Need advice on 3-series purchase

Hello,
I am considering buying a BMW 3 series for my next vehicle. I have never owned a 3 series, or any BMW vehicle, so I am doing a little bit of research before I decide exactly what model and production year I
would like to buy. I have a few questions I would like ask this forum to get me started.
1) What is the general opinion of the E36 series versus the E46 series? What are the pros and cons of each generation and overall which is considered better?
2) The E46 received a facelift for the 2002 model year. What is the general opinion of BMW enthusiasts, did the facelift improve the look of the vehicle or was the original E46 look considered better?
3) What are considered the best model years for the E46? (I am most interested in purchasing the sedan, or possibly the coupe, but definitely not interested in the convertible or wagon)
4) Are there any significant differences between the four engines installed in the E46 during it's production life (ie: old 2.5 l, 2.8 l, new 2.5 l, 3.0 l engines) as far as reliability and performance are concerned ? (Other then the fact that the larger engines have more power and torque).
Any advice would be most appreciated. If you can direct me to previous threads that discuss my above questions, I would appreciate that also.
-Jonathan
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On Dec 17, 2:08 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Engineering-wise they're both pretty much the same with eh E46 having some tweaks. The E46 generally has more creature comforts but is bigger. I prefer the E36 to drive.

It's up to you. Enthusiasts tend not to liek the newer styling.

To my knowledge there's no "bad" year but in general people say stay away from the early ones.

No
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Owned both. E46 is far superior in build quality - the fit and finish especially on the interior is a quantum leap better than the E36. Pro for the E36 - it's cheaper (and breaks more) Con for the E46 - it costs more.

Beauty and the eye of the beholder. I don't think we can answer this for you. Most people will state their preference is for whatever they own at the time.

They are all good. Later ones tend to have more content (comfort features). Of course you also will pay more for later model years.

No. There were no bad engines.

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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

[snip - snip]
I just bought my first BMW back at the end of May, first foreign as well. It is a 2000 323I 4-door (E46 I believe) and had 117,000 US miles. Now it has 130k miles on it. I get 29Mpg.
I love the car, I believe it has the 2.5L. It does not use oil, according to the dealer records they did all oil services at the dealer but exceeded the 15k a thousand or so.
The car is tight, love it and the only regret is not getting one sooner. I am learning it is like any other car except like an aircraft it is prudent to keep it maintained. I never heard a complaint about bad BMW cars from owners or even previous owners.....
Hope this helps..
Rob
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Robert wrote:

Holy cow. I average 22MPG in mine. City driving. Do you do nothing but highway?
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dizzy wrote:

Yes, at 85-95% otherwise it would be at 24 with conservative driving. 29Mpg is at 70MPH.
rob
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E46 was better build with better materials for those things other than driveline.

Eye of the beholder?

The latest car with the lowest miles, with lower miles being the tie breaker. A car maintained above and beyond the recommended maintenance interval would get a +. An automatic that's had a fluid change @ 50K miles would get a double +.

I'd go with the M54 3.0. R / John

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Today's a bad day to ask me. I just picked up my 2002 325i after dropping $700 on the 5th air pump and valve in 77000 miles. Fortunately the 1st 4 were under warranty. The car is tight and drives nice but the repairs are getting rediculous. They also informed me that the transimission (manual) is leaking(slightly) from two diferent seals. I've had more repairs done to this car in 77000 miles than all the American-built cars I've owned over the past 25 years. Nothing serious, just expensive.
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LJ wrote:

How does one know if one's "air valve" is bad?

Well, you were over-lucky for a long time, then, and now things are getting back into balance. 8)
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It's actually two parts, an air pump and valve. The secondary air pump puts fresh air into the mix for the first couple minutes of operation and then it is supposed to quit as the car warms up. If it fails to shut off, it burns out relatively quickly and you get a "check engine light". The car seems to run fine, but I'm told that eventually you will burn out the catalytic converters (mega-costly) due to an over rich running condition. I believe the valve is a related component that opens or closes depending on the situation. They changed them both each time the air pump failed.
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fwiw, the secondary air pump and valve connect to the exhaust system, not the intake induction system. The secondary air counters the extra-rich engine-start condition from throwing a lot of unburnt fuel into the cat, which would indeed, if not corrected, cause the cat to burn up prematurely. Once the fuel/air mix at the cylinders has leaned out to the normal run state the secondary air valve closes and the pump is turned off...
Cheers
/daytripper '00 s4 6spd
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IIRC the air pumps are a US thing. So the lack of them doesn't end up with a damaged cat.
--
Small asylum seeker wanted as mud flap, must be flexible and willing to travel

Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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On Mon, 17 Dec 2007 06:08:33 -0800, jonfklein wrote:

I own an example of each vehicle and I agree with pretty much everything others have said to this point.
For E36's, I'd look at the 96+ model years since they came with OBD II diagnostics, electronic climate control, traction control (optional in 96, standard in 97), and a few cosmetic cleanups.
For E46's, you really can't go wrong with any of them except perhaps the '01 model year, as they have had a relatively high share of issues with the GM-sourced transmissions (BMW switched to a ZF unit in '02, IIRC) and a few electrical gremlins (very rare for anything BMW, but there it is).
As long as the cars have been maintained and the owner has proof of that, mileage is not as big a deal with these cars as it would be for some other vehicles. In other words, don't be scared of the 100,000 mile mark if it's a clean specimen and the price is right. FYI, auto transmissions are known to fail in these cars at roughly 120K miles (very long story I won't address here) and the manuals typically need clutches around the same time. Be prepared for that and price the car accordingly.
Here are a few sites to continue your research, including my own:
http://www.dvatp.com/bmw / http://forums.bimmerforums.com/ (emphasis on E36) http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums / http://forum.e46fanatics.com /
-Doug
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Doug Vetter wrote:

The 323 switched to ZF in early 2000, according to this. The 328 switched later.
http://www.noreverse.org/docs/SB247500.pdf
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Your question is perfect for the tech support guy at The Roundel, the magazine of the BMW Car Club of America.
You can reach the columnist, Mike Miller, at:
snipped-for-privacy@aol.com
He will answer your message (very nice guy). He has issues with E36's because that was BMW's first attempt at building a car down to a price point and they screwed some things up as result. He owns an E46 coupe.
GRL

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Every car maker ever makes cars 'down' to a price point and BMW are no different. They were later than some of the same class introducing decent rust protection - and on the E28 for example, made the bumpers out of steel which rusted badly. Stainless would have been the choice if money were no object. My E34 wore out the cloth upholstery very early on. Other similar priced makes used cloth that lasts the life of the car. Just two examples out of many.
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Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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