Now it’s time to take the bull by the horns, here it’s time to talk about the BMW 3 Series. And what better starting point than the BMW E36, the BMW that costs as much as a phone? BMW E36 – the official tree hugging car because the wheel fell off after it was welded by some shady romanian in an shadier shed for a bottle of rakia and a pack of cigarettes.

You don’t have to be Kasparov to realize that I’m not the biggest fan alive of the BMW E36. In fact, I don’t have a problem with the car itself, I don’t even have a problem with those who buy them and turn them into drift cars. I have a problem only with those owners who bought a car for the value of a 6 pack of Fosters, who then broke the asphalt and then bragged about that they are the most jacked, that they have the biggest balls, even if at the first major repair they prefer to abandon the car in the fields and turn it into a chicken coop.

So how did the BMW E36 end up here?

Simple. Launched in 1990, the BMW E36 proved to be one of the best cars of its time. With an independent front-rear suspension, a 6-speed manual transmission and delicious 6-cylinder engines, the BMW 3 Series E36 instantly became a classic.

Today, most BMW 3 Series E36 ‘s have billions of miles, most of which are made in dubious conditions, using dubious replacement parts. You will not see quality engine oil used on most BMW E36 models. And the 328i is one of the fastest cars right now that you can buy with irish-sized pocket money.

BMW 3 Series E36 Engines


  • M40 / M43 316i and 318i – More of an normal packed engine rather than an sports engine. With 100 and 110 horsepower respectively, your only chance to impress the girls is to put on stickers with “Gass, grass or ass” or some “Live, Laugh, Love” plaque. Also, the timing belt must be changed every 3 years or 50,000km. That is if you can afford to buy a new timing kit. If not, second-hand or flex tape it is.
  • M42 and M44 318is – The most popular petrol engine, this 139 horsepower 1.9-cylinder engine offers enough power to drive the E36 sportily. Friendly, tax easy and relatively reliable. The most balanced and popular engine for this body by far.
  • M50 320i / 325i of 150 and 190 horsepower – A true slab of iron, this engine made of an alloy of rock and iron was one of the most popular BMW engines of all times, not just on the BMW E36. But, much like Pepin the Short, the M50 was easily forgotten due to its successor, the glorious M52. The advantage over the M52 however is in it’s reliability. Yes, the VANOS system also makes its debut on the M50 engine.
  • M52 320i / 323i / 328i of 150, 170 and 190 horsepower – This engine comes in 2.0, 2.5 and 2.8 flavor. Built out of aluminum, the M52 engine block remains a classic. Capable of serious performance, even in 2018 this engine occupies a special place in the hearts of enthusiasts. In 1996, when the Genius band and Skoda Octavia I were launched, the M52 engine received a double VANOS system.
  • S50 and S52 – Launched as the base engine on the M3, but there we are talking about a different car, which will require a separate item.


  • 318tds of 90 horsepower – It doesn’t even make sense to talk about him. At least it is saved by the fact that it has only a 4 cylinder unit and that it does not exceed 2000 cc so at least it’s easy on maintenance costs and taxes.
  • 325td and 325tds – An classic 2.5 engine, this diesel on the BMW E36 was not the most powerful engine ever made. At least it’s reliable. The simple one, the 325tds has a muscular 115 horsepower reserve of power, and the 325tds has an respectable 140 horsepower. So how did they pull it off? The difference is that the 325 tds also has an intercooler. Otherwise, an old and sturdy diesel that will not break down, no matter what.

BMW 3 Series E36 General Issues

  • The biggest problem of this model was / is the wide range of owners who took care of them, or more accuratelly didn’t. Most BMW 3 Series E36 of today are abused, on their last legs, fixed with flex tape and on their way to the cemetery. Of course, there are also rare models, impeccably maintained, but most are actually frying pans on wheels. However, the fact that they have so far withstood the maintenance budget of 10 pounds / year says something about their quality.
  • The VANOS system can easily fail. I have no place to write here about VANOS, but there will be a dedicated article. Sometimes. Probably.
  • The automatic transmission has a shorter lifespan than an irishman’s sobriety.
  • Petrol engines are prone to headgasket, pistons and thermostats issues, especially if they are driven by the #yolo motto. Also, the headgaskets and hoses used by BMW are not of the highest quality, so they can crack anytime, anywhere, right now, oh yeah! However, if you are passionate about BMW then you have probably already changed a few engines and you will not be dettered by any of these problems.
  • Rust is another important factor for the BMW Series 3 E36 but not necessarily because it was a bad car, only that it was poorly maintained and washed solely by the rain.

BMW 3 Series E36 Verdict

Setting aside the chav culture, as well as the culture of 18-year-olds with 10 pounds in their pockets who want a BMW, the BMW 3 Series E36 remains the cheapest BMW and one of the cheapest cars that can offer sportiness and adrenaline, far sportier than the mellow Audi A4 B5. You may not be able to afford the tax on a 328i, but even the 150 horsepower 320i does its job admirably, even after almost 30 years. A testament to German build quality, the BMW E36 remains BMW’s Pepin the Short, preceded by the BMW E30 and succeeded by the BMW E46, 2 of the best Bavarian cars of all time. But that doesn’t make the E36 worse than the others. It just makes it more accessible to us, the car enthusiasts.