The E46-generation BMW 330i ZHP is one of those weird cars where objectively it shouldn’t be valuable but because of enthusiast love, it sells for surprisingly large sums of money. On paper, the 330i ZHP shouldn’t be worth more than a few thousand dollars. However, its cult following and rarity have made it far more valuable that the sum of its parts. So let’s take a look at the ZHP and whether it can justify its high price tag.
Following the E46’s LCI facelift, BMW gave it the ZHP package, which was designed to sharpen the 330i up a bit to make it a sort of halfway point between a standard 3er and a proper BMW M3. However, while that was BMW’s intention—and it’s certainly how many enthusiasts view it—it really wasn’t as close to a real M car as it was made out to be.
Under the Hood
The E46 330i ZHP only made 10 more horsepower and 8 more lb-ft of torque than the standard 330i, bumping power up to 235 horsepower and 222 lb-ft. However, the character of the powertrain did change slightly, as the extra power came from hotter cams, which made its redline 300 rpm higher. Its shorter final drive also made it feel a bit zippier than a normal E46. That was also paired with a six-speed manual, instead of a five-speed.
Under the Skin
BMW mostly changed the ZHP’s suspension and chassis components, to give it sharper steering and handling. It had new control arm bushings, slightly firmer suspension, 18 in wheels, and slightly revised steering. It was really just a warmed over 330i but nothing too serious. However, those minor tweaks did make the E46 330i feel better than the standard car.
There’s no denying that the ZHP was the best looking E46. It might have even been better looking than the M3. Its unique bumpers and wheels made it an absolutely gorgeous sport sedan and its interior was aided by an Alcantara steering wheel, headliner, and shift boot. So it felt more special inside, too.
Is it Worth the Money?
Objectively speaking, no it’s not. ZHPs are selling for $10,000-$15,000 and, in some cases up to $20,000, and that’s preposterous. You can buy some very cool cars from that sort of money, cars that are much newer, faster, and better to drive. For under $20,000, you can get a 986 Porsche Boxster, 996 Porsche 911, Jaguar XKR, C5 Corvette, BMW Z4, Audi S4, and the list goes on and on. And the ZHP isn’t even that much different from standard E46 3 Series’, cars that are often sold for under $3,000. So the ZHP shouldn’t be worth the price premium is carries, as great a car as it is.