This car is great fun to own and although we've strongly considered the purchase of a newer E46 or E90 3 Series, we couldn't do it, this car is too good. Our E36 M3 is an automatic (so wife could drive comfortably, too), would've preferred manual, but no danger of the expensive missed shift that many seem to report with the stick. Automatics seem less likely to have been flogged, as well. Our's was in excellent shape when purchased with 50K on the clock and remains so with 64K. Extreme fun in the twisties and very efficient on the freeway. If you've got one, keep it.
Handling, build quality, appearance, acceptable mileage for performance car (28-30 highway), usable real world performance (E46 M3 is too much most of the time), great seats, fabulous brakes. Very well balanced car.
Keep an eye on the cooling system, it can fail on any E36 at around 60K. Preventative maintanence should include: thermostat, thermostat housing (change to aluminum from plastic) water pump, fan clutch, radiator and hoses. Ride "very firm" on bad tarmac. Use independent service.
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