Owned this car for almost 10 years, love it almost as much as my family. It stays parked most of the winter, but now that spring has sprung, pop the top and hit the twisties. It handles like a slot car, nothing tracks better. Not the most powerful, but the horsepower race is overrated. Mine is a 5 speed, a 6th cog would be nice, but NEVER would I consider a self-shifter. Car is all smiles :-) Even 12 years old I still find people gathering around it in parking lots.
Handling handling handling. Comfort at speed. Built like a Swiss watch, (almost) everything screams quality. And a drop top to boot.
6th gear, glass rear window, faster top mechanism. All these have been addressed in later models, but would not trade for any of these (even if I could afford it). They don't have the same panache.
This is a well engineered car that is a blast to drive. The car is balanced and poised on either back roads or the highway. Maintenance costs can be high, but this is the trade off for owning a great sports car. My M is ten years old and still handles and drives better than many new cars. The convertible may not be for everyone, but I love the top down cruising. Find one that has been taken care of and you will not regret it.
I bought a used M3 after shopping it against the 328 and 330. All of them do 0-60 pretty quickly, but after 60 only the M3 keeps on going, going, going. This car almost never fails to put a smile on my face. It looks great, handles smartly, and accelerates quickly. Drop the top and crank the tunes, and life doesn't get much finer. The back seat makes it a fairly practical car -- it'll carry 4 adults in a pinch, or 2 adults plus a week's worth of bags. It won't carry a family of 5, tow a boat, or haul sheets of plywood home from the hardware store, but it does just about everything else.
M acceleration, M handling, M braking, heated leather seats. The hedonism of ripping along at outrageous speeds with the top down and A/C blasting on 100 degree days. Stability control is subtle, effective, and can be switched off for tail-wagging fun. Gets 25 mpg highway even with a lead foot.
6th gear for cruising, more power, slightly roomier rear seats. Got more money? The e46 M3 ('01-06) has these.
I just purchased this car in Sept. of 2005 and I love it. It really does handle well (can't seem to squawk the tires no matter what I try). It's a real headturner and you get a lotta people saying "Nice Car". I get about 27 MPG on the highway (not bad). Not a cushy ride so you'll feel the bumps but plenty comfortable. Seems like the best torque is at mid-range (30-60 MPH). The brakes are impressive (you stop like 'right now'). No leakage with the ragtop at all. Harmen/Cardon sounds great. Yes, you can get groceries with it too. I even get two sets of golf clubs in the trunk. No problems as of now.
Handling, Brakes, Power and of course, the looks. I love the dash. It must be put together pretty good because it's not a cushy ride and everything seems tight and solid.
Brake Dust! Goin through a lot of rags wiping that down every other day. (They say it's normal for great brakes). More power coming off a stop. I guess I could upgrade some things to help that out though. Put some luxury in the inside door panals. Keyless entry would be nice also.
Purchased used 2.5 years ago with 35000
miles on it. Has run nearly flawlessly
since. Clutch slips a little if you do
some power shifting and beat on it, but
aside from that, the car likes to be
driven hard, and responds wonderfully.
Power, handling, design...
Well, BMW already improved on the E36's
with the new E46's. If you do purchase
a 95-99 M3, I'd suggest Sharking it
using Jim Conforti's software upgrade,
and a cold air intake. Those two items
will get you up to 265HP or so, and the
sound of the engine breathing is even