The BMW E36 was bigger, faster, more luxurious and more expensive than its predecessor, the E30. Although purists lamented the shift from a purely driver-focused machine to a more family-oriented vehicle, the change of status was necessary in order to keep up with the demands of car buyers in the early 1990s.
Like the E30, the E36 was offered in several body styles including a four-door sedan, a two-door coupe, a five-door station wagon, a two-door convertible and a short-wheelbase three-door hatchback dubbed Compact. All models were rear-wheel drive as BMW explained there was not enough demand to justify developing an all-wheel drive, ix-badged variant of the car.
A glance at sales figures shows that consumers were not at all put off by the changing ingredients of the 3-Series recipe, and the E36 was even more popular than its predecessor. It enabled the 3-Series nameplate to keep its position as BMW’s bread-and-butter model, and it cemented the Munich-based firm’s foothold in the ever-important United States market.
It’s hard to argue against the E30 being a classic as well-preserved examples are starting to command a decent amount of money and full restorations are increasingly common. With the exception of the iconic M3, will the E36 follow the example set by the E30 and go up in value as it gets older, or will prices stay down?