The BMW 3 Series is BMW’s biggest seller—which is surprising given that the trend toward crossovers and SUVs is by no means holding off—and for many it’s the quintessential luxury sedan from a company responsible for some truly great drivers’ cars.
BMW M-Division is the force behind the M3 Series, the most focused and high-performance variants of the standard 3 Series models.
It was in 1985 that the original BMW The M3 has been unveiled to the world, a car born of a homologation program and one that will be the first chapter in the ever-growing legacy of the 3 Series Special.
That car was groundbreaking in terms of handling, performance and design – but BMW followed it up six years later in 1992 with a second BMW M3 – the E36 M3.
This new car has improved upon that classic recipe in many ways, and today the E36 is a coveted legend; With examples possessed even by the late Paul Walker.
The classic E36 BMW M3 is the legend of a German sports sedan
In 1992, the second generation of the M3 arrived with a new engine – this time it was a six-cylinder.
3-Series slightly changed from E30 to E36 – the exterior lights and the front grille were different, the rear part was also distinguished, as well as the modernization of the interiors; But the engine was the focus, especially on the M3.
What started with a 200-238 hp 2-liter and 2.3 liters in the E30 M3 became a 3-liter and later 3.2 liters in the E36 M3, which was made with 286 hp, which is a healthy number for 1992.
Given that the E36 M3 produced 286 horsepower from the 3.0-liter without the use of a turbo, it’s quite noteworthy – but it was also an impressive piece of engineering at the time.
It first appeared in the “VANOS” system, which according to BMW “always adjusts the camshafts so that maximum torque is available both in the part-load range and under full load”.
The BMW E36 M3 is a powerful performance and natural evolution of the E30
Although the E36 moved on from leaps and bounds from the E30 with a more practical, “everyday driver” quality, it was still engine-first and foremost and was designed to reflect its motorsport heritage.
With aerodynamically designed side mirrors, a 3-centimeter underbody and more, it was a performance-focused car, and the 0-60 mph time could also be achieved in around 6 seconds, just one second behind the R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R or Ferrari 456, Cars that will debut later.
Taking into account its high power output per liter and other innovations, the E36 M3 was definitely a competitor at the time and it can be said that it is still very enjoyable to drive today.
A combination of an atmospheric engine, a manual gearbox (automatic appeared later for the E36), and the retro, muscular design seems pretty baffling already in 2022.
The updated E36 BMW M3 is a great classic German sedan
In 1995, the forces at BMW AG in Munich decided to update the second generation of the BMW M3, while retaining the title “E36” and making some updates; On the outside, there were a few changes, but inside, there was a six-speed manual gearbox and a six-speed sequential manual automatic option.
These updates included the main title: New Engine; 3.2 liters to be exact, with more power, about 321 hp.
This enabled the car to reach 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, faster than a Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R.
Somewhat predictably, just before the new face-lifted car, BMW had already sought to drum up more publicity and improve the E36 M3 – creating the BMW M3 GT in 1994, before the new upgraded and improved 3.2-liter M3
In fact, this new M car was derived “as a homologation model of the FIA GT Series, Division II and IMSA GT Series”, according to BMW.
The upgraded car had a modified version of the previously improved 3-liter engine, which produced more torque and more power – 295 hp; Produced only in 356 models, Hollywood star Paul Walker allegedly owned several E36 BMW M3 GTs – as rare, sought-after, and valuable as they were.
The E36 BMW M3 in 2022 as a used purchase
Interestingly, BMW also looked to the BMW 3-Series Compact as a source of inspiration – he created a concept that uses the condensed Compact imprint as the basis for the M3, but hasn’t left the R+D development stage.
Nowadays, the E36 M3 is a modern classic, but the values haven’t taken off to the degree you might expect – according to Classic.com average selling price report for 442 E36 BMW M3 salesthe average was $23,500, which is just below the average in the later period E46 BMW M3 is worth $29,000 based on sales of 710.
It’s a car that should be relatively cheap to run and maintain at least for the time being, although parts can be hard to come by in the long run.
But the 3-liter and 3.2-liter engines were reasonably powerful and the design of E36 cars was old enough for the past few decades.
In 2022, this car is one of the greats, which every gearhead should be able to try at least once; With each passing year, the E36 sports car’s recipe becomes more attractive than ever; A raw, fast, unassisted engine designed with a blend of motorsport and driver pleasure together.
They don’t make it like they used to, and now this car looks like a bargain; Get one while you can and find out what the fuss is about.
8 Reasons We Love the E36 BMW M3 (2 Reasons Not to Buy One
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