What’s the difference between E36 and E46?

The Series 3 of BMW is known as the most reliable and highest-selling variant. Whenever the determination is about choosing three series, the two most common models make a comparison. And it is based on BMW E36 vs E46. Stay with this blog till the end to have the proper idea about the best Model.

BMW E36 vs E46

BMW E36 vs E46

The E36 is more reliable and comfortable for usage, whereas the E46 is the refreshed edition.


The three series are loaded with some outstanding machines for the users. E30 from the previous times have made created good attention in the market. And it has been sold in higher quantities too.

As E30 was a great success, E36 arrived in the market just after that and got an outstanding response. E36 was known as the most comfortable Model in the three series. And it was available in great varieties too. A stylish look, high-quality, sharp headlight with a lower kitted body has taken this Model to the next level appearance.

Having this great success, the E36 has created a spanned distribution in the market with Sedans, wagons, coupe, and convertible.

Still, in the market, some authentic BMW lovers find out about the classic E36 Model for the performance and level of comfort.


Just after the E36 had made good fame in the market, the Company debuted with its refreshed version named E46. And it was formed with all the previous features, quality, and performance like the E36.

That is why; there were not any major differences in performance, safety, or luxuriousness. In real fact, the E46 can be considered an almost duplicate version of the E36. As the previous one had good varieties, this one comes with the same. Sedan, coupe, wagon, and convertible are also available in it.

E36 and E46 Specification

There are some major distinctions available between them. And those distinctions are based on the features and specs of both these cars.

All the related information has been explained in the chart. Have a look at it.

Facts  BMW E36BMW E46
Production time  1995-19992001-2006
Engine  3.0 litre Inline-63.02 litre Inline-6
Maximum Power192hp @5900RPM225hp @ 5900RPM
Maximum Torque246nm @ 4300RPM300Nm @3500 RPM
Transmission type5 or 6 speed manual or automatic6 speed automatic or manual
Acceleration0-60 within 5.6 seconds0-60 within 5.1 seconds
Maximum speed250kmph270kmph
Curb weight3050 pounds3200pounds  

There are not many differences in performance, acceleration, and top speed ratio.

Both of them appear almost similar to each other. But the E46 comes with some better functions and qualities. Being an updated version is the main reason behind it.

Key factors that make separations

The main intention is to find out the best Model. Therefore, highlighting the major features will make it easier to do. And here are some valid issues that bring out the dissimilarity between these models.

Wheelbase and size dimension

The biggest difference that gets seen between them is individual size dimensions. E46 comes with a larger and wider shape than the previous one. And the total increment is almost 3 inches.

Besides, the previous wheelbase sizing was 106.3 inches. It has been changed to 107.3 inches for the E46 edition. Above all, the E46 Model has been lowered in height for all its variants. So it will look a little bit smaller in size than the previous ones.


E46 is the upgraded edition. So it will surely make a good performance. That is what gets seen in this Model. With higher torque and power, it can reach up to 270kmph.

Moreover, the E46 is formed with better technology and features as it has been launched in the 20th century.

While finding out the on-road attempt, E46 performs better than the previous E36 Model.

The reliability level

Cars from BMW are significantly known for better reliability. But the tagging is not more visible in the latest models. That’s because; Series 3 is much more focused on luxuriousness.

For that reason, the E46 comes with lower reliability than the previous Model. But it is best for comfort and luxury. E36 comes with better reliability and a standard level of comfort.  On top of that, its high quality and advanced suspension system make it better to use for that time.

The E36 is the preferable one for reliability. And the E46 is perfect for providing superior luxuriousness and comfort.

Internal Space

Both these variants are available in different segments. And they all have similarities in space and room from the inside. Moreover, the E46 contains a little bit bigger space than the other one.

It is because; the Model has some updated designs from both internal and external areas. As a result, it has created some spaces for easy comfortable and easy seating ability.

In that case, the E46 variant takes the lead.

Maintaining expense

The most important thing that the majority of users look for is maintenance cost. Although both these models come under the luxury segment, they will require more cost than any other vehicle.

In terms of cost, the E36 is far better than the other one. And it has been mentioned earlier. E36 is known for its best reliability. That is why; it will need less maintenance cost than the other one.

Besides, it belongs to the previous times and functions. Those are cheap compared to the latest editions.

The E46, on the other hand, costs huge! In reality, it costs almost double the E36 from every angle and part.

More complexity is the main reason behind this higher price. That is why a typical E46 model appears a little bit more critical to fix rather than the E36.


Luxurious cars don’t make any compromise about safety. The same thing gets seen in the BMW models too. And luckily, both these versions come with the best level of safety from every corner.

The E46 is perfectly done with airbags for both driver and passenger seats. The same thing is missing in the E36. And it is available with the front side airbag for the driver and passenger.


There are no changes in design. Both the E36 and E46 contain almost the same type of design. But the latest one comes with a little bit of lower ground clearance. A wider body is another great change in design.

However, the E46 was formed with higher visible backlights with shiny finished headlights. E36 had followed a similar thing. But it doesn’t appear as shiny or premium as the new one.

Latest Features

The E46, as usual, will take the lead in terms of this factor. And the reason is simple. E46 is the updated variant back to the beginning of the 20th century. That is why; it is loaded with all the upgraded functions and qualities.

The E36 also had some good features. But they were much upgraded. However, considering that time and era, it was the best one for the features.


The only thing that makes a good difference and selection is pricing. Fortunately, both the models come in an affordable price range to go for.

Nowadays, they price enough low than the previous times. And it is for the availability of other models in the market.

A standard version of E36 can be purchased within $3k to $5k. The costing might come under changes depending on the manufactured time and features.

Taking about the E46 price, it has a better cost than the other one. And the pricing starts from $4k to $7k.

The main reason behind this pricing is that both of them belong to some great old times. But still, they’re enough demanding in the market.

E36 vs E46. The better drifting machine

These old German beasts have a mass usage for drifting. In real fact, both these models have superior drifting abilities on roads. But there’s a particular model that makes better and effortless drifting.

The E36 is the first version and perfect for drifts. The acceleration and torque beautifully combine with the handbrakes and make the finest rotation.

E46, on the other hand, contains better acceleration, speed, and torque. But it comes with a heavier weight ratio and low ground clearance. That means it will not be able to perform as higher as the previous Model.

It means the E36 is the best one for making drifts.

E36 vs E46 in drag races or tracks

The bookish information of E46 shows that it comes with better speed and performing ability. But in practical observation, both these models will appear almost similar to perform.

The E36 is great to perform on tracks or drag races. It has a compact and lower weight ratio that helps to pull up the speed.

But E46 has the biggest drawback. And it weighs almost 100 pounds heavier than the E36. So in the practice run, both these models will perform almost at the same level.

Though the E46 contains more power under the hood, its weight will not let the task be done perfectly. On the other hand, the old model E36 could easily find out a way to lead. Smaller-sized wheel fenders are the only issue of this Model.

E36 and E46 Engine Tuning

Luckily, both these models can be done by upgrading the performance. For example, these models can be formed up with supercharger or turbo systems.

Secondly, they can be installed with a dual exhaust manifold system to sound louder. There can be additional performance upgrades available for them too. Thinking about safety, all these factors given above might give good pressure on the ride.

And that is why lots of expert mechanics advise having the ECU changes only. Aftermarket air filters and oil filters are other great things to go for. They will not make any major issues with the cars.

But tuning the engine can deliver some great issues during usage. It unleashes the potential power of the engine. And that can’t be consumed by the body as well as the wheels. For that reason, these car models hardly get tuned from the engine. Nevertheless, they are very good for customizing rather than having engine upgrades.

The budget-friendly ride

 When the budget is low, it will make a tough decision to choose the rides. E46 usually costs higher than the previous Model, E36. But sometimes, the reconditioned or used car models can get seen in the market at a lower price. When luck favors, a fresh unit with a lower price is easy to get from the same budget of E36. That means both these models are best and perfect enough for the performance.

Considering the lower budget, the classic one is good to go. But when the budget is high, E46 is the good one to make the deal. Hence, both are the best to consider under friendly and perfect budgeting.

E36 vs E46 vs E30. The best German Model

While the E46 and E36 are making a good competition, E30 one belongs from a longer previous time. In short, it can be named the beginning BMW model too.

While making the comparison, this was the best version for reliability and performance. However, they did not consist of much more features. But the old version was quite great for reliability and durability. Coming to the next models, they are featured with all the technologies, but not as reliable as the old kid.

So the E30 is way better than the two others. It may not have proper performing ability against speed or features. But in the end, it can last better than the other two models for sure.

Ratings by users

The feedback of users makes a good decision for choosing the perfect car model. Therefore, the rating chart below contains some honest markings of each Model.

And luckily, it has been done by our expert team members. Entire and relevant factors have played a role for them.

Note: The rating is done out of 10 marks.

Facts  BMW E36BMW E46
Power          7            8
Design           8              8
Fuel economy         7.5            8
On-road performance           8          7.5
Reliability           9             7
Luxuriousness          6.5             9

So the rating shows that two of these car models are quite great and perfect in performance. For better reliability and quality, the E36 is the best choice. And for the latest features and premium feel, the E46 is the one to choose.

Long time usage of the ride will need engine replacement. If you have the necessity, hop into the BMW 3 Series Engine Replacement Cost and know about all the related topics.

Final Expression

E36 vs E46 both are budget killers. The price is low, performs higher, and is best for vibing at a cheap price.

Yet E46 is the refreshed version. Devoted BMW fans have a weakness for the older variant. Luxuriousness and stylish finished material is not the thing they require to. All they demand is the classic look and design from the old times.

On the opposite, young aged users can be obsessed with the E46 Model. There’s nothing more to make identify them individually. Selection is probably the last thing to perform.

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