BMW 3 Series (E36)

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BMW 3 Series (E36)
1991-1996 BMW 318i (E36) sedan (2011-04-02) 01.jpg
Manufacturer BMW
Production August 1990–1999[1]
Model years 1992-1999
Assembly Regensburg, Germany
Munich, Germany
Toluca, Mexico
Cairo, Egypt
Rosslyn, Gauteng, South Africa[2]
Greer, South Carolina, U.S.
Designer Pinky Lai
Body and chassis
Class Small family car (C)
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door convertible
4-door saloon
5-door estate
3-door hatchback
Layout FR layout
Related BMW M3
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)- except hatchback
4,209 mm (166 in)- hatchback only
Width 1,697 mm (67 in)- except convertible
1,709 mm (67 in)- convertible only
Height sedan and hatchback: 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 is a near-luxury car which was produced by BMW from 1990 to 1999. It was introduced in October 1990 in the 4-door sedan body style. The model range was later expanded to include the coupe, convertible, station wagon ("Touring") and hatchback ("Compact"). The BMW E46 replaced the E36 sedans in 1998, however the E36 coupe and station wagon models remained in production until 1999, the convertible models also remained in production until 1999 and the hatchback models remained in production until 2001.

The hatchback body style, known as the BMW Compact, was introduced in 1994 starting with the 318ti, being very popular in Europe but largely unsuccessful in North America. The "Touring" estate was sold in Europe from 1995, but was not available in the United States. Even though the BMW factory was producing its own E36 convertibles, the Baur "Top Cabriolet" conversion was also available.

The E36 was a successful model which laid strong foundations for the BMW E46's success in subsequent years.[3] For every year of its production, the E36 was named in Car and Driver Magazine's "10 Best Cars" list (see Car and Driver Ten Best). Additionally, the E36 M3 was named Car and Driver's best handling car for over $30k in 1997.[4]

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.


DOHC engines were used across the range (except in entry level models, see table below), with VANOS variable valve timing introduced in 1993. The 2.5 L M50B25 used in the 325i models was replaced in 1996 with the 2.8 L M52B28, creating the 328 line. Another 2.5 L I6 engine, the M52B25, was reintroduced for 1998 but badged as the 323i rather than 325i.


Four-cylinder gasoline (petrol) models[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 Market Model Years sold Engine Power Torque 0-100 km/h (0-60 mi/h) Top speed Body styles Notes
316i EU 1990-1994 M40B16 76 kW (102 hp)
@5500 rpm
141 N·m (104 lb·ft)
@4250 rpm
12.9 s 191 km/h (119 mph) sedan
1993-1999 M43B16 76 kW (102 hp)
@5500 rpm
150 N·m (110 lb·ft)
@3900 rpm
12.7 s 195 km/h (121 mph) sedan
1999-2001 M43B19 77 kW (103 hp)
@5300 rpm
165 N·m (122 lb·ft)
@2500 rpm
11.9 s 190 km/h (120 mph) hatchback
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

convertible wagon

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)
US 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


Convertible sales began in MY 1994
1996-1998 M44B19 181 N·m (133 lb·ft)
@4300 rpm
318is US, EU 1992-1995 M42B18 175 N·m (129 lb·ft)
@4500 rpm
1996-1998 M44B19 181 N·m (133 lb·ft)
@4300 rpm
318ti 1994-1995 M42B18 175 N·m (129 lb·ft)
@4500 rpm
hatchback US version was only sold in 1995
1996-1999 M44B19 181 N·m (133 lb·ft)
@4300 rpm

Six-cylinder gasoline (petrol) models[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.

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 exhaust camshaft.

Model Market Model Years sold Engine Power Torque 0–100 km/h Top speed Body styles Notes
EU 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
320i 1994-1998 M52B20 190 N·m (140 lb·ft)
@4200 rpm
323i EU, US 1995-1998 M52B25 125 kW (168 hp)
@5500 rpm
245 N·m (181 lb·ft)
@3950 rpm
8.2 232 km/h (144 mph) sedan
US version was only available in coupe and convertible form for MY 1998
EU 1999-2001 M52B25 125 kW (168 hp)
@5500 rpm
245 N·m (181 lb·ft)
@3900 rpm
325i US, EU 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 M50B25 engine replaced in US with M50B25TU in 1993
325i 1993-1995 M50B25TU 245 N·m (181 lb·ft)
@4200 rpm


Coupe style sold in US as "325is"
325is US 1993-1995 coupe
US, EU 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
Sales of US models began in 1996 in sedan and convertible styles.

Coupe style sold in US as "328is"

328is US 1996-1998 coupe
US 1995 S50B30US 179 kW (240 hp)
@6000 rpm
305 N·m (225 lb·ft)
@4250 rpm
5.6 250 km/h (160 mph)* sedan
1996-1999 S52B32 179 kW (240 hp)
@6000 rpm
320 N·m (240 lb·ft) @3800 rpm 5.5 s
EU 1992-1995 S50B30 213 kW (286 hp)
@7000 rpm
320 N·m (240 lb·ft)
@3600 rpm
5.4 s
1995-1998 S50B32 236 kW (316 hp)
@7400 rpm
350 N·m (260 lb·ft)
@3250 rpm
5.2 s

* Electronic speed limiter

Diesel models[edit]

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 4-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled M41 engine became available for the sedan, hatchback and wagon models.

Power Torque Engine 0–100 km/h Top speed Body styles Notes
66 kW (89 hp)
@4800 rpm
190 N·m (140 lb·ft)
@2000 rpm
M41D17 13.0 182 km/h (113 mph) sedan
85 kW (114 hp)
@4800 rpm
222 N·m (164 lb·ft)
@2000 rpm
M51D25UL 12.0 198 km/h (123 mph) sedan
85 kW (114 hp)
@4800 rpm
230 N·m (170 lb·ft)
@1900 rpm
M51D25TUUL 12.0 198 km/h (123 mph) sedan
105 kW (141 hp)
@4800 rpm
260 N·m (190 lb·ft)
@2200 rpm
M51D25OL 9.9 214 km/h (133 mph) sedan
105 kW (141 hp)
@4600 rpm
280 N·m (210 lb·ft)
@2200 rpm
M51D25TUOL 9.9 214 km/h (133 mph) sedan



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 editon. 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.[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 a Mtech bumper, skirt, 16 inch alloy wheels and 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.[5][6]

E36/5 3 Series Compact[edit]

316 Coupe 1.6 L engine

BMW made an entry level version of the E36 called the BMW 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]

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


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.[7][8]



  1. ^ "BMW 3er E36 (1990-1999)". 
  2. ^ "Bmw In Egypt". 
  3. ^ "BMW Baureihenarchiv · BMW E36 · Entwicklungscode". 
  4. ^ "The Best-Handling Car for More than $30,000" (PDF). 
  5. ^ "1994 BMW M-Design 325is Coupe". 
  6. ^ "1994 M-Technic 325is". 
  7. ^ "BMW World - Nürburgring 24 Hours". 
  8. ^ "BMW motorsport press release".