The BMW E36 is the third generation of the 3 Series compact executive cars produced by BMW. It was the successor to the E30 3 Series and was eventually replaced by the E46 3 Series in 1999, though E36 coupes were still produced for the 1999 model year. The E36 experienced enormous success in the market. It laid strong foundations for the success that the BMW E46 enjoyed in subsequent years.
Also known as the "dolphin shape", the E36 was sold from 1991 through 1999. All E36 sedans, coupes, and estates employed the "Z-axle" multilink suspension in the rear which had been proven in the Z1. The hatchback body style, known as the E36/5 or BMW Compact, was identical to the regular E36 from front bumper to A-pillar. In order to save space due to its truncated rear end, the Compact used a rear semi-trailing arm suspension based on the older E30, instead of the Z-Axle Multilink employed in all other E36's.
Source: Wikipedia, 2012