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Second Generation BMW M3 E36 3.0 and 3.2 History

Sep 15, 2020

What Makes the BMW M3 E36 Special? Different from the E30, the M3 E36 was built specifically for the everyday road. The production model came in three body types. The 2-door coupe and convertible in 1992 as well as the 4-door sedan in 1994. It was the very first time that the M3 model brought on a 4-door sedan.

The Evolution of the BMW M3 E36 BMW E36 M3

In 1992 Paris Motor Show, the M3 E36 3.0 Coupe came equipped with a brand-new engine – S50 B30. It offered individual throttle bodies and Variable Valve Timing System (VANOS or Variable Nockenwellen Steuerung). The new model received an overwhelming response from the United States enthusiasts.

In 1994, the Coupe in U.S. specs (without individual throttle bodies and VANOS in order to keep the cost down) made its American public debut at the Los Angeles International Auto Show. While in the same year, the sedan and convertible versions were produced and made available only in Europe.

In 1995, BMW Motorsports fitted the newer models of E36 with a higher performance 3.2-liter engine S50 B32 (M3 E36 3.2 Coupe) and presented its latest craft at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Production in Europe began a year later.

In 1996 at the New York International Auto Show, the new United States Model of the M3 E36 3.2 was being announced with a specialized S52 engine and electrical traction control system ASC+T (Automatic Stability Control + Traction Control).

At 1997, the M3 reached a new height by becoming the world’s first volume-produced car to introduce Sequential M Gearbox (SMG) as optional equipment. Built based on the conventional gearbox, the gear change could happen with a clutch that was activated electro-hydraulically. There was no more need to press the clutch pedal, and the drivers could easily and instantaneously shift by pulling or pushing the gearshift leveler.

By this time, 71,242 units of the M3 Coupe, Convertible, and Sedan combined were produced in Regensburg

BMW M3 E36 Specifications

Production Year

  • 1992 Europe (E36 3.0 Coupe)
  • 1994 Europe (E36 3.0 Sedan and Convertible)
  • 1994 North America (E36 3.0 Coupe Only)
  • 1995 Europe (E36 3.2 Sedan)
  • 1996 Europe (E36 3.2 Coupe)
  • 1996 Europe (E36 3.2 Convertible)
  • 1996 North America (E36 3.2 Coupe)
  • 1996 North America (E36 3.2 Sedan)
  • 1997 North America (E36 3.2 Coupe)


  • 240 HP (United States Version; Include Both the E36 3.0 and E36 3.2)
  • 286 HP (European Version; E36 3.0; Dual Catalyst*)
  • 321 HP (European Version; E36 3.2)

*Note: Catalyst is a pollution control device that converts unsafe substances produced through the car’s exhaust into non-toxic substances.

EngineBMW E36 M3

  • 3.0-liter 6-Cylinder (S50 B30)
  • 3.2-liter 6-Cylinder (S50 B32)


  • ZF Type C 5-Speed Manual (North America Version; E36 3.0)
  • ZF 5HP18 5-Speed Automatic (North America Version; E36 3.0)
  • Getrag 6-Speed Manual Transmission (European Version; E36 3.2)
  • Sequential Manual Gearbox or SMG (European version; E36 3.2)


  • 236 lb-ft at 3,600 RPM (European Version; E36 3.0; 286 HP; Dual Catalysts)
  • 225 lb-ft at 4,250 RPM (United States Version; E36 3.0; 240 HP)
  • 258 lb-ft at 3,250 RPM (European Version; E36 3.2 321 HP)
  • 236 lb-ft at 3,800 RPM (United States Version; E36 3.2; 240 HP)


  • 0-60 MPH in 6.0-Sec (European Version; E36 3.0)
  • 0-60 MPH in 6.1-Sec (United States Version; E36 3.0)
  • 0-60 MPH in 5.5-Sec (European Version; E36 3.2)
  • 0-60 MPH in 6.1-Sec (United States Version; E36 3.2)


  • 17-Inch Alloy M Double-Spoke (E36 3.0)
  • 17-Inch Alloy Forged M Double-Spoke (A Performance Option; E36 3.0)

BMW M3 E36 3.0 and 3.2 Production Versions

The BMW M3 E36 3.0 had a total of eight production versions. Of which three versions were standard production models that included the European sedan and convertible models, and the remaining three were limited editions made for the European and United States market.

In addition, there were two more special built editions with only a handful of samples that were not at all commonly distributed in the market.

The BMW M3 E36 3.2, on the other hand, did not have any official variations in special production versions. However, exclusive special orders were requested from the United Kingdom and Australia markets in limited numbers.

Standard M3 E36 3.0 Production VersionsBMW E36 M3

  • E36 M3 3.0 Coupe (Europe and United States)
  • E36 3.0 4-Door Sedan (Europe Only)
  • E36 3.0 Convertible (Europe Only)

Limited Edition M3 E36 3.0 Production Versions

  • E36 M3 3.0 GT Coupe (Europe)
  • E36 M3 GT Individual (UK Only)
  • E36 M3 CSL or M3 Lightweight (United States Only)

Special Edition M3 E36 3.0 Production Versions

  • E36 M3-R (Australia); (GT production class competition car for Australian Super Production. Only 15 units were produced)
  • E36 M3 GTR (Road Version); (This is the road going version of the E36 M3 competition car for 1994 ADAC German GT Cup Touring Car. Only two street-legal versions were produced)

Unofficial Special Edition M3 E36 3.2 Production Versions

  • E36 M3 Coupe in Imola Red (UK Only)
  • E36 M3 Convertible in Carbon Black Metallic (UK Only)
  • E36 M3 Coupe Anniversary Edition (Australia)
  • E36 M3 Convertible Anniversary Edition (Australia)