BMW E46 330Ci


Unique Cars - - BUYER GUIDE -

Three Se­ries BMWs have been the main­stay of their brand since the 1980s. Not only has the com­pany built th­ese cars in the tens of mil­lions, they have also served for more than three decades as a ma­jor plat­form for BMW’s mo­tor-sport­ing suc­cess. The down­side of this suc­cess and the low prices gen­er­ated by quite re­cent cars is se­ri­ous di­lu­tion of BMW’s sta­tus and pres­tige. When young pun­ters in mildly af­flu­ent re­gions of sub­ur­bia can spend less than $10K to slap a P Plate on the back end of a 330Ci soft-top you know your brand is trashed – or at best trashy.

The E46 be­gan life in 1997, with the first 328 model cars reach­ing Aus­tralia in 1999. A year later the 330i sedan, 330Ci coupe and con­vert­ible were in­tro­duced with prices start­ing at $90,000 and climb­ing to a quite rea­son­able $105,000 for the soft-top.

So com­pet­i­tive was the lux­ury car mar­ket of the day that by 2007 when the mas­sively equipped SMG High­line con­vert­ible was re­placed by a 335 model, its ba­sic price had risen to just $113,000.

The E46 was marginally larger than the E36 range it re­placed, sit­ting on a wheel­base 25mm longer and adding 47mm in body width. Changes to ma­te­ri­als used and con­struc­tion tech­niques de­liv­ered a more rigid body-shell – es­pe­cially in con­vert­ible form – with greater oc­cu­pant pro­tec­tion in the event of a se­ri­ous crash.

Coupes are ef­fec­tive as classy, low-cost trans­port for sin­gles or cou­ples. How­ever the back seat also of­fers suf­fi­cient head and leg-room to ac­com­mo­date a cou­ple of chil­dren in de­cent com­fort. Any with a sun­roof steal some head-room but the boot is de­cent sized for a sporty car.

The M54 straight-six is a nice rather than brutish en­gine with smooth de­liv­ery of its 170kW and strong mid-range ac­cel­er­a­tion. The down­side of this and other BMW en­gines of sim­i­lar age is the VANOS vari­able valve tim­ing sys­tem which suf­fers dura­bil­ity prob­lems as its com­po­nents age.

Ac­cel­er­a­tion us­ing the au­to­matic’s Sport mode is brisk – 80-110km/h in 4.5 sec­onds – and while the man­ual trans­mis­sion is un­doubt­edly more fun when whistling down a moun­tain pass, 330 own­ers will spend more time star­ing at the brake lights of the car ahead than ridi­cul­ing ad­vi­sory speed signs.


BMWs of this age and in this price bracket are still ver y vi­able as reg­u­lar trans­port, so the more con­ve­nience and safety items the bet­ter. By the end of its model run in 2006 the Sport Spe­cial Edi­tion coupe cost $103,000 and was loaded with items in­clud­ing a tele­vi­sion screen and 10-stack Har­mon Kar­don Premium sound sys­tem.

Choos­ing a 2006 model con­vert­ible and spend­ing $14,000 as op­posed to $8000 on a sim­i­lar car built in 2001 will de­liver good­ies like Xenon head­lights, a re­vamped dash with big­ger and more func­tional dis­play screen, big­ger wheels and lower-pro­file tyres.

In other re­spects the newer car should be dis­play­ing less wear and fewer kilo­me­tres. Some older, low kilo­me­tre cars are cheap and might ap­pear to be bar­gains un­til a spe­cial­ist starts list­ing all of the com­po­nents that have de­te­ri­o­rated so badly due to age that they need re­place­ment.

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