The second generation BMW M3 was in many ways different to its predecessor, the homologation special E30 M3 built to conquer touring car racing around the world. Gone were the flared guards, wings and high revving 4 cylinder engine, replaced with a more subtle looking car with a naturally aspirated 3.0 litre 6 cylinder engine producing 210kW of power and 320Nm of torque.
If you’re after a unique front engine, rear wheel drive performance car, the E36 M3 represents amazing value for money. The car featured is a 1994 model finished in Daytona Violet. Back in 2010, the car was bought for $20,000, having travelled 134,000 kilometres. Features include a five speed manual gearbox, electric sunroof, driver and passenger airbags, black nappa leather interior and an optional 6 stacker CD player.
Cosmetically, the M3 differs from the normal 3 series by the addition of lightweight 7.5 x 17 inch M Double Spoke cast alloy wheels, M3 badges, front and rear diffusers, aerodynamic mirrors and side skirts, cooling ducts for the brakes in the front spoiler and twin exhaust outlets. Like most of the BMW M cars built both past and present, the appeal of the E36 M3 is the combination of relatively understated styling with fantastic performance. Another appeal to driving the car is the fact that there are no driver aids (traction or stability control) or other confusing electronic systems that have been a feature of later M cars.
The M3 is very quick off the line with BMW claiming that the car could hit 100km/h in 5.5 seconds and reach a limited top speed of 250km/h. The M3 really shines on fast flowing open roads with its wonderfully balanced chassis and eager high revving engine. The M3 really comes alive above 5000rpm and will pull eagerly to the 7000rpm redline, however rapid progress can still be made by short shifting and letting the ample torque pull you out of the corners.
The only real criticism of the car is the vagueness of the steering, which can be a little unsettling at speed and isn’t up to scratch for such a high performance car. Although the interior is well set out and a great place to be, an ideal seating position is hard for shorter drivers, due to the fact that the steering doesn’t have any reach adjustment and the seat doesn’t go far enough forward.
The downside to owning a prestige high performance car is paying for high servicing costs, and if scheduled oil services and inspection 1 and 2 services aren’t routinely carried out, you risk doing major damage to the car. VANOS units can be a weak point and can cost up to $10,000 to repair while a manual gearbox can be upwards of $12,000.
If you’re after a second generation M3, do your homework, find a low kilometre Australian delivered car and you’ve got a great looking car that seats 4 in comfort, handles wonderfully and has one of the best 6 cylinder engines ever put into production. With values increasing steadily, you may also be sitting on a half decent investment and a guaranteed modern classic.