Imola Red E46 M3

BMW E46 M3 Specs

The BMW E46 M3 was produced from the year 2000 up to 2006. This was the 3rd generation M3 and greatly improved upon its predecessor, the E36 M3. Here I will cover BMW E46 M3 specs which I have gathered from a variety of reputable sources, mainly BMW themselves. So, this article should be more factual than subjective.

The E46 M3 uses a similar recipe to the E36 however with everything dialled up a notch. In fact, the E46 M3’s engine uses only 3 components from its predecessor and all 3 are inconsequential.

BMW’s concept for the E46 M3 had a focus on two key components: lightweight design and a high revving engine.

Imola red E46 M3 with CSL wheels.

The E46 M3 is arguably BMW’s most successful M3 model to this day and is widely regarded as a remarkable compromise between performance, handling and everyday drivability.

Among BMW E46 M3 specs is the cutting edge, naturally aspirated 3246cc (3.2L) straight six-cylinder engine known as the S54 which is very much the centrepiece of the design.

The engine is high compression and features a lightweight crankshaft, dual overhead camshafts (DOHC), 4 valves per cylinder, variable valve timing using BMW’s VANOS system and individual throttle bodies (ITBs).

S54B32 Engine diagram.

This race-inspired recipe led the S54 to produce an impressive specific output of 103 hp per litre of displacement.

One interesting fact is that the E46 M3’s S54 engine holds the all-time fourth place for production engine piston speeds at 4773.33 ft per minute. This piston speed is comparable to F1 engines.

The S54 won “Best Engine” awards in its class for every year it was produced. It’s no wonder BMW managed to sell 85000 E46 M3’s during its 6-year production run.

Here are some technical highlights from the BMW E46 M3 Specs.

  • Naturally aspirated 3.2L in-line 6-cylinder engine
  • 6 speed Getrag transmission available in manual or SMG (automated manual)
  • Rear-wheel drive
  • Limited slip differential
  • Sachs suspension

BMW E46 M3 BHP

The M3’s inline-six engine is high revving with a redline of 8000 rpm, and with very linear power delivery, peak horsepower is at the top of the rev range.

The S54B32 engine produces 343 hp (252 kW) at the crank in European spec. the US model was restricted slightly to 333 hp thanks to emissions restrictions forcing a design change for the exhaust adding in an additional two catalytic converters.

Torque figures for the E46 M3’s S54 engine are 269 lb-ft for European spec cars and 262 lb-ft for US spec E46 M3’s. Peak torque is produced lower down the rev range at 4900 rpm.

M3 S54 engine.

BMW E46 M3 power is plenty for spirited road driving and even lends itself well on the racetrack.

Owners looking to increase the bhp of their E46 M3 are in for an expensive ride. The S54 engine quite is highly tuned from the factory and there are no cost-effective ways to increase the horsepower figure while keeping the car naturally aspirated.

Those that wish to seek more regardless tend to start with a CSL carbon fibre air intake, Schrick 288/280 camshafts, freer-flowing exhaust and a good bespoke engine tune to bring it all together. These things combined should see a healthy S54 engine producing beyond 380 hp.

A more cost-effective option when considering the ration of cost to bhp would be forced induction. Superchargers are readily available for the S54 from the likes of ESS, VF Engineering and Evolve.

ESS supercharger kit fitted to the S54 engine.

When supercharged, the E46 M3 is capable of producing 550 hp on stock engine internals which is an impressive 217 hp above stock figures while retaining the S54’s characteristic linear power curve.

  • E46 M3 Power: 343 hp
  • E46 M3 Torque: 269 lb-ft

BMW E46 M3 0-60

E46 M3 0-60 times are quite inconsistently reported around the internet. BMW’s officially released number is 5.1 seconds to 62 mph (100 kph) however you can see it listed in many reputable places at 4.8 seconds.

I would tend to trust the official figure in this case as BMW is not known for under or over-reporting such things, and owners are at times optimistic.

The E46 M3’s 0-60 mph time isn’t impressive by modern-day standards, it’s difficult to launch off the line due to wheelspin. However, it was never designed to be a drag race winner.

The E46 M3’s 0-100 mph time in stock form is 11.5 seconds. The car is much more alive between the speeds of 40 and 120 mph when the upper range of the rev limit is utilised.

E46 M3 braking power is much better than many are lead to believe. Stopping distances are not too bad and on the standard brake set up it can return a 60-0 stop in 34.13 metres (112 ft). It can also brake down from 100 mph to 0 in 96 metres (314.96 ft) which is reasonably impressive for a vehicle of its weight.

The source of most complaints about the single-piston E46 M3 stock brakes are based on their ability (or lack of) to resist fade during repeated heavy use.

You’ve got to remember that the E46 M3 was refined on the Nurburgring which is a long and fast track which gives lots of opportunity for the brakes to cool back down and stay within their optimal temperature range.

In stock form the E46 M3 laps the Nurburgring Nordschleife at 8:22, Circuit De Spa-Francorchamps 2:50, Hockenheim short loop 1:16 and the Top Gear test track at 1:32.

However, with a few choice modifications to the E46 M3 (and modern tyre technology) you can regularly see near-stock E46 M3’s lap the Nurburgring at 8 minutes flat driven by enthusiast owners.

Another thing to note is the E46 M3 CSL officially lapped the Nurburgring Nordschleife at 7:50.

  • E46 0-60 Time: 5.1 s
  • E46 M3 0-100 Time: 11.5 s
  • E46 M3 60-0 Stopping Distance: 34.13 m
  • E46 M3 100-0 Stopping Distance: 96 m
  • E46 M3 Nurburgring Nordschleife Lap Time: 8:22
  • E46 M3 Circuit De Spa-Francorchamps Lap Time: 2:50

BMW E46 M3 Top Speed

A topic of heated debate among owners is the E46 M3’s Top Speed. From the factory, the M3 is restricted to 155 mph electronically (as most BMW’s are).

This 155 mph top speed can be achieved quite easily by the E46 M3 and many owners looking to stretch the legs of the S54 motor opt to have this electronic limit removed, or coded out.

The gears are long in the E46 M3 and this is probably one of the compromises made for emissions and daily drivability. To achieve the figures they will have wanted to keep cruising rpm down as much as possible.

E46 M3 theoretical top speed graph.

Due to this, the E46 M3 is geared to 206.27 mph in 6th gear with its stock 3.62 final drive differential. However, considering all other factors such as aerodynamic drag, the S54 would be unable to propel the M3 to such ludicrous top speeds. Sadly the E46 M3 is not a 200 mph car, unlike the E60 M5.

With the limiter removed, however, the E46 M3 is no slouch. In stock form, the E46 M3 has been known to reach remarkable top speeds of around 178 mph in the right conditions.

E46 M3 top speed of around 180mph according to speedometer.

The E46 M3’s speedo goes up to 180 mph so at these speeds the needle would be maxing out its range. E46 M3 owners have been known to visit Germany’s unrestricted autobahns to experience the top speed of their cars.

  • E46 M3 Top Speed: 155 mph (electronically restricted)
  • E46 M3 Unrestricted Top Speed: ~178 mph
  • E46 M3 Theoretical Top Speed: 206.27 mph

BMW E46 M3 weight

The designers at BMW worked hard to keep weight down on the E46 M3 model and it’s one of the key ingredients that make the E46 M3 an exciting drivers’ car.

The official dry weight of the E46 M3 coupe is 1495 kg. This would be as it came off the production line without fluids such as fuel and oil. A more realistic weight to consider would be kerb weight (AKA DIN standard weight) which does include everything but the weight of the driver.

BMW E46 M3 kerb weight comes in at 1570 kg. Not a particularly lightweight for a sports car, but impressively lightweight for a compact executive car of this era which doesn’t compromise on comfort or luxury features.

The E46 M3 utilised some cutting-edge weight reduction features such as the incorporation of carbon fibre and aluminium in many places.

Another key ingredient in the E46 M3’s favourable handling characteristics is the distribution of its weight. For a front-engine, rear-drive car, the perfect weight distribution for balanced handling characteristics would be 50/50 front, rear.

The E46 M3 achieves 49% front and 51% rear which is mightily impressive, the centre of gravity is also low which aids in reducing unwanted body roll under hard cornering.

M3 drifting around a corner on a handling track.

If you’re particularly conscious about the centre of gravity then you may want to avoid picking up a car specced with a sunroof as this adds an additional 18 kg to the weight of the car, and mostly up high where you wouldn’t want it.

E46 M3 Convertible owners will likely be less concerned with the odd kilogram here or there as they’ll be too busy listening to that glorious S54 engine with the wind in their hair. However, the convertible model of the M3 weighs more and its kerb weight comes in at a heftier 1655 kg.

The E46 M3 hides its weight very well and has very well-balanced handling, it can achieve 0.89 g under hard cornering.

  • E46 M3 Weight: 1570 kg (coupe, kerb weight)
  • E46 M3 Weight Distribution Front/Rear: 49/51
  • E46 M3 Cornering G Force: 0.89 g

E46 M3 Dimensions

The E46 M3 is a vehicle coveted by automotive enthusiasts around the world and with values starting to increase for well cared for examples, a place in the garage to tuck your E46 M3 away for many is a must.

E46 M3 dimensions are very modest compared to more modern cars, they appear to be from an era just before BMW’s vehicles sizes ballooned up a considerable amount.

Blue E46 M3 from above showing dimensions.

The standard measurements of the E46 M3 are as follows: 449.33 cm long, 178.05 cm wide and 137.16 cm tall.

The E46 M3’s wheelbase measures 272.54 cm long and the track is 150.87 cm wide at the front axle and 152.4 cm wide at the rear.

  • E46 M3 Dimensions: 449.33 x 178.05 x 137.16 cm
  • E46 M3 Wheelbase: 272.54 cm
  • E46 M3 Front Track: 150.87 cm
  • E46 M3 Rear Track: 152.4 cm

BMW E46 M3 MPG

The BMW E46’s 3.2L S54 engine can be a thirsty powerplant when driven hard, but also quite reasonable on fuel when cruising on a longer run.

Having been an E46 M3 owner myself for over 4 years and daily driving the car for much of this time I feel very qualified to offer real-world insight into E46 M3 fuel consumption.

Head over to my E46 M3 review article for an in-depth analysis of real-world E46 M3 MPG including costs of running.

M3 MPG table showing cost and fuel type.

However, in short, with mixed driving, the E46 M3 will return an average of around 23.5 MPG. At best it will return 31.5 MPG and at absolute worst, it will produce around 10 MPG.

(Bear in mind that all MPG figures are based on UK imperial gallons not US ones.)

  • E46 M3 Average MPG: 23.5
  • E46 M3 Best MPG: 31.5
  • E46 M3 Worst MPG: 9.3

BMW E46 M3 Spec Options

While the BMW E46 M3 is most well known for its performance features which came as standard, new owners could select from a wide range of BMW E46 M3 spec options to add in as many luxury features as they desired.

E46 M3 OE 18 inch Alloy Wheels.

E46 M3 Basic Equipment List

  • Electric windows front and rear
  • Climate control air conditioning
  • Automatic headlights
  • Automatic windscreen wipers
  • Electrochromatic auto-dimming rear-view mirror
  • Electronically adjustable wing mirrors
  • Cruise control
  • Fog lights
  • Sport button
  • Central locking
  • Steering wheel adjustment
  • Switchable Traction control and ABS
  • Split-folding rear seats

E46 M3 Optional Extra Equipment List

  • 19” Alloy Wheels
  • A widescreen satellite navigation system
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • 6 CD changer
  • Bi-Xenon headlights (included self-levelling system and headlight washing system)
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Electronically adjustable memory front seats (programmable per key)
  • Heated front seats
  • Front armrest
  • Ski hatch
  • Power folding heated wing mirrors
  • Electronic rear sunblind
  • Electronic sunroof
  • Harman Kardon audio system
  • Tyre pressure sensors
M3 Imola Red Leather Interior.

New owners could also choose from a wide range of paint colours and interior leather colours.

Certain optional extras are very sought after, such as the rear electric sunblind, probably more for novelty factor than anything else. Others are genuinely useful and pleasant options to have on your BMW E46 M3 spec sheets such as the parking sensors and heated seats.

E46 M3 electric rear sunblind optional extra.

On the flip side of the coin, now many M3’s are being turned into track toys, there’s a niche for BMW E46 M3 specs which are very lacking.

Many track drivers opt for the weight-saving benefits of a sparsely specced example and as a result, a sunroof, Harman Kardon audio, and widescreen navigation options don’t necessarily command the premium they once would have.

Very rarely you can see an E46 M3 without Bi-Xenon headlights which is probably one of the most commonly specified optional extras.

BMW E46 M3 Special Models

The E46 M3 didn’t end with just the standard coupe and convertible models. Following the roaring success of the third generation M3, BMW launched a few special edition variants.

BMW E46 M3 CSL

The most famous of the E46 M3 special editions, the CSL is a lightweight version of the M3. The CSL has developed a major cult following and many standard M3 owners like to modify their cars to feature some of the CSL’s changes.

CSL stands for Coupe Sport Lightweight and BMW engineers implemented a considerable number of tweaks to create arguably the purest driving form of the E46 M3.

BMW M3 CSL front angle in silver grey metallic.
M3 CSL rear view showing carbon bootlid.

E46 M3 CSL Changes Over the Standard Model

  • Carbon fibre air intake
  • More aggressive camshafts
  • Lighter, thinner-walled exhaust headers (featured on late standard model M3’s too)
  • Higher flow catalytic converters
  • Modified ECU mapping and modified SMG gearbox mapping
  • Wider CSL wheels made by BBS
  • Quicker steering rack
  • Tweaked suspension, stiffer anti-roll bars
  • Tweaked alignment and geometry
  • Larger front brake discs
  • Larger front brake caliper pistons
  • Exposed carbon fibre roof
  • Alcantara steering wheel and hand brake lever
  • Carbon fibre boot lid featuring “ducktail” spoiler
  • Carbon fibre front bumper featuring ram-air style intake and exposed carbon corner splitters
  • Carbon fibre rear diffuser
  • Recaro SPG front bucket seats
  • Lighter rear seat bench (reduced to 2 seats from 3)
  • Carbon fibre centre console
  • Modified lightweight door cards
  • Thinner rear window glass
  • Lighter battery
  • Removal of fog lights
  • Removal of sound deadening insulation
  • Removal of steering wheel stereo controls
  • Removal of cruise control
  • Fewer airbags
  • Optional air conditioning system
  • Optional radio
  • M-track mode (intermediate traction control setting for track use)
  • Limited to only Black Sapphire Metallic or Silver Grey Metallic paint colours

As you can see, they did not hold back with the tweaks and the above list is the majority of items but by no means an exhaustive list.

M3 CSL alcantara steering wheel in the interior.

Following all the weight reduction, the CSL comes in much lighter than the standard model at 1385 kg, and the engine tweaks saw the CSL producing 360 hp which is a nice bump from the standard figure.

M3 CSL carbon fibre air box in the engine bay.

The result of this is a highly collectable variant of the E46 M3 which commanded a much higher price tag when new, only 1400 cars were produced.

These days very few of these cars get used on a track like they were intended as they have gained an incredible amount of value. Most of them are tucked away appreciating in private collections.

BMW E46 M3 CS

The CS model was somewhat of a half-way-house between the standard Coupe M3 and the CSL and came in late in the E46 production run.

While the adjustments to the CS were nowhere near as thorough, it still brought some of the most desirable features of the CSL to the standard M3 platform.

The M3 CS is a desirable car and commands a premium over the standard M3.

E46 M3 CS in stunning Interlagos Blue paint colour.

Main E46 M3 CS Changes Over the Standard Model

  • 19” CS wheels by BBS (the same style as the CSL wheel but thinner fronts)
  • Quicker steering rack
  • Larger brake discs and larger piston calipers
  • Alcantara steering wheel and hand brake lever
  • M-Track mode
  • Removal of cruise control
  • Optional Interlagos Blue paint colour

One of the main things to love about the M3 CS model is that you can get some of the sought after CSL goodies but with a manual gearbox which these days is preferable over the clunky SMG.

BMW E46 M3 GTR

The GTR is one of the rarest BMW’s ever produced. This special E46 M3 variant came to fruition very early in the production run. The GTR came about to allow BMW entry into the Le Mans race, under their rules each manufacturer had to sell a road-going version of their race cars.

You would have thought they’d qualify by selling just the standard E46 M3. However, there was a key distinction to BMW’s Le Mans GTR car, a distinction in the form of a whopping great V8 engine under the bonnet.

M3 GTR race car out on track.

Due to BMW wanting to utilise this new V8 race engine at Le Mans, BMW had to produce 10 BMW E46 M3 GTR’s for sale to the public. They put an eye-watering price tag of around £215000 on each of them.

The M3 GTR’s V8 engine is very similar to the E39’s S60 V8 engine and goes by the code P60. The P60 race engine and produces 380 hp and revs up to 7000 rpm.

The track going M3 GTR looks ridiculously aggressive with its very wide arches and unique bodywork. The road going GTR also features some of this unique bodywork including front and rear bumpers, a rear wing and a vented bonnet.

M3 GTR road car in titanium silver paint.

The carbon fibre bodywork on the GTR is nowhere near as elegant and simplistic as the CSL’s, however, it’s based on racing technology and designed to reduce aerodynamic drag, and increase downforce.

Unlike the CSL, the road-going GTR didn’t get the same number of minor weight-saving tweaks. Instead many features we’re simply removed from the spec list making it more like a sparsely specified standard model in the interior aside from the Recaro bucket seats.

E46 M3 GTR Changes Over the Standard Model

  • P60 V8 race engine
  • Braced, reinforced and stiffened chassis
  • Race suspension setup
  • Extended aerodynamic front and rear bumpers
  • Rear wing mounted to boot lid
  • Vented bonnet
  • Recaro SPG bucket seats
  • Removal of fog lights
  • Removal of air conditioning
  • Removal of cruise control
  • Removal of multi-function steering wheel controls
  • Removal of bi-xenon headlights

However, what the GTR lacks in unique special model refinements, it makes up for in its aggressive styling, horsepower and rarity. Despite the M3 GTR being incredibly rare, it does have quite a cult following thanks to its prominent feature in video game Need for Speed: Most Wanted.

The M3 GTR featured in the video game Need for Speed.

Check out more details and a great photo gallery of the rare M3 GTR on the BMW blog.

All in all, BMW E46 M3 Specs can vary massively between standard models and special limited editions. The sheer number of spec options and tweaks made over time are a testament to BMW’s commitment to the E46 platform and dedication to getting the 3rd generation M3 as close to perfection as possible.

Arguably, the E46 M3 is the pinnacle of the M3 model being the last naturally aspirated straight-six M3 ever. While later M3’s are faster and more comfortable, the E46 M3’s unique recipe produces a delicious balance of engaging rawness and every-day drivability which will never be recreated again in the same way.

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