I have owned this car for almost 2 years now, and it just feels great to drive. Check the "Melted Rubber" web site for a thorough review. With 230 HP, it is not going to win too many drag races; and I only get 25 mpg with 95% freeway driving. I could probably squeeze a couple more out of it, but it is practically impossible not to be a leadfoot. One thing to watch out for if you get one is the routine maintenance. It is typical for people to neglect this until 130,000+ miles, at which point the car will likely need shocks, bushings, etc all around and a clutch. BMW st^H^H dealers have turned overcharging into an art form - finding a good independent mechanic will save you a fortune.
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.
This is the best handling car I've ever driven! I look forward to driving it all the time; from going to and from work, or just to the store--it begs to be driven! I have put in the following upgrades: Jim Conforti's Shark Injector software, Conforti's Cold Air Intake, Bavarian Auto's adjustable camber plates (to take out the slight understeer), UUC's power pulleys, UUC's short shifter and double shear selector rod.
I have had my 4 door M3 since 2003. I bought it from a private dealership with only 17K miles on it. I added the Dinan software one day at the dealership on a whim and wow 155 mph and I had to stop. It might have done 160, but who knows, I could also have gone to jail because of that. Used it as a daily drive until 2007. Now it is strictly for weekends and appointments. I have a truck for daily use now. Now have 107K miles. Normal maintenance and no major problems thus far. I could keep this car forever. My 9 year old son loves it and wants me to keep it for him when he gets 16. Yeah right!
In my 60s and after driving economy family cars for many years, a friend gave me low down on E36 M3s. Found one cheap with 95k on odometer. Now, excited every time I climb in, even just for the short drive to work. Recently signed up for BMW Club "driver's school" at Watkins Glen and got to run total of over 100 minutes over two days hitting 130, sliding through corners at 80 and passing some hot cars. Will be doing that again! The feel of the road in this thing is so perfect you can't imagine the fun. Plenty of smooth power at all speeds. Quiet, winding country roads are heaven on earth. Shoot past cars when passing. Best way to have an affordable world class driving experience.