As a big E36 3 Series fan, that generation of M3 has always had a special place in my heart. However, the prospect of owning one has always felt like it would bring an asterisk with it. While the US market E36 BMW M3 is a great car, it’s not as good as the Euro-market car. Back in the ’90s, BMW decided to give the US-market E36 M3 a lesser engine than the Euro-market car because reasons, so US market enthusiasts always had to have the weaker of the two. So if you want an E36 M3, you should consider importing one.
To be honest, the E36 BMW M3 has been available for import to the US for some time. For a car to be eligible for import to America, without having to pass any emissions tests, it needs to be 25 years old. After that, anything goes. Since the E36 M3 debuted in 1992, it’s actually been eligible for import for a few years now. However, yet another model year opened up for eligibility in 2019, making it even easier to find the right car to import. Unfortunately, it’s still the pre-facelift car and packs the less-powerful engine.
Under the hood of the Euro-market, pre-facelift BMW M3 lies a 3.0 liter naturally-aspirated I6 engine with the still new VANOS variable valve timing. Back in the early ’90s, it developed a very healthy 286 hp, though it’s not likely any car that old still makes exactly that much power. They’ve probably lost a few ponies over the years. No matter, though. It’s still a healthy amount of power in a car that’s a relative featherweight by modern standards. The US-market car only made 240 hp and it wasn’t as fun to drive because of it.
We really can’t wait for the facelifted E36 BMW M3 to become eligible for import to the US. That car used an upgraded 3.2 liter naturally-aspirated I6 that made a whopping 321 hp at the time. According to BMW, 0-60 mph happened in about 5.5 seconds, which makes it about as quick as a modern-day VW GTI. That’s quite good for a nearly 25-year old car.
So if you’re an E36 BMW M3 fan but don’t want the weaker US-market version, start looking into importing one from Europe. It might cost a bit more money but you’ll be getting the better car.
[Source: Car and Driver]