If you’re familiar with the automotive section of The Detroit News then you’re familiar with Henry Payne who’s been writing a column there for some time now. If you’re familiar with Payne, you might know that he owns an E46 BMW M3 and has owned it since it was new back in 2001. According to Payne, his E46 M3 is the best car he’s ever owned, which is high praise being that he’s actually a Porsche fan. But the E46 M3 was capable of incredible fun, fantastic performance and the ability to also be a family car, something no Porsche in the price range could do at the time.
Now, Payne has tested the BMW M2 and claims it to be the second coming of his beloved E46 M3. We’ve heard a lot of these comparisons, from both journalists and BMW alike, but it always sort of felt like either good marketing or journalistic hyperbole. However, Payne’s comparison should be taken seriously, considering that he quite literally compared the two cars back-to-back.
When the BMW M2 first launched, the Bavarian brand had both a 1 Series M and a 2002 Turbo present to show the M2’s lineage. However, neither of those cars truly represent the M2’s predecessor. The E46 M3 is the most similar in nearly every aspect. They’re both almost the exact same size, both around the same weight, both have almost the same power and performance and both drive suspiciously similar. At least according to Payne.
When put next to each other, it’s almost shocking how similar the two cars are. Obviously, the M2 is a bit bigger, wider and more aggressive looking, but it looks as if it’s been born from the same family as the E46 M3. It looks like they could be siblings, but the M2 is the brother on steroids. “Similar length and width. Same 3,400-pound girth. Same 10-inch rear rubber. Separated at birth. Only the M2 has been improved.” said Payne.
In terms of performance, the M2 crushes the E46 M3 and it’s not even that close. It’s vastly superior in every measurable way, as it has more power, better performance and is even more efficient. However, you can see where BMW came up with the recipe. “Engines aside, the two cars feel related.”
This just reaffirms our belief that the BMW M2 is the best car BMW’s made since the 1 Series M. It’s the best BMW in years and it genuinely reminds us of the old-school BMWs we know and love. While most people will say that the E30 M3 is the best M3, and maybe even best BMW, ever made and they may be right, it’s actually the E46 that’s the most enjoyable to drive everyday. It’s the perfect combination of performance, comfort and usability, but it also has that wonderful raspy I6 engine note and more character than any modern car could hope to have. So BMW picked the perfect car to model the M2 after and it’s done a remarkable job doing so.