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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For The M3 is simply awesome on the road, almost as quick as a supercar

Against Space is tight in the back seats, and the car is expensive to buy and run

Verdict The M3 is the budget alternative to a supercar - a real enthusiast's motor

Go for… Well-loved models

Avoid… Track day cars

BMW M3 Convertible
  • 1. Every car comes with a massive amount of standard kit
  • 2. The convertible’s desirability means it holds its value better than most, so it's not cheap
  • 3. You must do a vehicle history check - these cars are wanted by crooks as well as legitimate motorists
  • 4. There's masses of grip on the standard wheels and tyres
  • 5. Rear seats are cramped and there's only room for two adults at the most
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BMW M3 Convertible full review with expert trade views

It’s a spectacular piece of kit. With a 0-60mph time of 5.5 seconds, and an electronically limited top speed of 155mph, it’s quick enough to scare the best supercars.

This convertible isn’t just about out-and-out performance, though. The amazing 3.2-litre 343bhp engine has the flexibility to be happy burbling along at under 30mph, too. Put your foot down, and every part of the car responds perfectly. In the corners, you get masses of grip from the wide tyres on the standard 18-inch alloys, and the steering gives you plenty of feedback.

Comfort in the cabin can’t really be faulted, with bespoke seats, instruments and steering wheel. The electric canvas roof – which takes 22 seconds to operate – means the car is 14mm lower than the coupe. The rear seats are cramped and there’s only room for two adults at most.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

A driver's dream and becoming more affordable. Avoid high-mileage cars. Cabin cramped.

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

Launched in March 2001 as a Y-reg, and based on the E46 3 Series, the M3 convertible is a simple one-model range, with no different engines or spec levels to worry about. Every car comes with a massive amount of standard kit. The bits designed to keep you on the road include M Suspension, Dynamic Stability Control and Variable M Differential Lock.

Many optional extras are available. One of the most sought after is the Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG), launched in July 2001. It allows you to change gears by flicking paddles behind the steering wheel, giving a sporty drive and keeping your hands on the wheel all the time.

BMW dealerships or specialist high-end performance car sellers are the best places to source the vehicle.

Trade view

John Owen

Sensitive to colour and spec - avoid SMG box. Needs to look the business

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Buying a performance car is never going to be cheap, and the M3 convertible’s desirability means it holds its value better than most. The experts reckon the car loses only around a third of its purchase price in the first three years.

Running costs are high, but that’s offset by the fact that you will get good money when you sell it on. Needless to say, it’s rated in group 20 for insurance, and you won’t get much more than 20mpg.

BMW garages are above average for maintenance costs, and with service intervals on this specialist machine every 7500 miles – and a major one needed every 15,000 – don’t expect to get off lightly. It needs plenty of TLC to keep it sweet, so talk to other owners if you want to get an idea of cost before you buy. Website fan forums are a good place to start.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

A driver's dream and becoming more affordable. Avoid high-mileage cars. Cabin cramped.

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

BMW’s mechanicals are generally very good, but only if they’re looked after properly. The service schedule is tough on the M3 and owners might have been tempted to skimp a bit if their finances were getting a bit tight, so check out the service records for peace of mind that all the work has been done.

Few affordable performance cars have a stronger image than the M3, and the overwhelming desire to own one can blind some buyers to the truth about the example they’re considering. You must do a vehicle history check - these cars are wanted by crooks as well as legitimate motorists.

Try to contact previous owners via details on the V5 logbook and build up a picture of the car’s past. Has it been thrashed on track days? Has there been any crash damage? If yes, who did the repairs and did they do a good job? Does the price reflect the vehicle you’re looking at, not what the seller thinks you should be paying?

Trade view

John Owen

Sensitive to colour and spec - avoid SMG box. Needs to look the business

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford
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