BMW 3 Series (E46)

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For a complete overview of all the 3 series chassis, see BMW 3 Series.
BMW 3-Series (E46)
BMW 3er (E46, 1998–2001) front MJ.JPG
Pre-facelift BMW 3 Series (E46) sedan
Overview
Manufacturer BMW
Production 1998–2007[1]
Assembly Leipzig, Germany
Munich, Germany
Regensburg, Germany
Toluca, Mexico
Rosslyn, South Africa[1]
6th of October City, Egypt[2]
Kaliningrad, Russia (Avtotor)[3]
Shenyang, China (Brilliance)[4]
Jakarta, Indonesia (Gaya Motor) (1999–2004)
Designer Erik Goplen (design concept: 1993, 1995; coupe/cabriolet: 1996; touring: 1997)
Christopher Bangle (sedan: 1995)
Body and chassis
Class Compact executive car (D)
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door convertible
4-door sedan
5-door station wagon
3-door hatchback
Layout Front engine, rear-wheel drive / All-wheel drive
Related BMW M3
BMW X3 (E83)
Powertrain
Engine 1.8L I4 16-valve
1.8L I4 16-valve
1.9L I4 8-valve
2.0L I4 16-valve
2.0L I6 24-valve
2.2L I6 24-valve
2.5L I6 24-valve
2.8L I6 24-valve
3.0L I6 24-valve
3.2L I6 24-valve
4.0L V8 32-valve
2.0L I4 16-valve turbodiesel
2.9L I6 24-valve turbodiesel
3.0L I6 24-valve turbodiesel
Transmission 5-speed manual
6-speed manual
6-speed sequential manual
5-speed steptronic automatic
5-speed automatic
4-speed automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase 107.3 in (2,725 mm)
Length Sedan: 176.0 in (4,470 mm)
Wagon: 176.3 in (4,478 mm)
Convertible & Coupe: 176.7 in (4,488 mm)
Width Sedan & Wagon: 68.5 in (1,740 mm)
Convertible & Coupe: 69.2 in (1,758 mm)
Height Sedan: 55.7 in (1,415 mm)
2000-02 325i Wagon: 55.5 in (1,410 mm)
2000-02 325xi Wagon: 56.3 in (1,430 mm)
Convertible: 54.0 in (1,372 mm)
Coupe: 53.9 in (1,369 mm)
xi Sedan: 56.5 in (1,435 mm)
Chronology
Predecessor BMW 3 Series (E36)
Successor BMW 3 Series (E90)

The BMW E46 is the fourth generation of the 3 Series compact executive cars produced by BMW, produced from 1998 when it succeeded the BMW E36.

The E46 was released in May 1998 to worldwide markets in the sedan body style. In 1999, a coupé and touring body style became available to all markets, and the sedan was released in the United States. A convertible and hatchback body style was released in 2000, the latter only for Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The E46 experienced enormous success in all markets and was widely considered the performance benchmark of its class.[5] The record selling year for the E46 chassis was 2002, when 561,249 vehicles were sold worldwide.[6] The main competitors during the E46's production run were the Alfa Romeo 156, Audi A4, Lexus IS/Toyota Altezza, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Saab 9-3 and the Volvo S60.

BMW M GmbH produced a high-performance variant of the E46 chassis, designated the M3. This version had a larger, more powerful engine, sportier suspension, a limited slip differential, and various aesthetic modifications. The M3 was released in 2001 and was available in coupé and convertible body styles. It was offered with two transmissions: a standard 6-speed manual or an optional sequential manual gearbox.

Design[edit]

Exterior design[edit]

The E46 was developed as an evolutionary replacement for the BMW E36 chassis. In 1995, the general exterior design of the E46 by Erik Goplen was approved and as a result DesignworksUSA was contracted by BMW to work alongside BMW Group's in-house design team to create the exterior body work for the 3-Series range in February 1996.[7][8] Based on the E36 body shell, the design team put an emphasis on improving aerodynamics and increasing the car's aggressive stance.[7] Design patents were filed in Germany on July 16, 1997 and in the US on January 16, 1998.[9] While the styling of the E46 was seen as an evolution of the extremely successful previous generation 3-series, it was not immediately embraced by either the buying public, or the automotive press. Word leaked out in the press that the BMW stylists were unhappy in raising the roof-line, and the general "rounding" of the body panels in comparison to the more squarish E36 series. Chris Bangle was responsible through January 1996 for the production saloon exterior, as evident in the 1997 design patent. Production development of the saloon took 24 months from January 1996 to January 1998. Goplen designed the production coupé and estate during 1996-1997.[10]

Interior design[edit]

Since the start of production, the entire in-car entertainment system (Radio Function, Navigation System, Television and Telecommunications systems) is based on a very flexible automotive computer system.[11] As a result the E46 models can all be easily upgraded with the newest BMW technologies including BMW's Bluetooth System, the DVD based Navigation system, as well as BMW's CD changers that play MP3s[12]

Powertrain design[edit]

An emphasis was put on reducing unsprung weight and increasing structural rigidity rather than increasing power output: the highest displacement model at release, the E46 328, had only 3 horsepower more than the E36 328.[13] To counter this small power increase, the body shell of the E46 was claimed by BMW to be 70% more rigid than the E36's,[13] and aluminum suspension components were used increasingly in order to decrease unsprung weight.[13] In tune with BMW's core values,[14] the E46 was released with a front engined rear-wheel drive layout with 50/50 weight distribution.[13][15] This balance allows for optimal handling in regard to the drive train layout.

Specifications[edit]

SULEV[edit]

BMW introduced a super ultra low emission vehicle (SULEV) into the select regions of the United States to meet stricter emission standards. California, New York, and Massachusetts received the SULEV E46's in 2003, and Vermont in 2004.[51] They received a variant of the M54 engine, the BMW M56.[51] The M56 meets SULEV standards, as well as partial zero emission vehicle (PZEV) and zero evaporative emissions requirements.[51] The M56 is claimed to have identical power as its M54 counterpart.[51]

M3[edit]

Main article: E46 M3

CSL[edit]

A silver BMW M3 CSL.

The BMW M3 CSL (coupe sports lightweight)[52] was a limited edition version of the M3, with 1,400 cars being produced for its 2004 model year run.[53] The CSL was never released into the North American market,[54] and was only available in two colours - Silver Grey Metallic and Black Sapphire Metallic.[55] In South Africa it came in limited numbers and cost nearly R1 million ($125k US) at the time (2004).

As its name suggests, an emphasis was put on reducing weight. The M3 CSL has a kerb weight of 1,385 kg (3,053 lb), 110 kg (240 lb) lighter than the regular M3.[56][57][58] The CSL features many weight saving technologies taken from Formula One racing applications.[59] A large proportion of the M3's sound insulation has been removed, as have the power windows, electric seats, and navigation systems.[54] Air conditioning and stereo systems could be retrofitted free of cost, but were not available standard.[57] The CSL's unique body pieces are all crafted from carbon fiber reinforced polymer.[56] Glass-reinforced plastics are used throughout structural points in the car.[57] The rear glass window was replaced with lightweight plastic.[57] Although the CSL loses a considerable amount of curb weight from its original version, the focus was put on strategically reducing or moving the weight in the car rather than the raw amount of weight that could be lost.[60] This is to retain the ideal 50:50 weight distribution characteristics the E46 has.[56] For example, the roof is constructed from carbon fiber reinforced plastic.[56] While this only reduces the curb weight of the car by 7 kg (15 lb), it lowers the center of gravity of the car and decreases body flex.[55][60]

A black M3 E46 CSL.

In order to improve the handling ability of the car, the entire suspension system was further refined.[56] Specially developed racing springs and dampers are given to the CSL, and a tightened steering ratio (14.5:1 vs 15.4:1 on the regular M3) improves responsiveness.[59] The braking system is also modified, with larger front and rear floating rotors and calipers from the E39 M5.[54][55] The CSL is given a retuned dynamic stability control system with a "M track mode" setting that allows the car to be pushed to its absolute limits before being activated.[59]

The 3.2l engine used in the M3, the BMW S54, has been modified to increased output by 17 hp (13 kW) and 5 N·m (4 lbf·ft) over the European M3.[55][59] This is achieved through a high flow carbon fiber air intake, modified valve and camshaft timing, and a retuned DME.[55][59] However, the engine is further modified in order to reduce weight - it features a lightweight exhaust manifold and thinner exhaust piping.[59] Additionally, the intake and exhaust manifolds are slightly straightened to improve engine responsiveness.[54]

The CSL also has various aesthetic modifications over the standard M3. It received an aerodynamic lightweight body kit which included carbon fiber front splitters that improved downforce at high speeds by 50%,[56] as well as a carbon fiber rear diffuser. The front bumper has a distinct hole that is used to draw cool air into the newly designed air intake.[56] The boot lid is redesigned to incorporate a raised lip, unlike the standard M3 where one is simply added onto a flat boot.[56] The CSL was sold with distinct 19-inch lightweight forged BBS alloy rims that came with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup semi-slick racing tires.[55][61]

The interior of the CSL is redesigned with a sporty-weight saving theme. The CSL obtains fiberglass front racing bucket seats,[56] permanently angled at 90-degrees and fiberglass backed rear seats.[56] The center console, door panels and trim, and headliner are all formed from carbon fiber,[55][56] and the steering wheel is redesigned with cruise control, stereo, and phone controls removed to include just a single button that activates the M track mode.[55] Although some markets went without this feature, South African examples were fitted with air conditioning.

The SMG II drivelogic semi-automatic transmission is a Getrag 6-speed conventional manual transmission, but with an electrohydraulically actuated clutch pedal, similar to an Formula One style transmission.[55] The regular M3 has the manual transmission as standard and the SMG II automated manual as an option, however the CSL is only offered with the SMG II and that unit also received a more advanced drivelogic unit that was capable of making shifts in 0.08 of a second.[55][59]

North American competition package (ZCP)[edit]

As the M3 CSL was not available to the North American markets, BMW released an optional "competition package" (option code ZCP) to fill the market void. It upgraded the normal M3 by way of 19-inch cast lightweight CSL style wheels, detuned CSL suspension components, a tighter steering ratio, and the CSLs brakes.[62] It also included a detuned version of the CSLs dynamic stability control.[62]

Performance package (ZHP)[edit]

2005 BMW 330Ci ZHP in Titanium Silver

The performance package was an inclusive option (sold in North America) given to E46 sedans from 2003 to 2005, coupes and convertibles from 2004 to 2006.[63] It included various aesthetic changes over the regular 3 series, as well as functional and mechanical enhancements. The ZHP was equipped with sportier cam shafts and a more aggressive DME tune to increase power from 225 hp (168 kW) to 235 hp (175 kW).[63] Suspension was modified over the standard suspension with firmer springs and dampers, larger anti-roll bars, stronger front control arm ball joints, a lower ride height, and slightly more negative camber.[64] Car and Driver magazine track-tested the car, which returned a 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds and passed through the 1/4 mile in 14.3 seconds.[64]

Motorsport[edit]

Andy Priaulx was the champion of the 2004 European Touring Car Championship season and 2005 World Touring Car Championship season driving a 320i.[65] Franz Engstler won the 2006 Asian Touring Car Championship season in a 320i.[66]

The car has further competed in the British Touring Car Championship, the European Touring Car Cup and the Russian Touring Car Championship.

Year Championship Result
2003 European Touring Car Championship 3
2004 Danish Touringcar Championship 1
2004 European Touring Car Championship 1
2005 Danish Touringcar Championship 1
2005 Italian Superturismo Championship 1
2005 World Touring Car Championship 1
2006 Asian Touring Car Championship 1
2006 British Touring Car Championship 11
2008 European Touring Car Cup 1

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]