3 Series – E36
The BMW E36 is the third generation of the 3 Series compact executive cars produced by BMW. Development began in 1983, with final design being approved in 1988. It was introduced in late 1990 (as a 1991 model for Europe and in April 1991 (as a 1992 model) for US and Canada. It was the successor to the E30 3 Series and was eventually replaced by the E46 3 Series in 1998, though E36 coupes were still produced for the 1999 model year. The E36 experienced enormous success in the market. It laid strong foundations for the success that the BMW E46 enjoyed in subsequent years.
Also known as the "dolphin shape", the E36 was sold from 1991 through 1999. All E36 saloons, coupes, and estates employed the "Z-axle" multilink suspension in the rear which had been proven in the Z1. The hatchback body style, known as the E36/5 or BMW Compact. In order to save space due to its truncated rear end, the Compact used a rear semi-trailing arm suspension based on the older E30 (also found in the Z3 and M Coupe), instead of the Z-Axle Multilink employed in all other E36's.
In the United States, the four-door E36 were on sale by April 1991, while the E30 coupes were retained until well into 1992 when they were replaced by E36 coupes. The E36 convertible was delayed until 1993.
The hatchback body style, known as the BMW Compact, was introduced in 1995 starting with the 318ti, being very popular in Europe but largely unsuccessful in North America. The "Touring" estate was sold in Europe from 1995, but was not available in the United States.
DOHC engines were used across the range (except in entry level models, see table below), with VANOS variable valve timing introduced in 1993. The 2.5 L M50B25 used in the 325i models was replaced in 1996 with the 2.8 L M52B28, creating the 328 line. Another 2.5 L I6 engine, the M52B25, was reintroduced for 1998 but badged as the 323i rather than 325i. The E36 was the first vehicle to offer a 5-speed automatic transmission, 5HP18 made by ZF