Much like the human body, cars begin to lose some power and capability after many years. Just like people, cars get old. But just how much youth do cars lose after decades? Well, Alex from Car Throttle decided to find out by testing his 20 year old BMW E36 M3 on a dyno to see how much horsepower it’s lost.
In Europe, the E36 M3 from 1997 and on (which Alex’s car is) developed 321 hp from its 3.2 liter inline-six engine. So after nearly 20 years, his E36 M3 hits the dyno and only puts out 279 hp, consistently after many runs. So that’s a loss of 42 hp for you math majors. That’s quite a bit of power to lose, regardless of how long it’s been. It’s especially troubling because the dyno technician checked out many of the engine components and everything checked out okay.
What was interesting about the results was that they showed the E36 M3 was losing all of that power at the top end of the rev-range. After about 5,000 rpm, power starts to drop off considerably. The technician seemed to think that it had to do with the engine’s valve clearance, which seems to need an adjustment. He said after an adjustment, and maybe even a new, more freer flowing exhaust, the E36 could be back up to around its original 321 hp.
So, after realizing that his car had lost so much power, he decided to do a 0-60 mph run to see if it can get close to the car’s original time. The original 0-60 mph time for a European E36 M3 was around 5.5 seconds. Alex’s M3’s fastest run was his last, at 5.9 seconds. However, he averaged 6.2 seconds over the course of four runs. He could probably get in the high-five’s consistently by figuring out what rpm to launch at and getting it perfect.
That’s pretty promising, because despite the huge power loss over the years, the E36 M3 is still almost as fast as the original car. That probably has to do with the fact that it only lost top-end power, as the E36 M3 gets to 60 mph in second gear, so it’s in the lower half of the rev-range for most of the 0-60 mph run. And torque has more to do with launching a car anyway. So the nearly 20 year old E36 M3 is almost as fast it was when new, making it a great bargain choice for young enthusiasts on a tight budget.