I bought the car 2 years ago from someone who had it for 11 years and never drove it in the winter. The car is near perfect condition with a few modifications ( the previous owner liked to go fast ). M3 cam, header, M50 intake, AA chip and 3 inch exhaust, full locking diff plus new adjustable suspension. The ride plus handling is tight.
With out a doubt the BMW e36 M40 engines are a very reliable engine. These cars require routine maintenance such as oil changes with synthetic oil, oxygen sensor replacement every 30,000 - 60,000 miles for best fuel air mixture ratio and mpg performance. The cooling systems are prone to wear due to plastic BMW OEM parts however, replacing the thermostat, water pump and radiator with full metal parts is highly suggested.
BMW parts for the E36 series are relatively inexpensive and can be found on the internet comparable to the price of Honda, or Toyota parts. I bought my 1998 BMW 318I in August of 2012 with 176,000 miles. I have not had any mechanical issues with it. I do my own maintainence
Style, performance, gas millage, performance
Idle Speed Control Valve
ABS Pump Relay
Wheel Speed Sensors
Power Steering Hose
Rear Shock Absorber Mount
Outer Ball Joints
Inner Control Arm
I have had this car a long time now, and I am still amazed at how great it feels to be in it. I love the feel of the road and the sound of the sweet audio from the premium sound system in the car. It is super quick when I need it to be. And it is great on gas. I have only changed the alternator and done the regular mantinence since it was new. The space in the back seat is a little light. But, If I were a parent of 3 kids and needed a great second car, this would be it. I think the car looks so classy and screems traditional BMW style. It is the benchmark by which I will measure all future cars. It looks especially good in Alpine White. It's one to drive before you die. Own one if you can.
I bought this used four years ago when it had 84k. It was my first 'upscale' car and I am totally spoiled. The 4cyl feels like a 6 and it can really move the car. The handling is solid and smooth. I believe that the ASC even kept me out of a major accident. Mine is MT and I average about 28mpg around town (although I'm a very efficient driver). I put about $1300 into fixing an emissions problem when I first got it, but nothing has gone wrong since - other than taillight problems. Still feels like a new car.
MPG. The way the car coasts forever in neutral. The solid, quality feel. Very reliable engine.
Cheap vinyl material on the seats cracks too easily. BMW might also want to look into cup holders that actually hold cups.
The BMW 3 Series is the best balance of luxury, sport, comfort, fun to drive and style. No other small sedan comes close. No other front engine, manual transmission RWD sedans are currently available. I get 21 MPG around town and two road trips of 33 MPG driving 80+ MPH. Other have mentioned reliability issues. In the 4+ years I have owned it, all I have done is oil changes, brake pads and tires. This has been the most reliable car I have owned (I've had 20+ cars). It still looks and drives like a new car after 11 years and 95k miles.
BMW can not make a digital dash display to save their lives. My 328, 540 Sport and 535 all had radio and computer display issues. The display pixels slowly die after a few years. Functions still work, but display goes away.