Monday, January 27, 2014

Used Car Review - BMW 3 Series (1994-1998)

Before we leave the month of January, Myk Belmonte assesses a German car popular during the 90s which is a steal.

1994-1998 BMW 3 Series

Mention the word "German car" to a Filipino and there are two vehicles that comes to mind: Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen. We can't blame then for this, but with the proliferation of Porsches and BMWs during the late 80s that resulted to the addition of these vehicles to the vehicle vocabulary. With the liberalization of the automobile industry, more brands entered.

The third of the 3 Series lineage, with development started in 1983 and the approval of the final design in 1988. The E36 was first launched in late 1990 for the European market and April 1991 for North America. It is available in sedan, coupe, wagon, convertible, and hatchback, with the latter gave way to the BMW 3 Series Compact. So successful that some body configurations were sold longer and overlapped with the E30 for some time.

Asian Carmakers Corporation started the assembly of the E36 3 Series in late 1994. The 316i was first made available and since the economy was picking up, many those in the executive ladder bought one. In fact, BMW overtook Mercedes Benz in passenger car sales (check page 27 of the pdf file). It was followed by the 320i in 1996. The lineage had a follow up in the form of the E46 3 Series in late 1998.

Value and Costs
Choosing the E36 3 Series will cost you between P280,000-P350,000 which covers all body styles of the platform. Do remember to choose the best unit whose condition is the best than something beat up.

Even the 316i which carries a 1.6 is no match to a Japanese one when it comes to maintenance costs. It is definitely pricey to keep, even though it is a second hand unit. Common problems lie with the radiator which is not tuned to our harsh climate, the water pump, and some interior trim. Expect prices of parts to be on the high side, though. Oh, M3 imitations are definitely a big no-no since they have questionable maintenance.

Exterior and Interior
Called as the "dolphin shape" due to its sharp styling and low stance, a disadvantage especially the underchassis will be prone to scratches. Do take note the 316i has black bumpers, door handles, and mirrors and the mag wheels are the mesh type which makes cleaning hard. On the other hand, the 320i can be distinguished by its color coded bumpers, door handles, and mirrors and a 10 spoke wheel. Rear disc brakes come standard across the board with some early 316i's having drum brakes.

Inside, the interior is a black affair but looks nice and appropriate for a driver's machine (it is angled towards the driver). Climate controls are a button party, with mastery a requirement to know each function. The rear seat might be tight for some people. Do remember that early 316i models have fabric seats with leather standard on later units; 320i have leather seats as a standard equipment.

Starting off the 3 Series engine list is the M43B16 1,596 inline 4 with 102hp at 5,500rpm and 150Nm at 3,900rpm which engine suits the city dweller especially acceleration isn't breathtaking. The cream of the crop is the M52B20 1,991cc pumping out 150hp at 5,900rpm and 190Nm at 4,200rpm. Going to the top gives you strong acceleration and tons of fun behind the wheel. How does it drive? Let us proceed to the next paragraph.

Driving Impressions
Choose either engine and you'll be treated to top levels of handling and comfort that BMW's are known for. Even the 316i will make you do ways on extracting its available power. Driving feel isn't expressed through a lengthy paragraph, it is done behind the wheel. Before I leave, make sure you're driving it and not your chauffeur.

It may be old but the traits of driving fun is still evident on older BMWs. The pedigree continues on to modern Bimmers despite going larger. Want an old European car that is fun to drive and at the same time cheap to maintain? You'll never go wrong with a E36 3 Series. 

The Good:
  • Willing chassis
  • Classic looks
  • Its a BMW, yo!
The Bad:
  • Somewhat expensive to maintain
  • Cheap plastics
  • Underpowered 1.6
The Pick: 320i for the fun drives, 316i for city cruising

Engines: 1,596cc M43B16 I4 and 1,991cc M52B20 I6 gasoline
Power: 102hp @ 5,500rpm (1.6), 150hp @ 5,900rpm (2.0)
Torque: 150Nm @ 3,900rpm (1.6), 190Nm @ 4,200rpm (2.0)
Fuel Consumption: 7-9km/L (city), 8-10km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual (316i), 4-speed automatic (320i)
Suspension: Front independent McPherson strut, rear Z-axle multilink

Price (New): P1,300,000-P1,900,000
Price (Now): P280,000-P350,000
Rivals: Mercedes Benz C Class (German competitor); Honda Accord, Mazda 626, Mitsubishi Galant, Nissan Altima, Toyota Corona (Japanese competitors)
On Sale: 1994-1998

Prestige Cars BMW - (02) 892-8127
Autohaus BMW - (02) 638-0734

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