The E36 has been the M3 of the true revolution. Based on the 3rd generation 3 Series, it was a clear departure from the more race-focused E30 and it evolved into a more refined and opulent, albeit excellent sports machine.
Every enthusiast knows the story about BMW’s iconic flagship. Initially conceived as a homologation special to allow BMW to compete in Group A with the E30 3 Series of the 1980ies, the M3 quickly became a hit among enthusiasts thanks to its remarkably good chassis and effective and powerful engine.
Introduced in 1993, the E36 was by all means a complete and fully equipped GT and it was a clear revolution from the original concept. Based on the new E36 platform, it was more opulent yet still able to maintain a remarkable sporting character. No longer an homologation special for racing, the E36 M3 set the pace and the base for the further generations of this legendary sports car. Equipped with the double VANOS system, and being built around the driver’s-holy-grail construction of rear wheel drive, manual and aspirated engine, it represented the perfect bridge between the fully analogue era to the contemporary digital one.
Needless to say that it is a joy to drive, as it was able to enhance the focus on the dynamic qualities that made the M3 so popular among car enthusiasts in the first place. Between 1993 and 1999 BMW was able to sell 4 times more E36’s that E30ies. More usable, more luxurious and offered also as a saloon and for the first time with an automated manual gearbox, the infamous SMG I, it represented a true all-rounder. Smaller and nimbler than the bigger M5, it was truly a hit among enthusiasts and sporting family guys. Perhaps, this is the definitive M3: it has more power than the E30 and it feels just the right size: not too small and neither too big. The excellent chassis and suspension balance allow for quick responses and predictable handling: make no mistake, this M3 offers too many chances to drift its tail around corners and it’s just fantastic At the time, its 3.-liter S50B30 engine was able to reach the 96 hp-per-litre mark making it a landmark engine for the time.
Developed under the watchful eye of Paul Rosche, the E36 M3 engine retained much of the experience that the M Division gained with the M1. The SB5030 straight six was compact but yet it offered enough flexibility in its design to be developed further until 2007, right at the end of the E46 M3 production. Robust and also well capable of withstanding more power than it was originally designed for, it was the right engine for a proper BMW. The street-ability of the E36 allowed for many customers to rack up miles and miles on their cars: the M3 has always been that bit of special that makes daily life just that little more interesting.
Hearing the M3 raspy and metallic straight 6 roar and savoring the ever-so perfect balance through the corners is a treat. It’s a great surprise to see that the E36 was still able to retain the E30’s driving finesse, behaving impeccably especially during fast direction changes. Excitement is indeed a very real feeling.
Driving this car was like chasing one of the most successful driving philosophies in car history and enjoying the power of the M division. It’s in its own right a self-tribute to the M3 family.
Many thanks to Nanni Nember BMW