Here’s Why the BMW M3 E30 Is My All-Time Favorite BMW

Here’s Why the BMW M3 E30 Is My All-Time Favorite BMW

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this is a 1988 bmw m3 known by enthusiasts as the e30 m3 the original BMW m3 which started a lineage that continues with great success to this day the e30 m3 is also my very favourite BMW which is a bold claim to make but today I'm going to review this car and explain why it's true before I
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get started a quick reminder to check out cars and bins which is my new online car auction website for modern enthusiast cars if you have a cool car to sell from the 1980s and up sell it with cars and bids the ultimate place to sell your cool cars from the modern era you can also buy cool cars there right now live for auction on cars and bids we have this and this and this and many many others that you should check out so
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if you're looking to get a cool car or get top dollar for your cool car go to cars and bids.com I've borrowed this m3 from a viewer here in San Diego and first I want to provide a little overview the m3 is of course the high-performance version of the popular BMW 3-series with M standing for motorsport now the m3 has become a global icon but it all started with this car in the 1980s the e30 m3 made its
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debut in Europe in 1986 and it came out in North America for the 1988 model year here in North America the original m3 had a 2.3 liter four-cylinder engine and it made about 190 horsepower now that doesn't sound like much but this car only weighed around 2,600 pounds which is just insanely low compare that to the modern m3 it has up to 450 horsepower but it weighs a full thousand pounds
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more the m3 has certainly become more powerful as it's aged but it is also put on a lot of weight the e30 m3 was offered as a coupe or as a convertible although only the coupe was available here in North America now the e30 m3 was sold through the 1991 model year eventually BMW followed it up with the e36 m3 which brought the m3 into the mainstream where it's been a huge success ever since the e30 m3 is pretty rare BMW
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only made about 15,000 of these for the entire world and only about a third of those came to North America now I've previously said that the BMW 1 Series M is my very favorite BMW and I still think it's fantastic but last year I drove the m2 competition and it was just better and I realized then that BMW was still improving things in that segment there's still room to grow but I really don't think you can improve upon the e30 and 3 its styling its focus
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its driving experience I just don't think it can really be matched by a modern car in today's world of technology and safety regulations so today I'm going to review this car and show you what I mean first I'm gonna take you on a tour of the e30 m3 and I'm going to show you all of its interesting quirks and features then I'm gonna get it out on the road and drive it and then I'm going to give it a dug score alright I'm gonna start the quicksand features of the e30 m3 on the outside I want to talk about one of my very
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favorite things about the e30 m3 and that is how it looked I love the styling of this car I like all the boxy 1980s cars to begin with but the enhancements made to this over the regular 3-series are so nice the flared fenders were probably the best you had this nicely flared front fender that came out and made the car look more muscular and same thing in the back just a little extra flare to give it that much more muscle nobody is doing simple flared fenders like this anymore but it was a great
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trend it made it look like a rally car I also liked the wing on the back I'm not a fan of big excessive wings but this car didn't have that just this little wing three or four inches high that kind of gave a clue as to what it was another thing I absolutely loved about the outside of this car was the badging you had an m3 badge on the trunk the deck lid and you also had an m3 badge in front in the grille and that was it there was no gold brake calipers with the M logo m's on door handles and
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mirrors and rocker panels and basically everywhere else like so many modern M cars now it was so subtle you had flared fenders the wing some flared rocker panels down here on the sides and the front and rear m3 badges and that was all was definitely a different era of performance cars and frankly one that I liked better in terms of styling and by the way one other important exterior item worth mentioning with the e30 m3 it still has the BMW kidney grille just
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like modern BMW models although here you can see it's quite a bit smaller than what you would find in the BMW m3 of today and next up we move on to the interior of this car and the first thing you notice when you get into this a 30 m3 is cloth seats now BMW never sold this era of m3 in North America with cloth seats but the owner of this car liked the European style cloth seats so much he went and found the original
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fabric with the original and had the seats completely recovered and so this car has the european-style ether tm3 cloth which I think looks fantastic same deal on the door panels you have the same pattern it all looks very nice during matching very period and next we move on to one of my very favorite quirks in BMWs from this era and that would be the Czech panel if you go on to the ceiling above the rear-view mirror there's a little panel with like nine different rectangles and this
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allows you to check to see if various systems in your car were not working the way it was supposed to work was you would press the check button and all of these lights would turn on and then when you released the check button if any lights stayed on then it was a true malfunction as you can see in this car you press check they all light up so everything is working just fine for now now also interesting is the fact that when you turn on the car a little light flashes in a gauge cluster that also
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says check and it flashes until you put your foot on the brake and then the checking stops now I looked this up in the owners manual and it was surprisingly unhelpful and vague about what this was doing but again I think it's checking various different systems and lighting up all of your gauge cluster warning lights and then when check goes away if any of those lights stay on there is a true malfunction just like the check panel on the ceiling by the way another interesting item in the gauge cluster you can see there's a series of dots on the bottom in the
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middle you have five kind of green dots or rectangles than a yellow one and then a red one this was the oil life indicator back before you had a screen in the gauge cluster and when you first got an oil change the technician would reset this indicator and it would be on the very first green bar then over time as you drove it would sort of move down towards the red and next up another great quirk of BMWs from this era that would be the little panel in the center control stack that gave you various
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vehicle information this was like an early version of an infotainment screen that we have today and you could press all of these different buttons to get different information your average miles per hour your average fuel economy your range the current time and they all had their own individual buttons it was an interesting way to display that information very much a predecessor to today's infotainment now you may be wondering what exactly are those buttons on the bottom that say 1110 one I was very confused by that too so I looked it up
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in the owners manual it turns out you use those buttons to set like the clock and the date so for example if you're setting the clock and it's 7:30 p.m. or 1930 as the Germans would put it you would press the 1000 button then you press the hundred button nine times that would give you 1,900 then you would do the rest with the 10 and the 1 button kind of an interesting way to do it but that's how it was done before infotainment screens now speaking of individual buttons here's another rather interesting item the power window
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buttons there in the center and you can see there's a separate button for up and down for the windows this is especially odd because no one else was doing this at this time a lot of cars had power windows by 1988 but they used rocker switches pretty much like they do today but BMW had individual up and down buttons seems like over complication but then it is the Germans and next up another interesting item in this interior is the interior rear view mirror which has a nice quirk to it and that's the fact that it has map lights
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mounted on the bottom now a lot of cars have that not that interesting but the unusual thing here is it also has the switches for the map lights mounted on the bottom so every time you wanted to turn on the map light you had to tap the bottom of the mirror an interesting idea you don't see that too often but this car had it and next up another interesting item in this interiors the headlight switch situation in order to turn on the headlights you actually pull out this round dial and that turns them on not that uncommon for older cars but you don't see it too often one unusual thing here is that unlabeled button next
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to the light switch which doesn't appear to have any obvious function at least until you turn the lights on then it becomes clear that that button controls the fog lights you press that and the fog lights turn on for driving in fog and speaking of lighting we have to talk about another interesting lighting item in this car that would be in the glovebox where this car contains a flashlight you can pull the flashlight out of the glove box and use it if you drop something in the car if it's dark and you're trying to get into your house again this doesn't work this cars over
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30 years old I'm sure the bulb has burned out but it was there and it was a pretty good idea especially in the days before in tree lighting where car lights will stay on for a minute after you turn them off so you can walk inside safely that flashlight was pretty smart and next up another interesting item in the glovebox this car still has its original window sticker it was sold new back in 1988 by Berlin Porsche Audi in beautiful Charlottesville Virginia the sticker price of this m3 was just over
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$35,000 back when it was new and the owner of this car told me he paid thirty six thousand dollars for it so this car has beautifully held its value assuming you don't consider inflation at all also noteworthy in the glovebox you have the owner's manual and just look how tiny this owners manual is and the days before infotainment engaged cluster screens and radar cruise control and all sorts of modern safety tech this was all you needed to explain how to use a new
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car kind of hard to believe but it is worth noting that that owners manual specifically applied to the 3-series in general if you got an m3 you also got a supplementary owner's manual explaining a few other m3 features but my favorite part is the first page the introduction says dear bmw m3 driver the pleasure of driving one of the most high-quality technological achievements of the modern automobile industry is now to be yours seems like a little bit of hyperbole
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Riccar it had a check panel to let you know if your brake lights are out but that was how they introduced it and next up one more interior item worth noting up here this is purely a dug thing I'm not sure if anybody else even cares about this but this car has the best turn signal lever feel of any car that has ever existed the turn signal lever feels so perfectly weighted and wonderful and I love putting on the turn signals in this car what driving one of these I will often put on
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the turn signals when no one else is around just don't feel that lever again that's probably only a Doug thing but I thought it was worth mentioning and next up we move on to the back seats of the e30 m3 and for me that of course means climbing into the back seats but before I do one interesting thing about getting into the back seats to access them you pull up on this little plastic lever coming out of the side of the front seats and an interesting thing happens the backrest goes forward but the base of the front seat also kind of comes up
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to provide more room to access the back seat and make it easier so does it work well let's find out I pull the lever and indeed it is pretty easy to get back here far easier than in other cars from this era not surprisingly though when you go to put the seat back in place well there's not even enough room to actually latch it so you wouldn't really want to transport adults in the back of the m3 and you can see why there is demand for BMW to create an m3 sedan
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which they did for the next generation now as for the back seats as you might imagine there's not really all that much that's notable back here although there are a couple of items I'll mention one is the fact that there are only two back seats you don't have a third middle back seat in the back of this car also the back seats are pretty heavily bolstered you have a surprising amount of bolstering on these back seats to keep you in place I guess the idea was you might be taking a rear seat passengers on the racetrack in your m3 even the base of the rear seats is surprisingly well bolstered which you don't often see
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especially in back seats now despite the giant rear seat windows back here these windows do not roll down so if you're a backseat passenger you can't put your window down although you can open the window with this tiny little lever at the back to like open the vent but that doesn't really do much for getting airflow back here if you really want more air in the back seat you're just out of luck the other interesting thing I find about the back seats is on the rear shelf and that would be the speakers in this car these are the factory speakers and you can see BMW didn't even attempt to
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integrate these into the carpeting of the rear shelf like basically everyone else does instead they're just kind of stuck on there and they move up at the end and maybe to provide a better sound experience but either way not exactly the best looking things if you want kind of a clean rear shelf and next we move on to the trunk of the m3 where there a couple of items worth mentioning to open it you push on this little keyhole here and then it pops open to this position and then you do the rest now when you open the trunk what are the interesting things you
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realize is the load in height is crazy because the brake lights had to stay put and they didn't want the license plate I guess to go up with the trunk in order to get anything in here you have to lift it really high off the ground higher than in any modern SUV this height of trunk opening was actually pretty common in the 1980s but it's mostly unheard of today automakers have figured out a way to move the brake lights more to the side and get the trunk to come further down to make it easier to get stuff in the cargo area next up my very favorite thing about the trunk that would be on
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the inside of the trunk lid you have this little panel here and when you undo the fastener for this panel you can see that in here is a toolkit and I've always loved the fact that when the toolkit is open it comes down and kind of sits flat so if you're on the side of the road changing a tire the toolkit is sort of flat on your trunk like it would be if you had your tools laid out on a table it's a good idea the other thing I like about this tool kit of course is that all the tools say BMW all these wrenches that have surely never been used to remind you precisely which car
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they came from next up I want to talk about the engine in the e30 m3 but first I want to discuss opening the hood which is surprisingly unusual there's a little latch in the driver side foot well just like there is in most cars and you pull that latch which gets you into this position from here it's especially weird because the hood is front hinged so to open it there's no further latch you just pop it open and now you're in surprising but that's how a lot of BMWs
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from this era had their hoods open and next up on to the engine itself this is BMWs s14 4-cylinder yes there was an m3 powered by a four-cylinder engine and this was it like I mentioned 2.3 liters about a hundred ninety-two horsepower and torque was somewhere in the 160s pound foot range really not all that powerful but again this car wasn't all that heavy one thing I do love in this engine is how it says
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BMW M power and not just once but twice on both sides of the engine so it didn't matter where you were looking at it from you knew that this car had BMW and power the other thing I have always loved under the hood of BMW models from this era is this warning label that reminds you to use genuine BMW parts I think this is such a charming old-school warning label and the biggest mistake BMW is making as a company right now
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aside from the x4 is not making t-shirts out of that warning label I think it would sell and I absolutely love how that looks fantastic period warning label and so those are the quirks and features of the e30 bmw m3 now it's time to get it out on the road and see how it drives all right driving the e30 m3 I love this car I always have now for a
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long time I really did say that the BMW 1m was my favorite BMW but this isn't just like clickbait like oh I have a new favorite BMW every week to get you to watch 2 things happen to change my mind one was I drove the m2 competition I felt like it was better I felt like BMW is still improving on the one admin but the other thing is I spent more time driving these I've driven a couple of these recently and I forgot how much I loved this car now to be clear by modern standards this car
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is not particularly fast I bet zero to 60s in the high sixes or low sevens but that's not what it's all about for one thing it's tunable if you want to change that you can but it does feel really quick and that's because there's not much car involved here no side airbags no front airbags no thick doors etc etc but also it's because this car is just lightweight near low you're in it you feel more connected than you do in a modern car the new m3 is a great car but
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it's gotten so big at this point that you just can't get the same experience and no matter how much power you put in a big car is a big car you can't compensate for it and create something like this Florida here it's not that it's slow because it isn't slow it's just not fast but it does feel pretty fast because you're kind of in and you're on the ground the roads coming at you that you're just not all that insulator the biggest thing to me about this car though is I just love how
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its spheres I love love how connected this car feels on your steering the steering is so good it's so sharp it's so magical you just really feel like you're you're doing it you're killing it there's no electronic assist there's no BS like that and combine that with shifting the gears and feeling that glorious turn signal lever you really feel like you're in a car that is made for a driver that's what this is truthfully the driving experience of this car is something that cannot easily
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be replicated especially in the modern era there are so many regulations you now have to follow in terms of safety and equipment that cars are basically regulated to be too heavy for this to exist I love the new m2 competition but this just feels more connected you just feel lowered you feel like you could just have a little bit more fun is this the best BMW ever made I mean I think a great argument could be made that the answer is yes this was really the beginning of the lineage of all of the
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great modern sporty BMWs and yet unlike a lot of beginning of the lineage of cars like the Corvette this is fun to drive it's still fun by modern standards not as fast as it could be but it's so exciting to throw around and you do see when you drive this car that although the new m3 is fantastic there are some things that it lacks like this small kind of possible enjoyable quality that this car has and so that's the e30 bmw
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m3 BMW has built some great cars in its history and even though old-school BMW enthusiasts scoff at modern BMW models new cars like the x7 and the m2 competition prove that BMW is still building some excellent vehicles but the e30 m3 was special in its own way it's classic it's an icon and it has a driving experience which will probably never really be repeated by a modern car it's one of my very favorite cars and
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now it's time to give the e30 m3 a dug score starting with the weekend categories and styling the e30 m3 is really excellent I truly love those flared fenders and it gets a 7 out of 10 acceleration to 0 to 60 in about 6.7 seconds and it gets a 2 out of 10 handling a sharp excellent but a bit slow by the standards of modern sports cars and it gets a 6 out of 10 fun factor is high it really does have a go-kart feel but ultimately it's a bit too slow to really earn a huge score here and it gets a 6 out of 10 cool factor is excellent these always turn heads and they're the coolest early em
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car and it gets a 7 out of 10 for a total weekend score of 28 out of 50 next up are the daily categories and features this one is pretty much what you'd expect given its age and it gets a 3 out of 10 Comfort is also about what you'd expect and it gets a 4 out of 10 quality is good these aren't the most reliable cars but they're easy to work on and the interior is decent and it gets a 6 out of 10 practice callate is normal for a car like this and it gets a 4 out of 10 value is a tough one these have gone up in value quite a bit but I still think there's more room to go considering the amazing driving experience and this car status as an important early M car it
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gets a 6 out of 10 for a total daily score of 23 out of 50 add it up in the dug score is 51 out of 100 which places it here against other performance cars from this era the closest competitors on this list are the Delta Integrale a and the 190e 2.3 16 the m3 destroys the 190 it's simply better period but the Delta wins outright it's an amazing car but the e30 m3 is pretty special too if you go on to the ceiling above the rearview
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mirror you can see there's a little panel with various different like

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