BMW 3 Series (E30)

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BMW 3-Series (E30)
An E30 BMW 3 Series
Body and chassis
Body style2-door coupe
2-door convertible
4-door saloon
5-door estate
LayoutFront engine, rear-wheel drive (325iX models are all-wheel-drive)
RelatedBMW M3
EngineI4, 1.6 - 2.5 L (66 - 178 kW)
I6, 2.0 - 3.3 L (92 - 145 kW)
Transmission3-speed automatic
4-speed automatic
4-speed manual
5-speed manual
Wheelbase2,570 mm (101.2 in)
Length1988-89 Sedan & Wagon: 4,450 mm (175.2 in)
1988-89 Convertible: 4,460 mm (175.6 in)
1990-91 Sedan & Wagon: 4,326 mm (170.3 in)
1990-93 Convertible: 4,323 mm (170.2 in)
WidthSedan & Wagon: 1,646 mm (64.8 in)
2-door Saloon: 1,661 mm (65.4 in)
HeightSedan & Wagon: 1,379 mm (54.3 in) Convertible: 1,369 mm (53.9 in)
2-door sedan: 1,400 mm (55.1 in)
Curb weight1,070–1,368 kg (2,359–3,016 lb)
PredecessorBMW E21
SuccessorBMW E36

The BMW E30 is a compact executive car with rear-wheel-drive layout (except the all-wheel-drive 325iX) produced by BMW. The BMW M3 was first introduced on the E30 platform.

The E30 was released in 1982 and replaced by the BMW E36 in 1990. BMW continued to produce the cabriolet (convertible) E30 well into 1993 and the touring until 1994.

The cars were powered by a range of inline 4-cylinder (BMW M10, BMW M40, & BMW M42) and inline 6-cylinder (BMW M20 and BMW M21) petrol-powered (except for the diesel M21) engines. The E30 BMW M3 was fitted with a high-revving 4-cylinder petrol engine (BMW S14) which produced 175 kW (238 PS; 235 hp) in its final European-only iteration.[1]

Body styles

The E30 3-Series was produced in the following body styles:

  • four-door saloon
  • two-door saloon (often referred to as a "coupe")
  • two-door convertible (the M3 cabriolet was only offered for the European market)
  • Baur cabriolet
  • five-door estate (marketed as the "touring")

A widened version of the E30 front suspension and the drivetrain from the E30 325i were used in the BMW Z1 roadster.

The BMW M3 utilised a widened and heavily redesigned variation of the 2-door body style. The M3 shares few parts with other E30 models;[2] however, many M3 parts can be used on the other body styles and are interchangeable offering the consumer an OEM upgrade.

Production history

Initial release (1982)

Externally, the appearance is very similar to the E21 predecessor, however there are various detail changes in styling to the E30. Major changes over the E21 include interior features and revised suspension (to reduce the oversteer which the E21 was criticised for).[2]

The primary distinctive feature of the BMW E30 models produced for the North American market in 1984–1987 are the elongated front/rear aluminum bumpers. These bumpers are commonly known as "diving boards."[3]

Minor update (1985)

This updated included changes to exterior and interior trim. The 323i model was replaced with the 325i at this time.[4]

Major update (1987)

In September 1987, BMW introduced a major update to the E30 (often called "Series 2"[4] or "update"). The changes to the lineup were the addition of the touring (station wagon) variant and removal of the 325e model.

External styling changes included the front bumper, rear lights, rear apron, headlight reflectors and licence plate frame. Rust protection was improved with the update. Various mechanical changes were made, including updating of the engine range. In 1988, the anodized aluminum bumpers for the North American market were shortened by revising the cover/fillers and shortening the shocks. In 1989 the aluminum bumpers were replaced with shorter body-color plastic bumpers.[5]


BMW E30 325i Engine
1990–1991 BMW 318is (E30) 2-door coupe (Australia)
1988–1990 BMW 320i (E30) convertible (Australia)
E30 Touring

Following on from the E21, at the launch of the E30 range in 1982 it was fitted with M10 straight-4 and M20 straight-6 engines.[6] Over the production run, the M10 was replaced with the M40 and M42, the M20 received various upgrades and the BMW S14 engine was introduced in the M3.


At the launch of the E30 range in 1982, the 316 used a 1766 cc M10 fed by a carburetor and producing 66 kW (90 PS; 89 hp), this engine allowed BMW to offer a cheap, entry-level car in the range. The 318i had the same M10 engine, but with Jetronic fuel injection, pushing power to 77 kW (105 PS; 103 hp) and improving fuel economy.

In 1987, the E30 range was updated. At this time, the M10 4-cylinder engines were replaced with the new, belt-driven cam M40 engines, which also incorporated Motronic injection. The 316 was replaced by a 316i, which used a 1600 cc version of the M40, producing 75 kW (102 PS; 101 hp). Not quite as torquey as the 66 kW (90 PS; 89 hp) 1766 cc M10 it replaced, it nevertheless offered superior performance. In South Africa and perhaps some other markets, the old M10-powered 316 continued until 1991, gaining the new bumpers when the range was updated. The 316i model (and previous 316 model) was not sold in Australia, where the base model was the 318i. After 1987, the 318i had 85 kW (116 PS; 114 hp) and was noticeably smoother than the old version.

The 318is was released in 1989.[6] This model featured a new engine, the chain-driven DOHC M42 1.8 L 16v engine. This is the most modern engine available in the E30 range (this engine has been later used in early 318i E36s) and is often referred to as a "mini M3".

The M3 is powered by the BMW S14 engine, a high-revving motorsport engine.


At the launch of the E30 range, the 320i (2.0 L M20 with 92 kW (125 PS; 123 hp)) and 323i (2.3 L M20 with 105 kW (143 PS; 141 hp)) were available, both using Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection. These models were not sold in North America, presumably for emissions reasons. In 1985, the 323i was replaced with a 2.5 L version of the M20. This engine boosted the power of the top models to 125 kW (170 PS; 168 hp) and was available in the 325i variants (including the All Wheel Drive 325iX).

An economy version called the 325e (the e stands for the Greek letter eta, signifying efficiency) was released as a lower revving, more fuel efficient engine. To maximise low-rev torque, the engine was the largest available in the chassis (aside from the rare South African version which was available with the 3.3 L M30). The 2.7 L had a longer stroke than the 2.5 L, with a more restrictive head, four cam bearings instead of seven (less internal friction), and softer valve springs. This resulted in 90 kW (122 PS; 121 hp) at 4250 rpm and, more importantly, 240 N⋅m (180 lb⋅ft) at 3250 rpm (peak torque for a 325i is 215 N⋅m (159 lb⋅ft) at 4000 rpm).

In 1987, the E30 range was updated. The update contained two significant changes in the engine department. First, the M20 straight-6 engines changed from Bosch Jetronic to Bosch Motronic. This boosted the 320i to 95 kW (129 PS; 127 hp) and the 325i to 126 kW (171 PS; 169 hp) and improved fuel economy.


In total, seven transmissions were available for the various models of the E30: four manuals, and three automatics.

A 4-speed manual was available for the 316 and 318i (Getrag 220). The 316 and 318i also had the option of a common 5-speed manual (Getrag 240), while the 323i and 325i had a stronger 5-speed manual gearbox (Getrag 260). It is suggested that the 323i may have had a sports manual as an option and there are conflicting reports about whether the 320i was fitted with the Getrag 240 or Getrag 260. The Getrag 220 does not have synchromesh on reverse, however all other manual gearbox options have synchromesh.

The M3 was fitted with a Getrag 265 5-speed manual gearbox. This featured a dogleg shift pattern for European models and a standard H-pattern for North American models.[7]

Both automatic transmissions were manufactured by ZF - they were the 3-speed 3 HP 22, which was available on the M10 316 and 318i models, and the 4-speed 4 HP 22, which was available on the 320i, 323i, 324td, 325, 325i and 325e models, as well as M40 powered 316i and 318i.

Transmission gear ratios:

4-speed manual 5-speed manual 3-speed automatic 4-speed automatic
available on 316, 318i 316, 316i, 318i, 320i 323i standard, 325i 323i sports 316, 318i 320i, 323i 325i
1st 3.76 3.72 3.83 3.76 2.48 2.73 2.48
2nd 2.04 2.02 2.20 2.33 1.48 1.56 1.48
3rd 1.32 1.32 1.40 1.61 1.00 1.00 1.00
4th 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.23 - 0.73 0.73
5th - 0.81 0.81 1.00 - - -
reverse 4.10 3.45 3.46 4.10 2.09 2.09 2.09

There were many differentials used on the E30 models. The 316 and 318i shared a differential, as did the 320i and 323i, with the standard transmission. 323i models with sports transmissions had a different differential. The 325i received its own ratio, as did the 325e. The various M3s had special ratios as well.

BMW E30 M3
BMW 320 E30 Cabriolet
1989 BMW 318i
Baur TC2
BMW 325e Sedan (US)

Differential gear ratios and types:

model(s) ratio(s) case size type(s)
316 before 9/84 3.64 small open
316 after 9/84 3.91 small open
316i M10 3.91, 4.10 small open
316i M40 4.27, 4.45 small open
318i M10 3.64, 3.91, 4.10 small open
318i M40 2- and 4-doors 4.10, 4.45 small open
318i M40 convertible and touring 4.27, 4.45 small open
318is 4.10 small open (USA Spec had an optional 4.10 small case LSD)
320i before 9/85 3.46 small open
320i 9/85 to 9/87 3.64, 3.91 small open
320i after 9/87 4.10 small open
320i convertible and touring 4.27, 4.45 small open
323i before 9/84 3.23 medium open
323i after 9/84 3.46 medium open
324d 3.45 small open
324td 3.25 medium open
325i before 9/86 3.46, 3.73, 3.91, 4.10 medium standard - open

sports - mechanical limited-slip

325i after 9/86 3.64, 3.73, 3.91, 4.10 medium standard - open

sports - mechanical limited-slip

325i convertible before 9/86 3.46, 3.91 medium standard - open

sports - mechanical limited-slip

325i convertible after 9/86 3.64, 3.91, 4.10 (USA SPEC) medium standard - open

sports - mechanical limited-slip

325i touring 3.91 medium open
325ix 2- and 4-doors 3.64, 3.73, 3.91, 4.10(US SPEC AUTO) medium open, all viscous, 10-100% limited-slip
325ix Touring 3.91, 4.10 medium open, all viscous, 10-100% limited-slip
325, 325e US-models 2.93, 3.23 medium standard - open

sports - mechanical limited-slip

325e before 9/85 2.79 medium standard - open

sports - mechanical limited-slip

325e 9/85 to 12/86 2.93 medium standard - open

sports - mechanical limited-slip

325e after 12/86 3.25, 3.46 medium standard - open

sports - mechanical limited-slip

M3 (North America) 4.10 medium mechanical limited-slip
M3 (Europe), Evolution 3.25 medium mechanical limited-slip
M3 Convertible 3.25 medium mechanical limited-slip
M3 Evolution II, Sport Evolution 3.15 medium mechanical limited-slip

The all-wheel-drive system on the iX models used three differentials to distribute power to the wheels, 37:63 split front to rear. The center and rear differentials use viscous couplings to split torque. The front differential was open.

Models and production volumes

Europe:316 75 hp 1.6 engine m10b16

  • 1982–1990 316 1.8 - 1.8 L M10B18 I4, 90 PS (66 kW; 89 hp)
  • 1987–1994 316i - 1.6 L M40B16 I4, 102 PS (75 kW; 101 hp)
  • 1982–1987 318i - 1.8 L M10B18 I4, 105 PS (77 kW; 104 hp)
  • 1987–1994 318i - 1.8 L M40B18 I4, 115 PS (85 kW; 113 hp)
  • 1989–1991 318is - 1.8 L M42B18 I4, 142 PS (104 kW; 140 hp)
  • 1982–1985 320i - 2.0 L M20B20 I6, 125 PS (92 kW; 123 hp)
  • 1985–1991 320i - 2.0 L M20B20 I6, 129 PS (95 kW; 127 hp)
  • 1988–1990 320is - 2.0 L S14 I4, 192 PS (141 kW) Italy and Portugal only
  • 1981–1986 323i - 2.3 L M20B23 I6, 150 PS (110 kW; 148 hp)
  • 1984–1987 325e - 2.7 L M20B27 I6, 122 PS (90 kW; 120 hp)
  • 1984–1991 325i - 2.5 L M20B25 I6, 170 PS (125 kW; 168 hp)
  • 1986–1991 325iX - 2.5 L M20B25 I6, 170 PS (125 kW; 168 hp)
  • 1986–1988 M3 - 2.3 L S14 I4, 200 PS (147 kW; 197 hp)
  • 1989–1991 M3 - 2.3 L S14 I4, 215 PS (158 kW; 212 hp)
  • 1987–1987 M3 Evolution - 2.3 L S14 I4, 200 PS (147 kW; 197 hp)
  • 1988–1988 M3 Evolution II - 2.3 L S14 I4, 220 PS (162 kW; 217 hp)
  • 1990–1990 M3 Sport Evolution - 2.5 L S14 I4, 238 PS (175 kW; 235 hp)
  • 1985–1990 324d - 2.4 L M21 I6, 86 PS (63 kW; 85 hp)
  • 1987–1993 324td - 2.4 L M21 I6, 115 PS (85 kW; 113 hp)

Other markets:

  • 1984–1985 318i - 1.8 L M10B18 I4, 101 hp (75 kW) - North America
  • 1991 318iS - 1.8 L M42B18 I4, 142 hp (100 kW) - North America
  • 1984–1988 325e - 2.7 L M20B27 I6, 121 hp (90 kW) - North America
  • 1986 325es - 2.7 L M20B27 I6, 121 hp (90 kW) - North America
  • 1987–1991 325i/is - 2.5 L M20B25 I6, 168 hp (125 kW) - North America
  • 1988–1991 325ix - 2.5 L M20B25 I6, 168 hp (125 kW) - North America
  • 1988–1991 M3 - 2.3 L S14 I4, 192 hp (143 kW) - North America
  • 1984–1986 333i - 3.3 L M30 I6, 197 hp (145 kW) - South Africa
  • 1989–1991 325iS - 2.7 L, 197 hp (145 kW) - South Africa
  • 1991–1992 325iS - 2.7 L, 210 hp (155 kW) - South Africa

Global E30 production totals by year[8] [9]

Year 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987
Production * 15,580 218,201 285,134 297,886 329,460 316,075
Year 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994
Production 269,074 257,307 246,818 56,363 26,913 18,440 1,997

Note: * The very first E30's were produced in December 1981, but it was only a few of the 323i's. Exactly how many is still unknown.

Global E30 production totals by model

Model Year Units produced
318i 1987–1991 89,637
318is 1989–1991 41,234
320is (2-door) 1988–1990 2,542
320is (4-door) 1987–1990 1,206
325i (2-door) 1985–1991 113,906
325i (4-door) 1985–1991 83,080
325ic 1985–1993 85,246
325ix 1985–1991 29,589
325e (2-door) 1983–1988 114,498
325e (4-door) 1983–1988 74,789
M3 1986–1991 17,184

The total production from 1982 to 1994 was 2,339,520 units.

Special models

BMW E30 320is saloon (1990)

In addition to the famous M3 there were other special models of the E30. 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. This model was produced both in 2- and 4-door versions and was equipped with a 2.0 L (1990cc) version of the S14 engine from the M3, with stroke reduced to 72.6 mm (sometimes described incorrectly as being "sleeved" or of reduced bore), and power output of 192 hp (DIN). 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 closer ratio. All the 320is were left hand drive and without catalytic converter; ABS and power steering were also fitted as standard equipment. The saloon version appeared in the dealers' showrooms on September 1987 while the 2-door version arrived on March 1988. The 4-door was equipped with 14" alloy wheels and foglights only, while the 2-door model was further equipped with the complete M-Technic II Aero package (identical to the one fitted to the UK-spec 325i Sport and available as an accessory on all other E30 3 Series models), which consisted of a deeper front airdam, additional lower side body panels, an extended valance under the rear bumper and a two-piece rear spoiler. In addition, the two-door E30 320is sported body-colour side mirror housings, shadowline (dechromed) window trim and 14-inch cross-spoke alloy wheels. The springs, shocks and anti-roll bars of all two-doors (as well as four-doors produced from September 1989) are of the more aggressive "Sportfahrwerk" specification. The interior of the 320is was identical to that of other 3 Series models with the sole exception of its unique instrument cluster that utilized the same M3 dashboard with integrated oil temperature gauge at the bottom of the rev counter instead of the econometer present on all other E30s. The car was sold for three years only and produced in 3748 examples (1206 saloon cars, 2542 2-door cars) [10] and for this reason is now becoming a collectors' item.

BMW South Africa's Motorsport division created the 333i in 1986 by fitting the 3210 cc M30 "big six" ("M30B32" of the 733i E23/ 533i E12/ 533i E28/ 633CSi E24) engine to a 2-door E30. The resulting 333i was a major success in saloon car racing in that country and is now a collectors' item. These cars, built with help from Alpina in Buchloe, Bavaria, Germany, featured some interesting compromises like forcing the buyer to choose between air conditioning (vital in South Africa) or power steering (because of lack of space due to the large M30 engine). They were only built in small numbers in 1986. BMW South Africa provided the following specifications for the 333i: Powerplant - M30B32 6 Cylinder 3210 cc 145 kW (197 PS; 194 hp) at 5500 rpm. 285 N⋅m (210 lb⋅ft) torque at 4300 rpm. The cars were fitted with a 5-speed manual gearbox and limited slip differential. Braking was enhanced by 296 mm (11.7 in) Alpina dual ventilated grooved front disc brakes. ABS was optional. The cars were fitted with J7x16 Alpina wheels and Pirelli P7 (195x50VR16)tyres. BMW provided performance figures were impressive, with a top speed of 228 km/h (142 mph). 0–100 km/h in 7.4 seconds, and a standing kilometer in 27.7 seconds at sea level. Actual South African Car Magazine road test figures were a top speed of 231 km/h, 0–100 km/h in 7.23 seconds and a standing kilometre in 28.08 seconds. The test was carried out with a driver, passenger and a full tank of fuel. Approximately 210 of these cars were produced.

Later when it became clear that South Africa would not be getting the M3, the 325iS was created. Initially this was merely a 325i 2-door fitted with a bodykit and a close-ratio gearbox (improving acceleration at the expense of top speed and economy), but more changes were made to keep the car competitive in South African saloon car racing. Nevertheless, these cars were always sold to the public. This resulted in the 325iS of late 1990. By now several body panels were made of aluminum and the M20 engine grew to 2.7 L and now produced 145 kW (194 hp) and a 0-62 mph in a mere 6.9 seconds as claimed by BMW South Africa. Due to increased competition in the production car race series it was competing in, another version was released in late 1991 called the 325iS Evo. The main revisions were a front aerofoil to smooth underbody airflow, shorter stiffer springs, thicker rear anti-roll bar and changes to the throttle body, exhaust manifold and inlet valves. It produced 155 kW (211 PS; 208 hp) and BMW South Africa claimed a top speed of 235 km/h (146 mph) with a 0–100 km/h in 6.9 seconds. It did win the 1993 Group N race series under Robbie Smith and set various track records in the process.

The cabriolet version continued to be built to the end of April 1993 and the touring version continued to be built to the end of February 1994.


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 & camber changes inherent to the suspension geometry, causing bump steer in hard cornering situations (such as racing and autocross). This has contributed to the E30 as having a reputation for "tail happy" handling, where rear grip is reduced in certain situations, leading to oversteer.

The M3 model has unique suspension compared to the rest of the E30 range,[7] including 5 lug wheel bolts.

Service indicator

The E30 was the first 3-Series car to be fitted with an onboard service indicator, consisting of an LED bargraph plus Inspection, ABS and Oil Service warning lights.

Further reading

  • Jeremy Walton (2001). BMW 3-Series Collectors Guide: Generation 1 and 2 including M3. Motor Racing Publications. ISBN 1-899870-55-5 (paperback) Check |isbn= value: invalid character (help).
  • R.M. Clarke (1990). BMW Series 3 - 4 Cylinder Cars Gold Portfolio. Brooklands Books. ISBN 1-85520-149-6 (paperback) Check |isbn= value: invalid character (help).
  • A.K. Legg & Larry Warren (1996). BMW 3- & 5-Series Haynes Service and Repair Manual. Haynes. ISBN 1-85960-236-3 (hardcover) Check |isbn= value: invalid character (help).
  • Various authors (1993). BMW Serie "3" (Modelos después 1983) Estudios técnicos y documentación. ANETO-ETAI. ISSN 1134-7155 (paperback).
  • Andrew Everett (2006). BMW E30 - 3 Series Restoration Bible. Brooklands Books. ISSN 1855206781 (paperback).
  • Robert Bentley (2003). BMW 3 Series (E30) Service Manual: 1984–1990. Bentley Publishing. ISSN 0837603250 (paperback).

Top Gear appearance

The episode aired 13 February 2011 contained a challenge for a 4-seat convertible costing under 2000 pounds. All 3 presenters purchased E30 325i convertibles. Aftermarket modifications to the cars included Clarkson's car (the only fitted with an automatic gearbox) having a paving slab in the boot to improve handling, and Hammond's car (which handled the worst of the 3 cars) having aftermarket wheels and lowered suspension.


  1. ^ "BMW M3 E30 2.5i (238Hp) EVO II. Car Technical Data. Power. Torque. Fuel tank capacity. Fuel consumption". Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  2. ^ a b "BMW 3 Series History". Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  3. ^ "/// technical /// exterior /// aluminum bumper tuck". 2005-09-04. Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  4. ^ a b "BMW 3-Series E30 versions, models & types in the catalog of cars". Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  5. ^ "Classic and Vintage BMW". Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  6. ^ a b "BMW E30 Specifications". Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  7. ^ a b "FAQ E30 M3". BMW M Registry. Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  8. ^ Oswald, Werner (1. Auflage 2001). Deutsche Autos 1945–1990, Band 4. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-613-02131-5. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  9. ^ Kittler, Eberhard (1. Auflage 2001). Deutsche Autos seit 1990, Band 5. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-613-02128-5. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  10. ^ "FAQ 320is". BMW M Registry. Retrieved 2011-09-22.

External links