1998 BMW M3

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$39,700

starting MSRP

1998 BMW M3

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

1 trim

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 1998 BMW M3 trim comparison will help you decide.

1998 BMW M3 review: Our expert's take

By

While the Z3 roadster may cause your pulse to race, the M3 is arguably the best convertible in BMW’s stable.

It has the moves of a thoroughbred, blue ribbon styling and an engine that charms you more with every gearshift. The 3.2-liter, in-line 6-cylinder jewel nestled under its graceful hood has 240 horses, about 50 more than the standard 328i. With the slightest prod of the throttle you can feel every one of them straining to run free, and when you give them free rein they snap your head back and put a huge grin on your face. Even though European M3s have considerably more horsepower, this car performs almost as well because its engine has been tuned for American driving conditions, where mid-range throttle response is more important than top speed. Consequently, getting it up to speed doesn’t take constant flogging. Just step on the gas and it moves out as if it were levitating.

Aside from its engine, the high-performance M3 differs from the standard 3-series by having a firm, sports suspension, 17-inch wheels, slightly different lower-body panels, leather upholstery and a handsome three-spoke steering wheel. The differences are subtle, and only dedicated Bimmerphiles will know you’re behind the wheel of a very special model.

Out in traffic, however, other drivers will figure out that you’re in something special as you leap to 60 mph in about 6 seconds and leave them gasping in your wake. Acceleration is only one part of the M3 equation, however. The buttoned-down suspension keeps it so firmly in touch with the road that when you point its nose into a turn it scribes an arc as cleanly as if you used a compass.

Find an open road and it gallops so effortlessly that you constantly find yourself exceeding the speed limit, even with the top down.

Driving with the top down is the best way to enjoy this car, and you can go au naturel in a matter of seconds because the top is fully electric. Hold down the button on the console and it automatically unlatches, retracts and tucks itself under a hard cover. The plastic rear window seems oddly out of place in car of this price and sophistication. Many of its competitors have a glass window with built-in defogger.

Of course, the top impinges on trunk space, but there is still enough room for a couple of carry-on bags.

The top also makes the back seat smaller, and while there is space for two, my wife found the legroom to be pretty snug when she crawled in back while we took a friend on a demonstration drive. This is a space best left to youngsters, she decided after a few minutes of riding with her feet angled to one side.

In keeping with the $45,900 base price, the M3 is lavishly equipped. Our test car’s dark green metallic paint was highlighted by a muted tan leather interior that contrasted nicely with the black instrument panel. M3 badging, including a lighted M3 crest atop the gearshift lever, was subtle. Overall, the interior felt rich and sumpt uous.

The sport bucket seats rank right up there with some of the best seats I know. They have excellent under-thigh support, while the sides grip you securely, yet firmly.

Good lighting is critical in a fast car. Low-beam headlights were so-so, but flicking on the high beams was like turning on the landing lights of a jetliner.

Brakes are another area where the M3 shines. Ventilated four-wheel disc brakes wipe off speed so efficiently I often underestimated how long it would take to stop.

With the appearance of a new 3-series sedan, a new convertible is bound to be in the works at some point in the future. It will be hard to come up with one that is any more captivating than the M3, however.

Price

The base price is $45,900. Heated seats were the only option on our test car, and they brought the sticker price to $46,970, including destination charges.

Warranty

The standard warranty is for four years or 50,000 miles, and all scheduled main nance is free for three years or 36,000 miles.

Vehicles for The Star’s week-long test drives are supplied by the auto manufacturers.

Point: If there’s anything better than a handsome convertible, it is one with a muscular engine, excellent handling and tastefully executed luxury inside.

Counterpoint: The trunk is small and the plastic back window is out of place on a car in this price range.

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE: 3.2-liter, 6-cyl.

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed

WHEELBASE: 106.3 inches

CURB WEIGHT: 3,491 lbs.

BASE PRICE: $45,900

PRICE AS DRIVEN: $46,970

MPG RATING: 20 city, 27 highway

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 3.8
  • Interior design 3.9
  • Performance 4.7
  • Value for the money 4.8
  • Exterior styling 4.7
  • Reliability 4.3

Most recent consumer reviews

4.7

Truly an Excellent Sports Car

This is a car I've wanted to own for years. Handling perfection with just the right amount of power and luxury. Comfortable even on long trips. Reliable when basic maintenance is taken care of. These cars are great bargains at current prices, get one before they're all gone!

3.7

Analog In A Digital Age

Cars, much like many other components of modern life, are showrooms for all the latest technology the modern consumer needs. In many ways this is great but at a certain point they lose their car-iness and become tools for abstracting the driver away from the driving itself. I would guess car manufacturers are responding to what the customers are asking for. But I fell in love with cars long ago not because their a tool or a means to an end. I like cars that are meant to be driven and that create a relationship between you and its interfaces. The E36 M3 is a performance car from an era where this relationship still mattered and this is part of why it lured me in in the first place. No WiFi, no Bluetooth, no color touch screen, no digital instrument cluster, no rear-view camera - mine doesn't even have a CD player. But BMW's iconic straight six engine mated to a five speed manual transmission is glorious to drive spiritedly and this is the reason I bought it. There isn't an abundance of assists getting in between you and the driving experience and correspondingly there are less electronic bits to go wrong. The E36 era of M3 is going on 20 years old - even for its youngest model - so a budget for maintenance is something to consider if this car is on your list of possibilities. There used to be chatter of a "$10k rule" on the enthusiast forums, meaning that regardless of whether you buy a $5k E36 M3 or a $8k E36 M3 you'll have to spend the difference between that and $10k to get it into reliable shape. Based on my experience that sounds about right. Problem areas are well documented on the enthusiast forums as are their solutions which make this platform alluring if you're interested in tackling DIY-level maintenance tasks yourself. The E36 M3 isn't for everyone but if you're after an unfiltered driving experience at a somewhat reasonable price it's a strong candidate. Going into it with proper expectations, ownership can be a gratifying experience.

5.0

Great Purchase

The entire purchase experience was one that you would not expect at a typical car dealership. I dealt directly with the owner who was also the decision maker. What I liked especially was that the entire emphasis of the conversations that took place between the two of us were to address my questions and concerns, to better understand what I wanted rather than the glorification of the vehicle driven by the desire to sell. Also, the handling of the administrative tasks was executed smoothly and I also decided to puchase the extended warranty. I told all my buddies how happy I was with the purchase and the experience as well as the young owner who is also a car enthusiast. I hope you find this review helpful and good luck on your purchase.

See all 10 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by BMW
New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
48 months/50,000 miles
Corrosion
72 months/unlimited distance
Roadside assistance
48 months/50,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
Certified Pre-Owned Elite with less than 15,000 miles; Certified Pre-Owned with less than 60,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
1 year/unlimited miles from expiration of 4-year/50,000-mile new car warranty
Powertrain
N/A
Dealer certification required
196-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

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