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Third Generation BMW M3 E46 History

Sep 15, 2020

What Makes the BMW M3 E46 Special?BMW E46 M3

The improvements made to the M3 E46 were pleasantly sophisticated, to say the least. There were a number of aesthetic and functionality modifications such as the following:

  • New Titan Shadow Interior Trims
  • Updated Navigation System
  • First Innovative Adaptive LED Taillights
  • Auto Climate Control
  • BMW Assist
  • Bluetooth Wireless Phone Interface

Furthermore, one of the most distinctive upgrades that brought out the BMW M3 performance characteristics was the signature bulging power dome on the bonnet (hood) of the car.

More impressive enhancements were made in regards to the power upgrades. In the third generation M3, there were three important additions to the E46 as listed below.

The 3 Most Important Additions to the BMW M3 E46BMW e46 M3 2

1. Second Generation Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG II) in the BMW M3 E46

SMG II was the improved version of the M3 E36’s Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG). It was the concept of having an electrohydraulic clutch system controlled and operated by an electronic gearbox referred to as the BMW DriveLogic.

SMG II provided 11 changeable options in its gear shift, of which six of those were “sequential” or manual mode and the remaining five were in “automated” or automatic shift mode.

Launch Control was also part of the system which optimized the acceleration. In addition, SMG also allowed the driver to change gears using paddle shifters located on the steering wheel.

2. Special Edition Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) Customized for the BMW M3 E46

The special DSC was designed to electronically control the suspension of the car, maintain maximum traction of wheels, and to keep the optimal stability of the drive. DSC can automatically calibrate to make minor adjustments to the car during oversteering or understeering. DSC can also apply brake forces to individual wheels when needed to keep the car in its course.

3. The BMW M3 E46 M Differential Lock

For this generation of M3s, the M Differential Lock located on the rear axle allowed a wide range of 0 to 100 percent lock.  It came as standard equipment on every M3 E46. Its main function was to further control stability of the car in addition to providing superior tractions. This also ensured that the rear-wheel-drive carried out its absolute performance standards and retained its highest stability controls even on undesirable road conditions.

BMW M3 E46 Specifications


343 HP


3.2-liter 6-Cylinder (S54 B32)

TorqueBMW E46 M3

262 lb/ft of torque at 4,900 RPM


0-60 MPH in 5.2-Sec

Production Year

  • 2000 (Europe; E46 Coupe)
  • 2001 (Europe; E46 CSL Convertible)
  • 2001 (North America; E46 Coupe and Convertible)
  • 2003 (Europe; E46 CSL Coupe)


  • Getrag Type D 6-Speed Manual Gearbox with M Variable Differential Lock and optional Sequential Manual Gearbox II (SGM II)


  • 18-Inch Cast Alloy M Double-Spoke II with Satin Chrome Finish (E46 Standard Wheels)
  • 19-Inch Forged M Double-Spoke II with Satin Chrome Finish (Optional Upgrade)
  • 19-Inch Cast Alloy Cross-Spoke (for M3 ZCP and M3 ECS Models)
  • 19-Inch Cross-Spoke (M3 CSL); (This unique design is offered for the M3 CSL, and the design is closely simulated to the Cross-Spoke offered for M3 ZCP and M3 ESC)

BMW M3 E46 Production VersionsBMW M3 E46

Eight official production versions of the BMW M3 E46 were accounted for. They were the Left-Hand Drive (LHD) and Right-Hand Drive (RHD) versions of the M3 E46 Coupe and Convertible in European specifications as well as North America specifications.

Then there was the special edition called the M3 E46 CSL (Coupe Sport Lightweight). This model was built for the European market only and was composed of several specialized lightweight components such as Carbon-Fiber-Reinforced-Plastic.

Standard BMW M3 E46 Production Versions

  • E46 M3 Coupe (European Version LHD; 2000)
  • E46 M3 Coupe (European Version RHD; 2001)
  • E46 M3 Coupe (North America Version LHD; 2001)
  • E46 CSL M3 Convertible (Europe Only; LHD; 2001)
  • E46 CSL M3 Convertible (Europe Only; RHD; 2001)
  • E46 M3 Convertible (North America; LHD; 2001)
  • E46 CSL M3 Coupe (Europe Only; LHD; 2003)
  • E46 CSL M3 Coupe (Europe Only; RHD; 2003)

Limited Edition BMW M3 E46 Production Versions

  • BMW M 30th Anniversary Edition (Germany Only; 2002)
  • M3 Silverstone Edition (UK Only; 2004)

Special Edition BMW M3 E46 Production Versions

  • E46 M3 GTR (2001) (Homologation model for American Le Mans Series racing and not generally available to the public)
  • E46 M3 CSL (“Coupe Sport Lightweight”; 2003) (Available to the public)