I think everyone has agreed the E46 M3 will hammer a V6 GTV, the acceleration is brutal in it, and mine is a lardy convertible too
Worst thing about the power is it's predominantly at the top end of the rev range (8k rpm redline), and it makes it a little unusable on public roads. Getting there in 2nd gear or above means you're already breaking speed limits in most cases and it's just not safe doing so most of the time, and in London there's not enough long straights to fully floor it most of the time anyway! It's the VANOS unit that gives the NA 3.2 its 343bhp by the way, a bit of a masterpiece of engineering.
It's not a fair comparison as fully loaded most E46 M3s were close to £50k brand new, GTVs around £30k.
I felt you needed to set aside £1k per year to run a V6 GTV properly (servicing, tyres, bushes, wishbones etc but not insurance or fuel), on the M3 it's £2k. You might not spend that much on either, you might get lucky or have one cheap year and one more expensive the next. For example: I've just put £520 of Michelin PS2s on the rear on my M3 – that's double the cost for 17" Teledial wheels – and my Inspection one service cost £780 inc brake fluid change which was the cheapest I could get: many BMW garages wanted over £1k
The M3 also has loads of toys which are lovely to have but are a bit distracting: the GTV with it's relatively basic 'options' is safer when driving that's for sure
Handling I'd say is very good in the M3, they have good reputations as drivers cars for a reason.
In terms of reliability (crosses fingers) I don't hear any problems with the S54 M3 engine, that thread someone posted is from 2002, and must have affected very early models only (they only came out in 2001).
Money-wise the current economic climate has mullered the values of performance cars, M3s especially. You can get reasonable ones for £10k, but at that price or lower you'd better check it's not a Cat D, not clocked, not f*cked, that its history checks out and doesn't need brakes (pads and discs all round are £1k at best) or tyres (£1k for a full set of top brand tyres, which this car deserves). The prices of these cars can be very
sensitive to spec, colour, miles and service history.
And remember: so many w4nkers want these cars as a status symbol so many get bought and don't get maintained properly. In general Alfas don't appeal to ******s as much thankfully
I still love GTVs, plenty of soul and they look fantastic in good condition with the Aero pack
They are truly a fantastic performance car for very little money. I'm planning on shifting my M3 early next year as the miles are a bit higher than I would prefer and I just don't need a car this size really. I also prefer performance cars to be true coupes, not a coupe or cab based on a saloon. Next on my list is a Z4M Coupe which has the exact same engine as my M3.
Anyway, hope some of that helps, and here's some pics including one of my former black beauty!