Launched in 1992 for U.S. shores, the third generation 3-series instantly cemented itself as the new benchmark. In fact, for all of the attention fawned on ‘God’s Chariot’ (the E30), the reality is that the 3-series didn’t appear on notoriously BMW-leaning Car and Driver‘s Ten-Best list until the 1992 model year. Equipped with the M50 DOHC 189 horsepower inline-6, the modern yet still driver-oriented design would go on to become a regular thereafter. They were a sales success too, and like the E30 was for some time, they’re currently being largely ignored in the used market. After all, if you can get a clean M3 in the teens, why would you buy a 325i instead?
Well, this one is an interesting counterpoint. Someone obviously loved it a lot, and this E36 convertible is chock-full of options and neat accessories. And, it’s only got 18,000 miles:
By 1995, the BMW 325i had long established itself as the benchmark by which all other sedans were judged. Though it had only appeared in the United States for the 1992 model year, Europeans had access to the E36 as early as 1990. That meant they by 1995, the model was in need of a refresh and BMW was happy to oblige. But as the U.S. market was occupied by the M3 launch, the new non-M range-topper’s appearance would have to wait until 1996.
When the 328i did arrive, it was very much a case of ‘meet the new boss’; while not a fresh design, the light updates were met with more power to continue the 3-series’ reign at the top of the sales charts. The revised M52B28 was installed, and though it was more evolution than revolution, it was pretty good at spinning the needle thanks to 15% more torque than the M50 (207 v. 181). That meant real-world power and acceleration were at your hands, and matched with a manual gearbox the new 328i’s 0-60 time dropped into the low 7-second range. The changes carried over to the popular convertible range, which offered considerably more 4-seat sport than either the Audi Cabriolet or the E320 Convertible. At over $41,000 out the door, perhaps it should have, but then that price guaranteed that the drop-top 3-series would be prized by those lucky enough to order them.
Today, finding an E36 for sale isn’t very hard. But with the newest nearly 20 years old, finding a good one can be. These days, fewer and fewer appear like this very low mileage, well equipped 328iC:
What’s the perfect commuter car? Well, that varies by your definition of commuter, how far you need to drive and how much traffic you encounter, and what your goal is – do you want high mileage, or perhaps you want extreme comfort and isolation. But I’d like to think that a fair amount of our readership would love to have a dual purpose car. It would be something that wouldn’t be a collector-status car, but yet one that was unique and not often seen. It would combine comfort and affordability. While some would opt for automatics, I’m sure a larger percentage would choose to row-their-own boat. Fuel mileage, while gas is cheap now, would probably still be a consideration, as would maintenance. And finally, when the traffic cleared and there was a empty bit of road, most of us like to squeeze the pedal down that bit further and be rewarded by and entertaining push in the back. That’s a difficult grouping of characteristics to achieve in one package, but I’d like to suggest that this 318ti might just be the car.
The Club Sport was the answer to the question that effectively no one was asking in 1995; depending on the source, BMW sold a reported 200-300 of them in 1995 only. What the option 9530 got you was a 318ti hatchback that had been breathed upon by BMW Individual. Added were 16″ sport wheels, M3 front bumper, rocker trim and mirrors and a special rear bumper. But it was more than an appearance package, because it also received a M-tuned suspension, special steering wheel and shift knob and uniquely trimmed Millpoint M-cloth sport seats. The seller of this car has brought the performance up to M levels, though, with the addition of a PSS9 coilover suspension, double spoke M3 wheels and supercharger to the M42 inline-4: