E36 was the chassis code assigned to the 3 series of BMW throughout the 1990’s. The E36 has become more popular on the second hand market in the last few years due to their strong engines and adequate features. Look on any used car website, and you can find one for a couple grand or less. That being said, there’s a couple different variants of the E36, most of which I’ve driven. Here are my thoughts on the variants I have driven:
The 318ti is the cheapest form of the E36. It has a shortened wheelbase, smaller engine, and was BMW’s stab at a cheaper car. Had the 318ti been made today, it would be a 1 series car. The 318ti has a 1.9L inline four cylinder, and a 5 speed manual transmission. The engine is peppy and buzzy, like a Mazda Miata. Somehow the small four banger retains the BMW snarl that the larger inline six cylinder have. It’s great sounding car for it’s size. The real downside I found was the lack of features. Since the 318ti was an “Entry level” BMW, its missing some features that other E36’s have. Below is my video review of the 318ti.
I’ve driven two 325is’. The 325is has a 2.5L straight six engine, and 5 speed manual transmission. This one is a full size chassis, unlike the 318ti. The longer wheelbase makes the car feel sportier. The straight six also packs a heavier punch than the 1.9L of the 318ti. The torque and sound make it one of my favorite engines. The straight six is why people love the E36. In my own opinion, it’s better than a KA or a B series Honda engine. Below is my reviews of the two 325is’ I drove.
And another one
The 328i came later in the E36’s run, packing a bigger engine. As the name suggests, the 328i has a 2.8L inline six-cylinder engine. The one I drove was automatic, and it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Granted, I prefer a manual, but this automatic was far from the worst I’ve ever driven. The 2.8L is torquier than the 2.5L, but there isn’t a significant difference. The 328i I drove was also a convertible, which was a breath of fresh air to drive a BMW with the top down. For some reason the convertible feels classier than a hard top E36. Maybe it’s the ability to flip the top down at a stop light on a sunny day, as a way to flaunt to all the hard topped cars around you. Here’s my review of the convertible 328i.
The M3 is the king E36. It’s the rarest, most expensive, and the best. I had the opportunity to drive one back in the fall, but because of the sun being down I wasn’t able to capture it on video. The M3 has a 3.2L inline six-cylinder engine and a 5 speed manual transmission. What I loved about the M3 is the engine. It feels like there’s no ceiling. You rev and rev and rev and the car just keeps on pulling. I hope to get the M3 on camera at some time this year, and when I do you’ll see an article here about it.
The E36 is an amazing platform from the 1990s. It’s still one of the most loved chassis in car culture more than twenty years later. If you’re looking to buy one, I’d highly recommend it. Just look into getting your sub frame reinforced.