E30 - The Second Generation
The next generation 3 Series, codenamed E30, made its introduction in 1982. Having been thoroughly revised and updated, the slightly larger second-generation car offered four centimetres more interior space inside and a 35mm wider track, whilst being an average of 30kgs lighter than its predecessor.
In autumn 1983, after one year and 233,781 units of two-door saloon production, a four-door 3 Series model was launched for the first time and in its eight-year life, the E30 3 Series also became a full Convertible (the E21 3 Series offered only a Baur Cabriolet conversion) and a Touring - this time as a convenient small estate variant.
The four-cylinder 1.6 and 1.8i engines were available alongside two six-cylinder models, the 320i and 323i, both offering electronic fuel injection and setting the performance benchmark until the 2.3 litre six-cylinder engine became the lauded, silken 2.5-litre 325i. Offering 171bhp and delivering a top speed of 135mph, the BMW 325i became the car of choice for the young, upwardly mobile aspiring executive.
Perhaps the most notable development at this time was the introduction of large-scale production of four-valves per cylinder engines, offered first in the high-performance M3. Unveiled at the Frankfurt Motorshow in 1985 and appropriately first driven at the Mugello racetrack in Italy, the legendary M3 was launched offering 200bhp from its four-cylinder, 16-valve engine capable of a top speed of 146mph. It was later available as a Convertible variant, making it the fastest, small four-seater convertible of its time. In 1998, the M3 Evolution was launched, differentiated by its uprated engine developing 220bhp and even larger spoiler set. In total, 17,970 road-going M3’s were produced. The racing version of the M3 won every touring car championship (World, European, British, German, Australian etc) in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s whilst its road car cousin is, even now, fondly remembered by purists.
As with all BMW’s, this 3 Series generation was only offered in the UK as a rear-wheel-drive car, but on the continent, a four wheel drive 325ix was available. The E30’s hugely successful production run ended after 2,220,225 units had been built.