Watch: How Much Horsepower Does an Old BMW M3 E46 Make on a Dyno?

The BMW M3 E46 doesn’t need much of an introduction. It’s considered by many to be the last BMW M3 that really put an emphasis on driving dynamics over power figures. Recently, one owner decided to take his nearly 20-year-old E46 to the dyno in a Top Gear-esque attempt to find out how many horses have escaped over the years.

94% off BMW MSRP, and 20% off horsepower

Smoke is usually not a good thing when testing cars | Vehicle Virals

For starters, let’s get some baseline numbers here. The BMW M3 E46 generation left the BMW factory in Regensburg with 333 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque. Now, that’s kind of like measuring your height with heels on. You see BMW measures from the crank and not the wheels. However, some quick math gives us 283hp to the wheels (roughly).

That said, Vehicle Virals faired pretty well, all things considered. He bought his BMW M3 E46 for $3,000, swapped it to a stick shift, and gave it a tune, an exhaust, and some new headers. So, stock cars could see more loss than Vehicle Virals did. Regardless, at the end of the day, Vehicle Virals saw a shockingly good 289 hp and 240 lb-ft. Not bad, as he’s kept the 173,000 mile BMW M3 E46 right near the factory wheel horsepower numbers. Unfortunately, oil smoke from the exhaust cut the dyno day short.

Why is the BMW M3 E46 so good?

A Silbergrau metallic BMW M3 E46 in a studio booth, photographed from the front 3/4
There’s not such thing as a cheap BMW M3 E46 | National Motor Museum via Getty Images

And that begs the question. Why does someone care so much about a nearly 20-year-old sports car? Is the E46 M3 really worth all that hype? Lucky for you, I own one, and can shed some light. Yes, they’re worth it. If I’m being honest, my car, at 122,000 miles is probably even more down on power than Vehicle Viral’s car. I don’t even care.

The BMW M3 E46 is a fantastic vehicle at any mileage. Having only driven my high-mile car, I can’t speak to the overall tightness of low-mileage cars, but this is absolutely a $40,000 driving experience, which explains the Bring a Trailer prices. The E46 M3 is one of the last “pure” (much as I hate that word) enthusiast driving experiences out there.

Should you buy an E46 M3?

A side profile of a silver 2002 BMW M3
It’s getting hard to build cars like this | National Motor Museum via Getty Images

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If you want one, buy one. However, just like Vehicle Viral’s M3, beware. Maintenance is a huge expense, which you can read more about in the buyer’s guide above. These cars are not cheap to drive, and the BMW dealer will happily charge you $600 for spark plugs and ignition coils. That said, if you’re enough of a masochist (or can afford a real nice one), there’s not a whole lot that can scratch the same itch. Just make sure you don’t blow a bunch of oil out the exhaust like our friend on the dyno did.