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BMW M3 E36: Buying guide and review (1992-1998)

BMW M3 E36: Buying guide and review (1992-1998) Classic and Performance Car
BMW M3 E36 BMW M3 E36 BMW M3 E36 BMW M3 E36
The second generation BMW M3 was the equivalent of a slightly difficult follow-up to a brilliant breakthrough album. With the E30 M3 having received praise from all quarters for its dynamic abilities as well as motorsport success, its larger more luxuriously positioned replacement was always going to have its work cut out to convince buyers that it too shared the same sporting genes.
 
Released in 1992 with a 282bhp straight six under its bonnet, the new M3 was a different beast. Safety regulations and the continuous drive to move upmarket meant that the new car was heavier and more luxurious than its predecessor. It was also considerably more powerful, and significant work on the suspension turned it into one of the best handling sports cars of its generation.
 
Straight line performance was now approaching junior supercar levels and continuous improvements to engines and chassis as well as the introduction of more body styles ensured that the E36 M3 remained popular throughout production. While not as coveted as some of the other M3s from the past, these cars are rising in popularity and there is little doubt that well looked after examples will follow in the footsteps of the highly collectable E30 M3.
 
Which one to buy?
 
The E36 M3 was initially available in coupe form, with convertible and saloon body styles following soon after. Early models had five-speed gearboxes and came with a 3.0-litre 282bhp engine. Facelift models introduced at the end of 1995 brought in a larger 3.2-litre 316bhp engine and the option of a six-speed manual or SMG sequential manual gearbox. Being a first generation unit, the SMG can be jerky for town use, and the manual versions are generally more preferable from a reliability and usability point of view.
 
US-spec cars were detuned versions of their European counterparts, with a 243bhp 3-litre engine and the option of an automatic gearbox.
 
The manual coupes, especially in face lifted 3.2-litre Evo form are the ones to have, and second hand values reflect this. The rare saloons do add an extra level of practicality, and the convertibles are great for sunny days. however the added complexity of the folding roof mechanism can add to the running costs. Be very wary of abused or overly modified cars as restoring them can be an expensive proposition.
 
Performance and specs
 
1994 M3 3.0 Coupe
Engine 2996cc, 24valve DOHC I6 
Power 282bhp @ 7000rpm 
Torque 236lb ft @ 3600rpm
Top speed 155mph (limited)
0-60mph 5.4 seconds 
Fuel consumption 21.7 mpg 
Gearbox Five-speed manual
Insurance group 20
 
Dimensions and weight 
 
1994 M3 3.0 Coupe
Wheelbase 2700mm
Length 4433mm
Width 1710mm
Height 1335mm
Weight 1460kg
 
Common problems
 
• There are a huge number of specialists that specialise in M3s, with parts and spares are readily available. Certain M specific trim items and smaller parts may require a bit of searching for, and can be very expensive.

• Engines can tick at idle and this is normal, however a grumbly, rough sound may indicate Vanos issues. This is sadly not uncommon, especially if frequent oil services have not been adhered to. Leaking solenoid seals are generally the culprit with Vanos units, and can be replaced cost effectively at a specialist.

• Rear shock mounts and trailing arm bushes wear out and can be diagnosed by a wallowy or unstable rear end through mid- to high-speed corners. Mounts are easy to replace however the trailing arm bushes require specialised tools to fit.

• If the steering has a lot of play, and noises can be heard when turning at low speeds, the lower control arm bushes may require replacing.

• The cooling system is a known problem area and water pumps tend to require replacement every 60,000miles. Coolant expansion tanks can also rupture so it is best to get the system pressure tested.

• Manual gearboxes can suffer from worn second gear synchros while SMG ‘boxes will pop out of gear if the hydraulic fluid levels are too low. Hydraulic clutch pipes tend to expand leading to delayed clutch action, replacement pipes are easy to source.

• Original exhaust systems are very expensive OEM items and most cars will have had aftermarket items fitted.

• Rust tends not to be a major issue however water leaking past the boot seals can collect in the spare wheel well and this combined with leaking acid from the boot mounted battery can badly corrode this area.
 
Model history

1992: E36 M3 coupe introduced with 282bhp 3-litre straight six engine
1994: M3 GT introduced as a homologated racing special. 356 units built all in British racing green for the UK market. Convertible and saloon body styles introduced
1995: M3 coupe and sedan upgraded to 316bhp 3.2 litre engines. Facelift included twin airbags, digital climate control and clear indicator lenses. Six-speed manual and optional SMG gearboxes replaces five-speed manual. M3 Lightweight built in very limited numbers available only in white, with weight saving measures reducing weight by 90kg. 
1996: Convertible models receive face lifted changes
1997: Saloon ceases production with over 12,600 built
1998: Coupe ceases production with over 46,500 built
1999: Last E36 M3 convertible rolls off the production line with a total of over 71,000 of all body styles manufactured.
 
Owners clubs, forums and websites
 
• forums.m3cutters.co.uk
• www.bmwcarclubgb.uk
• www.m3forum.com
 
Summary and prices
 
Pristine early coupes and GTs command the highest prices with some trading for up to £25,000. This is the exception rather than the rule and useable well maintained examples range between £5000 and £7000. 
A fully documented service history is essential though, as these cars tend to lead harder lives than most. One of the best handling cars of the ‘90s with the now legendary straight-six engines, the E36 M3 added luxury and practicality into the mix which was to become the way for M cars that followed. Prices are about as low as they will get for these underrated cars and if you get the right one you may even have an appreciating classic in the years to come.

Words: John Tallodi
BMW M3 E36 BMW M3 E36 BMW M3 E36 BMW M3 E36
Last updated: 11th Dec 2015
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BMW M3 cars for sale

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BMW M3
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  • BMW M3

    £37,985 £37,985

    Variant name:Saloon ,Derivative:M3 ,Variant: 4dr DCT BMW M3 M3 4dr DCT

    • Year: 2014
    • Mileage: 32638 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
    Marshall Motor Group-Ridgeway Select Portsmouth (a Marshall company)
    023 9280 8823 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • BMW M3

    £27,995 £27,995

    ELECTRONIC DAMPER CONTROL, Climate Control, Colour SatNav, 19'' L A ALLOY WHEELS, Memory Seats, Powered Folding Mirrors, Rain-Sensing Wipers, Xenon Headlamps, iPod Connectivity, Cruise Control, Electric Windows, Electric Mirrors, Push Button Start, ABS, Multiple Airbags, Front Fog Lamps, Auto Lighting, Rear Spoiler, CD Player, Radio, Sports Seats, Heated Seats, Remote Central Locking, Privacy Glass, Immobiliser, Power Steering, front and rear park distance control plus, FULL BLACK STITCHED LEATHER, BLACK CARBON STRUCTURE INTERIOR, power fold door mirrors, 19'' Alloys, Full main dealer service history THIS M3 HAS ONLY COVERED 16,000 MILES AND COMES WITH A FULL BMW SERVICE HISTORY, AS WITH ALL OUR VEHICLES IT COMES FULLY HPI CLEAR AND MILEGE WARRANTED, HUGE SPEC INC PROF NAVIGATION SYSTEM, NOVILLO BLACK LEATHER TRIM, ELECTRONIC DAMPER CONTROL, ROOF IN CARBON FIBRE, 19 LIGHT ALLOY WHEELS, ELECTRIC MEMORY SEATS, M DYNAMIC CONTROL, HEATED FRONT SEATS, BLACK CARBON FIBRE STRUCTURE LEATHER TRIM PACKAGE, SHODOW LINE EXTERIOR PACK, PARK DISTANCE CONTROL FRONT AND REAR, XENON LIGHTING, STOP START FUNCTION, AUTO LIGHTING AND RAIN SENSING WIPERS, ELEC FOLDING DOOR MIRRORS, CLIMATE CONTROL, CRUISE CONTROL, RADIO CD PLAYER, AND LOTS MORE, A STUNNING LOW MILEAGE EXAMPLE IN OUTSTANDING CONDITION

    • Mileage: 16000 mi
    • Engine size: 3999
    For sale
  • BMW M3 DCT

    £41,950 £41,950

    Body: Saloon Transmission: Semi-Automatic Mileage: 8,000 Fuel Type: Petrol Registered: 2014 (64) Doors: 4 Engine Size: 3.0 Finished in: MINERAL GREY METALLIC WITH RED LEATHER 19" alloys

    • Year: 2014
    • Mileage: 8000 mi
    For sale
  • BMW M3

    £23,500 £23,500

    BMW M3 3.2 Evolution Sequential A Remarkable Time Warp Car, Offered & Presented For Sale In Stunning Condition And Comes Complete With An Excellent BMW Service Inventory Which Will All Validate The Super Low Rare Mileage Estoril Blue Metallic (335), The BMW E36 M3 Was Considered To Be One Of The Better Handling Cars Of All Time And Was Awarded "Best Handling Car" By Driver Magazine In 1997, So We Are Of Course Excited To Present This Perfect Find Finished In Estoril Blue Metallic With Silver Nappa Leather Upholstery Detailed With Silver Twin Needle Stitch Work And Finished With The Two Tone Dash Pod. During The Cars Life Vines BMW Has Carried Out The Following Service Work With Visits At 3153, 14996, 16724, 20985, 21871 & 27069 Miles, With The Last Completed As An Inspection 1 In August 2016. This Original Example Offers Factory Specifications Of 17" Five Arm Polished M Alloy Wheels Which All Sit On Branded Tyres, Blue Fabric Electric Convertible Roof, Factory Fitted Hard Top Roof, BMW Trip Computer, Electric Mirrors With Tear Drop Design Caps, Three Spoke Leather Bound Steering Wheel With M Stitch Work, Silver Finish Embossed Sill Kick Plates, Electric Windows & Mirrors, Remote Central Locking With Alarm & Tracker, Air Conditioning, M Exterior Badge Detailing, Twin Chromed Exhaust Tips And So Much More. The E36 Is The Quintessential BMW M Car And With This Vehicle Offering Staggering Provenance, This Will Make An Instant Collectable Investment. For Further Details Then Please Discuss With Either Jonathan Or Mark On 01623 622627. We Can Also Offer Delivery To Any Corner Of The Globe, With Full Written Quotations Available Upon Request - £23,500

    • Year: 1999
    • Mileage: 27736 mi
    • Engine size: 3.2
    For sale
  • BMW M3 High Spec

    POA POA

    Huge spec M3 which listed at over £70k when new a year ago. Finished in Sapphire Black Metallic over extended Silverstone Merino Leather interior. Spec includes: CARBON CERAMIC BRAKES / 7 SPEED DCT GEARBOX / M PERFORMANCE TITANIUM EXHAUST / 19" DOUBLE SPOKE ALLOYS / MODEL DESIGNATION DELETION / PROFESSIONAL MEDIA - SAT NAV / BLUETOOTH / USB / COMFORT ACCESS / REVERSING CAMERA / REAR WINDOW BLINDS / REAR SCREEN BLIND / SUN PROTECTION GLASS / EXTENDED STORAGE / FRONT SLIDING ARMREST / CARBON FIBRE INTERIOR TRIM / ADAPTIVE LED HEADLIGHTS / HIGH-BEAM ASSISTANT / HARMAN KARDON STEREO / BLACK KIDNEY GRILLES / CARBON REAR EXHAUST SURROUND. A fantastic example in superb 'as new' condition. Running-in service completed on schedule. 2 years BMW Warranty remaining. The Titanium exhaust transforms the feel and sound of the car making it feel much more aggressive without being intrusive or boomy at motorway speeds. And the Carbon brakes provide phenomenal stopping power, as they should when they cost over £6k as an option! In our view, it is the perfect spec M3 and is offered at a considerable discount to what it would cost to order one to the same spec today. For further information or to arra

    • Year: 2015
    • Mileage: 4500 mi
    For sale
  • BMW M3 Manual Saloon

    £27,950 £27,950

    A fantastic Manual M3 Saloon with very high specification, FBMWSH and with extended BMW Warranty. It is finished in Jerez Black Metallic over full extended Black Leather interior. Full spec includes: SAT NAV / BMW INDIVIDUAL AUDIO / ELECTRIC GLASS SUNROOF / BLUETOOTH / 19" M DOUBLE SPOKE ALLOYS / EDC / FRONT AND REAR PARKING SENSORS / HIGH GLOSS SHADOWLINE EXTERIOR TRIM / INDIVIDUAL PIANO BLACK INTERIOR INLAYS / USB AUDIO / SPLIT FOLDING REAR SEATS / DAB RADIO / 6CD CHANGER / ELECTRIC FOLDING MIRRORS / HEATED SEATS / ADAPTIVE HEADLIGHTS / SUN PROTECTION GLASS / SLIDING ARMREST / HIGH BEAM ASSISTANT / M PERFORMANCE ALCANTARA STEERING WHEEL / M PERFORMANCE CARBON REAR SPOILER / REAR BLIND. The car is in superb condition with an excellent full BMW service history, having been recently serviced by Dick Lovett BMW. The current owner has also recently extended the BMW Warranty which is transferable to the new owner. For further information or to arrange a viewing, please call or email us and we will be happy to assist. If you would like to know more about this vehicle, please contact us

    • Year: 2011
    • Mileage: 28700 mi
    For sale
  • BMW M3

    £37,990 £37,990

    Full service history BMW M3 4.0 V8 E92 M Performance Edition S65 DCT Automatic registered December 2012 (62 reg) finished in Frozen Blue with Full BMW Individual Black Leather interior; 1 of 30 in the UK; Harman Kardon Surround Sound System; Heated Front Seats; Front and Rear Parking Sensors; Adaptive Headlamps; Professional Satellite Navigation; Media Package with Enhanced Bluetooth; Powerfold Door Mirrors; DAB Radio; Sun Protection Glass; Shadowline High-Gloss Exterior Trim; Internet; Service History with Running In Service at BMW on 15/04/13 at 1,341; Autobahn Specialists on 28/05/14 at 16,210; 09/02/15 at 24,652; 25/09/15 at 31,552; BMW on 08/03/17 at 39,682. Finance available on request - subject to status and terms. Ask about our Company Directors packages. Fully Valeted; UK Wide Delivery Available; Part Exchange Welcome.

    • Mileage: 40200 mi
    • Engine size: 3999
    For sale
  • BMW BMW M3 |

    £44,850 £44,850

    Specification MAKE BMW MODEL BMW M3 COLOUR Azurite Black YEAR 2015/65 MILEAGE 9978 DESCRIPTION We are delighted to be able to offer for sale this exceptional BMW M3 equipped with a Seven Speed DCT Automatic Transmission. Finished in Azurite Black with Extended Black Merino Hide. ( Balance of the BMW 5 Year Service Plan ). STANDARD EQUIPMENT Anti Locking Brakes, Driver and Passenger Airbags, Remote Central Locking with Alarm/Immobiliser, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Adaptive M Sport Suspension, Velour Floor Mats, Folding and Auto Dimming Exterior Mirrors, Electric Front Seats with Memory, Front Heated Seats, Headlight Wash, Parking Distance Control Front & Rear, Real Time Traffic Information, Enhanced Bluetooth Telephone with USB, Profesional Navigation System, DAB Radio, Rear View Mirror Auto-Dimming, Driver and Passenger Lumbar Support, Rain Sensor with Auto Headlight Activation, Automatic Air Conditioning, Cruise Control with Brake Function, Extended Interior Light Package. OPTIONAL EXTRAS Harmon Kardon Loudspeaker System, Seven Speed DCT Automatic Transmission, Steering Wheel Heating, 19" M Double Spoke Wheels, Comfort Access, Reversing Assist Camera, Sun Protection Glass, C

    • Mileage: 44850 mi
    For sale
  • BMW M3 DCT

    £47,950 £47,950

    Body: Saloon Transmission: Semi-Automatic Mileage: 10,000 Fuel Type: Petrol Registered: 2016 (16) Doors: 4 Engine Size: 3.0 Finished in: MINERAL GREY METALLIC WITH SILVERSTONE 19" alloys

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 10000 mi
    For sale
  • BMW M3 CRT

    POA POA

    Features : CRT Limited Edition "Carbon Racing Technology" No. 26/67 copies. 4.4L V8 450ch, gearbox 7-speed DKG dual clutch. Comment : GPS, parking sensors.

    • Year: 2009
    • Mileage: 17091 mi
    For sale
  • BMW M3 Reserved

    POA POA

    BMW M3 convertible presented in Estoril Blue comes with a full history including running in service and the following specification; grey leather, electric heated seats with memory, multi-function leather steering wheel, climate control, satellite navigation, bluetooth phone connectivity, Harmon Kardon sound, centre armrest, cruise control, rear park assist, hard top in body colour, electric heated exterior mirrors, Bi-Xenon headlights, vehicle tracking system and 19" M alloy wheels. Part exchange welcome, competitive finance available. Viewings welcome by appointment only. Body: Convertible Transmission: Manual Mileage: 78,000 Fuel Type: Petrol Registered: 2003 (03) Doors: 2 Engine Size: 3.2 Finished in: Estoril Blue

    • Year: 2003
    • Mileage: 78000 mi
    For sale
  • BMW M3

    £23,495 £23,495

    19'' Double Spoke Alloys , Satellite Navigation, Electric Seats, Memory Seats, Xenon Headlamps, Climate Control, Dual Climate Zones, Cruise Control, Bluetooth, CD Player, DVD Player, Aux Port, Steering Wheel Audio Controls, Multi-function Steering Wheel, Automatic Headlights, Automatic Wipers, Front and Rear Parking Sensors , Hi-Fi Loud Speaker System , Electric Seat Bolsters , Lumbar Adjustment, Traction Control, Computer, Sports Seats, Electric Windows, Electric Mirrors, Rear Spoiler, Headlamp Jetwash, Carbon Roof, ABS, Isofix, Multiple Airbags, Anti-Theft System, Remote Central Locking, Full service history

    • Mileage: 30000 mi
    • Engine size: 3999
    For sale
  • BMW M3 4.0 V8 Coupe 6 Speed

    £21,950 £21,950

    Black Novillo leather, black Carbon-look leather interior trim, electric memory seats, heated seats, dual-zone climate control, 19in Diamond Cut Bi-colour M double-spoke alloys, M Double-clutch transmission, M Drive, BMW Professional satellite navigation, BMW Assist, BMW Online, Mobile phone preparation, 6CD changer, BMW DSP Professional Hi-Fi, Voice Control, Park Distance Control (rear), electric windows, electric heated mirrors, electric folding mirrors, remote central locking, ABS, front/rear and side airbags, leather multi-function steering wheel, paddle shift controls, cruise control, brake energy regeneration, trip computer, rain sensor, Bi-Xenon headlamps, auto headlamp function, front fog lamps, auto-dim interior mirror, headlight cleaning system, extended interior light package, ISOFIX, electric rear sun-blind, storage compartment package, headlining anthracite, running in service completed at 1134 miles, full BMW service history

    • Year: 2008
    • Mileage: 45000 mi
    For sale
  • 2014 BMW M3

    POA POA

    5 YEAR SERVICE PACK + FULL BMW SERVICE HISTORY + 2 KEYS + HEADS UP DISPLAY + WIDE SCREEN PROFESSIONAL MULTIMEDIA SAT NAV + FULL RED LEATHER + HEATED SEATS + MEMORY SEATS + BI XENON HEADLIGHTS WITH DRL LIGHTS-DAY RUNNING LIGHTS + PRIVACY GLASS + ELECTRIC FOLDING MIRRORS + RADIO/DAB/CD/6 CD CHANGER + ELECTRIC WINDOWS + PARKING SENSORS + BLUETOOTH + I DRIVE + MULTIFUNCTIONAL STEERING WHEEL WITH PADDLE SHIFT, ON BOARD COMPUTER + CRUISE CONTROL + A/C + Metallic Black, STILL UNDER MANUFACTURES WARRANTY

    For sale
  • BMW M3

    £39,995 £39,995

    5 YEAR SERVICE PACK + FULL BMW SERVICE HISTORY + 2 KEYS + HEADS UP DISPLAY + WIDE SCREEN PROFESSIONAL MULTIMEDIA SAT NAV + FULL RED LEATHER + HEATED SEATS + MEMORY SEATS + BI XENON HEADLIGHTS WITH DRL LIGHTS-DAY RUNNING LIGHTS + PRIVACY GLASS + ELECTRIC FOLDING MIRRORS + RADIO/DAB/CD/6 CD CHANGER + ELECTRIC WINDOWS + PARKING SENSORS + BLUETOOTH + I DRIVE + MULTIFUNCTIONAL STEERING WHEEL WITH PADDLE SHIFT, ON BOARD COMPUTER + CRUISE CONTROL + A/C + Metallic Black, STILL UNDER MANUFACTURES WARRANTY

    • Mileage: 27000 mi
    • Engine size: 2979
    For sale
  • BMW M3 3.2 SMG 2007

    £13,999 £13,999

    ONE LADY OWNER FROM NEW and REGISTERED IN 2007.;;CAN'T GET MUCH RARER THAN THAT CAN YOU.??;;THIS REMARKABLE EXAMPLE IS FINISHED IN TITAN SILVER, WITH BLUE ROOF and GREY LEATHER INTERIOR.;;NEWLY RE-CUT DIAMOND TURNED ORIGINAL 19" BMW ALLOY WHEELS WITH AS NEW BRIDESTONE POTENZA TYRES.;;JUST HAD OIL SERVICE INSPECTION DONE AT BMW SPECIALISTS, SMG ADAPTIONS RESET, SOFTWARE UPDATED, UPRATED S/S EXHAUST CLAMPS FITTED, SUBFRAME CLEANED-CHECKED-UNDERSEALED.;;GREAT SPECIFICATION TO INCLUDE;;- SMG 2 GEARBOX;- 19" ALLOYS;- HEATED SEATS;- SATELLITE NAVIGATION;- XENON LIGHTS;- TELEPHONE PREP;- TPMS (Tyre Pressure Sensors);- AUTO LIGHTS;- POWER FOLD MIRRORS;- PDC (Park Sensors);;THIS VEHICLE HAS ONLY JUST ARRIVED and IS AWAITING A DETAILED DESCRIPTION.;;THIS CAR IS MORE SUITED TO A BMW ENTHUSIAST WHO WILL APPRECIATE THE CAR FOR WHAT IT IS and THE FACT IT'S ONE OF THE LATEST YOU WILL FIND and HAD JUST ONE OWNER FROM NEW.;;PLEASE FEEL FREE TO PICK UP THE TELEPHONE FOR FURTHER DETAILS WHILST WE ARE PREPARING THE CAR OR IF LOCAL POP DOWN FOR A COFFEE WHILST VIEWING.;;MANY THANKS, MATTHEW.

    • Mileage: 75300 mi
    • Engine size: 3.246
    For sale
  • BMW M3 4.0 DCT 2dr 2011

    £21,993 £21,993

    RAC INSPECTED and APPROVED Top Brand Cars Are Pleased To Offer This Stunning M3 With FULL BMW SERVICE HISTORY, It Comes With Top Spec Including The Must Have Extra Of ELECTRONIC DAMPER CONTROL (EDC), Black, With Full Black Leather Interior, Just Some Of The Spec Includes, Navigation System - BMW Professional Multimedia with High Resolution Control Display with 8.8in Colour Flat Screen (LCD), Bluetooth Telephone Audio Connection, Bluetooth Telephone Prep with Telematics, 19in M Double-Spoke Style 220M Alloy Wheels, Cruise Control, Park Distance Control (PDC), Rear, Electric Adjustment Front Seats, Drivers with Memory, Heated seats, Xenon Headlights and Daytime Driving Lights, Electric Windows - Front and Rear, with Open/Close Fingertip Control, Alarm System (Thatcham 1), Hill - Start Assistant, On - Board Computer (OBC), BMW Professional Radio with Single CD Player (with MP3 Playback Capability), Rain Sensor, Leather Steering Wheel, Remote central locking, Multi - Function Steering Wheel, Cruise control, Anti - Lock Braking System (ABS), Air conditioning. For Full Spec Feel Free To Contact Our Sales Team, VIEWING BY APPOINTMENT ONLY, Part Exchange Welcome, Finance Available, Debit And Credit Cards Taken

    • Mileage: 69000 mi
    • Engine size: 3.999
    For sale
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