The BMW 323is (chassis code: E36) is a very reliable automobile with exceptional fuel-sipping properties. Naturally you'll have to replace some parts along the way, however they are not as expensive as most would have you believe. Most repairs can be done by even the most novice of home mechanics. The cooling system should be overhauled every 60-80k miles but even with OEM parts the whole task should cost the DIYer no more than $350-400 (radiator, thermostat, water pump, hoses, etc.). The engine is brilliant and I still see 27 MPG as my overall avg. As mentioned in the title, I am currently at 210,000 miles and still on the factory clutch! I will keep this car for at least another 100k.
How it drives and the sound of the inline-6 engine.
I bought my '98 323is in September of '11 with 55,400 original miles. It has been about 90 days and the car has been a pure joy to drive and own. The M52 is the least powerful of the 2.5 I6 engines available but is still reasonably quick with a wonderful smooth character and a good amount of torque. The balanced feel and handling put a huge smile on my face in every corner. It is also comfortable and reasonably quiet on the highway inspite of its tight, sporty character. This car was well maintained by its previous two owners and it shows. I now understand why BMW calls their cars the "Ultimate Driving Machine".
Extremely high quality feel.
Brilliant to drive.
Components designed to be DIY friendly in regards to repair and maintenance.
Highway driving at 75-80 mph nets 25-30 mpg and a 0-60 time of 7.1 seconds...what's not to like?
Cup holders were a distant afterthought, the Germans take their driving very seriously and don't understand our desire to consume refreshments while we drive.
Glove box design not terribly robust.
i always like the E36 since i was a kid so i bought one with 98,000 miles on the clock. it seemed that as soon as the odometer turned over 100,000 miles, it no longer wanted to do anything correctly. it needed fixing and the parts are expensive. i have spent $6k-$8k on this car in parts alone this past year. the check engine light always comes on; as soon as one problem is fixed another thing is wrong. i drive conservatively and i can not get more than 15mpg and it goes through back tires very quickly. the engine is very noisy and vibrates a lot. the power windows can not go up without help and the headliner is falling off. all in all: i can not wait to buy another car.
fun to drive, nice exterior, transmission and clutch feel very nice. handles well and the radio sounds good.
reliability, the drivers seat is uncomfortable, tire life is very short, it keeps breaking and it is difficult to maintain. glove box dosent stay closed.
I cannot complain about many things about this car. My favorite part, performance, is exceptional for a 6 cylinder. The throttle is responsive and the pick-up and 1st, 2nd and even 3rd gear will push you into your seat, even the exhaust has a subtle growl. The ergonomics of the car are perfect. Radio controls, air conditioning controls, gearshift, blinker, headlight switch, seat adjustments... Everything is perfectly placed. The integrity of the interior materials is superb. The leather is strong and the stitching doesn't break. The interior is very beautiful and the exterior of the car is stunning. You have to drive one to see how many heads turn as you drive by.
Performance, 190 horsepower has never done so much in a car. Exterior styling is beautiful, clean lines and very tasteful trim and bumpers. Interior styling doesn't have the cheap "Mustang" look. The car is a definite head-turner. Very reliable, integrity of parts is stunning.
Cupholders are made for soda cans and fast-food cups at most, nothing large. Glovebox lid is somewhat thin. Not all cars have keyless entry or an alarm, but do have a locking steering wheel and other safety measures.