After over a year of ownership, I can comfortably tell anyone who asks that an E46 M3 is possibly one of the best cars built by BMW. Most people would tell anyone under 25 to avoid purchasing an M3 or pretty much any sports car. While every teen wants to be say, “I know other guys my age have crashed because they can’t handle the car but I won’t be one of those guys.” The reality of it isn’t even that they can’t handle the car. They can own a sports car for long periods of time without a single major issue but it all comes down to the moment when a friend or girl is with you and there is that other guy right next to you at the stop light. Eyes lock, engines rev up, and at the green all you hear is the engines screaming and tire squealing. Then you have someone loss the rear end and slide into a pole. The E46 M3 demands respect from its driver. If you disrespect this car it will be more than happy to take you out on a curving back road. This car has taught me more restraint than anything I have done in my life. Pushing yourself past your limits with this car can easily end up with you being hurt or dead. With the consequences so severe, one learns how to be safe and not do stupid things like red light drag races or racing up the back roads.
Now then what’s the point of owning a car like this if you aren’t going to drive it to its potential you may ask? The answer is simple, you learn how to handle the car. Before you could run you had to learn to crawl and walk. It is the same concept here. The cars I learned how to drive on were a 2009 Toyota Camry and a 2011 Buick Enclave. These two are far from any performance car, and California’s driver education programs that are required mostly use Toyota Prius and Ford Escapes as their primary vehicles. Teens go through these programs and for the most part learn on some commuter car at home and once they get the license they try and buy themselves a sports car. Trust me I get it, I got an M3 as my first car but I can as be sure that if I had gotten it right when I turned 16 I would be dead or at least have been through some serious accident. I had an interesting teenage life that helped shape who I am and help me understand how to show restraint and (for the most part) make good judgement calls.
Cars are dangerous, there is no denying that; and when you put teenagers that feel they have something to prove with quick cars and some fun roads you are asking for trouble. I’ve seen many kids crash their car on Mulholland Highways and the surrounding canyons. Everything from BMWs to Honda Civics crash up there, and it usually is the same story every time. A few kids go up there for some fun driving late at night, another group of kids show up at the same location and then comes the (usually) friendly competition. The conversation quickly becomes, “Hey man nice car. How fast is it? Is it modified?” The driver feels they have to prove something to these other kids and goes for his/her run. Most of the time they do the run fine with no issues, but then there are the times that they mess up. If you don’t think these crashes are brutal just look up Mulholland Crash on YouTube, and after watching remember those are the daytime accidents that tend to be more tame than those that happen at night.
My 2004 M3 has helped teach me to respect my own abilities and be smart in how I push myself and my car. I’ve been able to get a good feel for how my car can handle different situations and how I will handle those situations. The likelihood is that most other cars would not have been able to help me find this balance and learn the restraint I have learned. Would I recommend buying an M3 as a first car, no; they are expensive to run, repair, and insure. The M3 is not a smart first car, but I owe my M3 for helping teach me everything I know about driving. This car has taught me everything from how to regain control when you lose the rear, stay calm in a situation that is less than favorable, being able to feel and read the road, and how to respect a car that could easily out preform its driver.