Sad thread is sad.
I identify with this thread so much. My E46 is slowly rusting away but mechanically is in great shape thanks to the years of preventative maintenance and doing most of the work myself. When I bought my 435 M-Sport a couple of years ago, I couldn't give up my E46. It isn't worth anything and I decided to keep it as a second car. I totally agree with JJR's assessment when comparing the M54 to the N55 engines. The 435 is sleeker, quieter and a hell of a lot faster than my old 330i...but the 330i is such an old school driving experience.So yes - i am 100% keeping the e46. Love the F32 - sounds great, power is awesome, the turbo/intake and exhaust crackles are simply amazing - and its super comfortable to drive and had a decent amount of sportiness to it. But hopping in the e46 makes me feel like i'm in a go kart. Steering is so much better and connected, shifting gears has such a more mechanical feel, and the linear immediate response of the M54 has so much more character than the N55. Not to mention, the visibility is so much better in the slightly smaller e46 - the bottom of the windows are easily a couple inches lower from where they sit in the F32. Add in smaller mirrors and thinner pillars and you have a full 360 view.
I'm not going to spend thousands keeping her in good condition. Mechanically she is running great, so that's the only thing that really matters. I do need a front bumper as mine hit something back in the winter on the highway, so its fairly chewed up. M3 rep or ZHP in A08 is my only option - and definitely looking for used as a brand new painted bumper will stick out like a sore thumb on my car.
Gave the e46 a proper wash and vacuum/windows/seats/dash yesterday - forgot what it felt like to actually wash her and enjoy a clean interior while going for a drive with the windows down. Easily running her into the ground - and when she finally goes, i'll buy another. 240k with original clutch and still going strong.