Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Super Man Gearbox: 2003 BMW M3 E46

If you want a late model car that looks good, goes fast, and gets lots of middle fingers from other drivers, look no further than an E46 M3. Seriously, I should know, I recently picked one up as a daily driver replacement for my 04 STI...and while the STI got interesting looks from people who assumed the owner was 18 years old and vaping (I assure you I am NEITHER) the BMW gets a completely different amount of disrespect from everyone who assumes you are a spoiled rich brat who doesn't use blinkers (once again, I assure you I use blinkers and am old enough to remember the 70s). Regardless, the E46 with SMG gearbox offers a moderately civilized driving experience on the open road, and a neck-snapping grin-inducing experience on the track that is hard to beat for the entry price...but not for long because prices are creeping up. Find this 2003 BMW M3 E46 here on eBay offered for $14,995 buy-it-now or make-offer located in Midlothian, VA.

From the seller:

My Beautiful 2003.5 M3 is up for sale. Life has changed and I need to downsize my toys. This has been my dream car since I was a kid so it is hard to let it go. I can't stop anywhere without someone asking about the car. Most people think it is a new BMW model because they do not know what it is (seriously). That is how nice this thing looks. It will turn heads. 

I have owned a lot of BMWs and was shopping for a Porsche 911 996 before I found this. I was looking for an all stock model which this is. I purchased this from the original owner who had it in his family and sold it to his son. I have the original window sticker, manuals and all keys.

The only thing I have upgraded is the SMG CSL software and a BuildJournal/Evolve Performance chip. The CSL upgrade has made it shift faster/cleaner and will rev match on downshifts. You can also launch @4k RMPs but I have not done that with the car. The Buildjournal/Evolve software cleans up some performance hiccups and boost HP from 333 to 360. 

If you are hesitant to think that this car is as good as people say, believe them. It is the epitome of all things BMW and drives exactly how you would dream it to, only better. The SMG transmission is an amazing piece of engineering. You cannot physically match how fast this thing shifts in comparison to the manual. There is a learning curve, but once you get it down, it is barrels of fun. 

Don't let the milage scare you. This car has been pampered. Mostly all service and maintenance has been performed at BMW. Below is some of the most recent maintenance. Notice the first line item. This is a BRAND NEW SMG transmission and clutch installed by BMW. Also all components/pumps and actuators have been replaced. No subframe issues as this is the 2003.5 face-lifted model. 

Mileage Service Cost
99650 SMG Trans/clutch replace $9,500.00
130000 Mich Pilot Super Sports $1,200.00
132400 battery             $250.00
132400 SMG components replace $2,000.00
132400 oil change $115.00
134565 spark plugs $100.00
134565 air filter $25.00
134565 oil additive MOLY $15.00
134955 tire balance $60.00
134955 Fuel filter $35.00
134955 Rear Exhaust hanger $35.00
             134955 Upgraded Diff bolts               $30.00
Maintenance Totals $13,085.00

Below is a list of good and needs improvement items. This is still a 15 year old car so be aware of the age condition.

Purrs like a kitten
Tires are like new
Paint is in awesome condition
Interior is excellent, no rips or tears
Everything works, no warning lights
Suspension is good
No leaks underneath
Engine pulls like a freight train
Recalls and service bulletins are complete, Rod bearings, airbag etc. 
Subframe is good, no cracks
2 x keys
2 x Valet keys
Book of service records
Original Window sticker

Needs improvement:
Ding on the passenger rear quarter panel
Wheels have curb rash
Has typical "M3 Clunk" look it up
Passenger door speaker is buzzing
Small crack in the windshield does not affect vision and will pass inspction
Wear on steering wheel cover in typical spots
Wear on shifter surround and cup holders

See a better way to go fast?


  1. I always liked these cars but was scared off by stories of the SMG grenading. Hopefully this one has a lot of miles to go before that happens.

    1. Happens again, that is. If the replacement holds up like the original (99,000), you have 60k miles before the next rodeo. Looks like some "components" of the SMG were replaced about 33k after the new unit went in. I'm not sure whether that's reassuring or scary. Although my experience with these double-clutch-type gearboxes is limited (Ford Focus rental, what a surprise!) I can't say I like them. The experience is like you're driving a manual transmission car, with two assistants, one who's taken over the clutch and one who's got the gearshift. You get the gas pedal, brake and wheel, and try not to upset your invisible co-drivers.


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