Things I've Learnt About The E36 M3 After 1 Week Of Ownership

I've been an E36 BMW M3 owner for a week now, and in that short time, I've learned a few things about the car that have surprised me...
Things I've Learnt About The E36 M3 After 1 Week Of Ownership

1. No double takers...

Things I've Learnt About The E36 M3 After 1 Week Of Ownership

I’m used to driving cars that get noticed and turn heads (even my little MX-5 is a proper attention seeker), but the E36 M3 does neither. And this is a surprise to me because, well, it’s an E36 M3 and whenever I’ve seen one out in the wild, I’ve always grabbed my phone for a pic or told the person nearest to me to shut up and bow down in appreciation.

It seems, then, that the casual motorist just sees another pillock in a BMW whose indicators are broken and whose right foot is always stuck in the on position.

2. "You should have bought the E46"

Things I've Learnt About The E36 M3 After 1 Week Of Ownership

People I’ve spoken to don’t seem to get my reasoning behind buying an E36 M3 over the better E46 generation.

While I’ll admit that the newer car - which I could have bought for around the same sub-£8000 budget - is faster, more responsive and better refined, it’s the E36 shape, smaller dimensions and more classic lines that win my heart.

Then there’s the fact that prices of E36 M3s are on the up, mainly because depreciation has no home with the E36 anymore. Then there’s the fact that finding a good one these days is harder than going to a strip club and finding a dancer that you can take home to introduce to your mum on the same night. There are still many, many E46 M3s on our roads (two guys in the CT office have them), so they’ve still got a few years of depreciation to go before prices start to follow the trend of shooting up again.

3. Damn, these seats are uncomfortable

Things I've Learnt About The E36 M3 After 1 Week Of Ownership

People often tell me that my M3 is the “perfect spec.” It’s the right colour, has the correct amount of doors, and is fitted with the famous Vader seats, which look astonishing. Unfortunately, however, my 100 or so miles in them haven’t been the most comfortable. After around 10 minutes of driving, my lower back begins to ache and I find myself shuffling my body around to alleviate the dull pain.

I think the reason why I’m not getting on with the seats currently is because my body is so used to the harder seats of an MX-5. And like sleeping in a soft bed after being used to sleeping in a hard one, my back doesn’t have the support it’s used to.

TL;DR: I prefer the seats in my MX-5.

4. S50B32 FTW

Things I've Learnt About The E36 M3 After 1 Week Of Ownership

The 3.2-litre S50B32 straight-six engine fitted to post-September 1995 M3 coupes is a heartless destroyer of speed limits. Thanks to around 316bhp (the car will be dyno tested to see if that figure still holds true), the car is good for a 0-60mph time of around 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 170mph with the limiter removed.

To get the best out of the engine, you need to rev it past 5000rpm to get that double Vanos kick, at which point the car pulls hard and smooth all the way to its 7400rpm limit. In third gear, you’re well into triple figures, accompanied by a cacophony of engine and exhaust notes that remind you to look at the speedo and back off the throttle by at least 50 per cent. (Speed tests above were conducted on a recent M3 through the generations video shoot, before you ask…).

5. RIP fuel economy

Things I've Learnt About The E36 M3 After 1 Week Of Ownership

When I picked the M3 up recently, a quick check of the onboard computer revealed an average MPG figure of…wait for it…12.5mpg. That’s only 4mpg better than a London bus. Granted, the chap from whom I bought the car said that he’d been doing short trips only, but that fuel economy figure makes a GT-R look like a pussy-footed hybrid.

I’ve done a few miles on the motorway, and the best I’m seeing is around 26mpg, which drops considerably to around 22mpg if I use cruise control. But hey, cars like the M3 aren’t economy vehicles, so I’m OK with getting to know petrol attendants by their first names.

6. It's not as fun to drive as the MX-5. Not even close!

Things I've Learnt About The E36 M3 After 1 Week Of Ownership

Last night, I attended a posh dinner in London with some of the CT guys. Instead of taking the tube to get to my Clapham destination, I took the M3, mainly because a girlfriend in a nice dress getting in and out of a tiny red cabriolet with harnesses, a roll over bar and side bars causes chronic flashing. After the event, I settled the M3 into a relaxing drive back home, making good use of the car’s sixth gear. With home in sight, I had to move the MX-5 down the road to make space, so I jumped in Phil, started him up, and immediately grinned from ear to ear.

Everything about the MX-5 screams fun, from the immedate throttle response, to the lightning fast steering and the four-cylinder exhaust rasp that screams out and wakes the neighbours. Only then did I realise how heavy and boat-like the M3 felt by comparison. Not that I’m complaining; these two cars are worlds apart, but had the dinner in London been a casual, jeans-wearing event, I’d have taken the MX-5 in a heartbeat.

I’ll be bringing you regular video and written reports on this car, including forthcoming repairs, a dyno test, and new parts. For now, if you’ve got any questions, then fire away.




11/30/2015 - 17:43 |
2 | 2

I’ve been told it suits me…

11/30/2015 - 17:53 |
26 | 0

You must be fun at parties

11/30/2015 - 19:06 |
10 | 0
TurboToddler (Straight-five)

You asked if we had any questions. I have one: take me for a spin, pleeeeease!

11/30/2015 - 17:48 |
2 | 2

Sit on a swivel chair and I’ll spin you around until you vomit ;)

11/30/2015 - 17:53 |
28 | 0
Carguy1999 Reviews

Hey Alex quick question. Which do you think would be better, a v10 m5 or the E92 m3? I’m in the market for one and I’m not sure which I should get. Thanks! Hope you reply!

11/30/2015 - 17:48 |
0 | 0

Despite the E60’s crap SMG gearbox, I still think that’s the one I’d have…can’t beat the noise, although the V8 does sound epic too and has a great M-DCT gearbox.

11/30/2015 - 17:52 |
8 | 4

I’d say it depends on your age, I bought an e90 because my dad told me that if I got the 5-series, people would think that it was his. XD

11/30/2015 - 18:27 |
2 | 0

Alex, the E46 is not better.
The tuning capabilities of the E36 are much, MUCH higher.

11/30/2015 - 18:04 |
106 | 24

In reply to by kgga

A car is not better because its easier to tune! :p

11/30/2015 - 19:08 |
138 | 6
Black Art Graphics

In reply to by kgga

So by your reckoning, something like the Camaro recently featured in the ‘lowest Bhp/litre cars’ article, with something like 28bhp/litre must be amongst the very best cars in the world, simply because you can get so much extra power out of it?


11/30/2015 - 19:13 |
8 | 2
Boosted Boris

How is e46 faster than e36?

11/30/2015 - 18:08 |
8 | 0

Imagine i tell you that you have to drink two glasses of whisky one is not very aged whisky and one is old nice whisky you drink the first whisky quickly because it doesn’t taste that good but you drink slowly the other whisky because you want to enjoy it ……… this doesn’t really apply to cars unless you dink petrol o something though …..

11/30/2015 - 19:30 |
26 | 2

its not

12/02/2015 - 05:03 |
0 | 0
Cram38 you’re saying us to get a MX-5 over an E36 M3? because lightweight ist more fun than ‘infinite’ power from the M3?

wow, i like that !

11/30/2015 - 18:29 |
28 | 6

In reply to by Cram38

And I would agree on that. I’m really driving quite a few of those powerful cars but in the end, I definitely prefer those small, lightweight, responsive and honest machines!

11/30/2015 - 19:22 |
6 | 0

In reply to by Cram38

Even I would agree on that. I see no point for me to have a car that’s fast from 0-60.. I rather have a car that’s lightweight and steers with confidence.

12/01/2015 - 15:04 |
0 | 0

In reply to by Cram38

I think he’s not good enough for the E36. The E36 is an hard car to drive, and unless you’re a very, very good and experienced driver, you won’t get a thing out of it. The MX-5 however is rather slow, so you’ll get to its limit quite easily.

01/06/2016 - 13:40 |
0 | 0
4x4 FTW

Alex need a new car already. The next thing must be an offroader. My way to go is X-TERRA. Comfort for the city and pure performance for the trails

11/30/2015 - 18:34 |
4 | 2


11/30/2015 - 18:35 |
0 | 8

Get some new comfortable seats, make this car comfortable

11/30/2015 - 18:45 |
0 | 6

How about you put the e36 m3 engine into phil! Then you get best of both

11/30/2015 - 18:46 |
28 | 2

Cuz nose-heavy as f*ck? And with the costs of that swap, he should better put a Rotary engine in his Mazda. (I know your comment wasn’t serious, was it?)

11/30/2015 - 19:32 |
10 | 4



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