The BMW E36 was a compact car produced and manufactured by BMW for 9 years (1990-1999). Not only did the E36 lay the foundation for the E46 but it was a nimble performer. Each year the E36 landed a spot in Car and Driver’s 10 best cars. In 1997 the E36 M3 won best handling car for over 30 thousand dollars.
The four cylinder E36 3 series consists of the 316i, 318i, 318is, and 318ti
The six cylinder models include the 320i, 323i, 323ti, 325i, 325is, 328i, 328is, and M3.
Lastly, the E36 models that utilized diesel were the 318tds, 325td, and 325tds.
The E36 M3 was offered from 1992-1998. While the E36 M3 is well … still an M3 and a great handling car with great stock power, it is not considered one of the best M3s produced by BMW. Many drivers felt it was a bit too heavy (was the first time BMW upped the size and weight of an M3) and not as pure of a driving experience as other M3 platforms. With that said, some prefer the E36 as it is easier to work on, more comfortable, and cheaper to maintain/fix that other platforms. They also excel at auto cross and road course competitions. Because of how well rounded they are also great as a street car and for drifting. Overall, the E36 is recommended for a driver just starting to explore the M3 world. It can be found for cheap and repaired for a lot less than other M3 models which will let you get your feet wet without having to spend a lot to jump into the water!
Simply because of their age, it is always a good idea to check for rust when shopping for an E36. The main area to focus on due to weak points is the chassis and cooling system. Rear shock towers as well as rear trailing arm bushing pockets have been known to cause problems as they are mounted on thin metal with only two nuts to secure them which causes cracks. The cooling system which includes the water pump, has been known to fail and cause problems as well. Regardless of the known issues and the fact that the E36 M3 is showing it’s age, repairs are affordable and many parts are shared with other BMW platforms making the parts readily available as well.