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Why driving the BMW M3 E36 # 071 is magical

Updated: Apr 14

Adapted from RJ Waldron's article published in Hotwire 08/19/2021.

Often regarded as one of the best all-round performance cars ever produced, the classic BMW E36 M3 dishes out real-world thrills in a functional and useable package.

It's a car that has weathered the passing of time with ease and can still hold its head up high with sporting figures and credentials that will still upset a whole parking lot full of younger contenders.

Hailing from a time when cars were boxier, lighter, and less tech heavy, the M3 was a benchmark-setting powerhouse on wheels. Blazingly fast and capable of demolishing your favorite road with razor sharp prowess, here are things everyone forgot about the BMW E36 M3.

When the original was released in 1986, the E30 M3 drew a new line in the sand.

Here was an aggressively styled 4-seater coupe that would happily potter to the local supermarket before sticking its middle finger up at supercars of the time on the way home.

The ultimate Sport Evolution models, often called Evolution III, threw out 238 hp from a stroked 2.5-liter four cylinder S14 engine. Only available in red or black, only 600 cars were made and would happily blast to 60 mph in 6 seconds.

1995-1999 E36 M3

The E30 replacement was a much bigger car and was the first M3 to use a straight-6 engine.

In year one guise, the engine was a 3.0-liter S50 unit with the driver being able to call on the M3's superb handling when the roads got twisty.

Far more luxuriously appointed than its predecessor, the 3.0 liter M3 gained a devoted following.

For the US Market, the 1999 M3 made use of the updated 3.2 liter 240 HP factory rated engine which was dreamt up to inspire a younger generation of buyers to take the plunge and experience high performance BMW thrills.

The 1996 BMW M3 #071 has the S54 motor from a 2004 E46. Bottom end completely rebuilt April 2004. This safely raises the rev-limit, giving #071 a broader power band and greater speed potential in each gear. Significant gains are also achieved at part throttle, making extra power available in low speed corners..

The top speed governor (155) has also been eliminated, enabling the vehicle to achieve its natural top speed.

0-60 mph 5.2 seconds, top speed 180 mph


  • More Power: 320 hp (versus 230)

  • 200 RPM rev-limit increase to 8,200

  • Throttle by wire provides improved throttle response

  • Top speed governor removed

  • Smooth and predictable high torque power delivery

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