"I purchased my dark green, 5-speed, M3 sedan with just under 220,000 miles on the original motor and tranny. The car is rock solid with minimal shakes and rattles. This is even more impressive knowing the amount of miles on the car. The motor is still very strong and it does not leak or burn any oil at all. The original tranny is a little stiff on cold mornings but this is to be expected since the synchros in the tranny are up there in miles. The interior of the car is made of superior materials and most people think the car is years newer than it really is. This car is not only fast in a straight line, but it will leave many current performance sedans behind when carving corners. Superb balance and massively strong brakes make this fact possible. While the car is extremely quick and sporty, it is also a very practical car. Seriously! A generous trunk, combined with excellent rear seat room (assuming you are shorter than my lanky 6'4") makes this car a great people hauler. My average mpg with this car is 24, although I can easily stretch that number to 27 if I baby the car (not easy to do, trust me). Quiet on the freeway, and unobstrusive in the city, this vehicle is the ultimate sports sedan of its decade. While there are some parts for this car which are more pricey than your dad's Ford, most normal wear parts are most reasonably priced, especially if you are willing to shop around a little. The low-end grunt of this motor, accompanied by the light, direct throw of the transmission will keep you smiling, while the decent gas mileage and good interior room will keep your spouse smiling. Win-win."
Pros: "Driving and handling. M's are simply awesome."
Cons: "Convertible top starts breaking down at early age"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I bought my '99 Convertible M3 used at 50K miles. Once I drove it, I just new it was the car for me. What a kick the engine has and the handling - simply the best.
The only reason I don't give it all 10's is the convertible top. They just don't hold up. Of course that is a common issue on many convertibles, but seems like the E36 series were especially prone to problems at an early age with the top and mine has suffered that fate as well.
Otherwise, I absolutely love my M and hope to always have an M in the carport.
I'm not experienced with the new generation "manual automatics" but I can tell you, if you're considering an M in this older generation, it's just got to be a manual to get the full fun out of it, so get a buddy to teach you to drive a stick if you're considering one and don't already know how. Will be totally worth it."
"Handles great, engine growls, and is super responsive. The feel of being in this car makes you think the German Autobahn has landed in the USA. On the highway at high speeds or on country roads driving aggressively around corners, this car makes you feel safe and locked to the road. If you feed it good synthetic 0w-40 oil and Sea Foam gas treatment every few thousand miles, this car seems like it will last forever. The engine is bulletproof and the mechanics of this car are exceptional.
Putting good snow tires on it like Bridgestone Blizzak and this car handles in the snow and ice like a dream...no need to store it for the winter. Put high quality low profile dry pavement tires for the spring-fall and tear the road up at your leisure. A/C runs cold...heater runs hot...this car is engineered to last and provide exceptional enjoyment for years. From a resale perspective, the value of this car HOLDS solid and only declines a few hundred dollars at most per year. i.e. buy it used and drive it almost free plus gas and general upkeep.
Never buying anything but BMW again...and likely only M3 or M5 when I do. If you can find one, especially the RARE 4 door automatics, BUY IT!!!"