Even with the classic car market possibly, maybe starting to level off, BMW M3 prices still run incredibly high for examples that are even in so-so condition. The first-generation E30 M3s are bonafide icons, and in some cases modified versions still carry lofty price tags. And trying to find an unmodified E46 M3 (considered by many to be the last of the great M3s) that hasn’t been driven to hell and back is a near impossible feat. The black-sheep E36 generation M3 can, surprisingly, be found with a decently high price tag as well. But truth be told, if you’re looking for a vintage M3, you should buy a ’90s Porsche 944 S2 instead.
In its big annual group test, when the 944 was new, Car and Driver called it the “best-handling imported car,” and continued, “It will easily zig past the near great and easily zag with the truly great in their brightest moments of glory….The 944 won overall simply because, in its remarkably complex but also wonderfully integrated way, it has no all-around equal.” Forgiving the “zig” and “zag” for a moment, Car and Driver wasn’t wrong.
The 944 S2 was perfectly balanced, achieving a 50-50 weight distribution with a front-engine-RWD, cab-rearward design. And for its weight (2,932 pounds in 1990), the 208 horsepower 3.0-liter inline-four mated perfectly — it wasn’t necessarily a blindingly fast car, but it wasn’t a slug either. There was a Turbo 944 with 247 horsepower, but for simplicity’s and maintenance’s sake, the naturally aspirated models are the way to go.
One could make an argument for ’90s and early-aughts M3s based on performance numbers, but the lighter and significantly more affordable Porsche 944 has a much better driving-thrill-per-dollar value. It’s the smarter buy.
Editor’s Note: The price listed reflects the bid at the time of publishing.