2001 BMW M3

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$45,400

starting MSRP

2001 BMW M3

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

1 trim

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

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2001 BMW M3 review: Our expert's take

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HIGH MARKS: GREAT WAY TO SPEND YOUR INHERITANCE

BMW certainly took its sweet time importing the new M3, the performance version of the bread-and-butter 3-Series, but it was worth waiting for. Like all M3s before it, this model, which arrived as a late 2001 and is consequently unchanged for 2002, is a genuine wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Always quick, previous M3s have lacked the sheer horsepower to make them outright contenders with some of the more powerful V-8 entries, such as the Chevrolet Corvette. The mid-1990s M3 did fine with 240 horsepower, until it lined up beside a 300-horsepower ‘Vette.

The playing field has been leveled with the new M3. Though it still has an inline six-cylinder engine, it’s now pumping out 333 horsepower, delivered through a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission. It’s still a bit below the 350-horsepower V-8 in the 2002 Corvette, but a drag race would be a lot closer now.

The M3 has never been about horsepower, though. It’s about an integrated package that will cheerfully deliver you through rush hour traffic to work each weekday, then entertain you with its downright astonishing backroads performance on weekends. It has a level of sophistication unmatched for the price, which, though not cheap, isn’t bad, considering how well M3s traditionally hold their value.

The test M3 started with a base price of $45,400, and crept up to a $53,195 bottom line, thanks to various options including an upgraded Harmon-Kardon sound system, Xenon headlamps, leather-trimmed upholstery and a glass moonroof. There was also a $1,000 “gas guzzler” fee, which did not seem appropriate as mileage is rated at a not-terrible 16 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway. That’s premium fuel, of course.

Helpful on that highway mileage is the six-speed manual transmission, something the M3 has long needed. Sixth gear is basically an overdrive, allowing the engine to lope along at highway speeds at a relatively low rpm.

Though the M3 is based on the corporate 3-Series driver-friendly platform, you know you are in something different as soon as you climb in. The low-slung M3 is not that easy to get into and out of, and once behind the wheel, the very firm bucket seat grips you with plenty of lateral support.

Crank it up, and the exhaust note doesn’t sound much different from the 225-horsepower 3.0-liter engine in the 330i, until you step hard on the gas pedal. Acceleration is linear and delivered without drama — you won’t know how fast you’re going until you glance at the speedometer.

Though there’s plenty of power, the ultimate charm of the M3 is its handling prowess, on par with most any genuine sports car. The handsome spoked alloy wheels hold very large radials — P225/45ZR-17s on the front, P255/40ZR-18s on the rear. It isn’t hard to make a car handle well — just use a very stiff suspension and huge tires — but the challenge is making it handle well, and not ride like a buckboard. Th is new M3 has the best ride-handling combination BMW has produced, and unless you are on very rough pavement, your passenger will never know this isn’t a luxury car.

I say “passenger,” because although the M3 has a rear seat, it isn’t particularly easy to get to, and isn’t particularly comfortable once you’re back there. For kids, it’ll be fine, but adults would prefer the sedan version of the 3-Series. Presently, there is no M3 sedan, though there was in the previous incarnation of the M3.

BMW has done a superb job with styling, taking the not-so-svelte look of the 3-Series, and adding subtle touches such as fender flares and small chrome side grilles in front of the doors to identify the M3. Most civilians wouldn’t recognize it as anything but a 3-Series, but the True Believers will — they are the ones giving you the “thumbs up” on the tollway.

There are faster, flashier cars for the money, but that isn’t why BMW sells every M3 it can build. Those customers get th satisfaction not from being noticed, but from piloting an example of the best German automotive engineering has to offer.

Base price: $45,400.

Price as tested: $53,195.

EPA rating: 16 mpg city, 24 mpg highway.

Details: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sorts coupe powered by a 3.2-liter, 333-horsepower six-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual transmission.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.4
  • Interior design 4.2
  • Performance 5.0
  • Value for the money 4.6
  • Exterior styling 4.8
  • Reliability 4.1

Most recent consumer reviews

4.3

Drivers car

The e46 m3 in one of the last of the real Bmws, classic bmw handling and a manual trans. Built like a rock and extremely easy to drive and enjoy. Maintanance is also classic Bmw so be prepared to feed its hunger.

4.6

Most fun car I?ve owned

This is a future classic, prices on the e46 M3 are already rising. Out of other high performance BMW, Mercedes, and Audi, this car is by far the most fun to drive.

4.7

High performance in an affordable package.

Easy to upgrade (e.g. DINAN) and can actually fit 4 people. Strong motor from the famous E46 series and stays glued to the road. Though a smaller convertible, it is heavy and solid giving a very safe feeling. Also, you can actually have the top down with golf clubs or groceries in the trunk!

See all 9 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by BMW
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
Certified Pre-Owned Elite with less than 15,000 miles; Certified Pre-Owned with less than 60,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
1 year/unlimited miles from expiration of 4-year/50,000-mile new car warranty
Powertrain
N/A
Dealer certification required
196-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

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