The E39 M5 vs E46 M3. Sporty vs Practical.

So here we are again. Earlier, I posted my thoughts and feelings on the Audi E-Tron GT. But here I am again, this time, solving the difference between the E46 M3 and the E39 M5. Which is more powerful, more practical, and which would I choose?

The E46 M3. (Credit to
The E46 M3. (Credit to

Right, to the engines, the power source, the most important part of the car.

The E39 comes with a BMW S62 4.9L V8, pumping out 394bhp, enough ponies to get you there plenty fast enough. The E46 comes with a BMW S54 3.2L I6 (inline-6), pumping out slightly less, at 338bhp. But that doesn’t necessarily put the M3 at a disadvantage, however.

My previous point can be quite nicely backed up by the 0-60 stats for the E46 and the E39.

The E39 did 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds, and the E46 did 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds.
But surely the E39 would be flying off into the distance, I hear you ask…

That is all down to a simple factor. Weight. The E39 is slowed significantly by one of it’s worst points. It weighs in at 1,826kg (or 1.8 tonnes), and the E46 can keep up because it only weighs 1,550kg (1.5 tonnes). Sure, it has less power than the E39 on paper, but it still manages to keep up with it, because the E39 is simply too heavy as stock.

The beautiful E39 M5. (Credit to User Dulsara Munasinghe - Car Throttle)
The beautiful E39 M5. (Credit to User Dulsara Munasinghe - Car Throttle)

So we have covered power. Now that isn’t always the most important aspect, and may be where the E39 takes the lead again.

Storage space. We all need it. The E46 has a measly 410 litres of storage space, compared to the E39’s 460 litres. It’s not a big difference, but it definitely is more practical, and it could mean the difference between getting that last bag of shopping in the boot (well, at Christmas anyway).

It’s not all about storage space, either. If you want to get 3 others into your car, which car is better? Well definitely the E39 M5. It has 4 doors, instead of 2 doors. If you’re almost 6 feet tall, as I am, clambering into the back of your mate’s lowered E46 could be a problem, and would take you a while.

With the E39, that’s not a problem. All I have to do is open the door, swiftly slide in, and there you go, me and my dignity are all sat in the back, and are both intact, and somehow I don’t think it would be the same case with the E46. So, once again, the E39 wins in this category.

Price. We can’t all afford to fork out thousands on a brand new car, so we choose to buy them nearly new. All of my prices are from AutoTrader (, and on a car with around 40-50k miles.

An E39, with 40k miles, from 1999, will set you back around £18,000. Don’t be disheartened though. The E46 I found (with 40,000 miles), costs £16,000. A £2,000 difference.

Also, the E39 is slightly more expensive to tax and insure, but not by a large margin.

At the end of the day, it’s all down to personal preference and what you want from the car. Practicality but slightly more expensive (but still fun to drive)? The E39.

Less expensive in total, but less practical and only really designed for 2 people? The E46.