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      05-04-2023, 04:35 PM   #1
tincob
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Classic e46 or the more modern e82? Help me choose

Iím looking to get into a lower cost (sub $20K USD) used small sports coupe to use as a daily driver. Something that I donít have to baby or worry about leaving in a long term parking lot. I value the driving feel over straight line speed. No driving event use planned.

I will only commute 2-3 times a week to work. I also have a back up car, if needed. More modern BMWís donít interest me with all the electronics and unnecessary amenities that can go wrong. I intend to do my own wrenching on simple diy tasks.

Iíve narrowed it down to the e46 330ci and the e82 128i with the naturally aspirated I6 and MT. There are not many with manuals but there are some and I would wait until the right one comes along. Most used examples will have over 100K miles although there are more 128i available under that. 128i m-Sport would be the dream combo.

330ci pro/con
Better driving feel - no direct experience but it seems to be the consensus
Better looks, especially the pre facelift (subjective)
Rear subframe cracking, vanos, donít think main bearings are an issue
Older than 128i so probably needs more refreshing

128i pro/con
Newer, lower mileage examples
Better interior, quieter
More understeer, body roll - suspension bushing, control arm updates needed
Gaskets leaking - valve cover, oil pan, Mickey Mouse seal are known issues

What are your opinions on one versus the other?
Any other contenders worth considering that meet my requirements
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      05-04-2023, 06:48 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tincob View Post
Iím looking to get into a lower cost (sub $20K USD) used small sports coupe to use as a daily driver. Something that I donít have to baby or worry about leaving in a long term parking lot. I value the driving feel over straight line speed. No driving event use planned.

I will only commute 2-3 times a week to work. I also have a back up car, if needed. More modern BMWís donít interest me with all the electronics and unnecessary amenities that can go wrong. I intend to do my own wrenching on simple diy tasks.

Iíve narrowed it down to the e46 330ci and the e82 128i with the naturally aspirated I6 and MT. There are not many with manuals but there are some and I would wait until the right one comes along. Most used examples will have over 100K miles although there are more 128i available under that. 128i m-Sport would be the dream combo.

330ci pro/con
Better driving feel - no direct experience but it seems to be the consensus
Better looks, especially the pre facelift (subjective)
Rear subframe cracking, vanos, donít think main bearings are an issue
Older than 128i so probably needs more refreshing

128i pro/con
Newer, lower mileage examples
Better interior, quieter
More understeer, body roll - suspension bushing, control arm updates needed
Gaskets leaking - valve cover, oil pan, Mickey Mouse seal are known issues

What are your opinions on one versus the other?
Any other contenders worth considering that meet my requirements
E82. Just a short chassis E90. Better car than E46. I've had both at the same time E46 and E90. E90 suspension design is far better than the E46. N52 is the better motor. I have an E46-based Z4 (different animal than the E46 though).
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      05-04-2023, 07:34 PM   #3
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The e46 is a superb platform. I wouldn't daily it though.
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      05-05-2023, 06:34 AM   #4
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Had both, my 128i was an M sport. One of the best BMWs I've owned, I'd definitely take it over an E46. Much more fun to drive. Be patient and find an M sport, it's worth it.
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      05-05-2023, 06:39 AM   #5
tincob
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This is the 1Addicts subforum so I expected more people to weigh in for the 128i. Getting feedback from members who have owned both is very valuable and sincerely appreciated.

Would still like to hear from other e46 owners.

Last edited by tincob; 05-05-2023 at 07:11 AM..
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      05-05-2023, 08:36 AM   #6
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I loved my E46. It was a daily for 12 years. It’s heavier than it looks, but the 3.0L helps move it off the line. They handle decently, although any stock suspension is probably worn out by now. Some models had poorly-ratioed steering racks. The interiors fall apart faster, due to the rubberized finish that flakes off with daily use.

I did quite a few mods on mine, including a Z3 rack swap, H&R touring suspension, and a Z4 shifter. The engine was solid, although I had to replace most gaskets and seals due to age and seep. I never had any issues with the frame, as I think that’s more of an issue for those who drive on bad roads or track their cars.
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      05-05-2023, 11:29 AM   #7
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E82 128i. 20 year old daily drivers are best for DIYers. And the 128i is the last of the traditional RWD, 6 speed, naturally aspirated, inline 6, reasonably lightweight cars. You are not losing anything to the older E46; only gaining.
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      05-05-2023, 12:25 PM   #8
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I had both E46 (though, an M3) at same time as a slicktop 6spd 128i.

E82 is a good car, N52 is very nice, but I didn't care for the short wheel base, the baloony looks, the creaky dash.

On a performance level, the chassis is good, but the E46 is much more fun to drive, though again, it's an M3 not 330i.

I think the E82 is pretty ugly compared to E46 which is the prettiest 3 series imo.

Mostly, the fact the 128i was a base model (more plastic, less leather etc) really was noticeable when getting back into the M3. That bothered me more than anything.
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      05-05-2023, 02:29 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TboneS54 View Post
I had both E46 (though, an M3) at same time as a slicktop 6spd 128i.

E82 is a good car, N52 is very nice, but I didn't care for the short wheel base, the baloony looks, the creaky dash.

On a performance level, the chassis is good, but the E46 is much more fun to drive, though again, it's an M3 not 330i.

I think the E82 is pretty ugly compared to E46 which is the prettiest 3 series imo.

Mostly, the fact the 128i was a base model (more plastic, less leather etc) really was noticeable when getting back into the M3. That bothered me more than anything.
I do agree that the e46 is prettier than the e82 but I am warming to the stout look.
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      05-06-2023, 02:17 AM   #10
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Just to frame my response, it is based on your use case for a daily commuter. The 128i is basically a shortened E90. I daily'd my E90 for 15 years, 165 miles a day. Of the two platforms under consideration, having daily'd both, the E90 is the better choice, IMO.
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      05-06-2023, 05:12 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Efthreeoh View Post
Just to frame my response, it is based on your use case for a daily commuter. The 128i is basically a shortened E90. I daily'd my E90 for 15 years, 165 miles a day. Of the two platforms under consideration, having daily'd both, the E90 is the better choice, IMO.
My commute is only 25miles round trip and in this age of WFH, Iíll only be doing it 2-3 times a week. However, the car would be my primary with my wifeís car as the back up in case the BMW is down for repairs.

Reading between the lines, you might lean towards the 330ci as the weekend car?
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      05-06-2023, 05:28 AM   #12
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Age is a big factor. As someone who dropped $$$ helping my son replace every plastic/rubber/seal item, my advice is if it was not a 1 owner garage kept fully maintained car, be prepared to spend more than the cost of the vehicle.
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      05-06-2023, 07:54 AM   #13
tincob
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Thatís a good point that I havenít given enough consideration to - spending to bring a car to DD standard. Knowing myself, I would have to address all the seals, bushings, etc. like you pointed out.

The responses seem to point to the e82 as the fit for my current situation.
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      05-06-2023, 09:04 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tincob View Post
My commute is only 25miles round trip and in this age of WFH, I’ll only be doing it 2-3 times a week. However, the car would be my primary with my wife’s car as the back up in case the BMW is down for repairs.

Reading between the lines, you might lean towards the 330ci as the weekend car?
I like the E46, don't get me wrong about that. I had a (M54) '05 convertible 330i I bought from a work colleague who sold it to me for CarMax trade-in money at $3,000. It had 100,000 miles on it, so it was a deal I couldn't pass on, and it was a way to keep miles off my Z4 as my E90 was beginning to age out. I had the 330ciC from September 2019 to April 2022; I sold it because I didn't need it anymore. I put 35,000 miles on it and the only real maintenance it needed for the 35,000 miles I had it was front brakes, tires, and the starter died on it 2 weeks after I bought it. I replaced some aesthetic stuff like the mirrors and got new floor mats, added a trunk mat, etc. I've driven a few other E46 when they were new as test drives because I was considering replacing my 230,000-mile E30 with one. The M52/M54 you'll find in the E46 is a decent engine, but I just think the N52 is the better than the M52/M54. The M54 revs "heavy" to me as compared to the N52.

My Z4 is the blend of the E46 chassis with the E82/E90 N52 drivetrain, which is just nicer than the M54 E46 chassis in my opinion. I've had a one or more versions of the BMW 3-series for the past 34 years and over 1 million combined miles driving a 3-series. And I've had overlap of all of them. Comparing the E21 through E90, the E46 stands out to me as the least favorable; still a fantastic automobile to own, but you've asked on opinions to pick between the E46 and E82. I think the E82 is the better choice, weekend or not. Also, I think you will have better luck finding a E82 in good shape vs. a E46. I lot of E46 have been riced out by now.
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      05-06-2023, 09:06 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tincob View Post
Thatís a good point that I havenít given enough consideration to - spending to bring a car to DD standard. Knowing myself, I would have to address all the seals, bushings, etc. like you pointed out.

The responses seem to point to the e82 as the fit for my current situation.
I'm just going to put forth that BMW 3-series do not need the level of rebuild everyone on the internet says they do.
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A manual transmission can be set to "comfort", "sport", and "track" modes simply by the technique and speed at which you shift it; it doesn't need "modes", modes are for manumatics that try to behave like a real 3-pedal manual transmission. If you can money-shift it, it's a manual transmission. "Yeah, but NO ONE puts an automatic trans shift knob on a manual transmission."
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      05-08-2023, 09:15 AM   #16
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e46 has a nicer exterior, nicer interior, bigger back seat and trunk, and is MUCH easier to work on.

e82 is lighter and stiffer chassis.

I sold our e91 and replaced it with an e46 wagon primarily because I couldn't stand working on the e91. My brother sold his e82 for a similar reason.

Any ~20 year old car is going to require some upkeep at this point. I'd get the e46 over the e82 just for ease of work.
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