I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’ve never given the BMW E36/5 318ti a second glance, let alone any respect. Kind of the predecessor to the 1-series, it was BMW’s unique (eschewing more common derisive descriptors) rear-wheel drive compact, the only of its genre in North America. MSRP’d below $20k, it was definitely an economy-BMW, and this association along with it’s slightly awkward profile kept it from being taken very seriously and it never sold well.
Today, however, I found one on Craigslist that has me questioning my dismissal of the baby Bimmer.
Not only does this beautiful white 1997 version have the sport package, it’s been upgraded with a very clean Eaton supercharger installation. That has to make some positive steps towards discarding the frumpy reputation, as well as the M3-style front fascia and the very, very well-chosen 17-inch BBS RKs. The M-accented cloth seats are decidedly 90s, but that’s ok and the rest of the interior is clean and sporty. The proportions will always be funky on this car, but the aforementioned upgrades along with a trunklid spoiler and M3 mirrors really suit it and make you think how tossable that short wheelbase must be. For sale just under $9k, 165k miles seems like a bit, especially with a boosted engine. That said, it looks extremely well cared-for, and is probably a ton of fun for under ten grand.
For the first time, I’m finding myself giving a 318ti a long, desirous look.