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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 05-25-2005, 05:35 PM
MCoupeD MCoupeD is offline
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E46 330Ci ZHP or E36 M3?

Previous owners inputs are much appreciated. As the thread title would indicate, I'm at a crux here, trying to decide between an E46 330Ci ZHP and an E36 M3. The worst part is, I'm overseas right now, and need to make the decision on whether to put down a deposit on a nice 99 M3, or hold off to order the ZHP when I get back. I've never driven the ZHP, so I'm not sure how/if they can even be compared. I love the luxury and comfort of the regular E46 330, but the M3 was always so exhilarating and engaging.

Do the increased power, shorter final drive, six speed, etc make the ZHP at all comparable to an E36 M3 in terms of driving dynamics and overall sportiness? Am I comparing apples to oranges?

If you get a moment, please help this desperate serviceman out!
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  #2  
Old 05-25-2005, 05:53 PM
drallafi drallafi is offline
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Get the 330. Warranties are good.
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  #3  
Old 05-25-2005, 06:13 PM
MCoupeD MCoupeD is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drallafi
Get the 330. Warranties are good.
True, but I got a VW last year instead of the NICEST 99 M3 because I wanted a warranty. For the last year I've done nothing but LUST after an M3!!!

Will the ZHP satisfy my cravings? That's the question!
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87 325is Track Project
2004.5 Jetta GLI 1.8T FOR SALE!
Hunting for a healthy E36 M3

My Ex-es:
2000 Cosmos M Coupe
2003 WRX
1998 328i
... and many more!
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  #4  
Old 05-25-2005, 07:38 PM
drallafi drallafi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MCoupeD
True, but I got a VW last year instead of the NICEST 99 M3 because I wanted a warranty. For the last year I've done nothing but LUST after an M3!!!

Will the ZHP satisfy my cravings? That's the question!
Hmm... probably not. It's not as raw and visceral as the M3, although it's just as fast. I'd pick the 330 too because of the ride quality. But that's just me.
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  #5  
Old 05-25-2005, 07:41 PM
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Chris90 Chris90 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MCoupeD
True, but I got a VW last year instead of the NICEST 99 M3 because I wanted a warranty. For the last year I've done nothing but LUST after an M3!!!

Will the ZHP satisfy my cravings? That's the question!
Get a used E46 M3, then you get a warranty, comfort and the excitement of the '99, all for less than a new ZHP coupe.

I found the ZHP 330i to be a bit bland compared to an E36 M3. E46 M3 was better than both though.
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  #6  
Old 05-25-2005, 08:07 PM
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RSPDiver RSPDiver is offline
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Good luck finding the exact ZHP you want (new) the longer you wait. You can shop the barely used and CPO markets, I suppose. The 330 ZHP is a fantastic car, but falls short of the M3 in purpose-built performance and exclusivity. But, I think it would likely be a better daily driver, especially given the warranty. What do you want it for? Garage queen that you take out on Sundays? Couple days a week fun car? Or Daily Grind-mobile?
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  #7  
Old 05-25-2005, 09:07 PM
allaboutme allaboutme is offline
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Exclusitivity? A used '99 M3 puts the car at a price bracket much lower than a new 330ci. They may have been more exclusive when new, but not anymore. Moreover, if you want exclusitivity, get a wagon. In certain months, the M3 coupe (e46) has outsold the 330i.

I personally don't like the e36, so I suggest the e46 for the better platform and warranty. But these choices are always personal so drive both and get whichever you want once you've sorted your priorities.
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  #8  
Old 05-25-2005, 09:11 PM
amt7565 amt7565 is offline
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Get any e46 model. It'sa no brainer!
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  #9  
Old 05-25-2005, 09:11 PM
MCoupeD MCoupeD is offline
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I need more cowbell, too.

It would be routine transport (but I drive everything hard - within the speed limit - so I want something that can take it/keep up). Really, the more work that goes into the 87 325is, the quicker it gets and the more it becomes the zip-around car. So in that sense, the ZHP makes more sense... why have two rough-and-tumble cars? But with the ZHP and the 325is in the garage, the fact remains that there's no M! I have thought about getting a ZHP, selling the 87, and buying a used 95 M3... but that's a lot of scratch.

I know the warranty is a big issue. But here's a thought. IF the most expensive part of the M3 goes, it will be about $10k to replace. IF it goes. Add that to what I'd pay for the car ~$20K), and I still come out paying less than a CPO-ed 330 ZHP.


Quote:
Originally Posted by RSPDiver
Good luck finding the exact ZHP you want (new) the longer you wait. You can shop the barely used and CPO markets, I suppose. The 330 ZHP is a fantastic car, but falls short of the M3 in purpose-built performance and exclusivity. But, I think it would likely be a better daily driver, especially given the warranty. What do you want it for? Garage queen that you take out on Sundays? Couple days a week fun car? Or Daily Grind-mobile?
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  #10  
Old 05-25-2005, 10:09 PM
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wag-zhp wag-zhp is offline
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If the e36 ///M3 is a Euro-spec version, there is no question about which car to get! The Euro-spec e36 ///M3 is far superior to an e46 ZHP equipped car.

If you're talking about a US-spec e36 ///M3 -vs- an e46 ZHP equipped car, it's a toss up. The e36 provides more pure steering feedback and has a slight edge in torque and HP, but lacks the refinement of the e46 platform. The new car has more safety features, creature comforts, and is a more solid platform. They are pretty evenly matched according to all of the published performance numbers, although the ///M3 is a little faster around most race tracks.

Both are excellent cars, and if the e36 is in good shape, you can't go wrong with either. I went with the newer car for all of the above reasons, plus the warranty and service plan. If I had time to work on a car that might need an occasional repair or adjustment, and didn't need my car to be a daily driver, every day, I would have chosen an e36 ///M3.
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  #11  
Old 05-25-2005, 11:18 PM
MCoupeD MCoupeD is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wag-zhp
If the e36 ///M3 is a Euro-spec version, there is no question about which car to get! The Euro-spec e36 ///M3 is far superior to an e46 ZHP equipped car.

Finally, another servicemember! Current or former?

Alas, the 99 is a US Spec. I've owned an E36 328, and I passed at least one E36 M3 in it at the track - I know a car is only as good as its driver. I'm less concerned about which would give faster lap times than I am about how much I will enjoy the car!

The 328 seemed far more refined than the 96 Jetta GLX it replaced (no surprise there). I replaced the 3 with an M Coupe... totally raw and engaging. I figure the E36 chassis I'm familiar with/fond of, combined with the 3.2L S52's grunt would provide the 'perfect' car for me. I do have time to work on things, and have a secondary car if I were to need one.

However, there is the allure of a NEW car with NUMBERS similar to those of the E36 M3. Numbers aren't subjective. I drove a Subaru Legacy GT Limited (250hp, similar 60-0 braking numbers to the E36 M3), but found that it was numb and un-exciting. If I was back in the US right now instead of the Middle East, I'd head straight to a dealership and drive a ZHP. In reality, I shouldn't even be trying to make this decision without having driven a ZHP. HOWEVER (lots of 'howevers' here), I have an opportunity to get a 99 M3 that either needs to be taken or passed on soon.

If I follow my passions, I'd have to go for the M. If I follow my brain, I'd have to wait.
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... and many more!
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  #12  
Old 05-26-2005, 06:53 AM
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Eric Giles Eric Giles is offline
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My comments mirror what some others have mentioned, but I will throw them in the ring anyway.

I recently replaced my '97 E36 M3 sedan with a '05 330i ZHP. Due to the market, I have had a tough time selling the E36 so I have had both cars to drive for the past two months (although I finally sold the E36 and it will go to its new owner this weekend). Note I have owned two other E46's previously ('00 323Ci and '02 330i) and two E30's ('90 325iS and '90 M3) so I have a good grasp of the differences between some of the generations.

The E46 does have a much more solid body structure and the quality of parts and materials is much better than the E36. Refinement and smoothness is much better also. But for pure driving feel and overall fun, the E36 wins hands down. Even with stock suspension, the E36 M3 handles much flatter than the 330i ZHP. And although the performance numbers are similar between the two, the E36 feels much quicker at all RPM's. To me the 330i ZHP feels almost 'slow'-but I know that is a result of it being much quieter and having a flat, linear power delivery. Regardless, the M3 is much 'torquier'-and that makes a big difference when in 5th gear at highway speeds.

I could go on, but really you need to drive both yourself. I was so tired of the relatively cheap build quality of the E36 and poorer reliability that I decided that another E46 was exactly what I needed. Now I realize I am really going to miss driving it, as the 330i ZHP is just not the same car-regardless of how close they are supposed to be. I am already contemplating what I can do to the 330i to get it close in the feel and performance department-3.46 diff, aftermarket sway bars, underdrive crank pulley, etc.-but in the end the E36 M3 as an overall package is very very good and is hard to match.
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  #13  
Old 05-26-2005, 07:48 AM
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stylinexpat stylinexpat is offline
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I would get the ZHP, looks much more modern inside. If you want more feedback, do what I did. Get a 3.38 Diff and pop a LSD in it. Also put some COMP SSR wheels on it. Don't forget the manual transmission. Car runs like a dream. If you need more power get the Supercharger put on it. That will give you more then you could need. Well tuned with a Supercharger that car can come down to mid 4 seconds from 0-60 along with the full exhaust system on it. Car is lots of fun to drive.
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  #14  
Old 05-26-2005, 11:55 AM
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wag-zhp wag-zhp is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MCoupeD
Finally, another servicemember! Current or former?
Former. I left active service back in '87, and then spent 2 years in the reserves. Which branch are you in?

Now here's an idea... If the ///M3 is really a sweet deal and is in good condition, buy it now. Then when you get back into the states, test drive a couple of ZHP equiped cars and see how YOU think they compare to the ///M3. If you're impressed enough to want a ZHP I'm pretty sure you could turn around and sell the ///M3 for close to what you bought it for, or maybe even trade it in at a dealer. (It should be pretty much depreciated by now, or enough so that you won't get burned like you would if it were only 1 - 3 years old.)
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  #15  
Old 05-26-2005, 12:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MCoupeD
Previous owners inputs are much appreciated.
I had 2 E36 M3s before the 330i ZHP, a coupe and a sedan. The M3s were quicker and a little more fun to drive. More sound, more vibration, more feedback. Generally a more connected car. The downside was average ride quality (by today's standards) and fairly cheap looking and feeling interior.. comfort related stuff that's nice to have on a daily commute.

The E46 ZHP is a little slower, handles about the same and not quite as involving to drive, but still better than the non-BMW alternatives on the market. It is quiet and more refined than the M3s, but still has a nice edge when you push it hard. I gladly take the 330 on long trips, whereas the M3s wear you down after a long day behind the wheel. No question, the ZHP is the better daily driver.

Bottom line is the M3 will take you slightly closer to the sport side of the sport/comfort balance. The ZHP delivers 90% of the fun, but adds a nice dose of refinement the E36 simply didn't have.

But you're in luck because whatever car you choose, you will be happy. They are both great cars.
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  #16  
Old 05-26-2005, 02:12 PM
adc adc is offline
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I used to own a nice 98 M3 which I sold when our family auto-incremented. I needed a calmer ride and most of all 4 doors, so the (then newly emerging) ZHP made a lot of sense as it ticked off most of the boxes.

After living with the ZHP for a couple of years, I think it's a good follow-up act to the 98 M3, with areas in which it is better and areas where it lacks (as others have pointed). When you drive the M3 and ZHP back-to-back you can clearly feel the same DNA in the cars, with the M3 a more alert drive and the ZHP a more refined one.

The E36 M3 is better at:
1. More torque down low for powering away from those smug ZHPs.
2. Tighter suspension with more feedback.
3. LSD.
4. Better sounding CD player (clearer).

The ZHP is better at:
1. More power up top for catching up the pesky M3s.
2. Calmer suspension actually makes it faster on certain track sections.
3. More comfortable (is this a plus for you, or a minus?)
4. Better turn-in. Well this is my opinion anyway.

Here are some relatively cheap mods that in my opinion you need to make to a ZHP even before the break-in is completed:
1. Clutch stop. Cheap and immensely effective.
2. CDV removal. Do a search for these keywords on the forum and you'll find a lot of info on this.
3. M strut tower bar.
4. Any short-tube intake. Well any CAI will probably do, so it's mostly a matter of build quality, price and sound.
5. A set of swaybars. (Not sure about this one, depends what you want from the car).
6. A shorter rear end. (Not sure about this one either - depends again what you want the car for).

Mods 1 - 5 should run you under a grand and will transform the ZHP where it needs it most, if you want to make it more similar to the E36 M3. Mine now growls enthusiastically under hard acceleration, has acceptable clutch feel & travel, superb braking on rough terrain and carries me in utmost comfort with MP3 CDs playing in the background. I mean I do miss the E36 M3 sometimes, but most of the time I miss not having an E46 M3.

What matters more to you?

If you have any more specific questions feel free to PM me.

adc
03 330 ZHP
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  #17  
Old 05-26-2005, 03:11 PM
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norihaga norihaga is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drallafi
Hmm... probably not. It's not as raw and visceral as the M3, although it's just as fast. I'd pick the 330 too because of the ride quality. But that's just me.
I have to agree. The E36 M3 is a much rawer experience than any E46. More noise, different ergonomics, completely different attitude. Not refined at all, except maybe compared to an M Coupe. Sounds like what you really want is the M3.

Edit: at this stage, I think an E36 M car will hold its value much better over the next year than a ZHP. Seems to me folks who want shiny bling and a smooth ride would rather buy a new E90 325/330 than a used ZHP. But there's no new M3 out yet, and the M cars all have little cults of their own, so the value should be stable for a while yet.

Last edited by norihaga; 05-26-2005 at 03:17 PM.
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  #18  
Old 05-26-2005, 08:04 PM
MCoupeD MCoupeD is offline
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Thank you everyone!!! You've done a great job answering my questions, and this thread didn't break down into bickering on unrelated topics like whether the C6's engine was better than an S54... you all stayed right on topic!!!

To offer an idea of the kind of driver I am, and what I can tolerate, I drove my M Coupe from WA to AZ in two days straight... it was a great drive and I never felt fatigued (the seats are amazing)... and that car was far more raw than an E36 M3 (and mine was on a stiffer suspension). I think the M3 will do me just fine. I don't need a lot of refinement (mostly for the woman).

So far, the dealership isn't showing much flexibility in pricing (I'm sure in most cases negotiating is best done in person, not via email from halfway around the world), so I think the M3 is winning there, too.

WAG-ZHP: I'll take your advice and drive one when I get back... rolling up to the dealership in the M3! And... I'm a Navy Lieutenant...
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  #19  
Old 05-26-2005, 08:21 PM
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RSPDiver RSPDiver is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MCoupeD
I'm a Navy Lieutenant...
So sorry to hear that.

AOC(EOD/SW) here

Glad you got the feed back you need, and stay safe till you get back home, bro! Er, I mean sir.
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Old 05-26-2005, 08:27 PM
mschupp mschupp is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MCoupeD
I'm a Navy Lieutenant...
Go for a CPO E46 M3. You're an O-3, you can pull it off. I''m an Army Captain, I know what your pay grade is. Get hot. Plus, all that jing you've saved up over there? You do realize you can get an '01 or so M3 for $40k. How much more is that than what you'd pay for the ZHP?
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  #21  
Old 05-26-2005, 11:06 PM
MCoupeD MCoupeD is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RSPDiver
So sorry to hear that.

AOC(EOD/SW) here

Glad you got the feed back you need, and stay safe till you get back home, bro! Er, I mean sir.
Thanks man (chief)!

I look forward to being back in a somewhat moderate climate...
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87 325is Track Project
2004.5 Jetta GLI 1.8T FOR SALE!
Hunting for a healthy E36 M3

My Ex-es:
2000 Cosmos M Coupe
2003 WRX
1998 328i
... and many more!
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  #22  
Old 05-26-2005, 11:17 PM
MCoupeD MCoupeD is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mschupp
Go for a CPO E46 M3. You're an O-3, you can pull it off. I''m an Army Captain, I know what your pay grade is. Get hot. Plus, all that jing you've saved up over there? You do realize you can get an '01 or so M3 for $40k. How much more is that than what you'd pay for the ZHP?
Schupp-ster...

I know there's a fair delta in the prices of an E46 M3 and a new ZHP... the reliability and repair/maintenance costs of the S54 (post-warranty and paid service period) are enough to ward me off, though. Whatever car I get needs to be a long-termer... no more of this car s1ut thing I've been doing over the last few years.

On top of that, I'm looking at a piece of hardware for the likely future mrs., and a house soon, so economy is a consideration...

Overall, I think the only reason I'd think about a new BMW right now would be in order to do the European delivery thing while BMW still makes cars I find attractive! Hmmm... sounds like a nice honeymoon trip with the lady.... food for thought!
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87 325is Track Project
2004.5 Jetta GLI 1.8T FOR SALE!
Hunting for a healthy E36 M3

My Ex-es:
2000 Cosmos M Coupe
2003 WRX
1998 328i
... and many more!

Last edited by MCoupeD; 05-26-2005 at 11:19 PM.
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  #23  
Old 05-27-2005, 08:29 AM
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Chris90 Chris90 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stylinexpat
I would get the ZHP, looks much more modern inside. If you want more feedback, do what I did. Get a 3.38 Diff and pop a LSD in it. Also put some COMP SSR wheels on it. Don't forget the manual transmission. Car runs like a dream. If you need more power get the Supercharger put on it. That will give you more then you could need. Well tuned with a Supercharger that car can come down to mid 4 seconds from 0-60 along with the full exhaust system on it. Car is lots of fun to drive.
How did it feel when you put the lightweight rims on it?

What kind of diff can you put in a 330i, from a Z4 or something? How much did it cost you?
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  #24  
Old 05-27-2005, 08:31 AM
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Nick325xiT 5spd Nick325xiT 5spd is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dawg90
How did it feel when you put the lightweight rims on it?

What kind of diff can you put in a 330i, from a Z4 or something? How much did it cost you?
Limited Slip Diffs are all either custom built, or full M3 driveline swaps. The is no factory LSD that can be retrofitted relatively inexpensively.
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  #25  
Old 05-27-2005, 08:36 AM
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Chris90 Chris90 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MCoupeD
Overall, I think the only reason I'd think about a new BMW right now would be in order to do the European delivery thing while BMW still makes cars I find attractive!
You're too late, L.T.
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