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BMW E46 Three Series - Tuners


BMW E46 Alpina B3

Alpina B3 saloon in signature colours.


Alpina's mainstay for the E46 was the B3 3.3 whose engine was also available on the E39 B10 3.3. It was based on the American version of the E36 M3, the 3.2 litre S52. Peak power was 280bhp @ 6100rpm with a high redline of 7200 achieved by the use of a custom crankshaft and vibration damper. The S52 single throttle body engine made 240bhp across the pond but was not stretched that far (the stock M54 3.0 made 231). Alpina went down the usual route of hot camshafts, improved exhaust manifold and Mahle lightweight pistons to extract an extra 40bhp. The engine had more durable single VANOS, not double.


BMW E46 Alpina

Tasteful interior with a touch of luxury about it.

In 2002 it was replaced by the 46cc larger B3S which increased power by 25bhp to 305. This is often referred to as the B3S 3.4 but I don't think Alpina ever called it that officially. The B3S used 330i brakes but I think earlier cars may have used the smaller 328i parts.


BMW E46 Alpina

Later steering wheel with Switchtronic control buttons built in.

It's an excellent piece of work well suited to every day driving whilst being only 0.5s slower 0-60 than the full E46 M3. It has excellent fuel economy for an engine of it's type. On the down side it does like to get through the oil though so a keen eye must be kept on the level.


BMW E46 Alpina

Alpina dash with light blue dials.

Sadly the vast majority of UK cars had the Switchtronic transmission, very few manuals exist. Due to the lack of a four door M3 the B3 sold well. Left hand drive markets had the option of an all wheel drive Allrad version.


BMW E46 AC Schnitzer S3

Early S3 with chin spoiler, wheels and mirrors.

AC Schnitzer

Schnitzer's S3 3.2 was based on the M52TU 2.8 and produced 265bhp. This gave the car a 0-60 time of 6.4s. Few ACS3's would have had the same specification when new and may well have been upgraded since, so if looking at a used one take nothing for granted.


BMW E46 AC Schnitzer

Schnitzer strut brace and carbon fibre valve cover.

There were also various diesel upgrades for the 2.0 and 3.0 engines involving anything from a re-chip to more major work but these seem to have been done on an ad-hoc basis. Power increases of up to 28bhp and maximum torque of 325lb/ft have been mentioned in this context.


BMW E46 AC Schnitzer

Schnitzer suede steering wheel, gear knob and pedals.

As they had with the E36 Schnitzer made a host of upgrades for the M3 including suspension and cosmetic components for both the interior and exterior. But so far as I know there were no M3 engine upgrades.


BMW E46 Hartge

Hartge 19" alloys and not so subtle front spoiler.


Hartge offered possibly the most radical E46, the 5.0 V8 H50. The used the E39 M5's S62 engine and six speed manual box giving the H50 over 400bhp and stump pulling torque. In order to fit the engine the steering column had to go through the exhaust headers on one side. 0-60 was around 4.5s.


BMW E46 Hartge V8

M5's S62 5.0 V8 shoe horned into an E46.

For the 330d Hartge offered a power boost from 204 to 242 bhp and torque from 300 to 370lb/ft (on par with the later M57TU). A similar programme was available for the 320d. Both cost around 1000 GBP.

Hartge made their usual assortment of suspension upgrades, spoilers, wheels and interior pieces. But one of the most unusual must be a rear exhaust with dual pipes in the centre of the car.


BMW E46 Hartge

Hartge alloys, boot spoiler and centre outlet exhaust.