The E46 automobile platform is the fourth generation of BMW's highly successful 3 Series entry-level luxury car / compact executive car. It was introduced in 1998 and replaced the E36 sedans the same year. The touring and coupÃ© models appeared for 2000, and the compact version for 2001. Despite being introduced last, the E46 compact was the first to be replaced when 1 Series was launched in September 2004.
The E46 underwent a facelift for 2002, which included redesigned headlights, new bumpers and a stiffer chassis. Also, the 316i and 318i models received new, more powerful engines.
In mid-2005 the E46 sedans were phased out in favour of the new E90. The E46 touring was also replaced later that year. As of May 2006, the E46 remains in production as coupÃ©, convertible and M3. The E92 coupÃ© is expected to hit the market in September 2006. When the remaining E90 versions will appear is still uncertain, hence the production of the E46 probably continues well into 2007.
The E46 experienced enormous success in all markets and was widely considered the performance benchmark of its class. The record year for the E46 was 2002, when 561,249 vehicles were sold worldwide.