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 Year-by-Year (1992-1999 3-Series, U.S.)

Thru my ownership experience I have compiled the following list for reference. It is not comprehensive and shows highpoints only. A brief history of this model:

Introduced in 1992 with a completely new body style and engine, the E36 chassis continued BMW's successful 3-series line with coupe and sedan choices in either 1.8 liter, 4 cylinder or 2.5 liter, 6 cylinder engines. Transmission choices were 5 speed manual or four speed automatic.

With early E36 production BMW experimented with molded plastic and other cost-saving measures, and introduced complex new electrical systems. By late production most quality issues had been resolved, leaving BMW with a solid, classy 3 series for the ages.
1993
  • VANOS (variable intake valve timing) introduced on 6 cylinder engines for extra torque.
  • R-134a, CFC-free refrigerant in a/c system instead of R-12 "Freon".
  • Paint-matched front and rear bumper.
1994
  • New airbag system with passenger side airbag.
  • Convertible introduced.
  • Simplified body electronics: door locks, sunroof, and windows now controlled centrally. Coupe window "convenience" feature improved. Auto-close of windows/sunroof with key.
  • Side marker turn signals phased-in late '94.
  • Updated front spoiler design.
  • New amplifier for audio system.
1995
  • M3 introduced: 3.0 liter, 240 hp engine with Motorsport tuned suspension, 17" wheels, aggresive new bodywork, sport seats, and chrome exhaust tips. 5-speed auto tranny available.
  • Airbag system changed for all cars except M3. New steering wheel with roundel badge on airbag.
  • 318ti hatchback introduced.
  • Sport package introduced: sport suspension, sport seats, and 16" five spoke wheels.
  • Driveaway Protection introduced: microchip encoded keys.
  • Improved interior quality.
1996
  • Compensating for new emission laws, all engine sizes increased: 6 cyl from 2.5 to 2.8 liters, M3 from 3.0 to 3.2 liters, 4 cyl from 1.8 to 1.9 liters. Slight torque gains; horsepower unchanged.
  • New ECM (Engine Control Module) uses flash memory instead of removable microprocessor chips. Extensive fault code readouts now available (as legally mandated).
  • 328 model introduced, replacing 325.
  • New radio with speed-sensitive volume and more AM/FM presets. New I-bus CD changers.
  • New fully electronic climate control with simplified wiring.
  • Fully paint-matched body panels.
  • Auto tranny option for M3 coupe discontinued.
1997
  • Newly styled hood "kidney" grilles.
  • Side impact airbags optional.
1998
  • 323 model introduced: less powerful 6 cylinder than 328. Coupe and convertible only.
  • Side-impact airbags standard.
1999
  • Sedan discontinued and replaced by new E46 3-series.
  • M-Technic sport package available: M3 body panels and 16" wheels.
  • Manual transmission upgraded.
  • Reinforced rear suspension mounts.
  • Minor change to radio: WB (Weather Band) deleted, RDS and PTY function added.

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Frankie
Willis, TX, USA