You get the idea BMW know how good their cars are. The 3-series for example has become the default choice of middle management, looking for class, build quality and car park bragging rights, but when you’re buying new you have to pay BMW’s premium. Fortunately the appeal to this sector starts waning as they get older and the second hand market becomes full of them. Which is where you should step in.
The 330Ci coupe is the one to go for if you’re after performance but don’t have pockets deep enough for M3-power. With a 6-cylinder engine producing decent power, 50/50 weight distribution, and rear-wheel drive, it’s a great performer. You lose some of the more brash M3 styling with the 330Ci, but for some that may be a good thing, after all an E46 coupe sitting right on decent rims is still going to turn heads. The model was refreshed later on in its life which included new lights, but ran until the E90 was launched in 2006.
Tuning wise you may be a little limited initially, but there’s plenty available if you come into some money after buying it, including turbocharging and supercharging options. Even if you only decide to mildly upgrade certain areas like brakes, suspension and exhaust though the 330Ci can still provide plenty of smiles.
BMW E46 330CI Stats (2000-2006)
Engine: 2979cc, 6-cylinder
Top speed: 155mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Cooling system problems have been reported with this model, so check that temperatures are as they should be on a test drive. Being rear-wheel drive, the unwary may get caught out, so check very carefully for accident damage. As premium cars they’re more likely to have been repaired properly, but that won’t always be the case. It’s also worth checking everything like the air con, onboard computer etc work as repairs are sure to be costly should they be needed.
TUNING A 330CI
If you’re keeping it naturally aspirated then Eisenmann exhausts are a popular, albeit expensive option. Coupled with a carbon intake system and remap you may be looking at almost 260bhp. Superchargers are a well-tested option for more power, available for around £2,500 and able to pump an extra 70bhp or so into the equation, taking the 330Ci to near M3 power for less of an outlay if you get the car cheap enough in the first place. Alternatively there are numerous turbo conversions about now, which will see the power potential trump that of the M3 in naturally aspirated form. There isn’t too much else you’d need to do but an KW suspension package or similar will firm up the ride and help make the most of the coupe’s fine driving dynamics.
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