"Firstly, I've owned this car long enough to have an objective point of view on the E36 BMW M3 (mine is a '98, 75kmiles, with the 3.2 size engine - pre-95 is a 3.0 engine so conclusion may be different).
Sum up: I love every minute that I drove in this car.
.Fantastic powertrain. Reliable, performant (outstanding), easy to drive (high torque makes it easier to drive with 5speed manual transmission).
.Investment. The E36 M3s had already lost most of their value. I bought this car over 3 years ago and the KBB value hardly fluctuated (they are getting rarer and rarer yet desired).
.Versatility for a convertible. Used as a daily driver, every moning it will put a grin on your face (fuel: around 25mpg). That car can also carry 4 passengers on a road trip with limited baggage for a weekend (trunk size is pretty large for a conv.) - at +120mph (for the fast travellers..).
. Body of the car age very well. Paint is like new despite beeing original from '98. Interior ages fine except the seats.
. Simply cannot be driven in ice and snow. It's a rear wheel drive and not meant for icy roads. Experimented drivers only for rainy conditions (not a car for teenagers).
. Keep in mind it's a sport's car. The seats will not easily accomodate a baby seat. Big people may find them unconfortable.
. You will need to take care of it. Buy an M3 with all maintenance records. This car can be driven hard (some clocked 300kmiles+) but only if it was correctly maintained. Change the engine oil every year with recommended high quality oil (intervals recommended by BMW and the onboard computer for oil servicing are too long - replace every 4-5000 miles).
Stay on top of your maintance and preventative maintenance. Preventive maintenance will include an overhaul of the coolant system before any failure occurs (replace water pump with lifetime warranty one, thermostat, thermostat housing, check for cracks at the upper part of the radiator). Replace stock shocks by other german brands, they last longer and offer better performances (stock shocks can last only 50kmiles). When replacing shocks, replace strut/shocks mounts.
Low profile tires are expensive and do not last over 40 000miles.
Once you have been through those items above, you will probably have absolutely no issue.
Avoid the BMW dealerships. If you are not mechanically inclined, find a mechanic you can trust. You are, buy a Bentley technical manual. Most of the maintenance can be done by yourself (including oil replacement). A lot of enthusiasts post blogs online that can help you with any problems you may have and give you tips on maintenance. Parts are also available online.
Buy the car with no major engine modification (no cold air intake, performance chips...). People that do such upgrades tends to be harder with their cars and sometimes track them. Simply Avoid those type of cars.
Conclusion: If correctly maintained, this car will be part of your life for ever. I could afford a more expensive and newer car, but I doubt that I could find a replacement that can please me as much as that one already did."
"Ive owned this car for a little over 3 years. I have to say that I love every minute that I drive in this car. Ive completely stripped the interior and much of the unnecessary parts from the car. I thought it handled well originally but there is over 200lb gone out of my car and it handles 10 times better than it ever did and I still have another 300lb to lose. There is so much potential in this engine and body that its hard to resist the mod bug. Not only are these cars a great choice for a reliable sports car, but there is a huge enthusiast following that can help you with any problems you may have. There are many quirks with this car but most who own an E36 M3 are die hard BMW enthusiasts who have an undieing love for the vehicle that almost no issue could take away.
**ALWAYS do tons of research on this car before you buy. An un-cared for E36 M3 can cost you a lot.
**ALWAYS do a Pre Purchase Inspection.
**Stay on top of your maintance and preventative maintenance.
**Carefully inspect the entire cooling system (extremely common failure point on these cars), bushings, and rear shock mounting points."
Cons: "sometimes get the image of being too cool..."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I. Love. This. Car.
This car IS the car you want if your looking for speed. The 240hp is plenty enough to dust the poor little high schoolers in their daddy's cars. this car puts you in your seat. you can REALLY feel this power.
Handling: basically a bigger, roomy-er go kart. take corners with ease. the tight sport suspenion gives the car a very low look and has a very sporty feel.
The sexiest, manliest, chick magnet you could own. It amazes me how BMW combined aggresivness and beautiful style perfectly in this car.
I couldn't ask for a better car. I love my M3!"
"I bought this vehicle used with just under 70,000 miles on it. It is a 5-speed manual transmission inline 6 cylinder with 240hp. Factory Avus Blue paint which I think is one of the best colors available for any car. I absolutely love the color. My car is almost completely stock. I have not tuned this car or added any aftermarket performance parts to my car. That's not to say that I wouldn't want to give it that extra 100hp with some tuning mods! I just don't have the time or money to spend on it. The only additions I have made to the car are that I replaced the yellow corner turn signals on the front, side and back with clear lenses and "stealth" bulbs. This small inexpensive addition makes it look clean and crisp. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who has or buys this car. Anyway, on with the review!
When you drive this car you can tell that it wants to go! The clutch is very stiff and feels very sporty. It pulls from any gear and getting up to speed will never be a problem. Although it is not the fastest car on the road, it is really quite powerful. If you put the pedal to the metal you can really feel this car move. 2nd gear can take you over 60mph and 3rd will take you just under 100mph. I took this car to a nearby drag strip to test its power and I put it up against my friend's late 80s Mustang GT 5.0. Of course my M3 beat it in the quarter mile! If I remember correctly I think I ran just over 14 seconds with about a 1 second reaction time! The engine sounds great when accelerating. No odd sounds that make it sound bad. The 6 cylinder sounds nice and powerful, and doesn't have that 4 cylinder "whine" to it, "Just a nice, smooth, great sounding "vrrrroom!".
The handling on this car is spectacular when performance tires are gripping to nice hot pavement. It sticks like glue around turns. Since I drive this car all year and I live in snowy winters, a spare set of all-season tires with rims is a must. The performance tires in icy conditions with rear wheel drive is not a good idea. It would fishtail around every turn if you don't have the proper tires.
The ride is not the smoothest. I can feel all the bumps in the road, but that is pretty common for a mid-90s sports car I think. It's not too bumpy to where it's uncomfortable. On nice new pavement the car is incredibly smooth driving.
The overall look of this car has to be one of my favorites! I am a big fan of the E36 style M3. The factory body kit fits the car great and it is not too flashy or "cheezy" looking. I think that BMW did a great job designing this car. It looks even better when the sunroof is tilted up to match the rear spoiler. It sits pretty low to the ground so when pulling into parking spots I have to be sure not to catch the front lip on the concrete, as it will scrape on most.
The interior is very nice for this era car. The dashboard where the radio and inboard computer reside angles toward the driver to give it a cockpit feel. The illumination is a deep orange almost red color which looks very good at night.
The downside to this car is that I have had some mechanical and electrical problems with it. Nothing too major though. Power locks went out, struts needed replacing. The previous owner didn't assemble the brakes properly so there was a "jingling" type noise that would happen when you hit bumps in the road. However, it was an easy fix. The German engineering is great and very logical, once you figure it out. Replacement parts from the dealer were very expensive most of the time because they had to be ordered from overseas. I did most of the repairs that were necessary and as long as I had the right instructions the repairs went pretty smoothly.
Another downside to this car is the gas mileage. If you have a heavy foot you will burn up the premium gas in no time at all. If you can pay attention there is a MPG meter under the speedometer that gives you a good idea of how economically you are driving. But then again when you are driving, it is difficult not to give it a little more gas than needed because it can accelerate quick from any gear. A lot of fun!
Overall I would recommend this car to anyone interested in a nice quality sports coupe. They are pretty inexpensive now and seem like they will last a long time. If you can find one with under 100k miles that would be ideal because I don't see any reason why mine wont last far beyond 200k. For a 3.0L inline 6 cylinder it sure has a lot of power that you can definitely feel when driving. Also the handling and solid feeling of the car make you very confident when using this power. I have never felt unsafe or unsure when stepping on the pedal!"