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3 Series / 4 Series
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  #1  
Old 04-24-2003, 05:53 PM
mkh's Avatar
mkh mkh is offline
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ZHP vs M3/4 vs 330i Full Review (v. long)

Now that I have accumulated 900 miles on my ZHP, it's time for a write up comparing it to a '97 E36 M3/4 5sp (hereafter will be called M3) and a '02 330iSP 5sp. All 3 cars are bone stock without any modifications. These are my own observations and without any tests or numbers to back up. First, let's take a look at the specs:

ZHP - 235hp 222lb-ft 3285lbs
M3 - 240hp 236lb-ft 3175lbs
330i - 225hp 214lb-ft 3285lbs

SOUND:
Inside the cabin, the ZHP is the quietest of the three with very little engine sound. Most of the sound is coming from the exhaust. The note is deep and distinct, and definitely won't be mistaken for other 3-series.
With the M3, all you hear is the engine sound, and is quite loud compared to the other two.
The 330i falls right between the above two. Similar to the M3, the sound is mostly from the engine.

CHASSIS:
Both the ZHP and 330i feel very solid compared to the M3. It is easy to tell when only one wheel is going over a speed bump. The twist and flex of the M3 chassis is apparent, but not on the E46's. Overall, the E46 has a much more rigid chassis than the E36.

5SP vs 6SP MANUAL:
No comparison here. The short-shift 6sp on the ZHP is by far the best linkage from BMW, with an added benefit of overdrive. Both 5sp's throws are longer with the M3 the longest.

POWER:
Here is where the M3 shines. The ranking is exactly like what you would expect from the specs. The M3's low end torque is very noticeable compared to the ZHP and the 330i. While the ZHP and 330i build up power linearly and progressively through the rev band, the M3's pulling power can easily be felt, even at 2k rpm in any gear, including 5th. This is very obvious when going uphill. It feels more like an 8 cyl than a 6. The E46 engines need above 3k rpm to really come alive. Above 4k, the extra hp of the ZHP over the 330i becomes more apparent. The higher the rev is, the more the feeling of it. The tach seems to rev up faster in the ZHP also. Overall, the ZHP is just more responsive and peppier. Throttle response is also improved but still not as quick as the M3.

HANDLING/STEERING:
The suspension of the ZHP with the 18" wheel setup is just perfect. It draws a good balance between firmness and comfort, and its handling is outstanding. The ride is firm but very controlled with no trace of hardness at all. In comparison, the 330i's suspension is downright sloppy. When doing a quick "S" maneuver, the 330i is just dancing around while the ZHP and M3 are more like riding on tracks. The 330i's suspension is simply too soft and body roll is prominent. The M3 has almost the same handling characteristics of the ZHP but the ride is quite a bit harsher. The steering of the ZHP and 330i is about the same but the M3 has a lot more feedback. The M3's road feel is very direct. The ZHP and 330i are a bit more isolated and muted, but still pretty good. The steering effort of both E46's are lighter than the M3, and their clutches are very light.

BRAKES:
The M3's stopping power is awesome. The ZHP and 330i do have good brakes but cannot compare to the M3.

CONCLUSION:
The ZHP is a very impressive car. In fact, it is definitely the BEST non-M 3-series BMW has ever made, yet it lacks the M3's "raw" character. It is more civilized, and is more suitable to people who don't track or race much but still enjoy fast spirited driving in daily life and in canyons and twisties. In my case, I'll pick the ZHP over the M3.

The M3, on the other hand, is more appropriate to those who prioritize performance over luxury and comfort. It definitely has more M heritage. It is raw compared to the ZHP's refined character. If one likes to track or autoX, this is a better car than the ZHP.
Consider this, the US M3/4 is basically a European M3 with a detuned engine. The ZHP is a modified 330i luxury sedan. That's why they both are great cars but with very different personalities.

The 330i is not a bad car by all means. In fact, it is an outstanding car. Only when compared to the ZHP side by side, its weaknesses are exposed. But if one really dislikes the firm ride of the ZHP, and values comfort more than pure performance, or definitely wants more luxurious options, this is the car to pick. And it is not far behind.

FURTHER THOUGHTS:
In straight acceleration, I think the M3/4 still holds the edge. However, I don't doubt BMW's 0-60 time of 5.9sec for the ZHP. Just for reference, BMW was claiming 5.7sec for the M3/4 when it was introduced. From past experiences, the magazines should be able to do it in about 5.5-5.6sec with the ZHP. I would be very surprised if the ZHP cannot beat the G35 in every performance category.

Last edited by mkh; 05-17-2003 at 03:33 PM.
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  #2  
Old 04-24-2003, 06:12 PM
Jeff297 Jeff297 is offline
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Excellent review, Mkh.

Jeff
  #3  
Old 04-24-2003, 06:22 PM
Jim in Oregon Jim in Oregon is offline
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Thanks....great review. I too had a 97 M3/4 with 5 speed. It was a great car in the handling/braking department. From there I moved to the E46 328i 5-speed and now an E46 M3 with SMG. All the cars have their strong points and all have weaknesses. I really think the E46 M3 is just too heavy to be a great track car. You can really feel the bulk when you're throwing it into turns on the track. I think I would really have preferred the E36 M3 with the Euro engine that had something like 321 hp.

If only the E46 M3 could shed about 400 lbs. CSL maybe?
  #4  
Old 04-24-2003, 06:40 PM
tgravo2 tgravo2 is offline
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Nice writeup I need to drive a ZHP
  #5  
Old 04-24-2003, 06:50 PM
KU Ned's Avatar
KU Ned KU Ned is offline
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Thanks!

Great review. I am waiting for the magazines to do something on the ZHP. The article in Roundel was more about Sach's luggage and where he likes to eat than the ZHP.

Great comparison. I can't wait for mine to arrive!
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  #6  
Old 04-24-2003, 07:46 PM
TD
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As far as the 330i ZHP vs M3/4 comments are concerned, your observations are consistent with what JST, SteveMD and I thought when we drove my M3/4 back to back with Steve's ZHP.

The ZHP is an excellent car. It comes closest to the E36 M3/4 feel of any E46 I've driven, although it still puts comfort ahead of pure raw feel. For me, I prefer the M3/4. But if I didn't already own it, I'd seriously consider a ZHP and I'm sure I'd be happy with it. (I just might have to remove the sound insulation under the hood so that I could hear the engine.)

Thanks for throwing a non-ZHP, post 2001 MY 330i w/SP into the mix. I am surprised, honestly, that the handling difference is THAT pronounced. I know that I thought the ZHP felt pretty damn good and that must explain it. My recollection of the handling feel of the 330i w/SP must not be that far off and I recall it being a soft, leaning pig too.

Now we just need a ZHP vs E46 M3 comparo.
  #7  
Old 04-24-2003, 07:58 PM
intempo intempo is offline
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What a great review!!! You absolutely answered my performance questions.

Thanks for taking the time to share your impressions…we are hungry to hear about driving and perfaomance perceptions of the ZHP. Interesting that it is quieter that an 330i.
  #8  
Old 04-24-2003, 08:12 PM
AF AF is offline
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Excellent write-up . . . I have never driven the ZHP but it sounds great . . .

Rumatt: I really wouldn't sweat it . . . I find the 330i with sport suspension to be an excellent handler and in everyday driving it is A LOT of fun. It sounds like BMW took a great car (the 330i) and made it a notch better (the ZHP)
  #9  
Old 04-24-2003, 08:35 PM
GeoMystic GeoMystic is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by AF330i
Excellent write-up . . . I have never driven the ZHP but it sounds great . . .

Rumatt: I really wouldn't sweat it . . . I find the 330i with sport suspension to be an excellent handler and in everyday driving it is A LOT of fun. It sounds like BMW took a great car (the 330i) and made it a notch better (the ZHP)
Exactly, the 330i is an awesome car and has incredible handling. One of my favorite sounds in the 330i was the music from under the hood. I hope it is no thtat quiet, if so I will have to just listen for the louder exhaust note

This is by far one of the best reviews and comparisons of the ZHP. It is making the wait torture.
THanx for the excellent write-up and post some pics of your beauty
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  #10  
Old 04-25-2003, 12:45 AM
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GregD GregD is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by rumatt
Great review mkh. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

> The tach seems to rev up faster in the ZHP also

Wouldn't this be due to the shorter rear diff on the ZHP?

Might also be due to the lighter flywheel and slight increase in power.

> The short-shift 6sp on the ZHP is by far the best linkage from BMW

Great news. Does anyone know if there are any differences between the 6-speed in the ZHP and non-ZHP 330's, other than the height of the shifter? I'm waiting on a non-zhp 330, so I'm hoping to get most of the advantages that everyone is talking about with the ZHP's 6-speed.

Totally agree on the shifter. By far the best of any BMW I've ever driven.

Thanks again for the review!
  #11  
Old 04-25-2003, 05:42 AM
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Jetfire Jetfire is offline
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Re: ZHP vs M3/4 vs 330i Full Review (v. long)

Quote:
Originally posted by mkh

Consider this, the US M3/4 is basically a European M3 with a detuned engine. The ZHP is a modified 330i luxury sedan. That's why they both are great cars but with very different personalities.
Great review, but just one comment on this part. I love my M3's very broad torque range, but the engine is not simply detuned -- it's completely different. Had the Euro version been here, the E46 M3 would not have been quite as groundbreaking. You're still right, though. The suspension on the M3s were essentially the same worldwide.
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  #12  
Old 04-25-2003, 05:48 AM
mbr129 mbr129 is offline
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20 days left!

Soon enough I will experience all this in my very own car. I am so happy to hear these reviews. It is exactly what I wanted in a car.

Thanks for the reviews guys!
  #13  
Old 04-25-2003, 06:49 AM
slilley slilley is offline
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ZHP Music: Engine Noise

OK, I'm dissapointed to hear that the sound from the engine is louder in the 330SP than the 330ZHP. Anyone know if it's just a matter of removing some of the insulation between the engine compartment and the passenger compartment, or the insulation under the hood?

I need to hear that engine!

Regards,
Steve
2004 ZHP Hopefully
  #14  
Old 04-25-2003, 07:07 AM
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Nick325xiT 5spd Nick325xiT 5spd is offline
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Re: ZHP Music: Engine Noise

Quote:
Originally posted by slilley
OK, I'm dissapointed to hear that the sound from the engine is louder in the 330SP than the 330ZHP. Anyone know if it's just a matter of removing some of the insulation between the engine compartment and the passenger compartment, or the insulation under the hood?

I need to hear that engine!

Regards,
Steve
2004 ZHP Hopefully
That's not it... It's just that the ZHP has a really loud exhaust.
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  #15  
Old 04-25-2003, 07:27 AM
AF AF is offline
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Re: ZHP Music: Engine Noise

Quote:
Originally posted by slilley
OK, I'm dissapointed to hear that the sound from the engine is louder in the 330SP than the 330ZHP. Anyone know if it's just a matter of removing some of the insulation between the engine compartment and the passenger compartment, or the insulation under the hood?

I need to hear that engine!

Regards,
Steve
2004 ZHP Hopefully
I bet it has to do with the fact that the ZHP was so new . . . there is a point in time with these cars (usually around 4000 miles) that they get quicker and louder

I experienced this on both of my 330's.
  #16  
Old 04-25-2003, 05:59 PM
mkh's Avatar
mkh mkh is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by rumatt
Are there any advantages to the 330's suspension? If it gives up softness which causes body roll in the corners, does it gain anything in comfort while highway crusiing? I'd like to think that at least it gets something in return for the performance aspects that it gives up.
Yes there are, but not to everyone's liking. In all of my reviews, I always emphasized on "firm ride". The 330i doesn't have it at all. In fact, it will absorb most of the minor bumps so you don't feel much. The ZHP will go over those bumps with you together. That is "firm". But again, for me this is not harsh or uncomfortable.

So the advantage of the 330i's suspension is to give a softer ride, but I don't like. If you are coming from a Camry, you won't like the ZHP. I'm coming from a M3/4 and you should know what I prefer.
  #17  
Old 04-25-2003, 06:19 PM
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mkh mkh is offline
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Re: Re: ZHP vs M3/4 vs 330i Full Review (v. long)

Quote:
Originally posted by Jetfire
the engine is not simply detuned -- it's completely different
You are absolutely correct. What I wanted to say is "less powerful".
  #18  
Old 04-25-2003, 07:32 PM
AF AF is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by rumatt
Cool. This is what I figured. I just wanted to confirm that it was a tradeoff thing, and not that the 330 was bad all around.

I'm coming from a honda though, so the SP should be plenty for me. My next car can be the ZHP!
You could be coming from another BMW and you will still love your 330i. There is a very good reason why the 330i wins most of the comparison tests . . . it is an incredible car.

It is tough to explain but it sounds to me that if you like the E36 M3 ride then you will love the ZHP. I've driven the E36 M3 many times at length and this is NOT a car for everyone. I found the ride jarring on some roads and when you hit a bump, it goes through the whole car.
The one thing I did love about the E36 M3 was the feel of the torque and the steering.

OTOH My 330i is the perfect blend of performance and comfort. This car is truly amazing !! Rumatt . . .your going to love it.
  #19  
Old 04-25-2003, 10:07 PM
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pdz pdz is offline
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what a great review.

thanks!

that took a lot of time. it was well worth the read.

the funniest thing is that a bone stock 330i is really, really formidable. it's all relative.
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  #20  
Old 04-25-2003, 11:35 PM
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mkh mkh is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by pdz
the funniest thing is that a bone stock 330i is really, really formidable. it's all relative.
Thanks for all the comments. I did spend some time on it.

I think you guys are a little too insecure. I've never said that the 330i is bad. Please reread my review. As a matter of fact, I said that it is an outstanding car. ONLY compared to the ZHP side by side will it show its weaknesses. Had the ZHP not exist, I would definitely have got the 330i SP. No doubt about it. Just like AF330i said, "BMW took a great car (the 330i) and made it a notch better (the ZHP)".

So for those 330i owner or soon to be owner, you don't need to lose sleep because the ZHP came out. If the 330i best fits your needs, then it IS the greatest car for you, period.

Last edited by mkh; 04-26-2003 at 08:23 AM.
  #21  
Old 04-25-2003, 11:56 PM
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Patrick330i Patrick330i is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by AF330i
You could be coming from another BMW and you will still love your 330i. There is a very good reason why the 330i wins most of the comparison tests . . . it is an incredible car.

It is tough to explain but it sounds to me that if you like the E36 M3 ride then you will love the ZHP. I've driven the E36 M3 many times at length and this is NOT a car for everyone. I found the ride jarring on some roads and when you hit a bump, it goes through the whole car.
The one thing I did love about the E36 M3 was the feel of the torque and the steering.

OTOH My 330i is the perfect blend of performance and comfort. This car is truly amazing !! Rumatt . . .your going to love it.
I have to completely agree with this. Rumatt, don't even think for a second that you will not enjoy this or that with the 330. I have the "old" 330i with the 5-spd shifter. Sure, the throws are longer than I would like, but I have absolutely no complaints about the gearing. The review raises my curiosity about the ZHP, but at first blush, I'd be hesitant to spend the extra $$ for it vis-a-vis my current 330i.
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  #22  
Old 04-29-2003, 12:33 AM
CaliChris CaliChris is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by mkh
Yes there are, but not to everyone's liking. In all of my reviews, I always emphasized on "firm ride". The 330i doesn't have it at all. In fact, it will absorb most of the minor bumps so you don't feel much. The ZHP will go over those bumps with you together. That is "firm". But again, for me this is not harsh or uncomfortable.

So the advantage of the 330i's suspension is to give a softer ride, but I don't like. If you are coming from a Camry, you won't like the ZHP. I'm coming from a M3/4 and you should know what I prefer.
Haha, i'm sorry, but if you want firm.. Take a ride in my 350Z ..It makes my M3 SMG feel like a luxo-cruiser..lol
  #23  
Old 04-29-2003, 05:23 AM
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pdz pdz is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by CaliChris
Haha, i'm sorry, but if you want firm.. Take a ride in my 350Z ..It makes my M3 SMG feel like a luxo-cruiser..lol
how about a nice writeup (did i miss it) comparing the two cars, c-chris?
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  #24  
Old 04-29-2003, 07:51 AM
JPinTO JPinTO is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by TD
As far as the 330i ZHP vs M3/4 comments are concerned, your observations are consistent with what JST, SteveMD and I thought when we drove my M3/4 back to back with Steve's ZHP.

The ZHP is an excellent car. It comes closest to the E36 M3/4 feel of any E46 I've driven, although it still puts comfort ahead of pure raw feel. For me, I prefer the M3/4. But if I didn't already own it, I'd seriously consider a ZHP and I'm sure I'd be happy with it. (I just might have to remove the sound insulation under the hood so that I could hear the engine.)

Thanks for throwing a non-ZHP, post 2001 MY 330i w/SP into the mix. I am surprised, honestly, that the handling difference is THAT pronounced. I know that I thought the ZHP felt pretty damn good and that must explain it. My recollection of the handling feel of the 330i w/SP must not be that far off and I recall it being a soft, leaning pig too.

Now we just need a ZHP vs E46 M3 comparo.

I've got to say that the E46M3 is well beyond the ZHP in suspension, sound and steering feel. Of course, it goes without saying about the substantially more powerful motor.

The M3 is on a different playing field from any other E46 I've driven. All the others non-M E46s were so similar to each other. The M3 is very different.

I personally prefer the E46M3's overall feel to the single E36M3 that I've driven.


I'd say that the S54 motor completely transforms the E46. The linear power at the bottom end combined with a hyperactivity at the top end, yields a interesting mix.

I can get fuel economy and linearity that I'm accustomed to in my 2.5L by simply keeping the revs below 3500. When the circumstances permit, winding to 7000+ yields a feeling of acceleration that few cars can match... both aurally and in the pit of your gut.

My driving style on highway has become much more calm as you know that the machine can do virtually anything that is asked of it, with ease. Motor, gearbox, suspension, steering are combine to give you the edgiest E46 you've ever driven... edgier than the E36M3.

The 323/325's are like driving butter knives, the 330's--- Steak knives, the M3- scalpel.
  #25  
Old 04-29-2003, 07:54 AM
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JST JST is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by JPinTO
I've got to say that the E46M3 is well beyond the ZHP in suspension, sound and steering feel. Of course, it goes without saying about the substantially more powerful motor.

The M3 is on a different playing field from any other E46 I've driven. All the others non-M E46s were so similar to each other. The M3 is very different.

I personally prefer the E46M3's overall feel to the single E36M3 that I've driven.


I'd say that the S54 motor completely transforms the E46. The linear power at the bottom end combined with a hyperactivity at the top end, yields a interesting mix.

I can get fuel economy and linearity that I'm accustomed to in my 2.5L by simply keeping the revs below 3500. When the circumstances permit, winding to 7000+ yields a feeling of acceleration that few cars can match... both aurally and in the pit of your gut.

My driving style on highway has become much more calm as you know that the machine can do virtually anything that is asked of it, with ease. Motor, gearbox, suspension, steering are combine to give you the edgiest E46 you've ever driven... edgier than the E36M3.

The 323/325's are like driving butter knives, the 330's--- Steak knives, the M3- scalpel.
Different strokes, and so forth, but I certainly wouldn't describe the E46 M3 as "edgier" than the E36 M3. Faster, certainly. More competent, without question. But not edgier.
 

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