The BMW M3 has held the title as the benchmark sports car ever since it hit the road in 1986. It has seen all different kinds of engines over the years, from an inline-four to an inline-six, even a V8, but the latest iteration does work with a straight six with a pair of turbos. Of all the M3s throughout the generations, the peak of the car’s existence is the E46, built from 2000-2006. It was the last relatively analog M3, and it struck the perfect balance between power, weight and handling, more often than not, is still used as a litmus test for modern performance cars.

Aside from the original M3, the E46 might be the next most sought-after car in the family tree, which is why this black-on-black 2005 M3 with just under 16,000 miles on the clock, could be the best of the best. The previous owner took immaculate care of this car and it’s nearly spotless. When new — and this car basically is — it produced 333 horsepower and 262 lb?ft torque from the naturally aspirated 3.2-liter straight-six which screamed to an 8,000 rpm redline. There was an SMG semi-automatic gearbox available as an option, but luckily this particular M3 is fitted with a six-speed manual because that’s the way the Bavarian driving gods intended it to be.

Aside from the ideal factory fittings, the previous owner saw fit to upgrade the suspension, but most importantly he addressed the E46’s key problem area, the VANOS variable valve timing system. At first, failure of the VANOS system leads to loss of power, but if left unchecked it only gets worse, leading to non-starts and eventually engine failure and damage. The preemptive fix and upgrade is just another reason this M3 is such a draw. And if the 15,000-mile manual 2005 M3 wasn’t enough of a time capsule for you, the pièce de résistance is the BMW Motorolla flip phone and center console charging dock. The perfect BMW M3 does exist, and this is it.

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