When summer rolled around I started noticing the suspension felt soft. The car had a lot of travel to it after hitting bumps. But, with almost 200,000 kms on the original factory suspension that was to be expected. It was time to start shopping for a replacement.
After doing some research online, including various forums such as UnitedBimmer.com and Bimmerforums.com I finally settled on a Koni Sport Kit. This kit included both shocks and matching springs. I found this easier then buying new shocks and springs separately. I think its better to purchase shocks that are tailored to your spring rate. For those that cant afford coilovers this is the best option in my opinion. At the time I couldn't afford coilovers, so coming in at just under $1,000 this was an excellent option.
I picked the Koni's because they had adjustable valve dampening. Meaning I could adjust the ride firmness to suit my comfort level, and could change it from a softer ride for the street, to a firmer ride should I want to take it to the track. The front shocks could be adjusted from the top of the shock, however the rear shocks needed to be removed in order to be adjusted. I don't track the car, so a softer ride was preferred. From my research on Bimmerforums a lot of people ran Bilstein shocks, but they stated they were quite a firmer ride over stock. Bilsteins are great shocks, and very well made, however I wasn't looking for a harsh ride.
When you upgrade your suspension in an E36, or plan to drop the ride height, you need to replace your rear shock mounts. The rear shock tower on the E36 is known for failing under increased stress. When the tower fails it requires removing the damaged metal and welding in a new piece. This can be very expensive. In order to help protect the car against potential damage I needed to invest in some good shock mounts. I purchased a set of Ground Control shock mounts for the E36. While these are pricey at $150 a set, they are pretty much one of the best shock mounts for the E36, and feature a lifetime warranty. Spending $150 to protect your E36 is very much worth it. Their is one difference between Ground Control shock mounts and OEM mounts though. The Ground Control mounts have the bolts facing into the wheel well for easier removal without having to remove the trunk carpeting and liner. Please make sure you read the instructions prior to installation, as installing them the same as OEM mounts, with the bolts facing into the trunk, voids the warranty.
With the upgraded Rear Shock Mounts (RSM's) it is also recommended to get the Z3 Reinforcement Plate. These are $10 each, but provide additional protection for your shock towers. They help spread the load of the shock mount more evenly. I have never seen someone with Z3 reinforcement plates suffer a shock tower failure. This should help convince you how worthwhile they are.