BMW Model ComparisonBMW

BMW E46 vs E90

If you’re shopping for a BMW, E46 models may be an attractive option – typically found for around affordable prices and in good condition However, E90 is also an option. So we have listed the differences between E46 and E90 for you.

The sixth generation 3-series is larger and longer than its predecessor; yet, it maintains the ideal blend of luxury and performance.

The differences between the BMW E46 and E90 , both belonging to the 3 Series but from different generations, reveals notable distinctions. The E46 (1998-2006) offered diverse body styles, including sedan, coupe, convertible, wagon, and a compact hatchback, celebrated for its remarkable driving dynamics with various inline-six engines.

The E90 (2005-2013), primarily available as a sedan, brought a more modern design with coupe and convertible variants (E92 and E93). It continued the 3 Series’ performance legacy with improved handling and advanced powertrains. Here some major features can be counted for E46 vs E90:

bmw e90


If you are searching for the ideal BMW to drive and enjoy, either the E46 or E90 models would make great options. Both cars offer similar handling and performance characteristics and both could serve well both daily and track usage; each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses.

If the price is right, an E90 may be an ideal choice. Reliability and engine power surpass that of its E46 counterpart; however, maintenance costs may be high and several issues with it such as its water pump failing can cause complete engine failure if left unfixed.

The price of an E46 may exceed that of an E90, but its classic appeal makes up for any difference in cost. More economical but less versatile than its more costly rival, an E46 will cost anywhere between $15k-20k depending on its condition and options available to it.

The sixth generation 3-series car, known as the F30, is larger and more luxurious than its predecessors. Additionally, its performance on racetrack corners is excellent while passengers benefit from more space in the back for their journeys. Unfortunately, its hydraulic power steering system was removed for weight savings purposes. Unfortunately this can alter steering feel significantly. It can be claimed that costs are not so different in terms of E46 vs E90.

Related Post: E46 Reliability


No matter if you need something sporty for daily driving or are interested in dual track use, the BMW 3-series makes an outstanding choice. Boasting sharp handling and luxury features at an incredible value, its E46 and F30 generations remain popular choices today.

Buy an older model to save some cash, but make sure it has been properly maintained and cared for. Engine performance is of utmost importance in any car; BMW’s E46’s N52 engine provides an example of an impressive and reliable powerplant equipped with their double VANOS system that utilizes solenoids to regulate oil flow to actuators that move the camshaft sprocket assembly.

The E46 chassis is also very good, though some of its newer models may experience excessive vibrations that can be felt through both steering wheel and transmission, weak rear suspension that becomes apparent during spirited driving, and gearbox “baulk ring” issues which cause it to select reverse gear automatically.

Both generations offer plenty of safety features and an aftermarket community dedicated to making them even better than stock. But for the latest tech, look no further than the F30 generation.

Related Post: E90 Reliability


BMW cars may have a reputation for unreliability, but that may not always be accurate. According to BMW Tuning, some older BMWs with older engines actually tend to be more reliable than newer powerplants – E90 non-turbocharged is a prime example – they enjoy strong following among enthusiasts and offer tremendous value on used car markets. When purchasing one it is vitally important that it checks for leaks or signs of overheating as well as smooth gearshift action prior to purchasing it.

While the E90 has slightly less horsepower than its E46 sibling, it remains an exceptionally reliable vehicle. It handles extremely well, while its chassis can withstand abuse. Beginner drivers will find the E90 suitable as track car experience increases; more experienced drivers may prefer something with lighter steering and shorter suspension travel; BMW recently also replaced their hydraulic power steering unit with an electronic unit; owners have reported lack of feel and responsiveness from it.

With these points, it can be considered that reliability of these models are close in terms of E46 vs E90.

Fuel economy can also be an issue with the E90. Gas mileage decreases significantly compared with that of an E46 and certain models can experience transmission problems. Furthermore, BMW made some unusual design decisions in this model such as adding a scuff plate inside the passenger cabin and more complicated folding roof mechanisms than usual.

Related Post: BMW E90 vs E92

BMW Safety


The E46 BMW 3-Series is an ideal car for drivers seeking an exciting driving experience. Packed with safety features like airbags and anti-lock brakes, as well as traction control to maintain vehicle stability during driving, its design makes this car aerodynamic with a low drag coefficient – this car truly excels!

The third generation 3 Series earned an exceptional Euro NCAP occupant safety rating, scoring four out of five stars for occupant safety testing. Its improved results were due to structural rigidity and attention paid to head and neck protection; however, pedestrian safety testing still fell short of expectations and could be further improved with its fourth-generation model.

In addition to an array of safety features, the E46 BMW 3 Series boasts an ergonomic interior with fold-down rear seats. Additionally, its engine provides efficient performance. In terms of convenience options such as rain sensors and Xenon lights.

When purchasing a used BMW E46, be sure to inspect its water pump for signs of leakage as a leaking water pump can lead to serious engine damage. Also inspect bushes in front suspension wishbones for wear and tear and listen for clunking when going over speed bumps if it features run-flat tires.

Final Thoughts for E46 vs E90

In terms of interior and technology, the E46 featured a well-appointed but less advanced interior, while the E90 introduced modern materials and sophisticated infotainment systems. The E90 also excelled in safety, incorporating advanced features like enhanced airbag systems and stability control, surpassing the E46’s era-appropriate safety standards.

While the E46 retained a timeless, elegant design, the E90 embraced contemporary styling in line with BMW’s evolving design language. Ultimately, your choice depends on whether you prioritize modern features and technology (E90) or classic design and driving dynamics (E46).

Juan Gibson

Juan is an automotive engineer and an avid car enthusiast. He has over 15 years of experience in the car industry. In my free time, I write blog posts about cars, models and etc.

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