Fast German Cars –


E36 and E46 M3 Convertible

E36 M3 Evolution Convertible 1999 SMG, 40k miles, £9k in 2007 Clearly I’m an e36 fan. This happens to be my 3rd e36 BMW after ownership of a 318is and a 328i Sport. The M3 Evolution (as some of you are aware) has an inherent issue with the twin vanos. I wouldn’t advise steering clear of this model, however I would strongly advise the manual over the SMG gearbox in the e36. Note this is SMG version 1 and with anything that is version 1, there will be faults. So what we have here is an Evolution with SMG, why would anyone in their right mind do this? I have no adequate response to this question. I must add that I had no problems with either. Possibly due to a FBMWSH and the fact that this particular example had only covered 40k miles and partly luck. The Evolution model gives you a sixth gear, power upped from 286 bhp in the 3.0l single vanos engine to 321 bhp in the 3.2l unit, wider rear wheels, updated steering wheel and interior toys. The (Darth) vadar front seats from the M3 coupe are unfortunately not included in the convertible and other than the wing mirrors, the convertibles could be mistaken for lesser models with M-Tech body kits. This particular Evolution convertible is very rapid and the SMG is excellent when booting it, however tootling along, you may bash your head on the sun visors when ‘it’ changes gear for you. There is a nice sound of the system blipping the throttle for you, which partially makes up for it. The SMG system is basically a standard clutch and gear mechanism but with a series of hydraulic pumps to automatically change gear and therefore this is not an automatic and it is certainly not smooth. The e36 convertible makes far more sense than the e30 convertible with its sleek lines and comfortable ride. There is an obvious loss in rigidity from the coupe while on country roads and uneven surfaces but when the roof is down, all the rattles disappear and there is a huge sense of space and performance from the M3. I would advise finding a 1995 M3 Convertible on under 60k miles for £5k and keeping it forever. This car will not depreciate and could be run for £500 a year including insurance, road tax, MOT and servicing (oil service from a BMW specialist). Feel free to show me an alternative with a similar badge and 300 bhp.

E46 M3 Convertible:

E46 M3 Convertible 2001 Manual, 69k miles, £13k in 2009 If this M car had a name it would be Helga and her profession would be a topless German shot putter. No mistaking this for a 330 convertible with the front wing vents, muscular wheel arches, bonnet bulge, M3 bumpers and quad exhausts. This is a beast. With 343 bhp from the 3.2L straight six peaking at 8,200 rpm, the initial raspyness of the exhaust in the low rpm’s turns into a howl after 6000 rpm. Cornering and general dynamics are not dramatically reduced from the coupe due to more structural rigidity to the standard 3 series convertibles. The performance feels a lot stronger than the E36 M3 Evolution even though the manufactures figures state only 22 bhp difference. The E46 brings with it a host of toys that makes everyday driving to spirited weekend trips a permanent joy. TV, SatNav, parking sensors, Harmon Kardon Hi-Fi and so on mean this car can be appreciated all year round unlike the E30 and E36. Traction control certainly helps in snow and ice and hard tops are available if required. SMG 2 was released with the E46 M3 and it certainly is a good system, while covered under manufacturers warranty. After this dreaded expiry date and buying used from somebody who has engaged launch control a few times, there can be heavy maintenance bills incurred. I have heard of £10k costs for SMG replacement, although an approximate figure could be £1k-£2k as this system is used to kill the clutch first and not expensive hydraulics and gearboxes.

Stats (E36 figures first):

Engine: 3.2L straight 6, 321bhp and 343bhp

Performance: 0-60 in 5.5 and 4.9. Top speeds are 155 mph (limited)

Time owned: 08/2007 and 01/2009

Bought for: £9,000 and £14,000

Mileage owned: 45,000 and 65,000

Parts/Servicing costs: £1,000+

Insurance: £700 with 3 year NC