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.
After long period, finally found my dream combination, which is M-sport package and Cal roof option. This one is equipped with fun-to-drive stick shift as well. My favourite features are too many to list. The best part is, of course, Cal roof then M-suspension/M-interior. The M44 engine always returns 31-32MPG with my driving, yet, it accelerates the ti quickly. The suspension sticks the road with minimum roll. It is not harsh either because BMW engineering tuned stiffness on the seats to match suspension characteristics. In my opinion, E36 is the best 3-series platform ever. As long as it is taken care of, it will drive for many years to come. Will keep it with my 98 M3 sedan.
Powered Cal roof, M-sport package, and snappy 5-speed stick shift. Reliability has been spotless even after 13 years.
The window regulator seems to be a regular maintenance item but other positive features outweigh the drawback.
I just bought this car a couple of months ago. The previous owner spent over one thousand dollars at a BMW dealer attempting to fix the convertible-after all-that is why you buy this model. Although it does go up and down, it doesn't do it anywhere near as smooth as you would expect from a BMW. I am still going back and forth with the dealer I bought it from to get it right. Don't get me wrong-I LOVE the car_but I bought it for the convertible aspect and it is a very expensive and difficult thing to deal with.
Driving with the top down and the way it hugs the road!
And I have always loved a stick shift and this car should only be made that way-too much fun!
The computer display on my car doesn't completely work - the LED display itself is burned out in several places.
The convertible top mechanism could be less difficult to fix.
And last-the airbag light on the passenger side is always on and is somehow connected to a very expensive part of the front passenger seat-so just to fix the light you need to replace a huge section of the seat.
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.