Monday, 13 June 2011

Another Guest Blog. The E46 BMW...

Yes, that's right, we've gone and made someone else write words for us. We're slave-driving fat-cats here at Not £2 Grand and quite frankly we can't be bothered to write anything anymore. We're simply far too important, just look at our boss...

Write me things, minions! NOW!

Nah, not really. It just turns out that some fellow bloggers like us so much that they asked to write things for us. Seeing as we like receiving praise for as little work as possible, the notion of free words from other people seemed too good to pass up on. We've still got Bevis locked up in the cellar writing stuff for us, but he really needs some sleep, hence drafting in Amazo for this update.

We doubt he was Christened as 'Amazo'. Maybe it's a pseudonym he uses when fighting crime, who knows? All we know is that he pens the fantastic Amazo Effect blog and that's good enough for us. So, here is his contribution to Not £2 Grand. Do let us know what you think!

The E46 BMW...

This article begins with a car crash which is a rather dramatic entrance. I've not even been 5 minutes on this 'ere blog and stuff getting smashed up! Well, let me explain. My daily driver, a BMW E21 was rear-ended by a Smart Roadster a couple of weeks ago. It would almost be funny if it wasn't my car; the Smart attempted to scuttle under my rear valance like a cat in a new home bolting under the settee. The insurance company of course gave me a courtesy car. A turgid VW Golf? A mingy Skoda Fabia Nope, this:

Move along now, you can't afford this one. Yet.

It was just 3 weeks old, had 500 miles on the clock, leather, air-con, 18" wheels and more toys than Gary Glitter's basement. My new car-hating oath was suddenly sacificed at the altar of E90 voodoo. I loved it, drove it everywhere and probably got a little to attached to it to be honest. Then of course it had to go back. Frantically, I scoured eBay for early E90s, but they're still waaaay over the magic £2K mark - aww. But wait. What about the predecessor, the E46? Hmmm...

Yes, believe it or not sports-fans, E46 3-series are now coming up for under 2 gees. Introduced in 1998 as a saloon with both Coupe and Touring models a year later, the E46 is essentially still an E36 at it's core but radically reworked. It also has a huge range of engines, from the M43 16-valve four-banger to the mighty 3.2 litre S54 six as used in the M3. Yes, there was a V8 in the M3 GTR, but £2 grand will just about get you a doorhandle of one of those.

Much, much more than £2k, but great for lighting your B&H with

There was also a range of turbodiesels, but before you turn your nose up at those, my courtesy E90 has the same M47B20 (that's 2.0 litre in non-BMW speak) as used in the E46 - 148bhp in that car, more in the E90 - and 243 lb/ft made for a very rapid (140mph, apparently) and economical (60+ mpg with a sympathetic right foot) car, and the E90 is a heavier beast than the E46. Personally nothing but the howl of a straight six will do for me, but then I'm the type of man that puts octane booster on his chips, just for that extra kick, y'know?

Handling-wise the E46 is a page out of the great BMW handling book. The shell is claimed to be 70% stiffer that it's E36 predecessor, one reason being that aluminium was used extensively in the Macpherson strut front and Z-axle rear suspension. Plus, the car has near 50:50 weight distribution, so hooning around on a country lane should be a joy.

It isn't all a picnic with Nigella Lawson though. Just because BMW has a peerless reputation for reliability and build quality doesn't mean there aren't pitfalls, In fact that same build quality can hide a few sins. There were quite a few ringers knocking around a few years back when the car was still in production, while many early cars have been used in fleets and as police cars, so may have high mileage and have led a hard life. Also, low-spec cars exist, again because of the fleet connection, so some examples may be bare-bones spec wise compared to others. But then again, we aren't talking rubber floor mats and vinyl seats; you'd be hard pressed to find one without aircon and electric windows. The most common faults are heater blower fan switches breaking, side repeater lamps working loose and high dealer parts costs - £12 for a headlight bulb? Oh, and early diesel manual cars could suffer warped clutch plates. Most will surely have been replaced by now, but listen for a scraping noise when releasing the clutch on low-mileage cars just to be safe. Post-2000 cars have tougher clutches, though.

The Touring version. Great for hauling bric-a-brac, not so good for hauling a Rolls-Royce Trent jet engine. Sorry

Like the idea of an E46? Want one in your life? We scanned Autotrader and came up with this example...

Fancy a bit more space? How about this sucker?

Like the Mondeo N2K sensei featured a while back, modern 3-series do have an image of being driven by people like this (salemen, not Jim Carrey):

And this. Bimmers are mad wicked cars to them, innit?

In conclusion, with E36s now the doyen of fast Ford fans wanting a cheap RWD fix, the E46 is now staring to move into the crosshairs of the Not 2 Grand hunting rifle. It's time to ignore the BMW stereotype and get yourself a damn fine, well engineered car for not-a-lot-of-money, although if you do look like Ali G we won't hold it against you.

So, will you be bagging your own example?