Want to Put Double-DIN Headunits into a BMW E46 3-Series? Here is Your Guide!

While I was debating over changing the big end bearings in my E46 M3 I needed to improve the audio interface. I had been full circle here like a few people. My car like a few of my age came with a tape deck and a 6 CD Autochanger. Great if you listen to both mediums. If you are like me this can get rather clumsy and limit you, especially in the days of Spotify, and MP3s being around:

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Yup, I soon realised I needed a handsfree version of Bluetooth in my life. So this happened:

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So, the Alpine worked great with the steering controls and gave me great Sat Nav directions via the phone! But it wouldn’t fit right due to depth issues and it well, looked crap! It would take a year before I decided what to do!

The E46 HU choices have been discussed here many times over the years. Some things to me weren’t clear which I will discuss. I never realised that installing a Double DIN HU would require a chunk of fabrication, even with the shallow depth units.

We all know that conventional (read most) Double DIN headunits will not fit the car without compromising the heater function, specifically the foot and window demister function. Furthermore it will require a bit of cutting of the heater box. While you can buy kits to make the heater box functional again it does add cost on and further work to make it work. This of course leaves you with two choices:

The Choices:

1) Get one of the Chinese E46 Lookalike HUs. These seem to have a variable reputation with some being better than others like the Dynavin and the Eonon. These can work with Android phones however. Some people like the look, but a few also feel the quality of these is poor despite looking fine in the photos.

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2) Consider Alpine’s iLX-702E46. This does DAB, has built-in Sat-Nav and has Bluetooth & Apple CarPlay. However, it is rather expensive at £750. It is one of the few plug-and-play conversions out there. If you want a zero hassle conversion that does almost everything this possibly the headunit for you:

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3) Look at the Alpine iLX-700 and Parrot Asteroid Smart. Both have their pros and cons. The Alpine doesn’t have Bluetooth, and the Parrot is a little pricey in addition to some people not getting on with the interface; it seems fine from what I’ve seen. Both however will still require fabrication of the cage to actually mount them. Some people use the fascia which looks like it was never designed for that kind of job, others modify their single DIN/heater control unit cage to mount the lot while others will get a metal cage for around £60 to mount the HU on. If you pay someone to install it that cost naturally will increase significantly. There is also a Kenwood HU on the market which is also a shallow depth head unit.

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4) Get the Sony XAV-AX100. With the Enfig kit this is a plug-and-play affair, circumventing the need to construct cages etc. and the fascia kit for this HU from Enfig is of a very high quality. If BMW did a factory Double DIN Conversion like they did for the Single DINs it looks like it may have been this. Most people out there could install this.

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The Sony also comes with a couple of bonus features too. Firstly, you can buy a TomTom module from Sony to give you permanent Sat-Nav for £180 more, it has Bluetooth unlike the Alpine and it can also do Android Auto. If its CarPlay is as good as it has been so far I would expect similar results on Android Auto. This is great news for people with a robot phone.

Anyway, it’s time to bore you folks here with my experience. This can be done in the next instalment.

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