BMW 3 Series (E36)

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BMW 3 Series
1991-1996 BMW 318i (E36) sedan (2011-04-02) 01.jpg
Manufacturer BMW
Production August 1990 – 1999[1]
Assembly Germany: Munich
Germany: Regensburg
Egypt: 6th of October City (BAG)
Mexico: Toluca (BMW Mexico)
South Africa: Rosslyn (BMW SA)
United States: Spartanburg, SC (BMW Manufacturing Co.)
Designer Pinky Lai(1987)[2]
Boyke Boyer(1987, 1988)[3]
Body and chassis
Class Entry-level luxury car
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door convertible
4-door saloon
5-door touring
Layout FR layout
Related BMW M3
BMW 3 Series Compact
Engine Petrol Engines:
1.6-1.9 L 4-cyl
2.0-3.2 L 6-cyl
Diesel Engines:
1.7 L 4-cyl turbo
2.5 L 6-cyl turbo
Transmission 5-speed manual
6-speed manual
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
Wheelbase 2,700 mm (106 in)
Length 4,432 mm (174 in)
Width 1,697 mm (67 in)
Height sedan: 1,392 mm (55 in)
coupe: 1,367 mm (54 in)
convertible: 1,349 mm (53 in)
Predecessor BMW E30
Successor BMW E46

The BMW E36 series is the third generation of the BMW 3 Series range of entry-level luxury cars, and was produced from 1990 to 2000. The body styles of the range are:

The E36 was the first 3 Series to be offered in a hatchback body style. These models, called the BMW 3 Series Compact, were popular in Europe but largely unsuccessful in North America. 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.

The E36 was named in Car and Driver Magazine's 10Best list for every year it was on sale.[4]

The E36 M3 is powered by the S50 straight-six engine, except for the 1996-1999 North American M3's, which are powered by the S52 straight-six engine. The E36 M3 was released in 1992 and was available in coupe, sedan and convertible body styles. It was named Car and Driver's best handling car for over $30k in 1997.[5]

Development process[edit]

Development began in July 1981, with the final design being frozen in 1988.[citation needed]


The body styling is sometimes referred to as the "dolphin shape".[citation needed]

All E36 saloons, coupes, and estates employed the "Z-axle" multilink suspension in the rear which had been proven 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's. This was done in order to save space due to its truncated rear end.


Four-cylinder petrol[edit]

Initially, the 4-cylinder 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 Accel.[6] Top speed Body styles Notes
316i 1990-1994 M40B16 73 kW (98 hp)
@5500 rpm
141 N·m (104 lb·ft)
@4250 rpm
12.9 s 191 km/h (119 mph) sedan Not sold in USA
1993-1999 M43B16 75 kW (101 hp)
@5500 rpm
150 N·m (110 lb·ft)
@3900 rpm
12.7 s 195 km/h (121 mph) sedan
Not sold in USA
318i 1990-1993 M40B18 83 kW (111 hp)
@5500 rpm
162 N·m (119 lb·ft)
@4250 rpm
11.2 s 198 km/h (123 mph) sedan
Not sold in USA
Sold as 316i in South Africa
1993-1998 M43B18 85 kW (114 hp)
@5500 rpm
168 N·m (124 lb·ft)
@3900 rpm
11.0 s 208 km/h (129 mph) Not sold in USA
1992-1995 M42B18 103 kW (138 hp)
@ 6000 rpm
175 N·m (129 lb·ft)
@4500 rpm
9.9 s 215 km/h (134 mph) sedan
USA only
Convertible sales began in MY 1994
1996-1998 M44B19 181 N·m (133 lb·ft)
@4300 rpm
318is 1992-1995 M42B18 103 kW (138 hp)
@ 6000 rpm
175 N·m (129 lb·ft)
@4500 rpm
9.9 s 215 km/h (134 mph) coupe
1996-1998 M44B19 181 N·m (133 lb·ft)
@4300 rpm

Six-cylinder petrol[edit]

Initially, the M50 engines were used. In 1993 the M50TU added single VANOS, which increased torque (peak power was unchanged). In 1994, 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 Accel.[7] Top speed Body styles Notes
320i 1991-1994 M50B20 110 kW (148 hp)
@5900 rpm
190 N·m (140 lb·ft)
@4700 rpm
9.8 221 km/h (137 mph) sedan
Not sold in USA
1994-1998 M52B20 190 N·m (140 lb·ft)
@4200 rpm
323i 1995-1998 M52B25 125 kW (168 hp)
@5500 rpm
245 N·m (181 lb·ft)
@3950 rpm
7.3[8] 232 km/h (144 mph) sedan
1998 USA models were all coupes/convertibles
325i 1991-1993 M50B25 141 kW (189 hp)
@5900 rpm
245 N·m (181 lb·ft)
@4700 rpm
7.5 235 km/h (146 mph) sedan
1993-1995 M50B25TU 245 N·m (181 lb·ft)
@4200 rpm
Coupe sold in US as 325is
328i 1995-1998 M52B28 142 kW (190 hp)
@5500 rpm
280 N·m (210 lb·ft)
@3950 rpm
7.0 240 km/h (150 mph) sedan
USA sales began 1996.
Coupe sold in US as 328is.
M3 1995 S50B30US 179 kW (240 hp)
@6000 rpm
305 N·m (225 lb·ft)
@4250 rpm
5.6 250 km/h (155 mph)* sedan
USA spec
1996-1999 S52B32 320 N·m (240 lb·ft)
@3800 rpm
5.5 s
1992-1995 S50B30 213 kW (286 hp)
@7000 rpm
320 N·m (240 lb·ft)
@3600 rpm
5.4 s EU spec
1995-1998 S50B32 236 kW (316 hp)
@7400 rpm
350 N·m (260 lb·ft)
@3250 rpm
5.2 s

* Electronic speed limiter


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 USA.[9]

Model Years Engine Power Torque Accel.[10] Top speed Body styles
318tds 1994-1998 M41D17 66 kW (89 hp)
@4800 rpm
190 N·m (140 lb·ft)
@2000 rpm
13.0 182 km/h (113 mph) sedan
325td 1991-1996 M51D25UL 85 kW (114 hp)
@4800 rpm
222 N·m (164 lb·ft)
@2000 rpm
12.0 198 km/h (123 mph) sedan
1996-1998 M51D25TUUL 85 kW (114 hp)
@4800 rpm
230 N·m (170 lb·ft)
@1900 rpm
12.0 198 km/h (123 mph) sedan
325tds 1993-1996 M51D25OL 105 kW (141 hp)
@4800 rpm
260 N·m (190 lb·ft)
@2200 rpm
9.9 214 km/h (133 mph) sedan
1996-1998 M51D25TUOL 105 kW (141 hp)
@4600 rpm
280 N·m (210 lb·ft)
@2200 rpm
9.9 214 km/h (133 mph) sedan


Main article: E36 M3

E36/5 3 Series Compact[edit]

316 Coupe 1.6 L engine
Main article: BMW 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; 141 PS) 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; 144 PS) and 133 ft·lbf (180 N·m) of torque. Ostensibly due to slow US 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]

Main article: BMW Z3

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.


328i Touring interior


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, airbag available on highest model And other safety equipment.[citation needed]


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


  • 318i, 318is, 318ic (1992–1995)
  • 318ti (1994–1996)
  • 318i, 318ti (1996–1998)
  • 320i Canada only (1993-1995)
  • 323i (1996–1998)
  • 323is, 323ic (1996–1999)
  • 325i, 325is, 325ic (1992)
  • 325i, 325is, 325ic (1993–1995)
  • 328i (1996–1998)
  • 328is, 328ic (1996–1999)
  • M3 (1995-1998 coupe, 1997-1998 sedan, 1997-1998 convertible) USA-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.[11][12]


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.[13][14]



  1. ^ "BMW 3er E36 (1990-1999)". Archived from the original on 2012-10-26. 
  2. ^ "Interview with automotive designer Pinky Lai". Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  3. ^ "BMW car designers throughout history". Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  4. ^ "1998 10Best Cars - 10Best Cars". Retrieved 6 January 2017. 
  5. ^ "The Best-Handling Car for More than $30,000" (PDF). 
  6. ^ Acceleration: 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph), with manual transmission
  7. ^ Acceleration: 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph), with manual transmission
  8. ^ Cobb, James G. (1998-07-12). "BEHIND THE WHEEL/BMW 323is; Last Hurrahs for a Star Performer". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-10-31. 
  9. ^ " - Select Your BMW Model". Retrieved 16 January 2017. 
  10. ^ Acceleration: 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph), with manual transmission
  11. ^ "1994 BMW M-Design 325is Coupe". 
  12. ^ "1994 M-Technic 325is". Archived from the original on 2015-02-16. 
  13. ^ "BMW World - Nürburgring 24 Hours". Archived from the original on 2011-04-11. 
  14. ^ "BMW motorsport press release". Archived from the original on 2011-07-23.