Every new BMW M3 gets compared to the same car—the E46 M3. The E46-generation M3 is regarded by most BMW fans to be the best generation of M3. So it’s the benchmark for the iconic model. This new G80-generation M3 is a sensational driver’s car in its own right but it’s very different than the scalpel that was the E46 M3. So which was is actually best around a track? In this new video from Fifth Gear, you get to find out.
The new G80 BMW M3 is actually a shockingly good car to drive, despite what purists might say. In the UK, the M3 only comes in Competition-spec, which means it gets the 503 horsepower of BMW M’s 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged ‘S58’ inline-six. It also means that the M3 only comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It even *gasp* offers xDrive all-wheel drive as an option. And yet, it’s among the best driving M3s of them all. Its biggest issue is weight, however the M3 seems to mask its mass well.
On the flip side, the E46 M3 is significantly lighter but also much less powerful. Not only is its 333 horsepower 3.2-liter inline-six less powerful but, because it’s naturally aspirated, it makes its power in a very different way. Instead of the sledgehammer of torque that comes from the twin-turbocharged G80, the E46’s free-breathing, high-revving nature means its S54 engine needs to work harder for its power. That’s no chore, though, as revving it to its nearly 8,000 rpm redline is an aural delight. The specific car in this video is equipped with the optional six-speed SMG (Sequential Manual Gearbox), which is mostly horrid but the presenter seems to like it. While the G80 M3 actually works better with an auto ‘box, in my personal opinion, E46 M3s should be manual to take full advantage of their purer driving dynamics.
In this video, the host takes both cars on track to see which is fastest. Obviously, the G80 is significantly faster, as it pulled more than a second ahead of the E46 after just a turn or two. It wasn’t even fair. However, it was a handful throughout the entire wet lap, as its immense torque easily overwhelmed the rear tires and its numb steering made it hard to judge front end grip, which is vital in the wet. So ultimately, the E46 M3 was deemed the more fun and enjoyable car, even if it’s slower.