The one word that pops to mind when i think of this car is "timeless". Its like a well maintained Italian suit, aged with beauty, but always stylish. The throttle response is a little iffy because the pedal seems to have a lengthy discussion with the engine and drive train before kicking me back in the seat. (that's what you get when you let the french design a transmission) never the less I'm never afraid to push it just a little bit more, and hit a blistering speed of 115mph on the highway before backing off the throttle. I was floored, grinning ear to ear like a little kid who had just gotten his first 22. rifle for Christmas. This is truly what a proper sports car should be.
Look, the BMW 3 series is as about a pleasurable ride in a daily driver you can possibly get. Great road feel, great acceleration, great looks, & in the MT a superior shifting experience. However, be prepared to pay high maintenance costs, especially beyond 75k miles. I bought my '97 with 49k miles. It now has 99k, & I have put out around $7k in maintenance since. Clutch is $900, alternator is $450, ball joints are $500, water pump $400, tires (sport) $700 & brakes $300 done every other year. It has some quirky things too. LED displays (radio & odm) go dim/out, radiator necks break, coolant lever sensors go bad, paint chips/rusts way to easy. All in all a great ride, but you're gonna pay.
Even before I got my driver's license I wondered why people payed a premium for BMWs. I openly criticized, but secretly wanted one. Now that I own one there is no doubt that the BMW 3 series is a car driver's dream. I test drove my current vehicle almost as a lark and wound up buying it on the spot. Much like other reviewers this car makes me glad to get up everyday to drive this car to work. So far the maintenance on this vehicle has been no more than other cars I have owned. I bought this car with almost 100,000 miles on it and would love to put 100,000 more on it.
This is my first car, my father bought it for me for $10k. It is Arctic Silver, fully loaded with sports package, 6 disc changer, leather, etc. It does have 132000 miles on it but they are mostly highway miles and this car still drives like it is fresh off the lot. I would highly recommend the 3-series, we have two on the driveway and couildnt be happier with them.
I own a 1997 BMW 318iS, it's almost identical to an M3 other than the engine which is the reliable M44 4 cyl. A solid car that is nimble and gets 38mpg highway, 24mpg in town, an average of about 30-32mpg. The S version has a lower M3 like sport suspension, wider stance, and mine was ordered with M3 rims which perfectly suit the car without being gawdy. Regular maintenance will give you a reliable smooth ride. Torquey engine redlines quickly with moderate gas but shifter seems longwinded compared to a 1980's Manual. Nice interior, mine has heated seats that warm up quickly in two modes. Multiple cabin vents. May be small for a larger person. I'm 6' tall and fit nicely. Very fun to drive.