BMW 3 Series (E36)

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BMW 3 Series (E36)
1994-96 BMW 320i sedan (Australia).jpg
ProductionOctober 1990[1]–2000
DesignerPinky Lai[3]
Boyke Boyer[4][5]
Body and chassis
ClassCompact executive car (D)
Body style2-door coupé
2-door convertible
4-door saloon
5-door touring
LayoutFront-engine, rear-wheel-drive
RelatedBMW Z3
BMW 3 Series Compact
Wheelbase2,700 mm (106 in)
Length4,430 mm (174 in)
Width1,700 mm (67 in)
Height1,350–1,390 mm (53–55 in)
PredecessorBMW 3 Series (E30)
SuccessorBMW 3 Series (E46)

The BMW E36 is the third generation of the BMW 3 Series range of compact executive cars, and was produced from October 1990 to 2000. The initial models were of the 4-door saloon body style, followed by the coupe, convertible, wagon ("Touring") and hatchback ("Compact") body styles in later years.

The E36 was the first 3 Series to be offered in a hatchback body style. It was also the first 3 Series to be available with a 6-speed manual transmission (in the 1996 M3), a 5-speed automatic transmission and a four-cylinder diesel engine. The multi-link rear suspension was also a significant upgrade compared with previous generations of 3 Series.

Following the introduction of its successor, the E46 in 1998, the E36 began to be phased out.

The E36 was named in Car & Driver Magazine's 10Best list for every year it was on sale.[6]

The E36 M3 is powered by the S50 or S52 straight-six engine (depending on country). The E36 M3 was released in 1992 and was available in coupé, saloon and convertible body styles.

Development and launch[edit]

Development of the E36 began in 1981[7] and the exterior design was heavily influenced by aerodynamics, specifically the overall wedge shape, headlight covers and smaller wing mirrors.[8]

The E36 production was launched in October 1990, with press release in November and market launch in early 1991.[9]

Body styles[edit]

The body styles of the range are:


The saloon, coupé, convertible and Touring models use the "Z-axle" multilink suspension in the rear, which was introduced in the Z1.

The hatchback body style (known as the "E36/5" or "BMW Compact") used a rear semi-trailing arm suspension based on the older E30 (also found in the Z3 and M Coupe), instead of the "Z-Axle" Multilink employed in all other E36 variants. This was done in order to save space due to the truncated rear end of the hatchback.


The E36 was produced with the following transmissions:

  • 5-speed manual
  • 6-speed manual (1996-1999 M3- except for United States)
  • 4-speed automatic
  • 5-speed automatic



Four-cylinder petrol[edit]

Initially, the 4-cylinder petrol engines from the E30 (M40 SOHC engine and M42 DOHC engine) were carried over. In 1993, the M40 was replaced by the M43 SOHC engine. In 1996, the M42 was replaced by the M44 DOHC engine.

Model Years Engine Power Torque
316i 1990-1994 M40B16 73 kW (98 hp)
at 5,500 rpm
141 N⋅m (104 lb⋅ft)
at 4,250 rpm
1993-1999 M43B16 75 kW (101 hp)
at 5,500 rpm
150 N⋅m (110 lb⋅ft)
at 3,900 rpm
318i 1990-1993* M40B18 83 kW (111 hp)
at 5,500 rpm
162 N⋅m (119 lb⋅ft)
at 4,250 rpm
1993-1998 M43B18 85 kW (114 hp)
at 5,500 rpm
168 N⋅m (124 lb⋅ft)
at 3,900 rpm
  318is** 1992-1995 M42B18 103 kW (138 hp)
at 6,000 rpm
175 N⋅m (129 lb⋅ft)
at 4,500 rpm
1996-1998 M44B19 181 N⋅m (133 lb⋅ft)
at 4,300 rpm

* Sold as 316i in South Africa
** Sold as 318i (instead of the M40/M43 engined models) in United States and South Africa

Six-cylinder petrol[edit]

Initially, the M50 petrol engines were used. In 1993 the M50TU added single VANOS, which increased torque (peak power was unchanged). In 1996, the M52 engine replaced the M50TU, resulting in the 328i model replacing the 325i and the addition of a new mid-range 323i model (powered by a 2.5 litre version of the M52).

The 1992 M3 introduced the 3.0 L S50 engine. In 1995, its capacity was increased to 3.2 L and VANOS was added to the intake camshaft.

Model Years Engine Power Torque
320i 1991-1994 M50B20 110 kW (148 hp)
at 5,900 rpm
190 N⋅m (140 lb⋅ft)
at 4,700 rpm
1994-1998 M52B20 190 N⋅m (140 lb⋅ft)
at 4,200 rpm
323i 1995-1998 M52B25 125 kW (168 hp)
at 5,500 rpm[13]
245 N⋅m (181 lb⋅ft)
at 3,950 rpm
325i 1991-1993 M50B25 141 kW (189 hp)
at 5,900 rpm
245 N⋅m (181 lb⋅ft)
at 4,700 rpm
1993-1995 M50B25TU 245 N⋅m (181 lb⋅ft)
at 4,200 rpm
328i 1995-1998 M52B28 142 kW (190 hp)
at 5,500 rpm
280 N⋅m (207 lb⋅ft)
at 3,950 rpm
Euro spec
1992-1995 S50B30 213 kW (286 hp)
at7000 rpm
320 N⋅m (236 lb⋅ft)
at3600 rpm
1995-1998 S50B32 236 kW (316 hp)
at7400 rpm
350 N⋅m (258 lb⋅ft)
at3250 rpm
U.S. spec
1995 S50B30US 179 kW (240 hp)
at 6,000 rpm
305 N⋅m (225 lb⋅ft)
at4,250 rpm
1996-1999 S52B32 320 N⋅m (236 lb⋅ft)
at 3,800 rpm


Initially, the turbocharged straight-6 M51 was used in the E36 325td sedan. In 1993, the 325tds sedan was released, which added an intercooler to the M51. In 1994, the 318tds model was introduced, powered by the 4-cylinder M41 turbocharged and intercooled engine.

Diesel models were not sold in the United States.[14]

Model Years Engine Power Torque
318tds 1994-2000 M41D17 66 kW (89 hp)
at 4,800 rpm
190 N⋅m (140 lb⋅ft)
at 2,000 rpm
325td 1991-1996 M51D25UL 85 kW (114 hp)
at 4,800 rpm
222 N⋅m (164 lb⋅ft)
at 2,000 rpm
1996-1998 M51D25TUUL 85 kW (114 hp)
at 4,800 rpm
230 N⋅m (170 lb⋅ft)
at 1900 rpm
325tds 1993-1996 M51D25OL 105 kW (141 hp)
at 4,800 rpm
260 N⋅m (192 lb⋅ft)
at 2,200 rpm
1996-1998 M51D25TUOL 105 kW (141 hp)
at 4,600 rpm
280 N⋅m (207 lb⋅ft)
at 2,200 rpm


M3 saloon

The E36 M3 is powered by the S50 and S52 straight-six engines, and was produced in coupé, saloon and convertible body styles.

E36/5 3 Series Compact[edit]

3 Series Compact

BMW made an entry level version of the E36 called the "3 Series Compact", a three-door hatchback. This platform is often referred to as the E36/5. In the United States/Canada market the car was sold as the 318ti and was equipped with a 1.8L I4, 139 bhp (104 kW) M42B18 engine and was priced at USD23,000 in 1995.[citation needed] In 1996 the 1.8 liter engine was replaced with 1.9L M44B19 putting out 142 bhp (106 kW) and 133 ft⋅lbf (180 N⋅m) of torque. Ostensibly due to slow U.S. sales of the E36/5 Compact, the E46 Compact was not sold in the United States.

E36/7 Z3 Roadster and E36/8 Z3 Coupe[edit]

2002 BMW Z3 3.0i

A modified version of the E36 platform designated as E36/7 was used for the Z3 roadster in 1996-2002. The modification for the Z3 Coupe was designed as E36/8.



The BMW E36 3 Series was imported as a full CBU (Complete Built Up) car. Popular models included the 316i "Compact" 3-door and 318i saloon. During that time, BMW advertised that the full BMW lineup was available with ABS brakes and driver side airbags. Between 1995 and 1999, the Thai market lineup included an exclusive 2.4L version of the M52 engine with 184 hp (135 Kw).[citation needed]


In Indonesia, only the 318i, 320i, and 323i models were available, also with 323i and 320i limited edition. These models are packed with wooden panel on each door trim, in between 1995-1998 single tuning colours models are introduced, the area were covered with single colour ornament, such as carpet, seat and door trim leather, driver airbag and ABS become standard from 1996 model, ASC+T, obc, digital air conditioning and leather seats only available in 323i.[citation needed]


In Malaysia, only the 318i, 325i and 328i models were available.[citation needed]

U.S. and Canada[edit]

  • 318i, 318is, 318ic (1992–1995)
  • 318ti (1994–1996)
  • 318i, 318ti (1996–1998)
  • 320i Canada only (1993-1995)
  • 323i (1996–1998) Coupe and convertible models only.
  • 323is, 323ic (1996–1999)
  • 325i, 325is, 325ic (1992)
  • 325i, 325is, 325ic (1993–1995) Coupe models sold as 325is.
  • 328i (1996–1998)
  • 328is, 328ic (1996–1999) Coupe models sold as 328is.
  • M3 (1995-1998 coupe, 1997-1998 sedan, 1997-1998 convertible) US-specific M3 engines: S50B30US (1995) and S52B32 (1996–1998)

Special models[edit]

316i South African Edition[edit]

Released between 1994-1998, the South Africa version of the 316i featured an 1796cc engine, although it had a 316i badge. Apart from being a right-hand driven vehicle, all other aspects of the vehicle was identical to its international 316i equivalent/counterpart.

318is Mtechnic[edit]

A sport version of the 318i in coupe form was considered as a cheaper more economical alternative to the M3. This model offered a higher power engine, an Mtech bumper, skirt, 16 inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, and a sportier interior. It also had the option of a limited slip differential.

325is Mtechnic[edit]

In late 1993/early 1994 BMW Motorsports, in an effort to gauge the demand for its new E36 based M3 in the US, produced 150 highly modified 325is BMWs. Modifications included: M3 front spoiler, M3 Sport side skirts, M3 rear valence, M3 Mirrors, Motorsport door handles, and all were painted with BMW Alpine White III. Inside, the Motorsport Tri-Color Hurricane scheme suede and cloth seats and interior panels were accompanied with the M stitched steering wheel, M logo shift knob, the OBC, heated seats, and 200 watt premium sound system. Other Motorsport tweaks included 17" 2 piece BBS Motorsport wheels, M Tech suspension and a limited slip differential. Some models optionally included the M3 rear spoiler and stainless steel exhaust tips. The end result was a car that looked just like the 1995 M3 that was eventually released, yet lacked the larger Motorsport 3.0L powerplant.[15][16]


Joachim Winkelhock competed in the British Touring Car Championship with the 318i and 320i from 1993 to 1995, winning the title in 1993. In the same year, Johnny Cecotto won the German ADAC GT Cup driving an E36 M3.[17] Cecotto won the Super Tourenwagen Cup for BMW in 1994 and 1998, Winkelhock in 1998.

Geoff Brabham and his younger brother David Brabham won the 1997 AMP Bathurst 1000 at the Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, Australia driving a Super Touring BMW 320i for BMW Motorsport Australia.

The 1998 24 Hours Nürburgring was won by a diesel for the first time - a BMW E36 320d, aided by its diesel engine requiring fewer fuel stops than rivals.[18][19]


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  4. ^ "BMW car designers throughout history". Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  5. ^ Caspers, Markus (2017). Designing Motion: Automotive Designers 1890 to 1990. Birkhäuser. p. 79. ISBN 9783035607840. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
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