I posted the below information in the Driving Tales section but since this comes up every so often here, I thought I would post the correct information. I have been meaning to do this for some time but I really wanted to do a conversion from the cassette to a .mp3 format for everyone to have. Sorry for the double post. IF the admins feel this needs to be elsewhere, please move it or delete it. Thanks.
Okay, I just gotta clear something up here. The "M" mode for the transmission is NOT for shifting manuallly. The automatic transmissions in the E36 has 3 modes of operation. I got this information from the BMW New Owners cassette in my glove compartment so I will assume that it is correct. Yes, I still have that cassette and listen to it from time to time because I like hearing the man and woman tell me over and over again that I drive "The Ultimate Driving Machine".
Economical Mode - This is when the transmission is in D and the A/M switch is in the A position. D stands for Drive for those that dont know, although I would hope everyone would know that. When in Economical mode the shift points are lower and the car is less responsive. This is a gas saving mode of operation and for everyday driving. You can still depress the accelerator further than normal to cause the car to downshift for passing.
Manual Mode - This is when the A/M switch is in the M position. The reason for this mode is for hazardous driving conditions, such as ICE and SNOW. By putting the car in 2 or 3 you may start out on slick surfaces without spinning the wheels. This also allows you to keep the car in one gear for help when decending down inclines. You may shift manually if you desire but it IS NOT recommended. (In other words, this is NOT a RACE mode.)
Sport Mode - This is when the A/M switch is in the A position and the transmission is in 3. By putting the transmission in 3 you can utilize all of the cars power and performance. This give you a higher shift point but a lower top speed. Enjoy.
I have driven my auto trans in all combinations. When in economy mode my shift points, when standing on the throttle, are around 5700 rpm. When in Sport mode my shift points, when standing on the throttle, are around 6200 - 6300 rpm. I spend most of my time in econ mode but when I need quicker acceleration, I drop into Sport mode. Use this information at your own risk.
"Some may never live, but the crazy never die"
Hunter S. Thompson
"There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die."
Hunter S. Thompson