Very Reliable Owner Must Have Basic Mechanic Skills
written on 03-16-2013
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
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.
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.
A lot of fun to drive but maintenance costs are very high. When my transmission went out I learned that BMW claims the earlier 328's have a "lifetime transmission" with a "lifetime fill" of fluid and do not recommend a tranny service. I followed the recommended maintenance to a T and never had the tranny serviced. Replacing it cost me over $4k. Had I had it serviced it would not have failed when it did. BMW now recommends a tranny service on newer models but still not on the older ones. Even the fluid mfg's recommend changing the fluid. Where BMW came up with the "lifetime" claim is beyond me. I ended up getting the money I spent on the new tranny back through small claims court.
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.