Welcome back to Classifieds Challenge! This week, we pit two 3 Series models against each other, but it’s not the comparison you might think. It’s a challenge of age, driving purity, and driver values—although neither might be considered a bargain. Let’s dive in to this week’s challenge, and you can tell us which one you’d choose. As usual, we’ll be picking two current listings on the BMW Car Club of America Classifieds and turning over the decisions to you!
Our first challenger is an impressive example of a legendary car. While the market may waver on whether to consider it a current or future classic, few would disagree that the S54-powered E46 M3, complete with a six-speed manual transmission, was one of the last bastions of BMW’s naturally-aspirated, six-cylinder formula. And as far as originality is concerned, this 2002 example, available on the BMW CCA Classifieds, could well be one of the most original available.
The details are fairly straightforward: a Jet Black car with a clean (if rather uninspiring) Nappa Grey interior, a six-speed manual transmission, and simple Style 67 wheels, and an array of options. But there’s a reason that, in a world of $12,000 M3s, this car is asking $34,500—yes, this 17-year-old M3 has just 28,347 miles. And no, we’re not sure why this Ohio-based car isn’t being offered by nearby Enthusiast Auto Group, but maybe we’ll see it there listed at a 200% markup someday soon.
Regular viewers know the E46 M3 has been featured on Classifieds Challenge before, but the price and mileage of this particular example make it an interesting comparison to our next challenger, whether you intend to use it as a daily or a weekend driver.
As far as press and media coverage is concerned, the G20 3 Series has been getting tons of press. But it’s important to remember that although it can’t reverse itself down a driveway and doesn’t have a fully-digital gauge cluster, the F30 3 Series is still a contemporary car with the best example of BMW’s non-M, six-cylinder, twin-turbo motor ancestry—and few F30s tick all the boxes as well as this 2016 340i xDrive.
This particular car starts with the B58-powered, 320-horsepower 340i base, and adds to it the M Sport package, an M Performance exhaust, 19″ wheels, xDrive all-wheel-drive, and the track handling package that provides changes to steering, brakes, and upgraded tires (the latter of which may or may not remain on this 37,200-mile car), and its Black Sapphire Metallic exterior and Black Dakota Leather interior seem to be beautifully maintained.
To depart briefly from our usual rundown of data and speculation, I was lucky enough to drive these on closed canyon roads in Mexico during the press launch where they were first unveiled, and the 340i remains one of the most balanced tools for meeting the needs of the average performance driver. It’s a platform that looks great, can handle the canyon-carving demands of any legitimate sports car, and can take you home comfortably at the end of the day—and the brakes and tires of the track handling pack bring the car to its greatest form.
But that said, whether it’s the best tool to take on the legendary E46 M3—and one with remarkably similar mileage, at a remarkably similar price—is up to you. Let us know your choice below, and as always, if you have recommendations for future Classified Challenges, let us know in the comments down below! —David Rose