BMW 3 Series (E30)

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BMW 3-Series - E30
1990 BMW 318i (E30) 2-door sedan (22028060738).jpg
Manufacturer BMW
Production 1982–1993
Designer Claus Luthe (sedan & coupe: 1978)
Max Reisböck (touring: 1984, 1985)[1]
Body and chassis
Class Entry-level luxury car (D)
Body style 2-door compact sedan
2-door convertible
4-door compact sedan
5-door estate
Layout FR layout (most)
F4 layout (325iX)
  • Petrol:
  • 1.6-1.8 L M10 I4
  • 1.6-1.8 L M40 I4
  • 1.8 L M42 I4
  • 2.0-2.5 L S14 I4
  • 2.0-2.7 L M20 I6
  • 3.2 L M30 l6
  • Diesel:
  • 2.4 L M21 I6
Length 1988-89 Sedan & Wagon: 4,450 mm (175 in)
1988-89 Convertible: 4,460 mm (176 in)
1990-91 Sedan & Wagon: 4,326 mm (170 in)
1990-93 Convertible: 4,323 mm (170 in)
Width Sedan & Wagon: 1,646 mm (65 in)
2-door Saloon: 1,661 mm (65 in)
Height Sedan & Wagon: 1,379 mm (54 in) Convertible: 1,369 mm (54 in)
2-door sedan: 1,400 mm (55 in)
Curb weight 1,070–1,368 kg (2,359–3,016 lb)
Predecessor BMW E21
Successor BMW E36

The BMW E30 is a entry-level luxury car which was produced by BMW from 1982 to 1993. The initial models used the 2-door sedan body style, and in following years the 4-door sedan, convertible and estate ("touring") body styles were added.The E36 replaced the E30 in 1990, however the E30 convertible remained in production until 1992 and the E30 touring remained in production until 1993.

The E30 models were powered by a range of 4-cylinder and straight-6 engines.

The BMW M3 was first introduced on the E30 platform. The E30 M3 was fitted with the high-revving BMW S14 4-cylinder petrol engine, which produced 175 kW (235 hp) in its final European-only iteration.[2]

The 325iX model was the first 3 Series to use all-wheel drive.

Body styles[edit]

The E30 3-series was penned by Claus Luthe in 1978, the designer of the NSU Ro 80.[3]

It was produced as four- and two-door saloons, two-door convertible (however the M3 convertible was only offered for the European market), cabriolet by Baur, and a five-door estate (marketed as the "touring").

The BMW M3 utilised a widened and heavily redesigned variation of the two-door body style, therefore the M3 shares few body parts with other E30 models.[4]

Production history[edit]

Initial release (1982)[edit]

Early coupe model

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 for which the E21 was criticised).[4]

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."[5]

Minor update (1985)[edit]

This update included changes to exterior and interior trim. The 323i model was replaced with the 325i at this time[6] and the diesel-engined 324d was introduced.

Major update (1987)[edit]

1990 BMW 318i (E30) 4-door sedan (Australia)

At Frankfurt in September 1987, BMW introduced a major update to the E30 (often called "Series 2").[6][7](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.

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.[7] 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 (again, for North America) the aluminum bumpers were replaced with shorter plastic bumpers in body-colour.[8]

Aside from USA models, the 1987 update models remained largely unchanged until the end of production.


Model Years Engine Power Fuel system Notes
316 1982-1987 M10B18 66 kW (89 hp) carburettor
316i 1987-1988 M10B18 75 kW (101 hp) L-Jetronic
316i 1988-1991 M40B16 73 kW (98 hp) Motronic
318i 1982-1987 M10B18 77 kW (103 hp) L-Jetronic 318i model not sold in USA between 1985-1990[9]
318i 1987-1993 M40B18 83 kW (111 hp) Motronic 318i sedan sold in USA in 1991, however using the M42 engine (instead of the M40)
318is 1989-1991 M42B18 100 kW (130 hp) Motronic Coupe body style only. Sold in USA in 1991 only.
320i 1982-1985 M20B20 92 kW (123 hp) L-Jetronic Not sold in USA
320i 1985-1991 M20B20 95 kW (127 hp) Motronic Not sold in USA
320is 1987-1991 S14B20 141 kW (189 hp) Motronic Italy and Portugal only
323i 1982-1983 M20B23 102 kW (137 hp) L-Jetronic Not sold in USA
323i 1984-1985 M20B23 110 kW (150 hp) L-Jetronic Not sold in USA
324d 1985-1991 M21D24 63 kW (84 hp) - Not sold in USA
324td 1987-1991 M21D24 85 kW (114 hp) - Not sold in USA
325e 1985-1987 M20B27 90 kW (120 hp) Motronic
325es 1987-1988 M20B27 90 kW (120 hp) Motronic
325i 1985-1992 M20B25 126 kW (169 hp) Motronic Also sold as 325iX (4WD) and 325is
325iS Evo1 1989-1991 M20B27 145 kW (194 hp) Motronic South Africa Only
325iS Evo2 1991-1992 M20B27 155 kW (208 hp) Motronic South Africa Only
333i 1985-1987 M30B32 145 kW (194 hp) Motronic South Africa Only (around 200 produced)
M3 1986-1989 S14B23 147 kW (197 hp) Motronic
M3 Evo 1 1987 S14B23 147 kW (197 hp) Motronic
M3 Evo 2 1988 S14B23 162 kW (217 hp) Motronic
M3 Evo 3 1989-1990 S14B25 175 kW (235 hp) Motronic

Production volumes[edit]

1988–1990 BMW 320i (E30) convertible (Australia)
Year Units[10]


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 was 2,339,520 units.


Following on from the E21, at the launch of the E30 range in 1982 it was fitted with the M10 straight-four and the M20 straight-six engines.[12] 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. A six-cylinder diesel was also introduced later, originally only in naturally aspirated form.


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) while also improving fuel economy.

The 1987 "Series 2" update introduced a new four-cylinder SOHC engine, the 1796 cc (M40B18) with 85 kW (116 PS; 114 hp). This engine incorporated Motronic fuel injection . The 316 was replaced by the 316i, which used a 1596 cc M40B16, producing 75 kW (102 PS; 101 hp). This was not quite as torquey as the 66 kW (90 PS; 89 hp) 1766 cc M10 it replaced - nevertheless, it offered superior performance overall. 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 continued to be the 318i.

The 318iS coupe was released in 1989, soon followed by the 318i sedan and 318iC convertible.[12] These models introduced a new engine, the chain-driven DOHC M42 1.8 L 16-valve engine w. This is the most modern engine available in the E30 range, incorporating the updated Bosch Motronic 1.3, hydraulic valve adjusters and four individual coil packs which resulted in a very high hp per liter as well as reasonable fuel economy (33mpg) and CO2 emissions (190 g/km). The excellent weight distribution of the 318iS & 318ic has led to frequent comparisons with the famous E30 M3. Nicknames include "mini M3" or "poor man's M3."

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


BMW E30 325i 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, which produced 126 kW (169 hp) and used Bosch Motronic fuel injection.[13] This engine was available in the 325i variants (including the all-wheel drive 325iX).

An economy version called the 325e (the e 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 3.2 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 single valve springs where the 2.5l had doubled up springs. This resulted in 90.22 kW (123 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).

The 1987 "Series 2" update 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 1985, BMW introduced the 324d, which used a 2443 cc diesel inline-six that produced 86 PS (63 kW). In 1987 a turbocharged version called the 324td with 116 PS (85 kW) arrived. This model also had an all-new electronically controlled injection pump (DDE) developed by Bosch, which provided higher power and smoother running.[7](p17)


1991 BMW 325iX 2-door (US)

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

Manual transmissions[edit]

The standard gearbox for the 316 and some 318i models is the Getrag 220 4-speed, these models had the option of the 5-speed Getrag 240. The Getrag 220 does not have synchromesh on reverse.

The 5-speed 318i models use the Getrag 240 gearbox. 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.

Some European market facelift M20 cars (320i and 325i) were also available with a ZF manual transmission, however this was not a listed option, or specific to any particular market or factory, and is thus very rare to find.[citation needed]

The M3 was fitted with a Getrag 265 five-speed manual gearbox. This featured a dogleg shift pattern for European models and a standard H-pattern for North American models.[14]

Automatic transmissions[edit]

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 until year 1985, and the 4-speed 4 HP 22, which was available on all models later. 320i and 325i have the option of the sport automatic, that was an electronic box rather than the usual fully mechanical box. This is much less common to find in USA than Euro market cars, though it is still fairly uncommon in Euro market cars too.


Factory Differential Ratios[edit]

There are a number of options for the gear ratio for E30 differentials, with an optional limited-slip option.
From the factory, the E30 came with medium case differentials with the following ratios in the following cars:

325e: 2.93, 2.79 (Early cars)
325i manual: 3.73
325i automatic: 3.73 (Early 325i), 4.10
325ix manual: 3.91 (Viscous)
325ix automatic: 4.10 (Viscous)
M3: 4.10

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

Compatible Differentials[edit]

All E30 differentials, small case or medium case, are interchangeable. The E28 5-Series and E24 6-Series shared the same differential, and can be used in the E30 after swapping the rear cover and output flanges. This provides options for ratios such as 3.25 and 3.46 that wake up the 325e, or provide a proper final drive ratio for engine-swapped cars without overdrive.


1991-1992 E30 Touring

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,[14] including 5 lug wheel bolts.

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 (E36/4) and BMW Compact (E36/5) rear suspensions are also very similar to the E30, but utilizing five-lug hubs. The BMW M Coupe uses a widened version of the same rear semi-trailing arm suspension.

Special models[edit]

See also: Alpina


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) [15] and for this reason is now becoming a collectors' item.


BMW South Africa's Motorsport division created the 333i in 1986 by fitting the 3.2 L M30 "big six" engine to a 2-door E30.[16] 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.

The 333i produces 145 kW (194 hp) at 5500 rpm and 285 N·m (210 lb·ft) at 4300 rpm.[17] 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 16x7J Alpina wheels and Pirelli P7 (195/50/VR16) tyres.[18] 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. Only 204 of these cars were produced.[19]

325iS South Africa version[edit]

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 competed 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 won 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 June 1994.

JPS Bathurst Edition[edit]

John Player Special - JPS - Bathurst Edition. Built to celebrate Bathurst (Australia) wins by BMW in 1980's - there were 8 special edition E30 John Player Special cars brought into Australia. Signified by the Schartz Black body, gold pin stripe and gold coloured weave wheels. Other than sharing the 323i motor and gearbox, the cars also came with: - Recaro sports seats, JPS badging, a limited slip diff, m sports suspension, sunroof and unique body kit.

Top Gear appearance[edit]

The episode aired 13 February 2011 contained a challenge for a 4-seat convertible costing under £2000. All 3 presenters purchased E30 325i convertibles. Modifications to the cars included Clarkson's car (the only car with an automatic gearbox) having a large paving slab in the boot to improve handling, and Hammond's car (which handled the worst) having aftermarket wheels and lowered suspension. May's car was un-modified, and subsequently won the challenge by a significant margin.[20]


  1. ^ "The story behind the BMW 3-Series (E30) Touring". 
  2. ^ "BMW M3 E30 2.5i (238Hp) EVO II". 
  3. ^ "Hommage an Claus Luthe". 
  4. ^ a b "BMW 3 Series History". 
  5. ^ "Aluminum bumper tuck". 
  6. ^ a b "BMW 3-Series E30 versions, models & types". 
  7. ^ a b c Baghetti, Giancarlo (1987-12-17). Liberali, Sandro, ed. "Che diesel volete?" [Which diesel do you want?]. Auto Oggi (in Italian) (Verona, Italy: Arnoldo Mondadori) 2 (54). 
  8. ^ "Classic and Vintage BMW". 
  9. ^ "3'E30 model selection (for 318i sedan in USA market)". 
  10. ^ Oswald, Werner (2001). Deutsche Autos 1945–1990, Band 4 (1. ed.). Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-613-02131-5. 
  11. ^ Kittler, Eberhard (2001). Deutsche Autos seit 1990, Band 5 (1. ed.). Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-613-02128-5. 
  12. ^ a b "BMW E30 Specifications". 
  13. ^ "BMW 325i (1985) detailed specifications and photo gallery". 
  14. ^ a b "FAQ E30 M3". 
  15. ^ "FAQ 320is". 
  16. ^ "333i E30". 
  17. ^ "BMW 333 i (E30)". 
  18. ^ "BMW Super Bild Of The Day: E30 333i". 
  19. ^ "1985 BMW 333i E30 specifications, information, data, photos 55957". 
  20. ^ "Top Gear Series 16 Episode 4". 

External links[edit]

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.