There is no doubt that the E46 is still an awesome car, they have well and truly stood the test of time. The E46 M3 with its wide arches and M3 mirrors looks incredibly aggressive, some may argue more so than the later E92?
It has to be said however that the sound system and Navigation system are pretty lacking by today’s standards, so we have developed a few modifications to overcome this...
BMW E 46 Double Din Navigation Upgrade
If we remove the factory Navigation system or standard audio system it is now possible to install a Double DIN Navigation System. The system shown above is the latest Pioneer SAT-NAV which gives touch screen, DVD, USB, Ipod, Speed Camera Warning, 7 digit postcode recognition, DAB radio and Bluetooth.
The install takes around a day as the air box behind the factory unit has to be modified. If the car was equipped with sat-nav then the entire audio system has to be rewired to replace the factory amplifiers etc.
If it’s a cabriolet, then we replace the factory whip antenna with a dual band DAB aerial which works incredibly well and looks almost identical to the original BMW aerial.
If it’s a coupe or saloon then we use a very discreet internal glass DAB aerial which is also very effective.
The sound quality and power of the Pioneer unit is greatly improved over the BMW system and we are also able to integrate to the steering wheel controls.
The photo shows E46 M3 with BMW logo programed into Pioneer 7” touch screen Navigation system for an OE look.
BMW E46 Audio Upgrades
It's always good practice to upgrade the source unit in the E46, we can however carry out audio upgrades using the factory units.
The front speakers are a 6.5” component and there are lots of options for upgrading, Focal 165 KRS work particularly well as they are very slim and fit nicely without too much modification. As always the door and door card benefit from sound proofing with Dynamat.
The photo shows the Focal 165 KRS slim components mounted to the Dynamated E46 door panel prior to sealing the mid bass unit with a silicone bead for good measure.
We would normally use the JL Audio XD 500/3 to drive the system, one of our favourite amps.
This is a very powerful compact 3 channel amp used to drive the subwoofer and the front components. Its compact size allows it to be nicely hidden away behind the boot trim panel!
The first photo shows JL Audio 500/3 hidden behind boot trim in an E46 M3. The second photo shows JL Audio 8” compact subwoofer mounted in E46 boot, good bass output without losing too much load space.
There are many subwoofer options depending on the amount of bass you require and how much boot space you can sacrifice. In a cabriolet a great solution is to mount a 10” sub behind the rear arm rest, this produces good bass with no loss of space whatsoever.
We create an 18mm baffle and Dynamat the rear bulk head completely, using the boot as an enclosure.
Above is an example of a slightly more extreme installation, here we create a “vent baffle” rather than an enclosure, this allowed the output of 3 x 10” subwoofers to be pumped through the ski hatch, this was an amazing system with the amp in a custom panel in the boot floor.
We have fitted literally hundreds of sound systems to E46 BMWs with some staggering results!
Feel free to call for further details or to discuss the many options available.
Customer Review, E46 M3 Audio Upgrade
I have - over my too many years - had a number of nice cars and and fitted good quality stereos many of them. If you are reading this then I am sure you both enjoy your music, your car, and understand the difference to your car journey that good music can make. And if you live or work around London you will also agree that a good way to survive the daily pain of the M25 is by having your favourite playlist pumping out a classic from a ‘home hi-fi quality’ car stereo.
I currently have a BMW E46 M3 - in English that’s a 2003 model which started out life as a £50k performance car. Now, 10 years on you can pick this type of car up for less than £10k. But if a car's value can be measured in fun per mile - these things are up there with some of the best around (which is probably why they're still in the top insurance group!). Touring through Europe in this thing is a total pleasure and as I had a trip to Germany pending and because the standard BMW stereo was pretty awful and I decided to see what I could do to improve things... Anyway, whatever your choice of car or its value - even if it’s only a few grand, your experience will be much better with some good music to keep you company. You can always get the 'sexy new car stereo' moved into your next car if things go that way.
I had looked online first and was amazed and disappointed at how few 'proper' car stereo installers there are around. Of course there were the low end car part suppliers offering basic systems with 'installations from £30' (you know them - they sell headlight bulbs, bikes and touch up paint too...) and that was the last thing I wanted. Specialist car stereo installers seem to be in a niche market and I would strongly recommend that you travel that bit further if necessary to get what you really want.
One of the top Google hits I found was 'Audiofile-incar'. They had an impressive website so I dropped in to have a chat to see what my options were.
Lots of people reading this will have a car worth £50k or more in their drive. Regardless of what car gets you from A to B you will probably be worrying about the same things as I did...
Can you be sure that you can entrust your expensive vehicle to these guys?
Will it look ok in the dash?
Will it integrate properly with my steering wheel controls?
Will it ‘talk to my IPhone' properly?
If I do follow my heart and have a lovely subwoofer unit and amp fitted will it make my already meagre boot space completely unusable? (and will this cause friction between you and your better half?!).
These were all things on my mind as I walked in to the shop. And as I chatted to Dave behind the counter my concerns dissipated one by one. They had done some lovely work on a variety of lovely cars. They knew the challenges here and there with installing a 'dual DIN' unit in my particular BMW dashboard. Dave already knew the best configuration for the door mounted speakers and they offered a solution to my boot space worry - an easily removable sub-woofer for the very occasional trip to the shops when we had big items to carry...
Something I had not really grasped previously was the criticality of the sound insulation in the doors when upgrading a car stereo. Dave was adamant about this and it was very clear from my chat that they sell entire audio 'solutions' and aren't simply selling the stereo kit itself with the install being an afterthought.
Another nice touch is Audiofile-incar offer you free a courtesy car whilst yours is being done. That of course makes a big difference to the logistics - especially if you have taken my advice and travelled a fair way to get the right guys to do this work.
Anyway I made my choices, left my car with them and drove off looking forward to 'collection time' 3 days later... During this I had a couple of calls from the guys to keep me informed of progress on the install. And when the time came to collect the car I was impressed with their thorough post installation ‘intro to your new stereo’ session. The last thing you should be doing is trying to navigate around a new stereo whilst driving! Gary was insistent that he find a nice, high resolution "BMW M Power" jpeg off the web to show as the Pioneer screen starts up - a nice touch. So I had my briefing, selected my playlist then headed off home with a smile on my face....
Key points then:
- I would recommend these guys very highly.
- Trust your instincts and don't leave your pride and joy with a low level stereo installer who can throw the kit in for a 'fiver' in 30 minutes! Take some time to choose your installer and be willing to travel.
- Don't think you should only fit a good stereo to an expensive car - they can transform an inexpensive car too.
- From my experience I would now say that you should seriously consider allowing budget for a quality installation with as much sound insulation as they can fit. It would be foolish to focus only on the speaker upgrade themselves - my doors now sound much more solid when closing them and you can really notice the big improvement in bass from this type of detail.
- Enjoy your music!