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CSL light: Klaus Huber’s BMW M3 E46 with Competition package.

A rarity in the hands of a real enthusiast: BMW M engineer Klaus Huber on his BMW M3 E46 with Competition package.

5 October 2023

There are cars that live in the shadow of their larger, more powerful or faster relatives. Often unjustly, as is the case with the BMW M3 E46 Competition belonging to BMW M development engineer Klaus Huber proves. The model is not just timelessly beautiful and M typically fast, it is impressively rare in this configuration. We met the driving dynamics expert and M3 enthusiast for an interview.

Klaus Huber and his BMW M3 E46 with Competition package.Klaus Huber and his BMW M3 E46 with Competition package.
The BMW M3 has always been BMW M development engineer Klaus Huber's dream car.

BMW M Magazine: Mr. Huber, you’re the owner of a BMW M3 E46 with Competition package. Tell us about it!

Klaus Huber: The BMW M3 is and always has been my dream car. And the M3 E46 model was a particular favourite: small, compact, high-revving, straight six-cylinder, naturally aspirated engine – just great. I’d been looking for one for some time. The ultimate would of course have been the BMW M3 CSL, but that’s a collector’s car which now commands astronomical prices. But enthusiasts know that the Competition model has some of the features of the CSL. And so I concentrated my search on this version and was lucky enough to find one a few years ago.

5 POWERFUL FACTS:

  • Official model name: BMW M3 E46 with Competition package
  • Max. output: 252 kW (343 hp)
  • Many features from the BMW M3 CSL
  • Paintwork: Silver-grey metallic
  • Extremely rare: fewer than 400 were built
Klaus Huber at the luggage compartment of his BMW M3 E46 with Competition package.Klaus Huber at the luggage compartment of his BMW M3 E46 with Competition package.
A special detail on the M3 E46 with Competition Package: the electrically operated vent windows for the rear.

What fascinates you about this vehicle in particular?

The technical details it has in common with the M3 CSL. Like the more direct steering ratio, the bigger brakes or the chassis and shock absorber set-up and the slightly lower suspension. That all makes for a driving experience that I would without hesitation call CSL light. The fantastic spoked CSL-style rims also optically underline the performance and similarity to the top model. And then there’s another detail that the current car doesn’t have any more: the electrically operated vent windows in the rear. When they’re open, you have wonderfully cool air in summer without feeling a draught and you can hear the fantastic engine sound even better. A great feature, I love it.

The car offers a driving experience like a smaller BMW M3 CSL. And that’s basically what it is.
Klaus Huber, BMW M development engineer
The BMW M3 CSL interior. The BMW M3 CSL interior.
The M Driving Dynamics Mode can be activated via the single button on the steering wheel. This function was introduced with the BMW M3 CSL E46 (photo).

What’s the button on the right-hand spoke of the M steering wheel that only this model version has?

This single button on the special Alcantara steering wheel is the M Driving dynamic mode, which was employed in the BMW M3 E46 for the first time ever. When activated, the DSC control system is restrained and the dynamics and the level of freedom for the driver are increased, without having to do without the so-called lifeline if you’re in danger of skidding. For experienced drivers, this quite simply means more driving enjoyment, as the car is very easy to drive. The practical quick call-up for the system via the button was only ever built in to the M3 CSL and the Competition model.

Klaus Huber driving his BMW M3 E46 with Competition Package.Klaus Huber driving his BMW M3 E46 with Competition Package.
Klaus Huber has made one modification: In his M3 Competition, the driver and co-driver sit on Recaro bucket seats from the CSL.

The BMW M3 with Competition package wasn’t built more than around 300 times, so it’s pretty valuable. Do you drive yours regularly?

I bought the vehicle so I could enjoy it. That means, I drive the car and enjoy every kilometre, above all in the Alps. But the M3 is not a daily drive. At a guess, I’d say I drive it for maybe 2,000 to 3,000 kilometres a year.

Are you planning to take it on to the track for a lap or two?

No, I don’t drive it on racetracks. For such purposes I would get myself a pure track tool. I want to keep the BMW M3 Competition as it was originally built and enjoy it in series form on the road. 

Klaus Huber driving his BMW M3 E46 with Competition Package.Klaus Huber driving his BMW M3 E46 with Competition Package.
"It’s always a buzz when people see me on the autobahn and give me a thumbs-up!", says Klaus Huber.
I love the agility of the E46, but what also impresses me is the performance of current M models. In the end, it all comes down to driving pleasure.
Klaus Huber, BMW M development engineer
BMW M3 E46 Competition belonging to BMW M development engineer Klaus Huber.BMW M3 E46 Competition belonging to BMW M development engineer Klaus Huber.
Increase air pressures, charge the battery regularly and change the oil – this is how Klaus Huber prepares his rare M automobile for the downtime in winter.

Is your particular model recognized in the street or is this M3 only something for real experts?

In this original configuration it’s hard to spot, the CSL wheels and the slightly lower suspension are reminiscent of many “normal” BMW M3 E46 models. All the same, many people are enthusiastic when they see my M3, because besides the features I’ve mentioned it also has the lovely silver-grey paintwork and is in great condition. It’s always a buzz when people see me on the autobahn and give me a thumbs-up!

The gills of the BMW M3 E46 with Competition Package.The gills of the BMW M3 E46 with Competition Package.
Agile, light-footed and with a highly emotional driving experience: this is what distinguishes the vehicles from BMW M GmbH, whether they are historic automobiles or current models.

As the head of driving dynamics and tyre development at BMW M, you’re deeply involved in the development of current BMW M models: How have the cars changed over 20 years of development?

Quite a lot, some of the changes are fundamental. The first thing that comes to mind is that the new BMW M models are bigger and heavier – for reasons of active and passive safety, along with new regulations. All the same, typically for the brand the vehicles are extremely agile, nimble and characterized by an intense, highly emotional driving experience. The pure driving dynamics have been raised to an extremely high level. Whether we’re talking about lap times on the Hockenheimring, the Nürburgring Nordschleife or just longitudinal and latitudinal dynamics – the cars are much faster than 20 years ago, they’re much more precise in their handling and bodywork movement has been significantly reduced.

Now, why is that? Many individual measures have played a part: starting with a very stiff chassis which was selectively stiffened compared with the basis and now has a harmonic stiffness progression. That in turn allowed high-performance tyres and wheels to be developed which are exactly matched to the vehicle project. The chassis hardware, like axle kinematics/elasto-kinematics, steering and suspension/shock absorbers, has been further developed along with the software applications.

BMW M3 E46 Competition belonging to BMW M development engineer Klaus Huber.BMW M3 E46 Competition belonging to BMW M development engineer Klaus Huber.
Klaus Huber is inspired by iconic M automobiles in the development of driving dynamics of the latest BMW M models.

What are your thoughts as a driving dynamics expert on fully electric powered cars?

The electric drive actually offers many opportunities to further improve driving dynamics, interpret control systems more sensitively and shape the feedback to the driver more precisely. Especially at BMW M we’re using this to give the models the M typical driving dynamics. And in future also in the high-performance area.

BMW M3 E46 Competition belonging to BMW M development engineer Klaus Huber.BMW M3 E46 Competition belonging to BMW M development engineer Klaus Huber.
Klaus Huber: „I'm a purist, but a BMW M must always also work as a daily.“

Mr. Huber, please decide:

Rear or all-wheel drive?
Rear wheel drive!

Turbo or normally aspirated engine?
Normally aspirated engines in the past, turbos in current vehicles, that fits the different determining factors.

Two or four seats?
Four are better than two.

Manual or automatic transmission?
I’m a purist: manual.

SPORT or COMFORT mode?
30:70 – a BMW M must always also function excellently in everyday use!

Coupé or Sedan?
I like both. But the M3 Sedan is really cool.

 

Thank you very much for your time!

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