and M3 until the E92 coupé and E93 convertible was revealed in late 2006. The new M3 coupé concept was later unveiled in March 2007 during Geneva Motor Show.

The E46 experienced enormous success in all markets and was widely considered the performance benchmark of its class. The record year for the E46 was 2002, when 561,249 vehicles were sold worldwide.[1]

As a credit to the E46 platform, it was chosen for Car and Driver Magazine's "10 Best Cars" every year of its production. See Car and Driver Ten Best.



Model[2] Engine Production[3] Volume
Type[4] Power Torque 0-100 km/h[5]
316i M43TUB19 1998-2001 1895 I4, 8v 104 bhp (78 kW; 105 PS) 122 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 12.4 s
316i/ti N42B18 2001-2004 1796 I4, 16v 113 bhp (84 kW; 115 PS) 129 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 10.9 s
N46B18 2004-2005
318i/Ci M43TUB19 1998-2001 1895 I4, 8v 116 bhp (87 kW; 118 PS) 129 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 10.4 s
318i/Ci/ti N42B20 2002-2003 1995 I4, 16v 141 bhp (105 kW; 143 PS) 148 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 9.3 s
N46B20 2004-2005
318Ci 2005-2007 148 bhp (110 kW; 150 PS) 9.2 s
320i M52TUB20 1998-2000 1991 I6, 24v 148 bhp (110 kW; 150 PS) 140 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 9.9 s
320i/Ci M52B22/M54B22 2001-2007 2171 168 bhp (125 kW; 170 PS) 155 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 8.2 s
323i/Ci M52TUB25 1998-2000 2494 170 bhp (127 kW; 172 PS) 181 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 8.0 s
325i/xi/Ci/ti (US) M54B25 2001-2005 184 bhp (137 kW; 187 PS) 175 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 7.3 s
325i/Ci SULEV (US) M56B25 2002-2005 184 bhp (137 kW; 187 PS) 175 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 7.3 s
325i/xi/Ci/ti (EUR) M54TUB25 2001-2007 2494 192 bhp (143 kW; 195 PS) 181 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 7.2 s
328i/Ci M52TUB28 1998-2000 2793 193 bhp (144 kW; 196 PS) 206 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 6.6 s
330i/xi/Ci M54B30 2000-2007 2979 225 bhp (168 kW; 228 PS) 214 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 6.5 s
330i/Ci ZHP (US Only) 2003-2006 235 bhp (175 kW; 238 PS) 222 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 5.8 s
M3 (US) S54B32 2001-2006 3246 333 bhp (248 kW; 338 PS) 262 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 5.0 s
M3 (EUR) 2001-2006 338 bhp (252 kW; 343 PS) 269 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 4.8 s
M3 CSL 2003-2004 355 bhp (265 kW; 360 PS) 273 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 4.8 s
M3 GTR (Street) 2001 3997 V8, 32v 350 bhp (261 kW; 355 PS) 269 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm)
M3 GTR (Race) 2001-2005 400 bhp (298 kW; 406 PS) 271 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm)


Model Engine Production Volume
Type Power Torque 0-100 km/h
318d/td M47D20 2001-2005 1951 I4, 16v 113 bhp (84 kW; 115 PS) 195 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 10.7 s
320d M47D20 1999-2001 1951 I4, 16v 134 bhp (100 kW; 136 PS) 207 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 9.9 s
320d/cd/td M47TUD20 2001-2007 1995 I4, 16v 148 bhp (110 kW; 150 PS) 243 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 8.8 s
330d/xd/cd M57D30 1999-2003 2926 I6, 24v 181 bhp (135 kW; 184 PS) 288 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 7.8 s
M57TUD30 2004-2007 2993 201 bhp (150 kW; 204 PS) 302 ft·lbf (Template:Convert/Nm) 7.2 s


The BMW E46 was an evolution from its predecessor, the E36. Many of the lines and the over all exterior shape was taken from the E36, but was upgraded to a more rounded, aerodynamic shape, similar to many of the "rounded" designs of the mid to late '90s. Many features were passed along from the E36, including the shape of the rear view mirrors, side molding trim, center arm rest, the steering wheel, gauges, and the design of the front and rear seats. With an exception to the tail lamp shape, most of the lines are similar to the E36, the only difference being that the edges and corners have a more round look. Wheels have also been upgraded to a more modern look with larger wheels and low-profile tires. Inside, not much resembles the E36's interior. The shape of the dash, trim, and center console are almost identical to the BMW E38 and E39, and it shares many of the same parts that seem to have been trickled down from the 7 to the 5 to the 3 series.


The E46 came with over 10 different bodykits and over 20 different wheels. Wheel sizes ranged from 15" for the base models, 17" for the sports package, 18" for the performance package, and optional 19" wheels for the M3. Inside, seats were offered with fabric, synthetic leatherette or authentic leather.

The cold weather package included a ski-bag, headlamp washers, and heated seats. The sports package included bolstered seats with power lumbar support, a 3 spoke steering wheel (standard on the coupe), 17" staggered wheels, and sport suspension (also standard on the coupe). The premium package included rain sensing windshield wipers, wood grain, power seats, an auto dimming rear view mirror, and leather seats.

Other miscellaneous options included a navigation system (in 2002 it was upgraded to a wider 16x9 screen), floor mats, universal garage door opener, mud flaps, exterior sport bumpers (the M Aero and M Sport kits), cell phone preparation and handsfree, and a compass integrated into the rear view mirror.

Special models

Xi (AWD Models)

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 2001-2005, but only in Sedan (4-door) trim.

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 it's added weight, slower acceleration, decreased gas mileage, softer suspension, and poor O.E. tires. The center transfer case which is locked at a 38% front and 62% rear torque split paled in comparison to Audi's Quattro AWD system when used in winter conditions. In comparison to the BMWs constant torque split, the Quattro system uses a superior Torsen style center limited-slip differential.[6][7]

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.[8]

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.

330 Clubsport Package (UK)

This package lacks the BMW Performance Engine Kit which is included with the US ZHP however the UK 330i engines already have a slightly higher power/torque rating than the USA model at 231bhp and 221lb/ft. The suspension is the same as the ZHP and is labelled M-Sport Suspension II.

  • Special Clubsport (Euro Only)
    • Front bumper splitters
    • GT rear wing
    • Door sills
    • Clubsport Style 18" wheels with 225/40R18 front, 255/35R18 rear performance tires
    • Exterior paint choices of Titanium Silver, and two "BMW Individual" colors Estoril Blue and Velvet Blue
    • 20kg of sound deadening removed to lighten the vehicle and increase the engine sound inside the car

The Clubsport Package is not to be confused with the M-Sport package.

330 ZHP Performance Package (USA)

2005 BMW 330Ci ZHP

In January 2003, at the Los Angeles International Auto Show, BMW of North America introduced the 330i Performance Package, order code ZHP. The package was available for the E46 platform beginning with mid-2003 330i sedans, and the following year for 330Ci coupes & convertibles. This was a trim-level upgrade that included engine, suspension, and aesthetic upgrades. The color option of Imola Red replaces Electric Red when ordered with ZHP Performance Package, otherwise only available in the M-series. The ZHP package helped BMW fill the gap from the departure of the four-door E36 M3 in 1998, as the E46 M3 was only available in coupe and convertible form.

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 14.2 seconds.

Specific details on the order package include:


  • An increase of 10 hp (7 kW), 8 lb·ft (11 N·m) of torque
  • Lightweight flywheel
  • More aggressive camshaft
  • Free-flowing exhaust with 35 mm matte stainless steel dual exhaust pipes
  • 6-speed short-throw manual transmission
  • 3.07 final drive gear ratio in rear differential
  • Tachometer with a 300 rpm-higher redline increase to 6,800 rpm (from 6,500 in the standard 330i)
  • New 155 mph top speed since the 128 mph (206 km/h) governor has been removed

Suspension (comparisons are made to sport package suspension)

  • New M suspension, more "sporty" than standard sport package
  • Firmer springs (front +6%, rear +8%)
  • Firmer shocks (jounce: front +50%, rear +20%), (rebound: front +35%, rear -8%)
  • Larger diameter anti-roll bars: 23.5 mm front (v. 23.0), 18.5 mm rear (v. 18.0)
  • Lower ride height by 15 mm (.6 inches) utilizing shorter auxiliary springs
  • -.5 degrees of camber
  • Reinforced right & left front lower control arms with all-metal ball joints (more rigid forward bushings)


  • Sport seats in Alcantara/cloth combo (optionally in leather)
  • Anthracite interior headliner
  • Thicker ///M 3-spoke multi-function steering wheel in perforated leather or Alcantara with fingertip cruise, audio, and accessory phone controls
  • Short & weighted ///M shift knob
  • Aluminum black/silver cube interior trim
  • M-Tech II aerodynamic package
    • M-Tech II front bumper with M-tech fogs and M-tech reflectors
    • M-Tech II rear bumper with diffuser
    • M-Tech II side sills
    • M-Tech lip spoiler
  • Double-spoke (Styling 135M) cast alloy wheels
    • 18 x 8.0 front with 225/40R-18 performance tires
    • 18 x 8.5 rear with 255/35R-18 performance tires
  • High-gloss shadowline trim around the windows

The M3 and Special Models



  1. "Successful 2003 Financial Year for the BMW Group". The Auto Channel. Retrieved on 2006-07-24. 
  2. An i indicates either saloon or touring (The i was originally used to indicated fuel injected rather than a carburated engine but all modern models are fuel injected.) A d stands for diesel, t is the 3-door hatchback (compact) and Ci stands for coupé or convertible. An x means all-wheel drive (xDrive).
  3. Model year production.
  4. The I indicates an Inline/Straight engine, followed by the number of cylinders and the total amount of valves.
  5. Figures are for saloons/coupes with manual transmission. Acceleration may be slightly faster for compacts (ca. -0,1 s) and slower for tourings ca. +0,2 s, convertibles ca. +0,4-1 s, automatics ca. +0,2-1 s and all-wheel drives ca. +0,2-0,5 s.

External links