When we think of grand touring, driving long distances through America or Europe, crossing state and country lines, we typically think of bigger, luxurious coupes. The BMW 6 Series or Mercedes-Benz SL-Class are the sort of cars that come to mind. Not an E36 M3.
As an E36 owner, I can assure you, no one wants to take a 1,200 mile roadtrip in one. The interior is fairly noisy, the ride is borderline uncomfortable and the cabin is, let’s say, intimate. It simply isn’t a great car for long-distance trips. It’s great for bombing down twisty back roads, but not so great for straight-line cruising for hours at a time. However, despite that, Alex from Car Throttle decided it would be a good idea to do such a roadtrip to from London to France, get a Kayak and drive all the way back. The total mileage on the trip was just over 1,200 miles. In an E36 M3 lemon. That has quite a few issues.
To be fair, the car actually held up fine. Sure, it had a front wheel bearing that made some noise, but that’s just irritating and not actually that big of a problem. It was also having some rear differential issues toward the end of the trip. But on the whole, Alex’s E36 M3 (named Colin), which has given him all sorts of problems since he’s owned it, held its own on such a long trip.
What was even more impressive was how economical it was, considering it’s a performance car from the ’90s when petrol was cheap and it was loaded with all sorts of gear. Packed to the brim with luggage, camera equipment, a massive roof rack, a kayak and two adults, the E36 M3 averaged 26 mpg on the way back. That’s pretty good for a 3.2 liter I6 engine from the ’90s that’s in less-than-perfect condition and has over 200 hp (Alex’s lemon has lost a bit of power so who knows its exact figures).
I applaud the two guys at Car Throttle for embarking on such a journey. Even when my non-M3 E36 was running at its best condition I’d be hesitant to drive it that far. E36s have a tendency to have random cooling issues that make roadtrips nerve-racking. However, they did it in an E36 M3 that’s been a bit of a lemon and made it out alive. Good job, guys and good job, Colin.