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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

    £30,995 £30,995

    Variant name:Coupe ,Derivative:M3 ,Variant: 4.0 V8 BMW M3 M3 2dr DCT

    • Year: 2013
    • Mileage: 34400 mi
    • Engine size: 4
    For sale
    Dick Lovett-BMW - Bristol
    0117 905 0000 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • 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 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

    £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 Manual Saloon

    £29,950 £29,950

    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 E92 M3 Limited Edition 500

    £34,995 £34,995

    BMW E92 M3 Limited Edition 500 Viewing is highly recommended - although strictly by appointment only. Detailed write up to follow, but in the meantime, to find out any further information or to arrange to come and view the car, please contact a member of the sales team on 01825 740456 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Factory Equipment: Interior mirror with automatic-dip Seat adjuster, electric, with memory Headlight cleaning system Xenon Light Automatic air conditioning Cruise control Interior trim strip in Titan Shadow Headlining anthracite Language version English Additional Equipment: Warning triangle and first aid kit Smoker package Vehicle options Isofix-System Adjuster, backrest width Seat heating driver/passenger Armrest front, retractable Park Distance Control (PDC) Rain sensor Adaptive Headlights Light package Navigation system Professional BMW Assist Expanded BMW Online Information BMW Online Voice control Preparation, mobile p

    • Year: 2012
    • Mileage: 16900 mi
    For sale
  • BMW M3 3.0 DCT 4dr

    £46,950 £46,950

    Opal White leather, Carbon fibre interior trim with black chrome, electric memory seats, heated seats, lumbar support, dual-zone climate control, 19in M Diamond Cut Black finish Double-spoke alloys, Akrapovic Titanium exhaust system, M Double-clutch transmission, Adaptive M Suspension, BMW Professional satellite navigation, BMW Teleservices, BMW Connected Drive Services, Real-time traffic information, Bluetooth, USB Audio interface, Concierge Services, convenience phone, Harman/Kardon Surround Sound System, DAB Digital Radio, Tire pressure display, Park Distance Control, Reversing camera, electric windows, electric heated mirrors, remote central locking, ABS, front/rear and side airbags, leather multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, brake energy regeneration, DSC with traction control, trip computer, road sign detection, rain sensor, Bi-Xenon adaptive headlamps, auto headlamp function, headlight cleaning system, high beam assist, front fog lamps, auto-dim interior/exterior mirror, rain sensor, anthracite headlining, extended interior light package, ISOFIX, front sliding centre armrest, backrest width adjuster, carbon fibre roof, sun protection glazing, high gloss shadow li

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 15000 mi
    For sale
  • BMW M3 Coupe 4.0 V8

    POA POA

    Launched in 2007 the E92 M3 is the forth generation M3 Coupe, powered by the new 4.0 V8 producing a staggering 414 bhp. This particular model is the very sought after manual version and is well equipped with a huge list of options over and above the standard, to include EDC, Individual High End Audio, Adaptive Xenons etc... Supplied with an impeccable service history and has been prepared by our award winning workshop to the very highest standards. The service history is as follows: 11/10/2007 - BMW Birmingham @ 1128 miles 01/12/2008 - BMW Wolverhampton @ 16428 miles 03/10/2009 - BMW Wolverhampton @ 23861 miles 03/10/2011 - BMW Sheffield @ 39902 miles 17/09/2013 - BMW Specialist @ 52008 miles 07/03/2014 - BMW Leicester @ 53828 miles 04/02/2015 - BMW Leicester @ 58663 miles 10/09/2015 - BMW Leicester @ 61350 miles This vehicle is also supplied with 12 months MOT. All of our cars also have a pre-sale 111 point check to ensure they meet our very high preparation standard. Extended Black Novillo Leather EDC - Electronic Damper Control Individual High End Audio Bluetooth Phone Prep Automatic Adaptive Xenon Lights with Wash Electric Memory Sports Seats Heated Seats Folding Mirrors Park D

    • Year: 2007
    • Mileage: 67850 mi
    For sale
  • BMW M3 4.0 LIMITED EDITION 500 Convertible

    £31,950 £31,950

    Individual Stratus Grey Metallic, Black Nevada leather, contrast red stitching, interior trim strip in Titan Shadow, 500 LTD Edition decal, electric memory seats, dual-zone climate control, 19in Gloss Black M multi-spoke alloys, M Double-clutch transmission, M Drive, BMW Professional satellite navigation, BMW Assist, BMW Teleservices, BMW Online, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth, USB Audio interface, Mobile phone preparation, 6CD changer, Concierge Services, Voice Control, Park Distance Control (rear), electric windows, electric heated mirrors, remote central locking, Thatcham 1 alarm, 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, daytime running lights, auto-dim interior mirror, headlight cleaning system, extended interior light package, ISOFIX, high gloss shadow line, black gloss kidney grille, full BMW service history

    • Year: 2013
    • Mileage: 26000 mi
    For sale
  • BMW M3

    £28,500 £28,500

    Three Owners, Service History, Alloy Wheels, Colour SatNav, Full Leather, Trip Computer, Traction Control, Bluetooth, Stability Control, Power Steering, Parking Sensors, Cruise Control, Air Conditioning, Powered Folding Mirrors, Remote Central Locking, Memory Seats, Rain-Sensing Wipers, Auto Lighting, Central Locking, Electric Seats, ABS, Metallic Paintwork, Front Centre Armrest, Automatic Electric Windows, Head Restraints, Heated Seats, Radio, CD Player, Push Button Start, Power Hood, Electric Windows, Electric Mirrors, Climate Control, Dual Climate Zones, iPod Connectivity, Isofix, Multiple Airbags, Lumbar Adjustment, Sports Seats, Rear Headrests, Adjustable Steering Column, Front Fog Lamps, Electric retractable hard top, Keyless Entry, Steering Wheel Audio Controls, We provide an Inclusive Parts & Labour Guarantee, Extended Guarantees are Available, Delivery Available at cost, 19'' Alloys, Service history DCT Gearbox, BMW Individual Merino Leather, Electronic Damper Control (EDC)19in M Double-Spoke Style 220M Alloy Wheels, Loudspeaker System - Harman/KardonTV Function, BMW Individual Paintwork, BMW Individual Piano Black Interior Trim w/Inlay, Comfort Access System, Park Distance Control (PDC) Front/Rear CD Changer for Six CDs, Seats - Front Seats Heating, Wind Deflector, High-Gloss Shadowline Exterior Trim, Adaptive Headlights, Electric Folding Exterior Mirrors, Universal Remote Control, Through Loading Storage Bag, Climate Comfort Windscreen, High-Beam Assistant, Mobile Application Preparation, Sliding Front Armrest, Internet, Extended Storage, Bluetooth Telephone Audio Connection, OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK - A SELECTION OF UP TO 200 CARS AND VANS AVAILABLE. Click on dealer 'VISIT WEBSITE' link for many more large photographs of this car. We are a West Sussex Trading Standards Approved 'Buy with Confidence Dealership', West Sussex Trading Standards 'Approved Buy with Confidence.

    • Mileage: 41872 mi
    • Engine size: 3999
    For sale
  • BMW M3 E93

    POA POA

    Lovely and immaculate condition inside and outside Only 35K miles HPI Clear Original paint all around Parking sensors front and rear Sat Nav Factory upgraded music system + MP3 aux In Xenon lights Electric and heated front seats Two Keys – Open Roof Via Key All Manuals & Books present. Full service history (8 stamps) some BMW and some Specialist. 4 Previous Owners MOT history to prove the mileage. Will be done a comprehensive service for the new owner. The car is in our storage in Headcorn (Kent). 60 hi-res picture available on request. TO ARRANGE AN APPOINTMENT OR FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS OR ANY OF OUR CARS PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT US. We WILL BE HAPPY TO HELP! S1CA Selection of COP relevant vehicles S1CB CO2 package S1CD Brake Energy Regeneration S2MD M Drive S2MT BMW LA wheel, dual spoke 220 S2PA Wheel bolt retainer S302 Alarm system S423 Floor mats, velours S428 Warning triangle and first aid kit S441 Smoker package S470 Isofix-System S490 Adjuster, backrest width S494 Seat heating driver/passenger S4MX Int. strips, Alu Shadow, linear polished S508 Park Distance Control (PDC) Vehicle options S521 Rain sensor S563 Light package S609 Navigation system Professional S612 BMW

    • Year: 2008
    • Mileage: 35500 mi
    For sale
  • BMW M3 V8 M DCT

    £25,000 £25,000

    Body: Convertible Transmission: Semi-Automatic Mileage: 25,000 Fuel Type: Petrol Registered: 2010 (60) Doors: 2 Engine Size: 4.0 Finished in: JEREZ BLACK METALLIC WITH BLACK LEATHER 19" alloys

    • Year: 2010
    • Mileage: 25000 mi
    For sale
  • BMW M3

    £50,990 £50,990

    Harman Kardon, Xenon Headlamps, Electric Seats, Heated Seats, Cruise Control, Parking Camera, Parking Sensors, Full main dealer service history BMW M3 3.0 M TwinPower Turbo DCT Automatic registered October 2015 wrapped in Purple and Green Chameleon with Silverstone Extended Merino Leather with Ebony Black Leather and Contrast Stitching, Carbon Fibre Interior and Exterior Trim with Black Kidney Grille Surrounds; Carbon Fibre Mirror Covers and Front Splitter by BMW Sytner High Wycombe, Litchfield Imports Installed Remus Exhaust with Carbon Tips; X-Pipe with Connecting Tubes; Rear Silencer and Litchfield Tuning M3 Tuning Box to roughly 510BHP, Electric Heated M Sport Front Seats with Driver Memory and Lumbar Support, Harman Kardon Sound System, 19 Inch M Double Spoke Style 437M Black Alloys, Head Up Display, Adative M Sport Suspension, Powerfold Door Mirrors, Bluetooth Telephone and Media, DAB Radio, Reversing Camera with Front and Rear Parking Sensors, Rear Sun Blinds, Xenon Headlamps with Washers, Cruise Control with Brake Function, Professional Satellite Navigation, Adaptive Headlights with High Beam Assist, Automatic Lights and Wipers, Keyless Go with Push Button Start, Extended Interior Light Package, M Sport Leather Multifunction Steering Wheel, Start/Stop, Tyre Pressure Monitoring, Full BMW Service History at Sytner High Wycombe on 29/04/16 at 1,328. 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: 5500 mi
    • Engine size: 2979
    For sale
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