BMW 3 Series (E30)

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BMW 3 Series (E30)
Bmw e30.jpg
ProductionOctober 1982–1994
  • Claus Luthe
  • Max Reisböck
Body and chassis
ClassCompact executive car (D)
Body style
RelatedBMW Z1
Length4,320–4,460 mm (170–176 in)
Width1,650 mm (65 in)
Height1,370–1,400 mm (54–55 in)
PredecessorBMW 3 Series (E21)
SuccessorBMW 3 Series (E36)
316i interior

The BMW E30 is the second generation of BMW 3 Series, which was produced from 1982 to 1994. The initial models used the coupé (two-door sedan) body style, with four-door sedan models introduced in 1983, convertibles introduced in 1985 and wagon/estate models (marketed as "Touring") introduced in 1987.

The E30 was the first 3 Series to be available in wagon and four-door sedan body styles. It was also the first 3 Series to have a diesel engine option. All-wheel drive was introduced to the 3 Series range with the 325iX model. The BMW Z1 roadster was based on the E30 platform.

The E36 replaced the E30 coupe models in 1990. Sedan production concluded on April 30, 1991 at Regensburg, with a white example. Other variants were phased out gradually, until the final E30 model, a Touring, was produced in 1994.[6]

The first BMW M3 was built on the E30 platform. The E30 M3 is powered by the high-revving BMW S14 four-cylinder petrol engine, which produced 175 kW (235 hp) in its final European-only iteration.[7]

Development and launch[edit]

Development of the E30 3 Series began in July 1976, with styling being developed under chief designer Claus Luthe. In 1978, the final design was approved, with design freeze (cubing process) being completed in 1979. The car was released at the end November 1982.[8][1][9][10](p117)

Externally, the E30's appearance is very similar to twin headlight versions of its E21 predecessor, however there are various detail changes in styling to the E30. Major differences to the E21 include the interior and a revised suspension, the latter to reduce the oversteer for which the E21 was criticised.[11] Like the E21, a Baur convertible was available.

Body styles[edit]

In addition to the coupe and convertible body styles of its E21 predecessors, the E30 was also available as a four-door sedan and five-door estate/wagon, called Touring.[12](p98) The Touring body style began life as a prototype built by BMW engineer Max Reisböck in his friend's garage in 1984.[13]


Initially, the E30 models used the M10 straight-four and the M20 straight-six engines, like its E21 predecessor.[14] Over the production run, the M10 was replaced with the M40 and M42, the M20 received various upgrades and the S14 engine was introduced in the M3.

A six-cylinder diesel was also introduced later, in both naturally aspirated and turbocharged forms.


BMW E30 318is engine. Aftermarket Strut bar fitted.

At the launch of the E30 range in 1982, the 316 used a 1766 cc M10 fed by a carburetor and producing 66 kW (89 hp).[15][16] The 318i had the same M10 engine, but with Jetronic fuel injection, pushing power to 77 kW (103 hp)[17][16] while also improving fuel economy.

The 1987 Series 2 update introduced a new four-cylinder engine: the M40, which used Motronic fuel-injection. In the 318i, a 1,796 cc (109.6 cu in) version of the M40 was used. The 316i model replaced the 316, using a 1,596 cc (97.4 cu in) version of the M40.

The 318iS coupe was released in 1989, using the new M42 engine.[18][19] This is the most modern engine available in the E30 range, incorporating DOHC, the updated Bosch Motronic 1.3, hydraulic valve adjusters and coil-on-plug ignition. In some markets, the M42 engine was used in the 318i (sedan) and 318iC (convertible) models, instead of the M40.

The M3 is powered by the S14 engine, a high-revving motorsport engine with a cylinder head derived from the M88 six-cylinder engine.[20][21]



BMW E30 325i engine

At the launch of the E30 range, the six-cylinder models consisted of the 320i, which had a 2.0 L (120 cu in) M20 engine producing 92 kW (123 hp),[22] and the 323i, with a 2.3 L (140 cu in) M20 making 102 kW (137 hp),[1][16] both using Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection. These models were not sold in North America, presumably for emissions reasons. In 1985, the 2.3 L engine was replaced with a 2.5 L version of the M20, which produced 125 kW (168 hp) and used Bosch Motronic fuel injection.[23][24] This engine was available in the 325i variants, including the all-wheel drive 325iX.

An economy version called the 325e was released as a lower revving, more fuel efficient engine. The e is an abbreviation for eta, which is used to represent the thermal efficiency of a heat engine. To maximise low-rev torque, the engine was the largest available in an E30, aside from the South Africa-only 333i model. The 2.7 L (160 cu in) engine had a longer stroke than the 2.5 L, with a more restrictive head, four cam bearings instead of seven (less internal friction), and single valve springs (instead of the dual valve springs used by the 2.5 L engine). This resulted in 90 kW (120 hp) at 4250 rpm and, more importantly, 240 N⋅m (180 lb⋅ft) at 3250 rpm.[25][24] (without catalytic converter) Peak torque for the 2.5 L (150 cu in) engine is 215 N⋅m (159 lb⋅ft) at 4000 rpm.

The 1987 Series 2 update boosted the 320i to 95 kW (127 hp) and the 325i to 125 kW (168 hp), and improved fuel economy.[26][27]


BMW M21 diesel engine

In 1983 the 324td was unveiled at the IAA, Germany. The M21 diesel straight-six engine was turbocharged using a Garrett turbocharger, but without intercooler. The engine has a capacity of 2,443 cc (149 cu in) and uses mechanical (indirect) fuel injection.

In 1985 BMW introduced the 324d, a naturally aspirated version of the same M21 engine, which was popular in countries with a high motor vehicle tax.[28]

In 1987 an electronically controlled fuel pump was used[29][30] which increased the torque output by 10 N⋅m (7 lb⋅ft). The updated engine has a smaller turbocharger, decreasing turbo lag.[31]


In total, eight transmissions were available for the various models of the E30: five manuals, and two automatics.

Manual transmissions[edit]

The standard gearbox for the 316 and some 318i models is the Getrag 242 4-speed,[32][33] these models had the option of the 5-speed Getrag 240. The Getrag 242 does not have synchromesh on reverse.

The 5-speed 318i models use the Getrag 240 gearbox.[32][34] This gearbox is also used on the 320i, however with a different bell housing to suit the M20 engine.

The 323i, 325e, 325es and 325i use the stronger Getrag 260 5-speed.[32][35]

The M3 was fitted with a Getrag 265 five-speed manual gearbox.[32][36] This featured a dog-leg shift pattern for European models and a standard H-pattern for North American models.[37]

Automatic transmissions[edit]

The 3-speed ZF 3HP22 was available on the M10 316 and 318i models until year 1985.[38]

The 4-speed ZF 4HP22 was available on all models later.[39]


There are a number of options for the gear ratio for E30 differentials, with an optional limited-slip option. "Medium case" differentials were fitted to cars with the following ratios:

  • 325e: 3.23, 2.79, 2.93
  • 325i manual: 3.73, 4.10
  • 325i automatic: 3.73, 4.10
  • 325ix manual: 3.91 (Viscous Limited Slip)
  • 325ix automatic: 4.10 (Viscous Limited Slip)
  • M3: 4.10 (Clutch-Type Limited Slip)

The 4-cylinder cars (other than the M3) came with "small case" differentials in the following ratios:

  • 84-85 318i manual: 3.64
  • 84-85 318i automatic: 3.91
  • 91 318i, 318is: 4.10
  • 91-94 318ic automatic: 4.27


One of the features that added to the roominess of the E30 was the suspension. The front MacPherson struts and rear semi-trailing arm suspension were a compact arrangement that left a lot of cabin and boot space for the car's overall size. The semi-trailing arms have been criticized for the dynamic toe and camber changes inherent to the suspension geometry, causing bump steer in hard cornering situations (such as racing and autocross). Nonetheless, reviewers praised the handling of the E30.[40][41][42]

A widened version of the E30 front suspension and the drivetrain from the E30 325i were used in the BMW Z1 roadster. The BMW Z3 and BMW Compact (E36/5) rear suspensions are also very similar to the E30, but utilizing five-lug hubs. The Z3-based BMW M Coupe uses a widened version of the same rear semi-trailing arm suspension.


For the front wheels, all models use disk brakes. For the rear wheels, most models use disk brakes, except for some 4-cylinder models which use drum brakes. Anti-lock braking system (ABS) became available in 1986.[43](p1:10)


Factory specifications are shown below.[44][45][46][47][48][49][50][51][52]

Four-cylinder petrol[edit]

Model Year(s) Engine Power Torque
316 1982-1987 M10B18 66 kW (89 hp)[16]
5,500 rpm
140 N⋅m (100 lb⋅ft)[24]
4,000 rpm
316i 1987-1994 M40B16 71 kW (95 hp)[53]
5,500 rpm
145 N⋅m (107 lb⋅ft)[53]
4,500 rpm
318i 1982-1987 M10B18 77 kW (103 hp)[16]
5,800 rpm
145 N⋅m (107 lb⋅ft)[24]
4,500 rpm
1987-1994 M40B18 83 kW (111 hp)[54]
5,500 rpm
162 N⋅m (119 lb⋅ft)[54]
4,250 rpm
318is 1989-1991 M42B18 100 kW (130 hp)[55]
5,500 rpm
145 N⋅m (107 lb⋅ft)[55]
4,250 rpm
M3 1986-1990 S14B23 143 kW (192 hp)[56]
6,750 rpm
230 N⋅m (170 lb⋅ft)[56]
4,750 rpm
M3 Evo 1 1987
M3 Evo 2 1988 160 kW (210 hp)[56]
6,750 rpm
245 N⋅m (181 lb⋅ft)[56]
4,750 rpm
M3 Sport Evo 1989-1990 S14B25 175 kW (235 hp)[56]
7,000 rpm
240 N⋅m (180 lb⋅ft)[56]
4,750 rpm

Six-cylinder petrol[edit]

Model Year(s) Engine Power Torque
320i 1982-1985 M20B20 92 kW (123 hp)[16]
@ 5,800 rpm
170 N⋅m (130 lb⋅ft)[16]
@ 4,000 rpm
1985-1987 95 kW (127 hp)[24]
6,000 rpm
174 N⋅m (128 lb⋅ft)[24]
4,000 rpm
1987-1992 95 kW (127 hp)[55]
6,000 rpm
164 N⋅m (121 lb⋅ft)[55]
4,300 rpm
323i 1982-1984 M20B23 102 kW (137 hp)[16]
5,300 rpm
205 N⋅m (151 lb⋅ft)[16]
4,000 rpm
1984-1985 110 kW (150 hp)[57]
6,000 rpm
325/e/es 1985-1987 M20B27 90 kW (120 hp)*
@ 4,250 rpm
240 N⋅m (180 lb⋅ft)*
@ 3,250 rpm
1988 95 kW (127 hp)
4,250 rpm
205 N⋅m (151 lb⋅ft)
3,200 rpm
325i 1985-1993 M20B25 125 kW (168 hp)[54]**
@ 5,800 rpm
222 N⋅m (164 lb⋅ft)[54]**
@ 4,000 rpm
325is 1987-1990
325ix 1985-1991

* With catalytic converter: 90 kW (120 hp),[24] 230 N⋅m (170 lb⋅ft)[24]
** With catalytic converter: 125 kW (168 hp), 221 N⋅m (163 lb⋅ft)

Six-cylinder diesel[edit]

Model Year(s) Engine Power Torque
324td 1983-1987 M21D24
85 kW (114 hp)
4,800 rpm
210 N⋅m (150 lb⋅ft)
4,000 rpm
324d 1985-1991 M21D24 63 kW (84 hp)[58]
4,600 rpm
152 N⋅m (112 lb⋅ft)[58]
2,500 rpm
324td 1987-1991 M21D24
85 kW (114 hp)[58]
4,800 rpm
220 N⋅m (160 lb⋅ft)[58]
4,000 rpm

North American models[edit]

1982-1987 coupe (Canada)

The model range in the United States consisted of the following:

  • 318i (1984-1985 using the M10 engine, then 1991 using the M42 engine)
  • 318is (1991 only)
  • 325, 325e and 325es
  • 325i, 325is (1987-1991 only)
  • 325ix (1988-1991 only)

The primary distinctive feature of the BMW E30 models produced for the North American market in 1984–1987 are the elongated front and rear aluminum bumpers. These bumpers are commonly known as "diving boards."[59]

In 1988, the anodized aluminum bumpers for the North American market were shortened by revising the cover/fillers and shortening the shocks. In 1989 (again, for North America) the aluminum bumpers were replaced with shorter plastic bumpers in body-colour.[60]

South African models[edit]

In South Africa, only the coupes and sedans were built, four cylinder gasoline (petrol) models production continued there until 1992.

Despite the introduction of the M40 engine, the old M10-powered 316 continued to be sold in South Africa until 1991, gaining the new bumpers when the range was updated.

The 333i is a South Africa-only model, and the South African 325iS models were a different specification from 325iS models sold in other countries.


BMW E30 "M3 Sport Evolution"

The BMW M3 utilised a widened and heavily redesigned variation of the coupe body style, therefore the M3 shares few body parts with other E30 models.[11] The M3 suspension is also significantly different from regular E30 models,[37] including five-lug wheel bolts.

Special models[edit]


Alpina B6 2.8

The Alpina C1, C2, B3 and B6 models were based on the E30.


BMW E30 320is sedan (1990)

For Portugal and Italy only, due to considerably higher VAT and vehicle tax for cars with engines exceeding 2000 cc, a special model was created: the 320is.[61] The sedan version appeared in the dealers' showrooms in September 1987 while the coupe version arrived in March 1988. Production of the 320is continued until 1991.

This model was produced both in coupe and sedan versions and was equipped with a 1,990 cc (121 cu in) version of the S14 engine from the M3, with stroke reduced to 72.6 mm (2.86 in).[62] This engine produced 143 kW (192 hp) at 6900 rpm and 155 lb⋅ft (210 N⋅m) at 4,900 rpm.[62] The 320is shared the same dogleg Getrag 265 gearbox of the non-US M3 while it had a limited slip differential with the same 25% lock up rate but with a shorter differential ratio of 3.46:1.[63] All the 320is models were left hand drive and without a catalytic converter. Sports suspension was fitted to all coupes, and to sedans produced from September 1989.

The interior of the 320is was identical to that of other 3 Series models, except an M3 instrument cluster (which features an oil temperature gauge instead of a fuel economy gauge) was used. The 320is was sold for three years, with 1,206 sedans and 2,542 coupes produced.[64]


In New Zealand, where the M3 was never sold by BMW, the local importer created a sporting version of the sedan called M325i. About 100 such cars were imported beginning in late 1986 until at least 1990.[65] Fitted with the standard non-catalyzed 126 kW (171 PS) 2.5 litre engine they benefitted from a Motorsport tuned suspension, the M-Technic body package, 15-inch BBS cross-spoke wheels with wide, low profile (225/50) tyres, and a limited-slip differential.[65] The M325i is quite similar to the British market 325i Sport, also developed as a response to the absence of a right-hand-drive M3.


BMW South Africa's Motorsport division created the 333i in 1985 by fitting the 3.2 L M30 "big six" engine to a coupe E30.[66] The resulting 333i was a success in South African saloon car racing. These cars were built with help from Alpina in Buchloe, Germany.[67][68] Due to the space constraints caused by the large M30 engine, the buyer was forced to choose between air conditioning (vital in South Africa) and power steering. The 333i was produced from 1985 to 1987 and only 204 cars were produced.[69]

The 333i engine produces 145 kW (194 hp) at 5500 rpm and 285 N⋅m (210 lb⋅ft) at 4300 rpm.[69] BMW's official performance claims are 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) in 7.4 seconds, and a top speed of 228 km/h (142 mph).[70]

South African 325iS[edit]

The 2.7 litre 325iS, commonly called Evo 1, was created by BMW South Africa to replace the 2.5 litre 126 kW 325i in Group N production car racing, as a response to the introduction of the Opel Kadett 2 litre 16V to the Class A category. It was launched in the first half of 1990 and was powered by an Alpina-fettled, 2.7 litre M20 engine which produced 145 kW (194 hp).[71] Following the introduction of the upgraded Opel Kadett 16V SuperBoss, in 1991 BMW South Africa introduced the 325iS Evolution HP, commonly referred to as the Evo 2. The motor was upgraded to produce 155 kW (208 hp).[71]

The Evolution HP won the Group N Class A title in 1993, winning 20 of the 24 races in the process.[72] The Robbi Smith and Geoff Goddard Evolution HP won the season-ending 9hr race.[73]

323i JPS[edit]

The JPS Edition is an Australian-only model built as a tribute to the 635CSi cars competing in local touring car racing. JPS refers to the race sponsor, John Player Special cigarettes. The cars are 323i manual coupes,[74] painted in black with gold pinstripes and gold BBS wheels. They also had Recaro sports seats, JPS badging, a limited slip differential, sports suspension, a sunroof and a body kit.[75] The initial production run was 70 cars, with a small number of additional cars produced afterwards.[75]

Model year changes[edit]

Minor update (1985)[edit]

1985-1987 BMW 318i

In 1985 the exterior and interior trim were updated. The 323i model was replaced with the 325i at this time and the diesel-engined 324d was introduced.[76] A factory convertible entered the model range. However, the Baur remained on sale, alongside the factory convertible. The M3 convertible was only offered for the European market.

Major update (1987)[edit]

1987 update

At the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1987, BMW introduced a major update to the E30 (often called Series 2).[76][77](pp17,19) The changes to the lineup were the addition of the Touring (station wagon) variant and removal of the 325e model. The M10 4-cylinder engine was replaced by the M40. WP:TRIVIA External styling changes included a new front bumper, redesigned rear lights, rear apron, headlight reflectors, and licence plate frame, while the window frames lost their chrome trim.[77] Rust protection was improved with the update. Various mechanical changes were made, including updating of the engine range. The 1987 update models remained largely unchanged until the end of production.

Production volumes[edit]

Year Units[78]


1982 15,580
1983 218,201
1984 285,134
1985 297,886
1986 329,460
1987 316,075
1988 269,074
1989 257,307
1990 246,818
1991 56,363
1992 26,913
1993 18,440
1994 1,997

† The first E30s were produced in December 1981 (323i models only), but the numbers are not known

The total production from 1982 to 1994 is approximately 2,433,000 units.[80](p7)


E30 M3 DTM touring car

The E30 M3 had a very successful career in Touring car racing.[81][82][83]

The E30 remains a popular car for racing[84][85][86] and E30 racing series are run in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.[87][88][89]

Film and television appearances[edit]

Television and film appearances of the then-new E30 include Beverly Hills Cop, Miami Vice, Pretty Woman, Pretty in Pink, Bird on a Wire, Beverly Hills 90210, LaLa Land[disambiguation needed], Seinfeld[90] and Defending Your Life.[91]

Wheeler Dealers Season 2 Episode 7 includes a 325i Touring.[92]

In the Top Gear television series Season 16 Episode 4, the presenters entered a challenge for 4-seat convertibles costing under £2000. All 3 presenters purchased E30 325i convertibles. The challenge was won by James May's car, which was in the best condition of the three and also the newest..[93]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Jeremy Walton (2001). BMW 3-Series Collectors Guide: Generation 1 and 2 including M3. Motor Racing Publications. ISBN 1-899870-55-5.
  • R.M. Clarke (1990). BMW Series 3 - 4 Cylinder Cars Gold Portfolio. Brooklands Books. ISBN 1-85520-149-6.
  • A.K. Legg & Larry Warren (1996). BMW 3- & 5-Series Haynes Service and Repair Manual. Haynes. ISBN 1-85960-236-3.
  • Various authors (1993). BMW Serie "3" (Modelos después 1983) Estudios técnicos y documentación. ANETO-ETAI. ISSN 1134-7155.
  • Andrew Everett (2006). BMW E30 - 3 Series Restoration Bible. Brooklands Books. ISBN 1-85520-678-1.
  • Robert Bentley (2003). BMW 3 Series (E30) Service Manual: 1984–1990. Bentley Publishing. ISBN 0837603250.