The e30 BMW Still Holds Up
Story by Marc Wiley • Yesterday 8:19 AM
It may seem strange to say that a car from 40 years ago is still setting a standard, but the e30 BMW 3 Series is doing just that. There is just something about this 80’s piece of German luxury that transcends generational differences and tastes. It’s this mass appeal that is currently boosting e30 values, but what is it about this old Bimmer that is so enjoyable? We think there are several factors, so let’s take a look.
About the e30 BMW
The e30 BMW was the second generation of 3 Series models, beginning production in 1982. There were two-door coupe and convertible models, much like the original 3 Series. However, it was also the first generation to introduce both four-door and wagon options. More importantly, however, it was the first time the world saw the legendary BMW M3 nameplate. Other e30 debuts included BMW’s first foray into all-wheel drive, and their first 3 Series with a diesel variant.
We’re mostly here to discuss the two and four-door versions of the e30, but the wagon has a cult following of its own thanks to its attractive styling and interior comfort. That said, the second-gen 3 Series presented an attractive design language that is still attractive to this day, and its roots can be traced forward to several modern BMW models.
Why is the BMW e30 so timeless?
There is a lot that can be said about cars from the 80s. Timeless isn’t often a word you’ll find attached to them. However, the second-generation BMW 3 Series has retained an appeal through the decades. Even younger car enthusiasts are drawn to the e30, and all it takes is a few minutes with one to understand why.
Unlike the boxy cars of the 70s and the just-plain-weird cars of the 80s, the e30 3 Series ushered in a more restrained sense of car design. It featured subtle curves around the wheel arches and hood that gave it a sportier shape. It sits low with a wide stance that makes it feel fast, even sitting still. The e30 even had a subtle wedge shape to the front end that we see in modern sports cars today.
The e30 M3
Sure, it was the first M3. For that reason alone, it’s tough to get your hands on unless you have access to a trust fund. But there is more than just heritage driving the popularity of this OG sports car.
That said, it isn’t a fast car by any means. This early M3 made 215 horsepower. That was head-turning power at the time but is fairly pedestrian by today’s standards. However, that relative lack of power is exactly what makes it so appealing.
The first gen M3 is plenty comfortable, quick enough to drive every day without fear of getting flatted by a city bus, and it looks damn cool. The original M-performance suspension makes it engaging and responsive, too. Okay, you can’t stack it up next to a current M3 and expect miracles. But when dropped next to a modern Toyota Corolla or even a BMW 3 Series from a few years ago, the 1980s version of the M3 is a more enjoyable thing to drive.
Okay, so the original M3 is a bit too spendy. But there are still some great e30 3 Series options out there. For less than $15,000 an 80’s BMW 325i is both fun and functional. And since there are so few computerized parts, it’s a great way to hone some wrenching skills for those so inclined. BMW blog contends that an early 3 Series is more enjoyable than its M counterpart, and for a lot less cash.
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