2008 BMW M3 Sedan

Update 11/11/18: This M3 Sedan is listed as sold at $16,500

Looking towards the future and what may be a potential classic can be pretty difficult. Cars like the M2 and M4 are still on a relatively steep depreciation curve, so although they’re pretty new you’re also buying knowing you’re immediately loosing money. Similarly, as cars like the E36 and E46 head upwards in value, you either have the money to jump on board or nice examples will soon be out of reach for you.

In the middle lies the E9X. Following on the heels of the popular S54-equipped model, BMW needed to step up its game. That step came in the move from 6- to 8-cylinders, as BMW Motorsport GmbH created 80% of a S85 V10. With over 400 horsepower on tap and 295 lb.ft of torque, the S65 represented a healthy increase over the S54. As with the E46, a Convertible (E93) and Coupe (E92) version were available, but BMW also reintroduced us to the M3 Sedan.

In my eyes, these are the ones to get. The M3 Sedan is quite a bit more rare than the Coupe; 5,867 were sold versus 15,997 2-doors. Of those, over 50% were either Jet Black, Jerez Black or Alpine White – so one with a bit of color is always great to see. Here we have one of the 483 pre-LCI Silverstone Metallic (A29) Sedans with NDH2 extended Novillo Fox Red leather and the all-important third pedal:

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1997 BMW M3 Sedan

Just last night, a friend informed me he had “acquired an older BMW”.

“Willingly?”, I asked. He affirmed he had contractually agreed to this life changing experience. “What model?”, I furthered.

“A Z3”.

Now, supportive friend Carter probably should have nodded in approval. After all, the Z3 is great value for the money. They’re cheap to buy, cheap to maintain, and fun to drive. But what actually came out of my mouth was laughter. Not maniacal laughter, mind you, but just the uncontrollable mocking type that you immediately feel a bit bad about. Hoping to redeem the situation a bit, I prodded “Six cylinder…?” Nope. 4. I contained further laughter at this point, but I was grasping for straws. Meekly, I ventured “…..manual….?” hoping for some affirmation. “YES!” he happily retorted, glad to finally confirm a question of mine.

It’s actually a nice car, and it’s in great shape, and he paid almost nothing for it. But from the same period, BMW had some other affordable, fun to drive and even more potent options for enthusiasts. Take, for example, the M3 Sedan. Like the Z3, it was rear drive. Like the Z3, it has a manual, and they share some achitecture. But while the Roadster has a bit of a stigma that results in enthusiasts’ dismissal, the M3/4/5 has developed into a legend in its own right. Damn the fact that it didn’t have the more exotic Euro motor, if you want a cheap and pure driver’s car while still being able to comfortably transport 4 adults, they don’t come much better than this platform:

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“3/4/5” Double Take: 1997 BMW M3 Sedan

Continuing on the theme of adding diverse tones to your life, BMW’s M3 has been traditionally one of the most colorful pallets in the Bavarian lineup. We saw the late shade of Fern Green on the late-model Convertible the other day. But fans of the E36 lust much more after the favorite “M3/4/5” model – the limited 1997-1998 3.2 sedan in manual form. It offered practicality and reportedly slightly lighter weight than the Coupe. And just like the Coupe and Convertible, it was available in all sorts of eye-catching shades. Today I have two of the most conspicuous: Techno Violet Metallic and the very limited Byzanz Metallic. Which is your favorite?

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1997 BMW M3 Sedan Dinan

I’m a fan of the sedan version of the E36 M3 and often wondered why BMW declined to build a four-door version of the E46 M3 that followed. (At least one person has tried it – click here to read an account of a wild and very successful E46 M3 sedan home-brew build.) In the sedan, you get the same basic ingredients as the coupe – a revvy engine and dynamic chassis that’s fun to throw around yet easy to live with – with the added practicality of a rear set of doors, useful if you have family or friends to cart around. Even if the US-spec cars were a bit “neutered” in comparison with the more powerful version offered in Europe, the E36 M3 offers a nice, well-rounded package and remains relatively inexpensive, although nice condition examples get thinner on the ground every year. The M-Tech bumpers and side skirts look neat on the sedan body style, and remain subtle enough that passers by might just mistake it for a plain old 328i.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW M3 Dinan on eBay

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1998 BMW M3 Sedan

1 While the E36 M3 coupe is known to be a relatively quick, dynamic and fun car to drive, it’s often hard to find a good one. That’s largely because so many of the coupes have ended up as thrashed track-rods with dubious modifications. On the other hand when they do turn up for sale, the relatively uncommon sedan versions are more likely to be found in stock, unmolested condition and as such have tended to keep their value. This is probably because they’re more likely to have been used for trips to the organic grocery store rather than to a track. (There’s an Arctic Silver one with Yakima roof racks that I often see where I live in DC, parked near a place colloquially known as Whole Paycheck, and yes, I eye it jealously every time I see it). The two extra doors do not fundamentally alter the M3 package, except to add a healthy dose of everyday practicality, while the M-tech bodykit that distinguishes the Ms from ordinary cars lends the already handsome sedan body shape just the right amount of sporting aggression. I think these cars are well on their way to becoming a bit of a cult classic. This M3 has those two extra doors plus the all important 5-speed manual gearbox, making it an “M3/4/5” in enthusiast-speak.

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1990 BMW 320i

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Even with automatics, I love perfect examples of old bimmers, and this 20k-mile 320i is no exception. It has lived most of its life in Japan but is thankfully still LHD. The island life has kept its use regular but minimal, resulting in the extremely low amount of miles. It’s a beautiful example of the E30 sedan and would make a great daily driver with a pay-no-mind transmission deciding how to best use the most diminutive M20, a teacup 2.0-liter inline-6. The seller is hoping for strong E30 money even though it’s a basic model, but that’s to be expected when the car has traveled roughly one American’s yearly miles over a quarter century.

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1997 BMW M3/4/5

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The E36 M3 Sedan holds a very special place in my heart and played a large part in turning my attention away from Audis and VWs towards BMW M-cars. Colloquially known as the M3/4/5, one car specifically turned the tide: an Estoril Blue M3 with 4-doors, 5-speeds, and some Dinan bits that was the fastest car I’d driven up to that point. It was smooth, connected, and aggressive, packed in a beautiful sedan that is subtle enough to blend in but aggressive enough to put plenty of distance between it and the base-model E36. I had a chance to buy that car a few years back with 47k miles for $14k but I didn’t have the money. A few years on, this red on black example with similar miles is asking almost $11k more. The red/black isn’t quite as sexy as the Estoril/Caramel combo, but the M Double Spoke II wheels are personal favorites. Despite (or because of?) high production numbers, most E36 M3s have been run hard and disrespected. This one looks to be in great shape but not perfect. Are low-mile E36 M3s chasing the E30s, or is this seller hitting the pipe?

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1989 BMW 325i AC Schnitzer

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Thanks to a Road & Track tuner feature, AC Schnitzer (along with Ruf, TechArt and HPA) was one of the first tuners to really catch my imagination. Big chunky 5-spokes and wings fore, aft, and midship were plenty to turn middle-school me into a daydreaming Autobahn master. In this day and age and much like the cars they tune or the pop stars we are force-fed, aftermarket design has become a caricature of hyper-stylized aggression. There was a time, however, when bodykits and wheels were subtly aggressive extensions of classic designs. This 325i sedan is exactly that, having received a bodykit, exhaust, wheels, and suspension that make it look more like an appetizing foreign model rather than a crazy tuner cartoon. Originally a Euro model that was imported to Japan and then Florida, it’s covered 43k miles on the road and nearly half that amount in shipping. The automatic is a bummer, but with so few miles and such beautifully restrained modifications it can be forgiven. The exhaust and suspension will help make the drive more exciting (as long as it doesn’t have the sad sound of good exhaust droning across an auto trans’ overly-smooth revs), and the bodykit and wheels will put a smile on any BMW fan’s face. Eventually a manual swap and some engine mods would help it keep up with its appearance, but for now it’s a very cool E30 that won’t break the bank.

Click for details: 1989 BMW 325i AC Schnitzer on eBay

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1997 BMW M3 Sedan

Time to look at another infrequently selected color on a popular affordable enthusiast car! I’ve run through a few different shades of M3 Sedans recently and today another one graces our pages. It’s been a bit since we’ve looked at either Daytona Violet or the replacement Techno Violet Metallic but they’re hues I love to see every time. Unlike last week’s automatic Byzanz Metallic, this Techno Violet sedan is a sought after manual sedan and thankfully doesn’t have the rear spoiler which often looks clunky on the design. It’s also one of only a claimed 227 manual Techno Violet sedans:

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1997 BMW M3 Sedan

It’s nice to back away from some of the more exotically priced cars from time to time and look at a more reasonably priced enthusiast car like the E36 M3. For under $10,000, you can still find some pretty good examples of the breed and they offer a lot of bang for the proverbial buck with plenty of aftermarket support and an enthusiastic community full of model-specific hacks. Let’s take a look at another wildly colored example that caught my eye this week – one of the claimed 88 Byzanz Metallic Sedans imported:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW M3 Sedan on eBay

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