BMW E46 M3 vs. Focus ST Part 1

Let me guess, you have $25,000 or less to buy a car.  You want something fun with a little bit of room inside and it needs to be fairly reliable.  If that isn’t you, it was likely you at one point, or you have a friend with this same question.  If you’ve spent much time online, you’ll know the Ford’s new Focus ST and BMW’s E46 M3 are two of the go-to recommendations for people who have the $25K question.

The Ford Focus ST is arguably the most exciting front wheel drive car currently on-sale n North America.  It comes with a turbocharged 2.0 liter engine producing over 250 horsepower and even better, 270 pounds feet of torque.  It has bigger brakes, a 6-speed manual transmission (only), seats five, well..four comfortably, and can be found for under twenty-five thousand dollars depending on options.

Full 2014 Ford Focus ST specs

The rear wheel drive BMW E46 M3 is now over a decade old, and it too was once one of the hottest cars on the streets.  It’s 3.2 liter inline six produces 333 horsepower.  At least it did ten years ago.  While the M3 doesn’t have fancy brakes, you could choose between a 6-speed transmission and an sequential manual gearbox (SMG) and also fits four surprisingly well.  In 2004, the sticker price on one of these would have started with the number five, possibly the number six if fully optioned.  Today a well kept M3 may command over twenty thousand dollars.

Full BMW E46 M3 specs

While these are two very different cars, they were both were designed with a single purpose: to make you smile on a twisty road. We got the chance to take these two out and see what twenty five thousand dollars (or less) feels like, new and old.  Take a look at part one of our video comparison to see which is best on the road and tune in for part two where we subject them to the crucible of motorsport.  Which one will come out on top?!

Take a look at our Focus ST and our E46 M3 on Wheel Well.

After you watch this, take a look at Part 2 of the comparison!

William Byrd is an automotive writer and Editor-in-Chief of Right Foot Down. Based in Maryland, he has had a long history of founding failed automotive sites and spending way too much time on car forums. He has owned “too many Mustangs” according to Josh and has a fetish for RWD V8s. He spent most of his 20s on tracks in the mid-atlantic and killing cones in parking lots and has even taught at a teen performance driving school.