Classifieds Challenge: S54-Powered M Coupe Versus M6 Gran Coupé

Last week we compared two iconic investment-ready M cars whose prices (for nice examples) are about even: the E46 M3 and the E92 M3. This week we also have two M cars, but for distinctly different purposes—and as always, we’re pulling our examples from the BMW CCA Classifieds.

One of the most interesting BMW models to emerge from the late-1990s and early-2000s heyday of the M brand was the “Clownshoe” Z3 coupe and its more powerful sibling, the M coupe. Power ranged from a 2.8-liter M52tu—the suffix referring to a “Technical Update” over the older M52—all the way up to an S52 straight six in the M coupe, a power plant shared with the E36 M3.

But there exists a subsequent version of the Z3 M coupe (and M roadster) that has a bit more kick than the average driver might expect. For the 2000 model year, the M models switched to the 332-horsepower S54 engine you would recognize from the E46 M3. For the U.S. market in particular, that represented quite a bump in power.

When S54-powered M coupes come up for sale, the community typically takes note. These cars are rare, and particularly in some of the flashier M-specific colors that became available during the 2000 model year. Today we’re looking at a Phoenix Yellow example of the tiny cult-classic hatchback, claimed to be one of just nine vehicles produced in this spec.

The listing is available here, and as you can see, the car is quite a catch, with just over 61,000 original miles and thoughtful modifications (including polyurethane bushings and suspension components from the likes of TC Kline) to make the lightweight two-door an even stronger performer. Recent maintenance is indicated, too, and records promised.

While Phoenix Yellow can be polarizing (as noted by a particularly brutal Top Gear segment), the color and the engine make for a striking combination—but you will pay a pretty penny for this particular M Coupe, as the seller is asking a whopping $58,750.

Finding a challenger at that price range was harder than we thought. The price brought us well above the M3s and M4s we could find used on the BMW CCA Classifieds (which are already in the high-40s to low-50s range), and above even some classics like the E9. But find a challenger we did—in the form of a recent (warrantied, in fact) 2015 BMW M6 Gran Coupé.

With just 21,724 miles and asking $59,999, the M6 we’ve selected seems to be in the center of the market for the chassis. It’s a potent and modern color combination, in a cool Carbon Black over white. And as a bonus, all 600 horsepower from the twin-turbo V8 are warrantied for another seven months—and presumably, for a moderate sum, BMW can continue to protect them even longer. It’s likely to be one of the last high-horsepower, RWD M cars—and it’s available right here on the Classifieds.

Interestingly, neither of the vehicles we’ve featured today is really a coupe at all; the first is a hatchback, and the second has another set of doors along for the ride. But their prices are remarkably similar—and for that reason, we’d love to know which one speaks to you most! Let us know in the comments, and if you have any future suggestions for cars in the Classifieds you’d like to see featured, let us know those as well!—David Rose

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