The Smart Man's M3

Skip the M3, This 330Ci ZHP Is the BMW You Really Want


June 13, 2019 Cars By
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The E46-generation BMW M3 is one of the greatest performance cars of all time, and arguably peak BMW. The iconic Bavarian is so well-balanced, so finely-tuned, it set the standard for what a sports car should be for years, and is still a benchmark in the industry. So you can imagine just how desirable the E46 M3 is and how much people are willing to pay for one.

But, living in the M3’s titanic shadow is the its barely-lesser sibling, the 330Ci ZHP.On the spec sheet, the ZHP comes with less power than the M3 and a softer suspension, but it also commands a lower price. In other words, the 330Ci ZHP is the one you want of the two. And there’s one up for sale today on Bring a Trailer.

There’s no denying the M3’s prowess on back roads The 333 horsepower 3.2-Liter inline-six revved up to a towering 8,000 rpm redline and M-Sport tuned suspension and brakes kept it all perfectly in check. But, for everyday driving — the driving most of us do regularly — a motor that high-strung can wear on you. The 330Ci ZHP, on the other hand, is softer around the edges, but still a definite step above the rest of the 3 Series lineup. The ZHP package upgraded the 330i with hotter cams, which raised the horsepower to 235 and the redline to 6,800 rpm, making it the Goldilocks option of the E46 3 Series.

This particular 330Ci ZHP comes with a cold-air intake and an aftermarket muffler from Active Autowerke, but other than that, it’s bone stock; it only has 109,300 miles on the clock, and has belonged to the same family since it was new.

The 330Ci ZHP didn’t come with the prestige of the “M” badge, but if you’re looking for a modern equivalent, the current M Sport models that sit below the full-on M cars are its descendants. Whether it’s the ZHP or the current M Sport models, the drop in power and performance doesn’t correlate with the smaller price tag — in a good way. You still get an adept sports car, but one that’s easier to live with and you’ll save thousands of dollars. What’s not to love?

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