Most BMW sedans and 2-door coupes are powered with a rear-wheel-drive which is quite suitable for drifting. However, there is a go-to BMW model that most drift enthusiasts love to start with. The BMW M3 E36 is the perfect car for drifting and, on top of that, it is also relatively cheap.
The BMW M3 E36 – the perfect car for drifting
When you talk about drifting, unless you are a professional and you are competing, driving pleasure and reliability stand as your top priorities. Many experienced drifters have shared that they began their journey as a racer or a drifter in the BMW M3 E36. It is a perfect mixture of both reliability and power.
The BMW M3 E36 is the third generation 3 Series BMW, which was released in 1990. The M3 version has a pumped-up engine that can fit any of your sports needs but is most famously used for drifting. If your budget is less than $10,000, consider forgetting about the M3, and instead purchase an E36 328i with a manual transmission. If you weld the diff, it will do almost just as well.
But if you are aiming for the best possible entry-level BMW for drifting, the BMW M3 E36 is the perfect car. It has a 3.0 L gasoline straight-six engine, producing 243 horsepower and 225 lb-feet of torque, and costs right under 10 grand to start the show with. The M3 E36 takes 5.5 seconds to reach from 0 to 62 miles per hour and is capable of reaching a top speed of 155 miles per hour.
The M3 E36 originated in 1986 and shortly became one of the most famous drift machines of all time. The second-generation M3 became a reality in 1992 with the M50TU engine, which was implemented in both E36 and E34.
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BMW M3 E36 Dimensions, suspension and brakes
The BMW M3 E36 weighs approximately 3175 lbs and has a length of 174 inches and width of 63 inches.
The M3 is equipped with a front suspension of MacPherson Struts w Springs and Dampers Anti-Roll bar, and a rear suspension of Multi-Link Z-axle w Springs. Regarding the brakes of the E36, they are quite reliable with front 12.4-inch inner vented discs, two floating rotors, as well as ABS. The rear brakes are 12.3-inch inner vented discs and ABS, as well.
BMW M3 E36 Engine power and rev range
As rigid as this vehicle looks like on the outside, is just as, if not more rigid, on the inside. It is powered by the BMW S50 and BMW S52 straight-six engines. With a max rev range of 7400 and a very good torque of 236 at 3600 RPM, this BMW is the perfect fit for a drift machine. Unsurprisingly, for drift-enthusiasts, the BMW M3 E36 comes in a 6-speed manual transmission.
The M3 was originally based on an E-30 3-Series platform and nowadays it isn’t easy to find a solid platform, great power and manual transmission at the same time. This car provides it all for a beginner to start drifting.
The BMW E36 is quite cheap when purchased second-hand. And aside from that, it has a very reliable engine. And if you don’t get the M version, you can always get an inlet manifold from a 325 E36, you might put in some extra horsepower.
The other possible engine variations, aside from the M, are the 1.6 L – 1.9 L gasoline engines and the diesel turbocharged 1.7 L and 2.5 L, which might be trickier to drift and are not recommended for beginners.
The E36 comes in 5-speed manual, 6-speed manual, 4-speed automatic and 5-speed automatic transmissions. For drifting, the best option is the 5-speed manual gearbox.
BMW M3 E36 reliability
When purchasing one of these second-hand, be aware of the mileage on the vehicle. Many users often report water pumps and head gaskets being heavily damaged after aggressive use. And many E36 vehicles have seen aggressive drivers over the years.
Keep in mind that many of these vehicles have been driven all the way up to 200k plus miles, and that might affect the power. And, after all, despite reading more than 200 horsepower on the engine specs, it might actually be something like 180 bhp in the end. The engine is known to be quite indestructible, and even more so, cheap to repair. Since the model over floods the market, there are plenty of spare parts to purchase from.
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Questions about drifting with a BMW
What are other suitable BMWs for drifting?
Almost all BMWs with rear-wheel-drive and enough torque and horsepower are suitable for drifting. In addition to the E36, the more suitable models are the E30, E46, E90, and E92. But in general, the E30 and E36 engines are less complicated than others and are very easy to fix. Not only that, but they are also far more reliable than newer models.
Why are newer BMW models used less for drifting than old ones?
New BMW models are less reliable, cost more and are harder to fix. Aside from that, they rarely last the same mileage. There is no use in getting a complicated engine which costs more and delivers slightly more when you can have the same result for a substantially lesser amount of money.
Which is the most reliable BMW you can drift with?
If you can find an older gasoline BMW with a V8 of 4.2 L or 4.4 L, you should know that these are some of the most reliable engines ever produced, and to no surprise, an engine this big also produces enough torque and horsepower for you to be able to drift. The BMWs ranging from 1996 to 2006 are also generally the most reliable models produced.
Can you drift automatic transmission BMWs?
Automatic transmission BMWs can be drifted, but not as easily as BMWs with manual gearboxes. Automatic cars can never bring the same performance in drifting as manual cars. You can drift an automatic car by using the handbrake or the drifting emergency brake. Both of these are not recommended for beginners. Drive safely.