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General E46 Forum
This is the place to get answers, opinions and everything you need related to your E46 (sedan, coupe, convertible and wagon) BMW!

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Old 10-14-2012, 06:09 PM   #1
winstontj
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e46 wagon/touring questions

First post here. Hoping I can get some good info.

I've always liked the e46 wagons with a manual transmission and RWD only. Wondering what years are good/bad, what gearboxes (manual or auto) are good/bad and things like awd vs. rwd.

Is there a general rule of thumb on what's desirable or not desirable (from a bmw driver point of view not as a soccer mom)?

Is there a model or engine or year that is known to have issues? (or known to be good)

If I found the right car for the right place I'd jump on a plane and go drive the thing home so I'm not concerned with location (USA only) but looking for a general introduction on these things as to what to look for or not to look for. Did they come in a 6-speed manual with a sport option? Are they rare or generally hard to find? Also, what should I expect to pay for one? I know what blue-book is and I also see e46's (sedans) generally selling from $3k up to about $10k so what should I expect to pay for a wagon?

Thx.
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Old 10-14-2012, 06:17 PM   #2
MercForHire
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You want
325i
RWD
Manual
Sport package(very rare)

Bad:
Xi
Auto
323
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Old 10-14-2012, 08:08 PM   #3
winstontj
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So what does "very rare" mean and what should I expect to pay?

Can I easily swap over to a 5spd from an auto? (have done many swaps before just not e46)

If its possible what auto should I look for?

Is non-sport more common?

Last edited by winstontj; 10-14-2012 at 08:12 PM.
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Old 10-15-2012, 05:22 PM   #4
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Have the 323 sport/5 speed. Its not so bad.
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Old 10-15-2012, 06:47 PM   #5
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Everything you asked can be found with a search.
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Old 10-15-2012, 07:03 PM   #6
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Old 10-15-2012, 07:04 PM   #7
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Dont get an auto XI though...
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5TFUUU, If one more person tells me to sell my car and buy an ///M Im going to light their family on fire and make them watch.
*****BUY MY 330XI AUTO TRANS AND PARTS. CHEAP!!!******

Last edited by GotVANOS?; 10-15-2012 at 07:04 PM.
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Old 10-15-2012, 07:08 PM   #8
Johal E32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shellback View Post
Have the 323 sport/5 speed. Its not so bad.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MercForHire View Post
You want
325i
RWD
Manual
Sport package(very rare)

Bad:
Xi
Auto
323
323i wagons are perfectly fine. They have more torque than the 325 btw..And the power difference isn't really THAT noticeable either. They both get around the same mpg.

I personally own a RWD 323i touring, with heated seats, xenons, and the sport package. I have to wish you luck on your search to find the right manual e46 wagon, they are pretty damn hard to find!
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Old 10-15-2012, 08:55 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Johal E32 View Post
I personally own a RWD 323i touring, with heated seats, xenons, and the sport package.
^ Ditto. Love it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Johal E32 View Post
manual e46 wagon, they are pretty damn hard to find!
x2. Took 9 months to find one in decent shape and under 100K miles (single owner under 60K). Funny thing, I was driving by a local indie's lot a month later. What did I see: THE VERY SAME CAR! Year, color, wheels, interior, 5 speed, even the same solid roof. (I live in a town of ~8500 people.)
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Old 10-15-2012, 09:29 PM   #10
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Its not so bad.
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Old 10-16-2012, 07:09 AM   #11
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Its not so bad.
I hope you are right. I'm not even picky on color.

Would I be crazy to try an auto to manual conversion?

Last edited by winstontj; 10-16-2012 at 07:10 AM.
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Old 10-16-2012, 09:16 AM   #12
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Only reason to stay away from 323 is because of the weak subframe(I typed this hundreds times on this forum already).
I love 323 if that problem is fixed.
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Old 10-16-2012, 10:19 AM   #13
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I hope you are right. I'm not even picky on color.

Would I be crazy to try an auto to manual conversion?
Auto to manual swaps are well documented here. There are several threads detailing the entire process. Long story short, if you've done a swap like this before, you can handle it on these cars. Come swap mine
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Old 10-16-2012, 10:35 AM   #14
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Not to say it's impossible; but it seems the subframe issue isn't very common on a touring.

I reviewed this list early on when I got my 323iT and found only a single reported instance; the thread seems to have been more or less ongoing for 8 years. I know the touring is a bit more rare; but still would expect more to have shown up.

Subframe damage list thread

Last edited by rbalazsi; 10-16-2012 at 10:35 AM.
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Old 10-16-2012, 11:51 AM   #15
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Only reason to stay away from 323 is because of the weak subframe(I typed this hundreds times on this forum already).
I love 323 if that problem is fixed.
To be honest I'd love to find a car with a broken/damaged subframe so I could get it even cheaper. I have no issues with a fix + reinforcement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tock172 View Post
Auto to manual swaps are well documented here. There are several threads detailing the entire process. Long story short, if you've done a swap like this before, you can handle it on these cars. Come swap mine
Never even ridden in an e46 before but I've done several auto to manual swaps on e30's and mid-1990's Mercedes. It doesn't scare me, it's just a matter of time & cost that I was questioning. Also if there are any differences in the auto vs. manual chassis that would require modified stock parts, etc. (like on some of the MB swaps).

Quote:
Originally Posted by rbalazsi View Post
Not to say it's impossible; but it seems the subframe issue isn't very common on a touring.

I reviewed this list early on when I got my 323iT and found only a single reported instance; the thread seems to have been more or less ongoing for 8 years. I know the touring is a bit more rare; but still would expect more to have shown up.

Subframe damage list thread
This is good news. I don't really see to many soccer moms (or even dad's) beating on their wagons but then again what do I know...


Are there problems or issues with manual transmission iX cars (AWD)? Seems as though there are quite a bit more manual transmission AWD cars around than RWD only.
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Old 10-17-2012, 08:29 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by winstontj View Post
First post here. Hoping I can get some good info.

I've always liked the e46 wagons with a manual transmission and RWD only. Wondering what years are good/bad, what gearboxes (manual or auto) are good/bad and things like awd vs. rwd.
There is no bad year for the E46/3 touring. The 323 does not have a "weak subframe". Earlier E46s (323 and 328) exhibited typical BMW chassis floor failure first because they are the oldest. 325s, 330s, and M3s are now showing up with cracked unibodies as well. Do NOT buy a car from a family with a young male driver because typical testosterone rage clutch dumps seem to be a major contributing factor to this failure.
The automatics are much less reliable. Exploding reverse drums and clogged valve bodies are some of the many problems.
The traction/stability/electronic nanny controls cannot be completely disabled in the AWD versions of the E46 which is frustrating at autocrosses and on track. In general, BMW AWD means more complexity and increased maintenance. I think the bad transfer cases were confined to the X5s.

Quote:
Is there a general rule of thumb on what's desirable or not desirable (from a bmw driver point of view not as a soccer mom)?
The driver wants RWD, a manual gearbox, and the sport package. A sunroof reduces helmet space so anyone over 6' should avoid them.

Quote:
Is there a model or engine or year that is known to have issues? (or known to be good)
There are no major reliability difference between the 323 and 325. I prefer the throttle response of the 323 over the mushy drive-by-wire throttle of the 325.

Quote:
If I found the right car for the right place I'd jump on a plane and go drive the thing home so I'm not concerned with location (USA only) but looking for a general introduction on these things as to what to look for or not to look for. Did they come in a 6-speed manual with a sport option? Are they rare or generally hard to find? Also, what should I expect to pay for one? I know what blue-book is and I also see e46's (sedans) generally selling from $3k up to about $10k so what should I expect to pay for a wagon
I don't think the 6 speed was ever an option for the 325it, even at the end of production. I suggest you look for a full size spare and cruise control which were not standard some years.

A RWD touring with a manual trans is about as rare as modern BMWs can get. Be prepared to fly anywhere to buy a car in a color combo that is not your first choice.

As always, you should never buy an E46 without a proper PPI from a reputable independent shop. A good PPI will include dropping the rear subframe enough to check for cracks at the subframe mounting points due to the previously mentioned young drivers acting out the Fast and Furiously Stupid. If the shop does not drop the subframe, only major chassis cracks and tears can be seen.
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Last edited by teamdfl; 10-17-2012 at 08:33 AM.
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Old 10-17-2012, 09:22 AM   #17
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So then the real question is should I look around on CL or other ads or should I stick to the Roundel and around here? (meaning should I buy from an enthusiast or should I roll the dice and gamble?)
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Old 10-17-2012, 09:49 AM   #18
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They are rare enough that you can't be choosey. Either jump on one halfway across the country or wait months to years for the right one.

In general, I think manual trans RWD E46 tourings were purchased by enthusiasts who like driving the cars so they probably took care of them. People who bought appliances in the shape of a wagon probably got automatics and/or AWDs.
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Old 10-17-2012, 10:21 AM   #19
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The driver wants RWD, a manual gearbox, and the sport package. A sunroof reduces helmet space so anyone over 6' should avoid them... I suggest you look for a full size spare and cruise control which were not standard some years.
[...]
A RWD touring with a manual trans is about as rare as modern BMWs can get. Be prepared to fly anywhere to buy a car in a color combo that is not your first choice.
If you can get a 3 pedal touring with sport, that's the real ticket. It is easier to pick up a FS tire/wheel combination to throw in the back than it is do a tranny swap or to replace suspension components. The trade-off is giving up the hidden under floor storage space. I've heard rumors of US-spec cars w/o cruise, but have never seen one.

You may have to wait months to find one that meets your requirements. I looked 9 months before finding what I wanted. And, like you, I was willing to fly out and drive 1200 miles home. For me, that covered just about everything east of the Rocky Mts.

GL
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Old 10-17-2012, 10:28 AM   #20
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So then the real question is should I look around on CL or other ads or should I stick to the Roundel and around here? (meaning should I buy from an enthusiast or should I roll the dice and gamble?)
An enthusiast will probably ask for more money. And may have taken better car of the vehicle.

I bought mine from a dealer form an online ad and hit the jackpot. One owner car. The dealer that did the PPI was the one that sold and serviced it.
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