1 Oct 2001
It was good news all-round for keen drivers, with sharpened suspension and steering joining the sleeker nose and tail-lift.
Better still, the four-cylinder E46 3 Series gained BMW’s excellent Valvetronic engines, engaged to either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearbox.
A 105kW/200Nm 2.0-litre DOHC 16V unit with variable-valve timing – providing the type of performance hitherto unseen in four-pot 3 Series – motivated the 318i sedan and 318ti Compact, while the entry level 316ti Compact made do with a smaller version, an 85kW/175Nm 1.8.
From early 2003 all models benefited from stability control software. A year later the body-kitted, sports-suspended Sport was added to the base and Executive 318i range.
Meanwhile, the straight-six-cylinder models – the 125kW/210Nm 2.2-litre 320i, 320Ci Coupe and (from mid-2002) 320i Touring wagon, 141kW/245Nm 2.5-litre 325i and 325Ci Coupe (and Convertible from mid-2004) and 170kW/300Nm 3.0-litre 330i and 330Ci Coupe and Convertible – continued with the drivetrain they gained from October 2000, but in the facelifted body.
The Coupe and Convertible received their own visual makeover from March 2003, limited to new headlights and tail-lights.
Two months later, the 252kW/350Nm M3 Convertible joined the fabulous M3 Coupe released two years earlier.
A variation of its optional SMG sequential manual gearbox (a six-speed manual is standard) also filtered down to 325 and 330-engined models from early 2004.