Advice re E36/E46

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This topic contains 20 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Malcolm 3 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #3319 Reply
    onehorsepower
    onehorsepower

    There will be a reshuffle in the toy cabinet this year. I will sell the Grand Cherokee and partly fund its successor by selling the Cooper S, which really was a toy bought for fun and which delivered. I don’t think I will be able to survive without another toy with a manual so I am looking at 3 Series convertibles with a budget around $10K. That will get me a late E36 with very low miles, if they exist, or a pre-facelift E46 with say 75k miles or a facelift with 100K+ miles.

    The E36 would be a 2.8, the E46 a 2.5 or 3.0. Are these engines all equally good or does any have a particular problem? I am inclined to go for the high mileage 3.0 because there’s so much freeway here it doesn’t matter so much – my other three cars are at 120k, 205k and 225k miles. Also the facelifted E46 is the best looking to my eyes. Frankly I am looking to experience the sweetness of the drive train and steering in a generally well-engineered car rather than power, but if the 3.0 is withing budget, why not? Are there any other tips/advice when shopping for one of these? I will avoid non-std mods and will not touch cheap M3s.

  • #3320 Reply
    rich_uk
    rich_uk
    Participant

    You said it in your post; the facelifted E46 is your favourite so this is the one to go for. Why settle for second best?
    The 330i is sweet, should return around high twenties mpg but low thirties if you’re on the freeway all the time.
    Not owned one but from a friend that has, check the tyre wear as uneven tyre wear can mean expensive suspension parts needing replacing. Otherwise no major issues and it’s a great car. If the radio is anything like my 1 series, go for one with an upgraded stereo as my one is strictly average.

  • #3324 Reply
    sackedstig
    sackedstig
    Participant

    In the U.K. you can get an E36 M3 convertible for around £5000 still a quick car and good looking in estoril blue.

    (not my car…. shame…)

    Going my own way since 1982, not sure where I'll end up but you're welcome to come along for the ride.

  • #3327 Reply
    The Colonel
    The Colonel
    Participant

    I’ve owned both an E36 and an E46 – 320 convertible for the former, M3 coupe for the latter, so giving a genuine comparisson will be tricky.

    The E36 was my first 6 so holds very well in my memory and I still remain fond of it. I think it was the first six cylinder car I’d ever been in, let alone own and drive. I don’t know much about the evolution of cars, or car companies, but moving from the E36 to the E46 was a step change for BMW – everything about the cars changed, for the better. Forgetting the extra power and top lid, the 46 is better looking, better put together, the quality and design of the interior is far superior and, if it is important to you, the quality of the leather improved too, and it wasn’t shabby before. I’d even wager the roof and rear screen are probably poles apart too.

    Maybe they became more tech laden, and that is a shame to some and a boon to others, so that is for you to decide, but needless to say I’d go for the 46, even if it meant stretching a bit to get the right one.

    As a footnote those two cars bookended, for me, a Z3 3.0 – in some respects probably the best combination of body and powerplant for that engine and “size” of car at the time.

    "Who do you think is the most capable?"

    "Capable of what?"

  • #3328 Reply

    petrolheadinrussia

    The z3 is the worst car I ever driven!

  • #3329 Reply
    Angus Young
    Angus Young
    Participant

    You live in Russia and a Z3 is “the worst car you’ve ever driven”? That’s a bit of a stretch.

  • #3335 Reply
    The Colonel
    The Colonel
    Participant

    Not owned one (330i) but from a friend that has, check the tyre wear as uneven tyre wear can mean expensive suspension parts needing replacing.

    Just to add, to what Rich says above, uneven tyre wear is more likely to come, first, from poor wheel alignment which, if not addressed, could then lead to expensive suspension parts needing replacing. With big wheels and low profile tyres it is well worth having your wheel alignment checked every six months, especially if road conditions can be “challenging”.

    "Who do you think is the most capable?"

    "Capable of what?"

  • #3336 Reply
    onehorsepower
    onehorsepower
    Participant

    Thanks for the heads up re tyres/suspension. I will be taking my time over this and will try not to buy the first one I see in blue with beige interior.

    Have to side with PHIR re the Z3. My ex-neighbour bought one for his wife as a 50th wedding anniversary present, but to keep it a surprise I did the leg work and hid it on my property until the big day. Soft chassis, hard suspension, big tyres = OK on smooth roads, crap elsewhere.

  • #3337 Reply
    onehorsepower
    onehorsepower
    Participant

    Rich, do you need a lesson in photo-cropping?

  • #3339 Reply
    Stuart Masson
    Stuart Masson
    Keymaster

    I’ve always liked the E46, and it remains one of the best pre-Bangle BMWs in my opinion.

    If you’re looking at convertibles, then the roof itself is going to be possibly the most important consideration of all. I haven’t owned either, but I’d be looking at cost of parts and repairs, and checking BMW forums for tales of woe from other owners with regards to leaking and alignment issues.

    I would assume that the roof design is probably superior on the E46 in terms of insulation and operation, but how it has coped with a decade or more of use is another story.

  • #3342 Reply
    The Colonel
    The Colonel
    Participant

    re the Z3. My ex-neighbour bought one for his wife as a 50th wedding anniversary present, but to keep it a surprise I did the leg work and hid it on my property until the big day. Soft chassis, hard suspension, big tyres = OK on smooth roads, crap elsewhere.

    Aware that they don’t have the same underpinnings, and not knowing what was available n the US, I’m fairly sure that small wheeled, softly sprung, three litre E46 convertibles are probably quite rare specimens. “Compliant” was never something much read in “the other place” (though I wonder if many had ever driven one, any 3 Series), so I do wonder if you should be first looking at an E36???

    On my Z4M, which is close to seven years old, the roof (which I guess is similar, in make up, to the 46) has worked perfectly well (with heavy use) and still looks pretty decent, but I have treated it well – I know of some people that don’t even wash the roof when they clean the rest of the car, let alone protect it with treatment.

    "Who do you think is the most capable?"

    "Capable of what?"

  • #3352 Reply
    liquidgold
    liquidgold
    Participant

    petrolheadinrussia wrote:The z3 is the worst car I ever driven!

    Whilst waiting for my E46 to be delivered, I ran two Z3s for about 2 months each. One was a 2.8, and I agree (yes!) with PHIR, it was a really poor car. I swapped it for a Z3M, and the difference was unbelievable. It wasn’t the engine – the 2.8 straight 6 was a great engine, but the M version steered and stopped better by a huge margin.

    For what its worth, I’d still go for the E46 for the reasons that The Colonel mentioned, but I ran an E36 328i MSport for over 2 years and it was terrific. I still think that engine was one of the most characterful 6s BMW made.

    I think you’ll enjoy whichever you go for, but for me the huge step forward from E36 to E46 would swing it for me.

    New, improved and a stone lighter. Where's the nearest Atom dealer?

  • #3353 Reply
    Angus Young
    Angus Young
    Participant

    liquidgold wrote:

    petrolheadinrussia wrote:The z3 is the worst car I ever driven!

    and I agree (yes!) with PHIR, it was a really poor car.

    Granted. But ‘worst car ever driven’? Clearly, then, none of you have driven a Maestro.

  • #3355 Reply
    liquidgold
    liquidgold
    Participant

    Angus Young wrote:

    liquidgold wrote:

    petrolheadinrussia wrote:The z3 is the worst car I ever driven!

    and I agree (yes!) with PHIR, it was a really poor car.

    Granted. But ‘worst car ever driven’? Clearly, then, none of you have driven a Maestro.

    Oh, its not the worst I have ever driven, but it was very poor. I think the worst car I’ve owned was a Vauxhall Frontera Sport.

    New, improved and a stone lighter. Where's the nearest Atom dealer?

  • #3357 Reply
    rich_uk
    rich_uk
    Participant

    onehorsepower wrote:Rich, do you need a lesson in photo-cropping?

    Yes! But only on the iPad on this website…

    I’m thinking of getting a ‘new look’ avatar anyway. I’ve got a couple of ideas but feel free to suggest without too much abuse!

    Worst car ever driven? Well, I’ve driven a fair few death traps that i’ve seized for no insurance etc but I can’t blame the cars. Otherwise, I generally hate the Corsa response car that we have in our county!

    Worst car ever bought? The Ka we had. It was a bleeding nightmare. Clearly a Friday afternoon car.

  • #3358 Reply
    onehorsepower
    onehorsepower
    Participant

    I will check the roof mechanism though roofs here are normally down permanently so that we can see the beautiful people within. Would I be right in thinking that these cars never came with the dreaded runflats, so the suspension is tuned for normal tyres?

    PS to Rich I went onto the PH website to check it out (it was an undercover operation) and read a post on TBH’s Autocar thread stating that someone on Autocar had been impersonating a policeman for years. I think that’s an offense, so you had better arrest yourself.

  • #3359 Reply
    The Colonel
    The Colonel
    Participant

    I suppose it could be market dependent but I believe the larger engined cars started to get run-flats around 2003/04…but not the M3.

    "Who do you think is the most capable?"

    "Capable of what?"

  • #3855 Reply

    isabel amrant baskets

    Our pool ought to be fed by means of those photopages you consider value becoming perhaps the “Best Opinion Collection”.

  • #3856 Reply
    The Colonel
    The Colonel
    Participant

    “Our pool ought to be fed by means of those photopages you consider value”

    Seriously, the interweb is being over-run by virtual Taoist insurgents…

    …or devotees of Yoda.

    "Who do you think is the most capable?"

    "Capable of what?"

  • #4041 Reply

    wanos
    Participant

    I have had my E46 M3 for a few weeks now and I think the difference in build quality and general feel between the E36 and E46 are huge. The E46 is just a nice place to sit which I personally find very important. I had a 325ci a couple of years ago and was always told the rear suspension is prone to wear. The bushes need changing around the 60k mark and sometimes the back end would “bang” when going over bumps. This is quite an expensive fix so would check for that and as mentioned rear tyre wear can be harsh.
    46 far better than the 36 in my opinion.
    Thanks
    Wayne

    "There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing and bad preperation"

  • #19938 Reply

    Malcolm

    i’ve had various E36 and E46 models and I think the later cars are much better to live with. They all have great BMW steering and handling but the E46 is better built. Plus E36’s now are getting old and it is hard to find one that is in good condition preferably one little old lady owner J

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