The E30 automobile platform was the basis for the 1981 through 1991 BMW 3 Series entry-level luxury car / compact executive car. It was the successor of the BMW E21 in 1982 and was replaced by the BMW E36 in 1992. BMW continued to produce the cabriolet (convertible) E30 well into 1993. The Touring remained in production until 1994 when the E36 touring replaced it. The M3 cabriolet was never officially offered for sale in North America; it was offered only for the European market.

The famous BMW M3 was first introduced on the E30 platform. A widened version of the E30 front suspension and the drivetrain from the E30 325i were used in the BMW Z1 roadster.

The E30 3-Series was produced in four body styles, a four door saloon, a two door saloon, a five door estate (marketed as the "touring"), and a two door convertible. A Baur cabrio was also available. The 325ix was produced from 1988 to 1992, and featured all-wheel drive. It was available as a two-door (saloon) or a four-door (sedan) and as touring. The BMW M3 utilised a widened and heavily redesigned and restyled variation of the 2 door body style. The M3 shares few parts with other E30 models.

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." In 1988, the anodized aluminum bumpers were shortened by revising the cover/fillers and shortening the shocks. In 1989 the aluminum bumpers were replaced with shorter body-color plastic bumpers.

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) engines, with both petrol and diesel power. Power output for the engines ranges from 140 N·m (103 lbf·ft) torque for the 1.8 L (1766 cc) 4 cylinder engine, to 230 N·m (170 lbf·ft) torque from the 2.7 L (2693 cc) 6 cylinder petrol engine. The E30 BMW M3 was fitted with a 4 cylinder engine (BMW S14) producing more power, but less torque. 0-60 times was around 6.4 seconds, very quick for a car in its time.


Following on from the E21, the E30 was fitted with M10 4cyl and M20 straight six engines. The 316 used a 1766 cc M10 fed by a carburettor and producing only 66 kW but this allowed BMW to offer a cheap entry level car in the range. In the same M10 but with Jetronic injection, pushing power to 77 kW/103 hp and improving economy. Finally the 320i (2.0 M20 with 92 kW/125 hp) and 323i (2.3 M20 with 102 kW/139 hp) completed the range.

Later in 1985, a 2.5 version of the M20 boosted the power of the top model to 120 kW/168 hp, replacing the old 323i, 2300 cc and .

North America received an economy version called the 325e or just 325 (the e stands for the Greek eta, signifying economy). Strangely enough, the engine was the largest available in the chassis, aside from the rare South African version which was available with the 3.3L M30. The 2.7 had a longer stroke than the 2.5, with a more restrictive head and conservative timing. This resulted in 121 hp, redlining at 4500rpm. In 1987 the engine was revised, to become the 325i. With its shorter stroke, 6800 RPM redline and newer Motronic fuel injection system, power was boosted to 172hp.

In 1987 the E30 was revised. The revision contained two significant changes in the engine department. First, the M20 straight six motors changed from Bosch Jetronic to Bosch Motronic. This boosted the 320i to and the 325i to 126 kW/172 hp, all the while improving the economy, especially on the 320i. The M10 was replaced by the new chain-driven cam M40 which also incorporated Motronic injection. The new 318i now had 85 kW/114 hp and was noticeably smoother than the old 77 kW/103 hp version. The 316 was replaced by a 316i, which used a 1600 version of the M40 producing 75 kW/100 hp. Not quite as torquey as the 66 kW/88 hp 1800 M10 it replaced, it nevertheless offered superior performance. In some markets, like South Africa, the old M10 powered 316 continued a lot longer, gaining the new bumpers of the other models. In South Africa, fans had to wait until 1991 for the 316 to make way for the 316i.


In total, six transmission were available for the various models of the E30; four manuals, and two automatics.

A 4-speed manual was available for the 316 and 318i. The 316, 318i, and 320i also had the option of a common 5-speed manual, while the 323i had a different standard manual, and in addition, a sports manual as an option. The transmissions for the 316 and 318i featured synchromesh on forward gears only, while the 320i and 323i, both with standard and sports transmissions, had synchromesh on reverse as well.

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

Transmission Gear Ratios:

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

Differential Gear Ratios and Types:

model(s) ratio(s) case size type(s)
316 3.64 small open
318i 4.1, 3.64 small open
320i, 323i standard 3.45 medium open
323i sports 3.25 medium open
325i 3.73, 3.91, 4.1 medium standard - open sports - mechanical limited-slip
325, 325e 2.93, 3.23 medium standard - open sports - mechanical limited-slip
M3 4.1 medium mechanical limited-slip
M3 Evolution I..III 4.1 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.



  • 1982-1987 316 - 1.6 L M98 I4, 90 hp (66 kW)
    • 1.6L SOHC engine 0-100 km/h: 12.4 sec., top speed: MT
  • 1982-1990 316 1.8 - 1.8 L M10B18 I4, 90 hp (66 kW)
  • 1987-1993 316i - 1.6 L M40B16 I4, 102 hp (75 kW)
  • 1982-1987 318i - 1.8 L M10B18 I4, 105 hp (77 kW)
  • 1987-1993 318i - 1.8 L M40B18 I4, 115 hp (85 kW)
  • 1989-1991 318is - 1.8 L M42B18 I4, 136 hp (100 kW)
  • 1982-1985 320i - 2.0 L M20B20 I6, 125 hp (92 kW)
  • 1985-1991 320i - 2.0 L M20B20 I6, 129 hp (95 kW)
  • 1988-1990 320is - 2.0 L S14 I4, 192 hp (141 kW)
  • 1982-1986 323i - 2.3 L M20B23 I6, 150 hp (110 kW)
  • 1985-1991 325i - 2.5 L M20B25 I6, 170 hp (125 kW)
  • 1986-1991 325iX - 2.5 L M20B25 I6, 170 hp (125 kW)
  • 1986-1988 M3 - 2.3 L S14 I4, 200 hp (147 kW)
  • 1989-1991 M3 Evo - 2.5 L S14 I4, 215 hp (158 kW)
  • 1985-1991 324d - 2.4 L M21 I6, 86 hp (63 kW)
  • 1987-1991 324td - 2.4 L M21 I6, 115 hp (85 kW)

Other markets:

  • 1984-1985 318i - 1.8 L M10B18 I4, 101 hp (75 kW) - North America
  • 1991 318iS - 1.8 L M42B18 I4, 134 hp (100 kW) - North America
  • 1984-1991 325e - 2.7 L M20B27 I6, 121 hp (90 kW) - North America
  • 1986-1991 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
  • 1984-1990 333i - 3.2 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

E30 production totals
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
Total 2,339,248

Special models

In addition to the famous M3 there were other special models of the E30. For Portugal and Italy, due to their high engine taxes, a special model was created, the 320iS. This model was produced both in 2 and 4 door versions had a detuned version of the M3 engine. It was the same S14 engine but with 2.0l and . BMW South Africa's Motorsport division created the 333i in 1986 by fitting the 3210 ccm M30 "big six" ("M30B32" of the 733i E23/ 533i E12/ 532i 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. They were only built in small numbers in 1986. 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 culminated in the 325iS Evo II of late 1991. By now several body panels were made of aluminum, preventing the car from being washed by automated car washes, and the M20 engine grew to 2.7 L and now produced 155 kW (210 hp)and a 0-62 mph in a mere 7.5sec.

The cabriolet and touring versions continued to be built to the end of April 1993.

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).
  • R.M. Clarke (1990). BMW Series 3 - 4 Cylinder Cars Gold Portfolio. Brooklands Books. ISBN 1-85520-149-6 (paperback).
  • A.K. Legg & Larry Warren (1996). BMW 3- & 5-Series Haynes Service and Repair Manual. Haynes. ISBN 1-85960-236-3 (hardcover).
  • 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).


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