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From digest.v7.n454 Thu Oct 16 16:46:14 1997
Date: Thu, 16 Oct 1997 15:26:49 -0400
Subject: Differences Between '95 vs '96+ M3s

In v7 #449 Kenneth L. asks about the differences between a '95 M3 and a '96/97 M3. Yes there were '96 model M3s. It was a short model run. I wanted to buy a '96 model M3 but all the BMW dealers said there wasn't going to be a '96 M3 so I ended up buying a used '95 M3 in February '96. In April the '96 M3 was available. I'm still mad at them for misleading me. I guess even BMW sales staff will tell you anything to get you to buy a car from them.

The differences/changes: 95 - 2 door only, available with 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic, automatic only available with luxury package; luxury package added a little more leather, center armrest, wood grain interior, and different wheels

'96 - 2 door only, 5-speed manual only, no luxury package available

'97 - 2 or 4 door, 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic, luxury package available. The automatic could be had in the non-luxury model too.

BMW made several content and performance changes with the '96 model M3. The engine was increased from 3.0 L to 3.2 L. The horsepower did not change (240 hp) but the torque went up. The intact was changed to increase torque. Traction control (ASC+T), digital climate controls, console mounted door lock, weather band radio, and (I think) heated windshield washer nozzles and heated door locks were added in '96. The '95 does have heated outside mirrors. In '97, BMW added 3 years of free maintenance, i.e. oil change and antifreeze.

Wheels and tires changed from 235/40 on 7.5x17 rims all around in '95 to 225/45 on 7.5x17 rims on the front and 245/40 on 8.5x17 rims in the rear in '96. The standard rim design also changed from a flat 10 spoke rim in '95 to a curved 10 spoke rim in '96. The '96 got stiffer springs, different diameter sway bars, and a little different front end geometry. I can't say if the suspension changes made the M3 understeer more or less. The narrower width front tires supposedly reduced the tendency to follow the rain grooves. Another subtle difference is a change in the rear end ratio. All M3s have a 3.23 ratio rear end except the 5-speed manual '95 which has a 3.15 ratio rear end. By the way, I think this lower rear end in '96+ M3s has more to do with the quicker 0-60 times of the '96 vs. '95 M3 than the larger engine.

One other thing to consider. The emission controls were changed on all cars in '96. The '95 model engines are cheaper and easier to modify at this time. For example, aftermarket computer chips are readily available for '95 M3s. A very well respected Digest poster and engine tuner, Jim Conforti, stated in a Digest post that the 3.0 L '95 motor can produce 330-340 hp without a supercharger vs a maximum of 300 hp for the larger 3.2 L '96/97 motor due to the restrictive intact on '96+ models.

Kenneth also asked about "ticking" noises in the engine. This is common with all the US '95+ M3s during severe cornering. Consensus is to add up to 1 extra quart of oil to stop the ticking. Other things to look for? Lots of little things with the fit and finish and electrical accessories. I have had my '95 M3 in for cruise control, power window, seat belt, sunroof, dash lights, and now the power door locks. Nothing major but I'd recommend getting a car with at least some of the warranty left. I don't know how you would check this, but be careful of getting an M3 that has been over revved or run to redline a lot. M3 motors are susceptible to engine damage if you exceed the rev limit by missing a downshift.

Good luck finding an M3. M3s are a lot of fun to drive!

Lowell Seaton
'95 M3

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