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I’ve been looking for a used car to replace the V as I need to improve my cash flow. So far I’ve driven:

2001 Audi TT 225
2001 Audi S4
2002 Saleen S281 Supercharged
2003 Cobra SVT Supercharged
1999 BMW M3

I live in Salt Lake City with a base elevation of 4,200 feet, so I’m sold on forced induction as the power loss is much less than with NA. I was disappointed with the Saleen. Even with the Supercharger it didn’t pull like the V, plus the quality seems cheap. The TT is fun and with a chip you can get 260 hp. But I hear that they destruct at 60k. The S4 has nice power but styling is BLAH. Now the Cobra has potential. It pulls nice in stock trim, and with a smaller pulley, Eibach lowering springs and sway bars, it could be a lot of fun. But it still has cheap Ford quality. The M3 really surprised me. With only 240 hp, if felt much quicker than I would have thought. Plus the M3 has that BMW quality feel. So I think that I’m going to look for a used M3, hopefully with a supercharger to replace the V.
 

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Lemon Law'd '05 V
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STiC,
I've driven many E36 M3s and the kate '90s are great. If you look, you can find a sedan, great car with 4 doors. The M3 is not a power monster but the car feels sneaky...faster than it should. With a few tweaks, you can really add to the punch...but its expensive.
The real beauty of the E36 is in the handling. Make sure you check the rear top-mounts, as they crack the frame and some have punched right through the mounting points. There are TOO many companies that have raced the M with great success and there are very proven equations to make the car a real animal in autox/track.

Active Autowerks makes a S/C for the M and it adds a good deal of power, but it is VERY expensive to get right. Be patient and you'll find a good one.
Good luck,
ace
 

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I owned a 1998 M3/4 and they are really special cars. I still hold a place in my heart for them, that is for sure. More special than even the E39 M5, IMHO. But they are dogs compared to the V in the power dept. Will blow us away in the tight twisties and probably close to a wash in the fast corners too. Amazing cars. I got the opportunity to take my old car aroung THill earlier this year - buddy now owns it and has modded the suspension with coil overs and sway bars. It was not quite as fast as my Z06, but it didn't give up much in most corners, gave up tons on the straights mind you - but was still a very crisp and rewarding drivers car. I would not throw one out of my garage. I'd rather have a E36 M3 in there than an E39 M5. Of course, probably would still pick a new E46 M3 over the older model, but it is hard to beat the value for the money in the E36 right now as you can find a great car for ~$20K. Now, that said - you will miss the V, and I would rather own the V than any of the BMW's mentioned. But if you must do it for financial reasons, I think you would be happiest with the E36 M3 from your list of possible replacements above.

Scott
 

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Correct me if I am wrong, but I don't think a supercharger is any better at altitude than a natural motor. A turbocharger with a wastegate is the only one to come close to matching sea level performance because it keeps adding air until the wastegate says it is correct.

A supercharger can't do that.
 

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From the cars you listed, I am guessing you want to spend $15-26K?

Have you considered a LS1 GTO? You can find them for $19-23K. I have even seen slightly used LS2 GTO's for $25-26K.

The S4 and M3 can become maintenance nightmares if they were abused. I have had friends with both cars and it is a true love/hate relationship.
 

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I have owned 4 M cars including an E36 M3 and can tell you that it is a wonderful machine and that they are a great value now. With a few mods, they really come into their own. I good suspension, intake, exhaust and differential swap makes them rockets on the street and monsters on the track. Granted they don't have the power of the V but the braking performance and balance is hard to beat and is second to none in the $15-19K range! In fact, with the right well placed mods, the E36 is far more fun than the E46.

There is a fully prepared '02 M Coupe that sits in the garage right next to my V. The Coupe is my favorite ride around town and on the track, the V is for blasting down the highway and moving people in a big hurry...gotta love that torque!
 

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300 SRT8, 392 cubic inches of tire smoking power!
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M3 is fun, but you can get a GTO, I've seen them from $16 - $19 with very low miles (under 25,000).

V8 V8 V8

My wife drives a 6cyl, it's a chick thing.
 

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My Borther-in law has a 2004 M3 Conv., that car is a blast to drive through the gears. Super handling on the New England curves!
 

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'cept the 04 was an E46 and a 2004 vert is in the 45k neighborhood on price!

I too had a 98 M3 four door. Loved the car. Many days wish I didn't sell it. FWIW, however, the power out of contemporary standard cars outshines it though. My current 05 Gcoupe has more hp and torque and handles almost identically. But if you have to conserve capital, it's a great car because it's bulletproof (except those rear top shock mounts - and even that can be redone).

Good luck to ya!
 

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OMG!! The e36 M3 is so NOT bullet proof. Depending on mileage, you will have to replace: the clutch, the rear shock mounts (one time with aftermarket parts and they should not wear out again), the water pump, the radiator, the thermostat housing, the shocks (seem to last 40k max), the transmission (or try a fix for the lever resting under fifth gear instead of third), and . . . maybe that's it. I also changed the transmission mounts on mine to avoid potential money shifts.

If it has power windows, you will also have BMW window regulators. They will break eventually.

On the other hand, tires will be slightly less expensive b/c they are 17s. They are also a normal size, so you will have lots of options. :)

I sold an e36 M3 to buy the V. You will miss the power. But if you like the luxury aspect of the V, you are going to miss the interior and features just as much. The e36 was a pretty basic car and the interior is dated and the car lacks a lot of luxury options we seem to take for granted now. They are great cars, but I can't say I miss it.

If you were happy with the S4, you should try a 330. Similar power, RWD (and yes, I think the S4 drives like a front wheel drive, nose heavy car), less overall problems (I think) than the e36, higher on the luxury scale then the e36. On the other hand, I traded a 330 for the e36 M3. From a driver's standpoint, the e36 is a better car.
 
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