BMW E46 M3: One of the most iconic bimmers ever 

Updated Nov 15, 2021 | Same topic: Nostalgia: Cars We Miss

The local market didn’t get the M3 GTR though.

For BMW fans, there are a good number of iconic models that can be talked about. There’s M1, the brand’s first-ever mass-produced mid-engine model. There’s also the E30 M3, the first-ever M3.  

A picture of the two versions of the E46 M3 GTR coupe

The BMW E46 M3 GTR "Street" (left), and the non-road legal E46 M3 GTR (right)

For the young-at-heart dudes and gals that were born in the 1990s and were teens during the 2000s however, the BMW that they would recognize in an instant would be the one that starred in Electronic Art’s 2005 Need for Speed: Most Wanted racing game. 

We’re of course talking about the BMW 3 GTR. It was the first car you’d drive in the game before being won unfairly by the greasy-haired villain in a “pink slip” race. You would then win it again and escape with it in the final chapters of the game. Good times. 

So how about the real car? How was it specced, and was it ever sold locally? 

BMW M3: No GTR for the Philippines 

Sadly, the Philippine market didn’t receive the V8-powered M3 GTR. This variant of the E46 M3 after all, was produced in limited numbers, and it wasn’t even road-legal for the most part. Ten however, were converted to road cars though for homologation purposes, and to shut Porsche up. 

A picture of the E46 M3 GTR's engine bay

The E46 M3 GTR's V8 engine

Under the hood, the M3 GTR is equipped with a 4.0-liter P60 V8 engine. The road-spec variant could make 382 horsepower, which was around 62 horsepower less than the non-road legal. Then again, it still came with the race car’s dry sump oil system, and the locking differential that came on the race car. 

Locally, we did get the “standard” BMW M3 from 2001 to 2006. In contrast to the hero car from Most Wanted, the regular M3 that was sold locally came with a 3.2-liter inline-6 S54B32 engine.  In other markets, the BMW E46 M3 came in three flavors: there was a sedan, a coupe, and a convertible version. The local market only received the 2-door coupe version, which could still seat up to five. 

A picture of the E46 M3

The non-GTR E46 M3

It wasn’t as powerful as the M3 GTR obviously, but it could deliver a healthy 343 horsepower and 365 Nm of torque in stock form. It then used a six-speed Getrag manual gearbox, with power sent to its rear wheels. The Philippine market also didn’t get the six-speed automatic manual SMG-II gearbox. 

Feature-wise, the E46 M3 coupe was well-kitted out. It came with a sunroof, automatic HID headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, a 60:40 split-folding rear seat, power-adjustable front seats, parking sensors, keyless entry, automatic climate controls, as well as a six-CD changer.

The E46 M3 from the side

The E46 M3 from the side

Design-wise, the E46 M3 can be dubbed as timeless. It had the quintessential qualities of a Bimmer like the kidney grille, a muscular but sporty form that follows function, and the signature BMW quad headlamps. As an M car though, it had other additional bits like a more aggressive-looking body kit. 

A picture of the rear of the E46 M3 CSL

The rear of the E46 M3 CSL. Another M3 variant we didn't get locally

Then again, it wasn’t as bombastic as most sports cars of that era. For that matter, even the M3 GTR looked like something that could pass as a daily, well, save for the rumble of its V8. This sentiment is also mirrored in the car’s interior. It isn’t cheap-looking by any means, but it bore “no revolutionary” design as it was leaning more towards functionality. As its list of features imply though, it is far from simple and uncomfortable. 

A picture of the E46 M3

Inside, the E46 M3 had a well-arranged, but rather simple-looking interior

Those are just some of the facts about the E46 M3. So now, you probably want one. For that, you might want to periodically check our used car for sale section. Do note though, this M model didn’t have as large a sales volume as the regular E46. As such, finding one for sale in the Philippines is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Cesar G.B. Miguel

Cesar G.B. Miguel


Cesar Guiderone B. Miguel was born and raised in Iligan City, Lanao Del Norte. He graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in English degree from Mindanao State University - Iligan Institute of Technology. He previously worked as a freelance writer for various websites, as a member of the Iligan City Disaster Risk Reduction Management's training staff, and as a medical sales representative.


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