They call it “The Best M3 Ever Made”. Some consider it the purest expression of BMW’s formula of Naturally Aspirated Inline Six power and rear wheel drive motoring. Whatever you call it, don’t call it slow. The E46 BMW M3 is a legend in its own time. Just over a decade old, the E46 is considered one of the most iconic designs to ever come out of BMW, the last before “Bangle Butts” and “flame surfacing”. Already a hell of a car, the BMW E46 M3 needs just a little bit of massaging with a few clever mods here and there to be the supercar it’s supposed to be.
Yes, the E46 M3 has aged pretty well, however, some things have not – the right upgrades will tastefully update the look of your M3, taking years off its appearance, preventing your classic M3 from being “just some old BMW”. In this article, we’ll recap the best mods for BMW E46 M3 models, showing you how to make The Ultimate Driving Machine something that actually excites you every time you start that silky straight six.
We’ll start with the simplest. Unless you bought an M3 CSL right out of the gate, odds are, your stock wheels aren’t exactly pretty. And they’re not anything to write home about, either. Nobody ever got excited over stock wheels – which is the problem.
The M3 is an exciting car, it quickens the pulse when you slice through the canyons- while stock wheels dampen the look like taking an Ambien. Your wheels make up a huge chunk of your car’s visual real estate, and while I’m sure some purists will argue “BMW Engineers knew best when they picked these wheels blah blah blah”, let me remind you, BMW engineers are the same group of jokers who made the strut tower tops too thin, and realized that oil change intervals needed to be at 10k, not 15k like they had told all the owners. They’re not god, and they’re not infallible, as “precise” as Germans are.
That’s why the right set of wheels can be a huge asset to your M3, both in terms of its performance and its appearance. Let’s take a look at a few of the options out there that will look great on your E46 M3.
The Forgestar F14 is a popular wheel for E46 BMW M3 for several reasons; Forgestar Wheels look great, their Flow Form construction means they’re both lightweight and strong, and the fact that Forgestar manufactures each set of wheels to that customer’s specific car, factoring in things like lowering, big brake kits, or a widebody kit – all the things needed to be taken into account to get that perfect fitment.
Available in a wide variety of colors, including three different kinds of black (Matte, Semi-Gloss and Gloss Black), semi-gloss black works brilliantly on Imola Red or Dakar Yellow.
As we mentioned before, Forgestar wheels are manufactured to spec for each individual vehicle they’re ordered for, taking into account things like whether you’ve got a big brake kit like the StopTech Big Brake Kit for BMW E46 M3 to get exactly the fitment you want. The tradeoff is each set takes at least 8 weeks to manufacture from the date they’re ordered (anyone who says less than that’s lying to you).
We also stock the most popular colors and fitments for BMW vehicles like the M3 here at ModBargains, meaning if you’re the type of person who demands instant gratification, we might just have a set Forgestar Wheels for the M3 on hand and ready to have tires mounted.
When it comes to strength, Forgestar Wheels are more than strong enough for track duty, finding their way onto drift cars like this M3, which is probably the harshest environment possible. If they’ll stand up to being thrashed by a pro drifter, they’ll be great at your local autocross.
Silver Forgestar Wheels for BMW E46 M3 are also available, which also look great. The bright finish keys in well with classic BMW Silver, and th4 Forgestar wheels are by no means your only wheel option for the E46 BMW M3 – there’s tons of great choices out there.
VMR VB3 Gunmetal 18×8.5 / 18×9.5 on BMW E46 M3 Cabrio
Our friends at VMR Wheels have quite a few great options. For instance, if you prefer that CSL kinda look, check out a set of VMR VB3 (V703) Gunmetal Wheels for BMW E46 M3, available in matte black and hyper silver finishes, the V703 is a great compliment to nearly any color E46 M3.
Matte Black wheels make a great contrast to Alpine White, and when paired with a drop, like the Eibach Springs and Koni Shocks on the example above, the black and white look comes together with all the class of a white tuxedo.
The thinner spokes of the VB3/V703 give it a sporting character and fits the car well.
If you prefer a fatter spoke, VMR V710 Wheels for BMW E46 M3 are another take on the mesh wheel concept, offering a fat split 7-spoke design with a bit of concavity that give the M3 a bit more authority without going too wild.
The Hyper Silver finish offers the opposite effect as a matte black wheel, instead bringing out some much needed contrast on darker-colored M3s, like the Midnight Blue example above.
Matte Black VMR V710 Wheels for BMW also look great on the BMW E46 M3, particularly if your car has a matte finish itself.
And of course, the classic Gunmetal VMR V710 Wheels for BMW go with virtually anything. The color options are by no means the limit, as you can also have most VMR Wheels custom powdercoated (for an additional fee).
Looking for something flow form? VMR V810 Wheels for BMW E46 M3 offer lightweight and strong flow form construction and classic motorsports style for a clean look that will have your M3 turning heads whether it’s the track or the tennis club you’re rolling up to.
Avant Garde Wheels also has some great options for the E46 BMW M3. With a wide spaced 14 spoke design, the M359 has that same euro flair as some of the other wheels we’ve already mentioned but with a straighter spoke for a different look.
Avant Garde offers a wide variety of wheel styles and colors, and as such the M359 is available in Hyper Silver, Matte Black and can be custom powdercoated in the color of your choice for an additional fee.
The M359 in matte black is an amazing compliment to any M3 rocking the blacked out look like the E46 above, note how the 359’s tie together the black Dinan Exhaust Tips, Carbon Fiber CSL Trunk Lid and Matte Black Fender Grilles and Kidney Grilles.
Avant Garde M310 Matte Black 19×9.5 ET33 / 19×11 ET33 +5mm Spacer on E46 M3
Avant Garde M310 Wheels are another popular choice for the E46, which also go quite well with BMW Space Grey and also key in nicely with dark trim, like the carbon fiber lip and matte black kidney grilles on this particular E46. Check out our full selection of Avant Garde Wheels here.
Looking for an stylish, strong and lightweight set of wheels that won’t break the bank? Check out a set of Sportline 8S Wheels for BMW E46. Available in Gunmetal and Silver, and weighing in at just 19.6 lbs for a 18×8.5 ET45, Sportline 8S offers a hell of a lot of value for the money.
Whatever direction you decide to go, the right set of wheels and tires will have people turning their heads to scope out your E46 BMW M3 and have you carving the corners harder than ever before. There’s a wheel that suits your style and budget perfectly out there for your E46 and our passionate and knowledgeable Mod Experts can recommend options that suit both.
Not sure what fitment is right for your M3? Consult our Mod Experts! Give em a call at 714-582-3330, chat live at ModBargains.com or visit our showroom in La Habra, CA.
A set of gorgeous wheels will make a huge difference in the appearance and performance of your M3, but the car can only look as good as its wheelgap allows it to look. Make your M3 look its best by eliminating the unsightly wheelgap on your M3 by lowering your BMW E46 M3 suspension.
There are several options when it comes to lowering your E46 M3, and there are some key advantages to doing so. We’ll start with the simplest and most straightforward – springs.
Lowering springs, on the face of it, are less expensive than coilovers, and are closer to the factory suspension setup. A set of lowering springs generally lowers the car .5-2in, depending on who made the springs and how aggressive they’re supposed to be, but the amount of lowering is fixed and can’t be adjusted, and if used with the factory shocks (How have you not worn your OEM ones out yet? They’re over a decade old!!) – a set of lowering springs may cause the car to perform worse, unless you replace the shocks at the same time you replace the springs. The OEM shocks are designed to operate at the stock ride height – when you lower the car you’re taking the shocks out of that range.
Pair those with a set of fresh Koni Shocks for BMW E46 M3, and you’ve got a comprehensive handling upgrade that will look, ride and perform great for many miles to come. By replacing your OEM shocks (which probably need replacement anyways) with a performance shock, your springs can perform their best and you won’t be paying someone to take the car apart a 2nd time to replace the shocks later on.
If you’re just looking for a bit of a drop, and want something kind of “middle of the road”, meaning not too harsh but still sportier than stock with a moderate drop, Eibach Springs for BMW E46 M3 might be the perfect spring for you. Eibach Pro-Kit Springs lowers the M3 .6in up front and .9in at the rear for a noticeable yet conservative drop.
As we said, lowering springs install just like the factory springs, as you can see with these Eibach Pro-Kit Springs mounted a KONI strut. Eibach Springs are extremely popular in the enthusiast community, and several members of our staff have Eibach Springs on our own personal vehicles – including Co-Founder Mike Brown.
Here’s how an E46 M3 looks lowered on Eibach Springs. Note that the disgusting factory wheelgap is almost completely gone, leaving only as much clearance as is necessary to not rub everywhere you go. The lower you go, the more compromises and modifications need to be done to the car to accommodate the drop.
Of course, we can’t talk about Lowering Springs without mentioning H&R Springs. A set of H&R Springs for BMW E46 M3 offers a firmer, more sport oriented ride than Eibach and generally a more aggressive drop, lowering the car 1.2in up front and .5in at the rear.
Check out this direct comparison Before/After on an E46 M3 Cabrio. The front end and rear end sit level with equal amounts of gap front and rear to give the M3 the look the car is “supposed” to have.
Avant Garde M359 Matte Black 19×9 ET35 / 19×10 ET25 on BMW E46 M3 on H&R Springs
Here’s a BMW E46 M3 Coupe on H&R Springs for comparison. The drop is still quite low, whether you have a coupe or Cabrio.
Of course if you’re going with H&R Springs, a set of Sway Bars wouldn’t hurt either. A set of H&R Sway Bars for BMW E46 M3 compliments the handling enhancement of your H&R Springs. Here’s the front sway bar as it appears installed.
Here’s the rear H&R Sway Bar for BMW E46 M3 installed. A set of sway bars will change the understeer/oversteer characteristics of the car, sharpening the handling even further.
As we mentioned earlier, lowering springs are only as cheap as replacement shocks and struts – when you factor in replacing your shocks/struts when installing a set of lowering springs, Coilover Suspension becomes much more economical.
Coilovers replace both the spring and shock absorber together as a unit, mounting the spring onto a threaded perch on the outside of the shock absorber itself. The vast majority of aftermarket coilover kits will feature a true coilover up front with an adjustable spring and sport shock for the rear. The advantage of coilovers is that you have precise control over exactly how high or low your car sits at any of the four corners of the suspension, and many coilover kits also feature further adjustments like adjustable shocks with damping/rebound, compression, and have provisions for camber/caster adjustments and so on.
The misconceptions that most people have is that “coilovers are for the track”, and that’s not really the case at all. There are quite a few coilovers – at reasonable prices – which are great for street/daily driver use. The right coilover for you all depends on how involved you want to get and what you want out of your coilovers.
Let’s take a look at a few coilovers for BMW E46 M3 currently on the market:
We’ll start with our recommendation for those looking for the most stock-like ride quality in their coilovers – Vogtland Coilovers for E46 BMW M3. While you may not have heard of them, Vogtland Suspension has been making springs and suspension in Germany since early 1910s. Vogtland Coilovers are TUV Approved, so they’re quality, proven components. These coilovers lower the car and offer the ride height adjustment you want, offering a comfort oriented compromise of handling response to harshness. and feature a galvanized shock body with fixed shocks – that means besides the ride height, there’s no real adjustments to mess with, making these a set-n-forget easy to live with coilover option.
Say you want something that’s a bit more sport oriented, but still won’t break the bank. Check out a set of ST Suspensions XA Coilovers for BMW E46 M3.
Here’s a set of the ST Coilovers for BMW E46 M3 in the box – note that it includes endlinks as well. The ST Coilovers are fixed-damping as well, but offer a more sport-oriented, slightly firmer ride than the Vogtlands.
Here’s how the ST coilovers look installed in the front suspension of an E46 BMW M3.
The Coilover Shock Body is galvanized to resist corrosion, however this also means that they’re not ideal for snow-belt state use unless treated, whereas stainless steel finish coilovers don’t need to be treated even if they salt the roads where you live.
As we mentioned, the rear of most coilover kits is a spring with an adjustable perch and a matched performance shock absorber. For a daily driven car, these will have your car looking good and sitting low with great handling to match and a firm but compliant ride.
Let’s say you do want that adjustment, though. Boasting 30 way adjustment and high quality components, and coming in at just 10 benjamins as of press time, BC Racing BR Coilovers for BMW E46 M3 are an astonishing value for the money.
With an adjustable shock, the ride and the behavior of the coilover can be tailored to suit your tastes, however it’s worth saying that at their softest setting these will ride a bit more firmly than the ST or Vogtland options.
The hardware used on the BC Racing Coilover kits looks great on the car (we know it’s not fully assembled, we shot the pic mid-install) – the perches are easily accessible and allow a generous amount of drop.
Given the huge range of adjustments offered and the quality of the parts for the money, it’s no wonder BC Racing BR Coilovers for BMW E46 M3 have been popular here at the shop.
Let’s say you’re a serious trackday enthusiast and really want something up to the challenge of real motorsport. BC Racing’s new External Reservoir line of coilovers offers the performance of motorsport coilovers costing three or four times as much.
At just shy of $1850 (as of press time), BC Racing ER Coilovers for BMW E46 M3 offer a quantum improvement over anything in that price range. Our Co-Founder Ron, also a former E46 owner, has a set of these on his W204 C63 AMG, and swears by them – check it out:
What’s my review of the BC ER Type Coilovers for C63, as far the feel was concerned?
Dave, our tech, wanted to play tricks on me to see if I really could tell the difference from every click that we were adjusting, by either not adjusting or adjusting every time he was near my car, basically he wanted to know if it was the ‘Placebo effect’. Well I could feel the difference, it was noticeable each time, and it was really evident. I have never had an external reservoir coilover before, and so whatever was going on here was really impressive. The ride quality went from super luxury comfort, to sporty feel and finally, I settled on a “sports” kind of feel. After getting the feel of the car right, we got the alignment done on our new Hunter Alignment machine (here at ModAuto) (which made a difference as I could instantly feel more grip created by the balance in the vehicle). So I was set.
The car now eats up imperfections of the road like they don’t exist – the best example is going over a rail road crossing – and there’s one right outside our driveway at the shop, and so most times when I hit the rail road, the car will shake a bit or have that little shimmy to it. Now, the car will go over the rail road crossing, and you feel that you went over it in the steering wheel, but there is no movement or shake. The shocks just ate it up like it was a smooth surface, not moving my steering wheel from my goal.
And of course there’s the all important Girlfriend test. Her opinion is that the car is even smoother, if she wants to take a nap, the car is more stable, so if anything, it’s even more comfortable. I set mine to a sport stiffness level – I just prefer it that way, but again, I can easily get to the coilovers, make a few clicks and adjust it to a softer ride very easily in about 5 minutes – unlike any other coil over.
Yes, I have to say External Reservoir coilovers are worth it. While yes, the saying “you get what you pay for” generally holds true, dang, I have to say that I got a great value in these, as this is right up there competing with the best. BC has out done themselves; they are changing the landscape of the marketplace as they are able to offer an incredible price value for an amazing price point.
External reservoirs are badass and offer superior performance to nearly anything else, though the BC name is just now starting to cement its reputation amongst enthusiasts.
If you’re looking for a motorsports coilover with heritage and history behind it, you can’t beat Ohlins.
Ohlins Road and Track Coilovers for BMW E46 M3 are designed for literally exactly that- road and track use. Meaning these extremely sophisticated high quality dampers will soak up the bumps as well in your neighborhood as they will on Daytona or rounding the carousel at Laguna Seca.
Beyond their looking gorgeous and making your E46 BMW M3 look and perform like the corner carving monster it’s supposed to be, Ohlins Road and Track Coilovers for BMW E46 M3 feature matched rebound and compression hydrodynamics for maximum traction, and though they’re engineered for the highest tolerance, the McPherson struts are revalveable and all components are fully rebuildable for a lifetime of use.
We mentioned earlier that if you live in a snow belt state, you’re going to want a set of coilovers with a stainless steel finish that can stand up to the abrasive road salt and other crap that comes with winter. KW Coilovers for BMW E46 M3 offer just that – stainless steel coilovers with components specifically engineered to resist corrosion as well as perform.
While we’re on the topic of coilovers, we need to mention something of huge importance to your E46’s suspension in general, and something you need to address before lowering the car. Now before you get too worried, the fix is inexpensive and simple, but you need to be worried because of the magnitude of what happens if not addressed. We’re talking about Strut tower mushrooming.
The thing is, the OEM strut towers of your BMW E46 M3 the weak point of the car’s suspension and chassis, and so the forces acting on your shock absorbers or coilovers are also acting on the strut towers, flexing them slightly and slowly but surely stretching them out. It’s ironic that despite the car’s renown for its great handling, the wear and tear on the BMW E46 M3’s Suspension itself is the problem.
The end result of all those forces acting on the suspension is more stretch than your average taffy-pull. Take a look at this example Mushrooming on an E46 BMW M3 with just 36k miles on it (Image via Rogue Engineering):
In a struggle to shave weight wherever possible as they’ve added more and more features to the 3-Series, going all the way back to the E36, BMW Engineers needed to create a lightweight chassis that could withstand the load of the STOCK suspension without deflection or deforming. BMW Engineers were able to figure out how to do this with the advent of CAD Design and accurate fatigue modelling, BMW made the thickness of the metal structure of the shock tower area itself as thin as is possible while still retaining JUST ENOUGH strength to withstand the load of the car’s projected lifespan with stock suspension components.
What this means is that because of the thin materials, when you increase the loads on the towers (ie by installing stiffer, lower springs or coilovers that transmit more load than the OEM shocks), the shock towers can’t stand up to the forces it is being subjected to. With the car sitting lower, the potential for bottoming out the suspension is much greater as well – so when the car bottoms out on something like a pot-hole, the force thrusting upwards causes the strut tower to “mushroom” open, bending the strut mount studs outwards.
Simply fitting a set of these OEM BMW E46 shock tower reinforcement plates corrects this issue and gives the strut towers the strength they need to withstand the stresses sent through the chassis and prevents the issue. Of course, if your shock towers are already mushroomed, unfortunately it’s too late for reinforcement plates and more aggressive means will be necessary to correct the mushrooming.
GOOD STRUT/SHOCK TOWER BRACES ALSO WORK
It’s also worth saying that a good Strut Tower Brace also does the job, enhances stiffness and also has the added benefit of dressing up your engine bay.
Check out how the Dinan Front Strut Brace for BMW E46 M3 has a full circular pad reinforcing the entire top of the front struts. The additional reinforcement of the strut tower brace mounding pad also prevents the strut tower from mushrooming.
In addition to the structural enhancement, the carbon fiber trim and engraved DINAN logo adds a nice touch to the engine bay.
The rear suspension is also susceptible to mushrooming, but to a lesser degree. Like the front, the Dinan Rear Strut Tower Brace for BMW E46 M3 reinforces the top of the shock tower, and also enhances stiffness for sharper handling.
The Cusco OS Style Strut Tower Brace for BMW E46 M3 offers more of a tuner look with its bright polished finish, but offers a great value for a quality part.
If you aggressively push the car, though, a beefier brace might be in order, like this Rogue Engineering Front Strut Tower Brace for BMW E46 M3, which features an additional bar at a different angle to distribute load more evenly when under load.
However you choose to get low, lowering your BMW E46 M3 Suspension will significantly enhance the look of the car and is the perfect compliment to a new set of wheels- no new set of wheels really looks complete without a drop. Not sure about what lowering method might be best for you? No worries, ask our Mod Experts – give our knowledgeable and experienced team of expert enthusiasts a call at 714-582-3330, Chat live at ModBargains.com or come see us in person to talk about your goals, or if you need your springs, coilovers or air ride installed.
After dropping your M3 and fitting a set of wheels, the next thing you and others will notice about your M3 is how it sounds. Which brings us to… exhaust.
Here’s the OEM muffler of your E46 BMW M3 exhaust. It’s heavy, it’s not pretty, and by no means the best sounding thing in the world. It’s so damn quiet, it puts people to sleep and inspires yawns everywhere. When you hear a great sounding exhaust, you always have to turn your head and look, right? The thing is, the sonorous straight six under your hood can sound glorious with all six throttle bodies open wide and the right exhaust system. Beyond that, the exhaust tips make up a large part of your rear end real estate.
Why not look and sound good when you roll up, and enjoy the song of that six instead of yawning when you stomp the Go-Pedal?
We love the carbon fiber trimmed trademark “Street Race” Remus tips on the M3 – the CF compliments the diffuser beautifully, and that’s even before we get to its sound or performance. When the Remus Exhaust for E46 BMW M3 first debuted, Remus Exhaust was the contracted muffler supplier for BMW Motorsport in DTM Racing. The exhaust Remus developed is engineered to preserve the 50/50 weight balance of your M3 while delivering superior exhaust flow and a deep, authoritative DTM sound.
Have a listen to the Remus Exhaust for BMW M3 fitted on this E46 in the video above. Like your taste in music, your preference in sound is important when choosing an exhaust for your M3, since you’re the one who has to live with it.
Another popular exhaust for BMW E46 M3 is the Rogue Engineering El Diablo Exhaust for E46 BMW M3. With quad thin wall polished tips, this system is set up for flow.
The El Diablo lives up to its name with a more aggressive exhaust note than the Remus system.
Available as an axleback, the RE El Diablo Exhaust for BMW M3 is converted to a full catback when combined with a Rogue Engineering Rasp Pipe for BMW E46 M3. One of the things about the E46 M3’s exhaust is that when you open it up, it can have an annoying raspy sound at higher RPMs – though this problem is exclusive to USA spec models (Euro motors don’t have this issue). The Rasp pipe can also be used with a stock exhaust system to eliminate the rasp of the stock exhaust as well.
Here’s a video of the Rogue Engineering El Diablo Exhaust with the Rasp Pipe fitted.
By contrast, the M3 above has the Rogue Engineering El Diablo Exhaust for E46 M3 fitted to the stock exhaust system for a different sound.
Here’s a video of how the system sounds without the rasp pipe.
With a drone free deep and throaty exhaust note, it’s no wonder this is such a popular exhaust system.
Amongst enthusiasts, the Dinan Free-Flow Exhaust for E46 BMW M3 is a favorite for its smooth yet authoriative exhaust note.
Known for minimal drone and significant weight savings over the 50lb stock muffler, the Dinan Exhaust yields a 7hp and 5tq gain – not bad at all for just an axleback.
The signature black exhaust tips feature an etched DINAN logo for an understated look.
If you’re looking for a race-oriented, sound-legal exhaust check out the Supersprint Race Exhaust for BMW E46 M3. This exhaust trumpets the song of your angry straight six with unrestricted flow that gives your M3 a more italian flair with an exhaust note more like that of a Ferrari than an angry German beast.
Its straight through in-and-out design means there’s no slowing of exhaust velocity, so it’s a very pure tone coming out of those four polished tips.
This exhaust manages to pull off the hat trick of both being tame at idle and cruising while turning into a real screamer when you put your foot to the floor. Weighing in at just 26lb, the Supersprint Lightweight Race Muffler also lives up to its name, offering 25+lbs weight reduction over stock.
Have a listen to the sound of Supersprint in this short video clip.
These are just a few of the options for E46 BMW M3 Exhaust Systems – the right exhaust for you is going to be the one that sounds the best to your ears, not necessarily the one with “the best price” or “the most horsepower on the dyno”, because an exhaust system is something you’ll be hearing nonstop whenever you drive, so it’s important you like what you’re hearing.
Whatever way you go, upgrading your exhaust will make people turn their heads to look at your M3 as you arrive, give you more power to the wheels, make the back end of the car look better, and most importantly, put a smile on your face when you step on the pedal.
Not sure what the best system for your needs might be? Ask the Mod Experts for their suggestions and recommendations based on your needs – call 714-582-3330 or chat live at ModBargains.com .
Airflow is important, that’s for sure. Which brings us to Intake Systems.
The Intake of your BMW E46 M3 is fed by six independent throttle bodies. As non-forced induction intakes go, this is as badass as it gets. Independent throttle bodies are the superior master race relative to the inferiority of a singular throttle. The six independent throttles create instantaneous, RAZOR SHARP throttle response in a way that a single-throttle EFI setup can never hope to compete with. If you’re staying naturally aspirated, you have one of the best possible setups to work with. However, the air filter box feeding those six independent throttle bodies is extremely inefficient and robs you of airflow – the intake elbow in particular. And you can’t just go without an air filter – you don’t want to be feeding all the debris in the air actually into your motor.
That’s why upgrading the intake of your E46 BMW M3 is an upgrade you should consider making.
Offering a peak gain of 19 horsepower and 13 lb/ft of torque, the Injen Intake for BMW E46 M3 offers superior airflow to feed those six hungry throttle bodies.
Engineered with Injen‘s SP technology, this intake replaces the restrictive factory elbow and filter assembly with a high velocity, streamlined intake tube, paired with a high flow air filter to keep air moving as quickly as possible into the motor. To help keep intake air charge temperatures down, it also includes a heat shield.
Check out the gains for yourself on the dyno graph above.
The other option is the aFe Stage 1 or Stage 2 Cold Air Intake for BMW E46 M3, which yields a 10-12hp / 16lb/ft power gain to the wheels. This intake system replaces the intake elbow with a roto-molded ABS plastic unit to optimize flow and a high-flow air filter to maximize intake surface area to keep the airflow as unencumbered as possible.
Here’s a better look at the aFe Stage 1 Intake installed on an E46 BMW M3.
The intake elbow alone seems to be the major point of restriction, which is why the aFe Intake Elbow Upgrade for BMW E46 M3 is a great idea if you want to retain the stock airbox. Good for a 10hp gain, this is a simple part that makes for an easy upgrade.
Want to keep the stock airbox but get as much out of the M3 as possible? Check out this option – the aFe Superstock Intake for BMW E46 M3.
Yielding an overall 8hp / 10tq gain, this setup adds a set of high flow Air Scoops behind the kidney grilles, a high flow drop in air filter and includes the intake elbow – and of course, couplers/clamps, this complete intake upgrade is an ideal way to go “OEM+”.
What if you want something noone else has when you pop the hood?
Break necks whenever you pop the hood with the Gruppe M True Ram Air Carbon Fiber Intake for BMW E46 M3 – this genuine carbon fiber airbox is handmade in Japan and custom engineered to make more power.
The Carbon Fiber inlet changes the character of the intake engine note and sharpens response, not to mention how sick it looks.
This Gruppe M carbon fiber intake for E46 M3 adds a more effective scoop behind your kidney grilles and an all new airbox design to filter the incoming air, but more than anything else, this intake buys you major cool points whenever your hood is open.
A STEP FURTHER
As we mentioned earlier, your intake ports are fed by six individual throttle bodies – however you can pull another 6hp out of the car by porting and enlarging your throttle bodies with a set of Dinan High Flow Throttle Bodies for BMW E46 M3. Check out this comparison between an OEM throttle body and a DINAN ported unit.
If you’ve already upgraded the rest of your intake system, a Dinan High Flow Throttle Bodies for BMW E46 M3 might be that final piece to take your M3 to the next level.
Thinking about an intake for your BMW M3? Not sure about your options or have questions? Ask the Mod Experts- consult our team of experienced auto enthusiasts who have been there and done that, who can guide you to the right upgrade for you. Call 714-582-3330, chat live at ModBargains.com or visit the ModAuto showroom in La Habra, CA any day during business hours.
AUXILIARY COOLING – A MUST IF YOU DRIVE HARD
One of the single best performance mods for BMW E46 M3 isn’t an intake, or an exhaust or a tune or a supercharger. Nope. This simple mod makes a huge difference in performance at any trackday – and it’s an electric cooling fan & shroud and a radiator.
Since one of the E46 M3’s biggest shortcomings is its cooling system, it’s important to not overlook your cooling. As Porsche’s race team engineers once said, speed makes heat. How you get rid of that heat can be a problem especially if you plan to subject the car to spirited driving like canyon runs or the occasional trackday.
Last but not least, let’s talk about AERO. The BMW E46 M3 is one of the few cars you can buy quite a few great looking aero parts for. A CSL Style Front Bumper for BMW E46 is readily available for a competition-ready look, and that socket on the driver’s side of the bumper? That’s not for a fog light or a brake cooling duct, that’s for a ram air-effect cold air intake duct to feed the CSL Airbox. Pretty boss, am I right? No wonder a CSL front bumper is so popular amongst E46 M3 enthusiasts.
Maybe you don’t want to start off with a straight up front end swap – what if you just want to make the M3 look the way it should, details all keyed in?
We offer a complete Grille Black Out Package for BMW E46 M3, which includes your choice of gloss black or matte black kidney and fender grilles. As you can see in these photos, the blacked out grilles really clean up the E46, and corrects the ‘cluttered’ look created by the factory chrome kidney grilles.
Including both the kidney grilles and the fender grilles, replacing both at the same time really has a huge visual effect on your M3.
Carbon Fiber Kidney Grilles for BMW E46 M3 are also another great way to add some flair to your M3.
Have an M3 and want that CSL style with those cool DTM style carbon fiber splitters? Check out these Carbon Fiber Splitters for BMW E46 M3 to give the factory front bumper a more aggressive look.
Here’s a closeup of those splitters.
Want something that has a distinctly German feel? Perhaps this very angular Strassentech 2-piece Front Splitter for BMW E46 M3 might be the thing for you.
With a carbon fiber accent and lean, flowing curves, this lip fits the front bumper like a glove.
If you’re after a more traditional front lip, a Carbon Fiber HM Style Front Splitter for BMW E46 M3 might be the ticket for you.
The edges of the HM Style Carbon Fiber Front Lip for E46 M3 create more of an aggressive, race-inspired look.
Have a CSL Bumper but want to look different than the next guy? A 1-Piece Carbon Fiber Front Lip for BMW E46 M3 CSL is a gorgeous option that will make your M3 look ready to dominate the races.
The contours of the 1-piece front splitter echo that of DTM race cars for a form-meets-function kind of look.
Another popular way to stand out is with a carbon fiber hood – like this GTR Style Carbon Fiber Hood for BMW E46 M3 by Seibon Carbon. Featuring the trademark M3 power dome in the hood and M3 GTR Style Hood vents, this hood is not only functional but steps up the aggression factor of your M3 dramatically.
If you’re not a fan of the all-carbon fiber look, you can also paint the hood and leave the slats of the vents exposed to give your GTR Style Carbon Fiber Hood for BMW E46 M3 a unique look.
Which brings us to the rear of the M3 – there’s not much in the way of spoilers out there, so one of the best options is a CSL Style Boot Lid for E46 BMW M3 – for those uninitiated with british verbiage, boot means trunk.
The CSL Style trunk is available in carbon fiber, which offers the benefit of shaving quite a few pounds off the back of the car, and that ducktail turnup in the trunklid does afford a small amount of downforce at speed… but mostly it saves weight and looks great, weighing in at just 15.4lbs, whereas the stock trunk is more than 26lbs.
Should you want to save a few bucks or plan on painting it anyways, the CSL Style trunklid is also available in FRP.
Last but not least, finish off the CSL look with a Carbon Fiber CSL Style Rear Diffuser, shown below in Laguna Seca Blue, framing the not-currently-available Rogue Engineering Exhaust for E46 BMW M3.
We’ve discussed what a diffuser does in depth and in detail before, but the long and short of it is that it cleans up airflow exiting from underneath the car. Or at least, that’s supposed to be what they’re for. In race applications, Brawn GP destroyed the competition in Formula 1 one particular year thanks to an especially clever rear diffuser, so they can be quite effective… but mostly, they allow you to run alternate exhaust configurations and look sick.
There’s a huge range of exterior upgrades for BMW E46 M3 available to give your M3 the look you’ve been imagining, and our Mod Experts can help you make that happen. Not sure what’s best? Ask the Mod Experts- give them a call at 714-582-3330 today.
Now let’s talk about brakes. Brakes are the ultimate “While I’m at it” mod.
Since you’re going to have to replace your brakes as you put miles on the car no matter what you do, why not put something better in, since you have to replace the parts anyway? See why we call it a “While I’m at it” mod?
We’ve mentioned before how much of a difference good brakes make on an E46. A StopTech Stage 2 brake package makes it straightforward and surprisingly affordable to step up your stopping power for a fraction of the cost of a Big Brake Kit. No matter how you look at it, superior stopping power is going to be an improvement your car – stopping faster means a greater margin of safety, and better brakes means you can brake later on the track to make that overtaking pass.
The OEM rotors can be blank or slotted, depending on your options. While the E46 M3’s OEM brake rotors are vented and that’s good, we can bolster braking performance even more with better materials in the rotor itself, by slotting or cross-drilling the rotor and by installing better compound brake pads – but still utilizing the stock calipers – so it’s all serviceable just like factory and there’s no need to go to a race specialty shop to get new brake pads when it’s time to drive the car on surface streets.
You can also sharpen the feel of your brakes by eliminating the spongy and probably aged/deteriorated brake lines and replacing with a set of StopTech Braided Stainless Steel Brake Lines for E46, and replace the brake fluid of unknown age/origin with fresh appropriate-spec brake fluid. Other options are available, like AMS Stainless Steel Brake Lines for E46 M3, but it’s easier to just grab the stage package and get everything you need in one “kit”.
Beyond the performance aspect of cross-drilled or slotted StopTech Brake Rotors, there’s also the fact that well, they’re pretty damn good looking, and gives you something to show off behind whatever wheels for BMW are your style. The Cross-Drill pattern creates additional paths for hot brake exhaust gases to exit the rotor when you apply the brakes heavily, which helps stave off brake fade (a condition that greatly reduces braking performance and response) thanks to its superior cooling. That’s why if you’re heading for a trackday, a StopTech Stage 2 Brake Package for BMW E46 M3 is one of the best trackday mods you can do for a BMW E46 M3.
Of course, if you feel like the OEM brakes are inadequate, there’s always a StopTech Big Brake Kit for BMW E46 M3.
A Big Brake Kit not only adds a huge visual perk to the look of your wheels and gives your build a finished look, but a set of upgraded rotors, both front…
And rear… can give your M3 enough stopping power to counter the planet’s rotation.
We carry every brand of brake upgrade imaginable, and if you don’t see it on our site, odds are we can still probably get it- ask a Mod Expert for details.
The best mods for E46 BMW M3 will have your car standing apart from the crowd at the Valet Queue, the local BMW meet or your next trackday, making the Ultimate Driving Machine live up to its name.
Life is too short to go through it not loving what you drive- hopefully this article has given you some ideas on how to mod your own M3.
That’s it for our rundown of the best mods for the BMW E46 M3 – we hope this information was helpful, and thank you for reading.
Interested in enhancing the look and powerof your BMW E46 M3? Ask the Mod Experts what exterior upgrades are available for your car to change the style of your M3. Call us at 714-582-3330 for expert car mod advice and schedule your installation at the Mod Auto shop today.
Story & Photos Nick Gregson