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Thread: Trying to figure between a ZHP and M3

  1. #1

    Trying to figure between a ZHP and M3

    Hello all,

    I recently sold my '91 E30 325iX. As of recently, I think I've been on the search for a ZHP for a while now, but I've been noticing some pretty extravagant prices for decent-mileage ZHP's, while seeing pretty competitive price ranges for E46 M3's for around the same area mileage. The M3's all seem to have been enthusiast maintained and cared for, including subframe reinforced.

    Is there anything I'm missing from the M3 that is in the ZHP? Is it simply because the fact that ZHP's are somewhat rarer in appearance?

    1991 E30 Alpinweiß 325iX [SOLD]
    2005 E46 Sparkling Graphite Metallic 330Ci ZHP 6spd

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1970
    Southern California
    So many ways to discuss this, but for me, to net it out: the ZHP is the best blend of daily driver and all around performance (handling, braking, moderate speed). The M3 is a more purpose built 'racer' with about 100 more HP..., not as much a daily driver but a high performance machine that can be driven daily. They are two very different cars for different purposes.

    Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
    Randeaux/Rando/John/jr - '06 Cic ZHP; Southern California
    "ZHP or not, I still like you"

    ZHP Performance Package, Cold Weather Package, Leather, Jet Black/Black/BlackCube, NAV
    ESS Stage 1 Twin Screw Supercharger, Sprint Booster, BMW Perf Intake, Magnaflow Exhaust, Dinan TB & STEP S/W, Ground Control Coilovers, UCC Sway Bars, Apex EC-7 18x8.5 ET38
    Dynavin D99+, Hardwire V1 (w/V1 Connection), BSW Stage 1 Speakers, Kicker Amp/Subwoofer
    BMW Performance Strut Brace, Orion V2 Angel Eyes, No-holes License Plate, SMG Paddle Shift Mod, Besian VANOS, Gold DISA, Fan Delete, M3 Side Mirrors
    Note: Actual car no longer resembles signature picture

  3. #3
    I don't own an m3, so here is my daily ZHP perspective:

    The ZHP can be had with 2 more doors.
    No valve adjustments required
    Engine warm up isn't as sensitive
    Can daily the ZHP without guilt of putting mileage on it.
    Cheaper wear parts
    Better balance of comfort and sport.
    2003 Blue ZHP Sedan @ 205k
    Paint chips | Current MIL: None | Airbag Light | Poorly Sprayed Black Style 135s |Ugly Alcantara Steering Wheel | Trunk Squeak | Faded Shadowline Trim
    Next repair: Replace old, rusty subframe with a fully refreshed one.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    The Ocean State
    Dano, if you're looking for a solid daily driver then I will say go with the ZHP. I have owned both the ZHP and E46 M3 and preferred driving the ZHP as a daily driver. Yes, you can daily the M3 and it is a lot of fun

    It all depends on what you want. I found the ZHP to be a more "refined" ride whereas the M3 is more "lively". My ZHP was a more modded ZHP and I enjoyed it while I had it... I have since moved on to a different daily driver...
    .........2008 GT Silver 997.1tt.........................2004 TiAg ///M......................2001.5 Audi S4 Avant.........

  5. #5
    When I went through this same exercise over 3 years ago, I concluded then that the ZHP was cheaper to acquire, cheaper to insure, cheaper to maintain and cheaper to operate. It's has much better ride quality, gets better fuel mileage, and yes, it's not as fast as an M3. Looks-wise, the M3 is more aggressive, but, the ZHP is still a head-turner, and I quite prefer the stock ZHP wheels to the stock M3 18's, and I prefer the cube trim over M3's solid aluminum. I wasn't looking to go cheap, but I was looking for lower maintenance, better fuel mileage, a 200K plus lifespan. Ultimately the refined ride quality is what swung it in my favor. I landed a 2006 ZHP with 40K on it then for about 2/3 of what a comparable M3 was selling for. The frosting on the cake was it was never smoked in, had no tint, was 100% stock, garage kept and dealer serviced. I never looked back, and I'll keep it forever.
    Ron ///Man

    '06 ZHP Coupe 6sp Sparkling Graphite
    '02 330ci SE46 Racer
    '03 330ci Endurance Racer

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Katonah, NY
    No question, I completely agree with all of the arguments above for the zhp. But let me tell you my side of the E46’s story.

    The only reason I got into an e46 was because I stumbled upon jeppej’s m3 sedan. I never had any idea I’d end up in a zhp. I got it with the hope of one day putting in an s54 and one day having a car similar to his or Shawn’s IR. A local shop talked me out of it. I live in an area full of twisty back roads and the guys at the shop basically said that the output from the s54 would be way more than what’s needed for my area. Their position was that the zhp made enough power and held the road enough that an M badge wasn’t necessary.

    Oddly enough shortly after that I was watching old episodes of top gear and I stumble upon the “greatest road trip” episode. Not sure if you’ve seen it but at Monza Hammond was in a pagani and clarkson was in a cayman. They checked out the cars, did some laps and in the end Clarkson’s argument was basically this: compared to the pagani, he was able to get a lot more out of his car than Hammond was in his.

    And this, I think in some instances, is the perfect analogy when deciding between a zhp and m3. Yes the zhp may make only 230hp compared to the 330 in the m3. But you can have the confidence to put a greater percentage of you lower down, maintenance and maintenance costs are less, the option for a sedan is there, along with a bunch of other reasons listed above like insurance and gas mileage. Don’t forget the exclusivity- surely there are a lot more M3s the zhps.

    Something else: no forum comes close to the camaraderie that zhpmafia provides to everyone. Whatever you end up in, the members here will more than likely be able to offer great insight.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Charlotte, NC
    All excellent points, guys. Well said. It really comes down to if OP is looking more for a track monster or daily driver.

    I also got to looking into jumping to an e46 M3 for the additional power, but my street driving style is all about the low end torque. While the M3 has 100 more horsepower, it only has 40 ft lbs on the zhp down low (222 vs 262). That gap could easily be closed with catless headers (+15 = 237 ft-lb) and a taller diff ratio (3.07->3.38 final drive means a 10% bump in torque = 261 ft-lb). So you can get S54 'round-the-town' power with the reliability of the M54.

    On the track, though, it wouldn't even be close.

  8. #8
    Thank you all for your help! I think in the end, I'll be going for the ZHP.
    1991 E30 Alpinweiß 325iX [SOLD]
    2005 E46 Sparkling Graphite Metallic 330Ci ZHP 6spd

  9. #9
    I happened to answer the question of the daily driver in my latest blog...
    '03 ZHP
    Apex, NC

  10. #10
    "it depends" :P

    They're amazingly different cars. The e46 M3 is sort of an early 90s exotic, in a reasonably practical/reliable package. The ZHP, on the other hand, is much more a sporty sedan-- it's fun within the confines of not sacrificing comfort. The ZHP feels much more similar to a (slow) e39 M5, to me, than it does to the e46 M3.

    If your daily commute lets you wring the car out, I think the M3 is a better daily. If you're mostly sitting in traffic, for sure the ZHP is a better DD. If you're going big speeds for long distances on the highway, the M3 is better.

    The s54 gets very similar fuel economy to the m54 (comparing like for like speed and driving cycle), and the s54 is HUGELY easier to work on. It does require a valve adjustment every ~30,000 miles, which takes a couple hours, but everything else about the S54 is stupidly easier to work on. Any project that requires the intake manifold to come off makes me hate my M54.

    Maintenance costs are pretty similar. The M3 cooling system costs more, but it need to be replaced half as frequently. Bushings/ball joints should be replaced on both cars every ~100,000 miles. M3 needs the beisan vanos lock downs, ZHP needs the OPN secured, PVC fix, and DISA lockdowns.

    It really just comes down to what you value/need from a daily. The ZHP is more comfortable and quieter. The M3 is more involving, faster, etc. My daily commute consists of twisty back roads followed by some pretty high speed highway-- M3 is the clear answer. But, in the past I was driving into a city, where the M3 was hugely annoying (so I didn't DD it).

    If you're thinking about tracking the car at all, the M3 is a hugely better starting point-- and not just from a performance standpoint. The head doesn't lift, it has no oil starvation issues, it has an oil temp gauge, it has an LSD, etc.

    All that said, I suspect you're not comparing like for like condition/year/mileage cars, if prices are similar.

    My context: Currently have an e46 M3 wagon DD, e46 M3 coupe weekend/track car, e39 M5 as wife's DD, and an e39 530i beater. My brother used to have an e46 ZHP that I spent a considerable amount of time working on and driving. One of my close friends also has had a ZHP for the last decade that I've spent a lot of time with.

    Current Cars: 2005 IR/IR M3, 2001 LMB/blk M5, 2003 530i 5mt, 04 M3 wagon (with ZHP interior and exterior trimmings)
    Past cars: 04 M3, 96 M3, S50B32 e36 M3 CM race car, 6mt NA RWD e91

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