MODEL: 1999 to 2005 BMW 3-Series
VEHICLE TYPE: Premium sedan, coupe, wagon or convertible
APPROXIMATE USED PRICE RANGE: $7,000 to $30,000

HISTORY/DESCRIPTION: The fourth generation of BMW’s iconic 3-Series was on sale from 1999 to 2005 in Canada. Fans, enthusiasts and BMW engineers refer to this body style as the “E46.”

All Wheel Drive (AWD) was available on many 3-Series models, designated by an “xi” addition to the vehicle’s name. This references BMW’s automatic “X-Drive” AWD system, which amounts to a winter driving weapon for motorists who are active all year round.

Under the hood, shoppers will find a variety of inline six-cylinder engines. These range in displacement from 2.2 to 3.0 litres, and generate between 168 and 230 horsepower
The 2.5 litre engine (325i) is commonly touted as the best blend between power and mileage. The larger 3.0 litre powerplant (330i) is more muscular and ideal for the serious driving enthusiast.

WHAT OWNERS LIKE: 3-Series owners love the sportiness, status and refinement of their machines. The variety of body styles, decent fuel mileage and award-winning history are other factors of influence, as are safety ratings and brand loyalty.

WHAT OWNERS HATE: Owners commonly complain about limited storage compartments within the cabin, flimsy front-seat cupholders and limited headroom for taller occupants. Back seat space is reportedly tight for grown-ups, too. High maintenance costs and a wimpy factory stereo round up the gripes.

COMMON ISSUES: Key in a 3-Series test drive is ensuring all interior accessories work as intended. This includes the climate control system, sunroof and all windows. When operating the windows, note that a clicking sound likely means the regulators will soon require replacement.

Mechanically, last-generation 3-Series looks fairly solid. Some complaints pop up about slipping automatic transmissions, though this should be fairly noticeable on a test drive.

If the transmission is slipping, kindly thank the seller and move to another vehicle.

Avoid models heavily modified with aftermarket parts.

THE VERDICT: The adage “if you wanna play, you gotta pay” is valid here. Strong resale values mean 3-Series isn’t the cheapest machine to buy or maintain — though it’s arguably the most beautiful to drive.