BMW M3 E30 (1987): The best BMW ever?

We are celebrating the 40th birthday of the BMW 3 Series, E30 generation, with the most grandiose of all grandiose 3 Series, the touring car hero M3, as the old test.

Courage is better to be taken with caution. If you - which we hope - visit us and the "old people in the test" more often, you might expect it to be one of those lost in thoughts, which like shooting stars on the drive to the Hockenheimring through the end of the night into the beginning of the day fall against the dawn sky. Good approach, but this time: wrong. It's an agreement that Otto reminds me of with the words "M2", "ESP off", "guard rail" and a knowing look. But we don't want to bore you with the details: It's just a one-off caper of late youthful high spirits (which, as friend and colleague Heinrich assures us, is repeated on another summer's day, but with a very similar precedent as in Boxberg with a Porsche 911 S should have, editor's note).

Umm...well, we don't want to give prominence to insignificant little antics here. Rather, they deserve the considerable, large escapades that we owe to BMW's motorsport department M over the past 50 years. We celebrate with the test of the M3. Also because the E30 will be 40 this year anyway. But mainly because the M3 is perhaps the most grandiose in the M history, which is certainly not poor in grandiose cars. The first M3 with 195 four-cylinder hp maybe the most grandiose, you think? Right, that's not correct. He is: certainly the most grandiose. It contains everything that defines M, from M1 to Formula 1. And it comes like this:

14 days for eternity

There are stories that are too good to jeopardize their legendary status through accurate research. We are therefore sticking to the unexamined tradition, according to which BMW boss Eberhard von Kuenheim informed his chief engine developer Paul Rosche in the early 1980s that the model ensemble of the 3 Series lacked a sporty top model. One that could also succeed the 635 CSi in order to continue to stir up international touring car racing with certainty of victory. Surely these ideas came up by chance at the moment when there were similar efforts at Daimler-Benz AG, D-7000 Stuttgart, teleprinter 72524-0 db d (the epic of the Mercedes 190 E 2.3-16V from the Cosworth co-development via the Senna -Victory in the inaugural race of the Nürburgring GP course in 1984 to the American-must-be-can-slip-rear-wing of the 2.5-16 Evo II we swear another time).

At M GmbH, the construction of the S14B23 is about to start. That's what they call the M3 engine, which is based on the M10 engine developed by Alexander von Falkenhausen for the new class and on which the 1.5-liter, four-cylinder, 1430 hp, 5.5-bar boost pressure formula is also based -1 turbo monster based.Because a) the touring car regulations of group A do not allow turbos, it will be a sucker. Because b) the long crankshaft of the in-line six-cylinder would be too susceptible to vibration, it becomes a four-cylinder (but in which second-order inertia forces occur, which cause vibrations around 4000 rpm - it's not exactly such cheerful details that can also be presented on a long, guaranteed cheerfulness for a family holiday trip plagued by traffic jams?).

And because c) the cylinder spacing is the same as that of the inline six despite the increased displacement to 2302 cm³, the technicians can put the shortened four-valve cylinder head of the M1 engine on the gray cast iron block. They twist a metal plate over the hole in the front. They lower the crank mechanism so low that the five-bearing shaft can still rotate easily even at 10,000 rpm. In addition, the engine gets individual throttle valves, the mixture preparation is the responsibility of the Bosch ML-Jetronic.

On a Sunday, two weeks after the start of development, Rosche drives up to von Kuenheim's house in a 3 Series with the new engine. He makes a round, after which - as is the case with all major decisions of really powerful company/state/party leaders - a single, self-referential sentence is enough to have everything else set in motion: "Well, I like that one ."

5000 in twelve

This "everything else" is the production of 5000 copies within one year, as prescribed by the homologation (although not all manufacturers comply with the regulations with the same unconditional accuracy, but we will also get to that in another Car). And of course, if you make the effort, then in all areas. The aerodynamics experts have created a sill/skirt/wing kit that reduces lift by 50 percent on the front axle and 65 percent on the rear axle, while still improving the drag coefficient from 0.38 to 0.33. The flatter rear window also contributes to this, through which the air can flow so precisely to the wing on the plastic trunk lid that is four centimeters higher. They glue the windshield in flush instead of piping it. The flared wheel arches enable a wider track, and the chassis can better position the pivot points of the rear suspension. On the front axle geometry, they triple the caster value in order to trim the steering with more feedback to less susceptibility to bumps. They screw a 25 percent limited-slip diff and all-round larger brakes with the fixed calipers of the M5 to the rear axle.

At the IAA 1985, BMW presented the M3, from February 1986 it was manufactured by M GmbH.Incidentally, under the designation "two-door", not "coupé" - at that time the principle applied in Munich that something called a coupé should only have two doors and no window frames on the doors (could that be a BMW X6 and Mercedes GLE coupe click, as food for thought for self-reflection?).

Although you're probably wondering something else all the time: How can Otto give Seb a knowing look when they both only meet at the gas station in Hockenheim, where they travel in two cars? Ah, what would we be without you, dear regular reader, dear traditional reader. But today it's different, the M3 comes directly to the paddock on the transporter. That's why the popular gas station scenes "flattery attempt" and "baguette discourse" are omitted again. Instead, the rear portal of the truck opens, and the first rays of the very earliest morning sun are reflected in the henna-red paintwork of the M3. What. For. A. grandiose. Car!

He only rolls down the ramp and then warms up while idling. But this isn't just any car - it's a hero of our past. He really comes to us, instead of tussling around in Diepholz, Wunstorf, on the Avus or the Nürburgring with a pack of 190s, with Soper, Cecotto or Prince Poldi at the wheel (Leopold Prince of Bavaria is the head of the Adalbertine line of the House of Wittelsbach, Ur- Great-great-grandson of King Ludwig I, who is related to Neuschwanstein with an electric bell and to the Swedish royal family - so much "gala" gossip is a must and would be an alternative if the mass forces didn't ignite).

If a car is at home on a racetrack, it's the M3, the most successful touring car of all time. So quickly weigh, attach measuring devices, get out on the ring. You immediately feel two things: firstly, the perfect format of the E30 - as compact as possible without constricting, as clear as possible, but it integrates you very deeply and tightly. Finally - although elegance issues per se should not be relevant here: friends, look at this final form, which will still look modern even if merciful oblivion has faded our memory of the current two-series Gran Coupé or the new seven-series .

Oh, almost forgot the second thing: that the M3 is never about nothing, even if it's just determining the speedometer deviation to warm up, at which the sound power of the engine already prepares us for the impressive decibel values, which it is at should be noted during the following noise measurement. From 1500 tours, the engine is pushed to climb up the thousands of revs in a big crescendo, very close to 7000. That can be fun. It will.

At home in Hockenheim

Exit zone of the switchback. Speed ​​up to 3000. Clutch snaps. After a very short scraping, the differential locks and the M3 pushes forward.And that tone, it sounds as if you were sitting next to Joachim Winkelhock as he accelerated out of the dozenteich bend on the Norisring on June 28, 1992. But that's Otto next to me, shifting through the five-speed sports transmission (first bottom left) with rapid caution. If you stir around in there like that, you'll get tangled up in the levels. But executed with concentration, the gear changes succeed in a gentle sluggishness, which only gives you the right feeling for the fine mechanical precision of the narrowly staggered box. Third gear goes up to 106 km/h, the M3 has 100 after 7.2 s. We don't want to praise ourselves, but we want to discreetly point out that this is 0.6 s faster than our well-deserved predecessors managed with the five hp more powerful M3 without cat, which they tested for ams issue 15/1986.

And, well, just for the sake of completeness: We also get better deceleration values ​​when braking today. The early ABS regulates a little rough, but from 130 km/h the M3 is already after 66.2 m. But now over to the slalom. Switch on the light barriers, assess the run-up, on your mark, done and ... Moohohoohhment!

Before we get started, a little insert: We have had many wonderful, great cars here, both new and old in the test. None of them should feel left behind when we now realize: What the M3 can do right now in the slalom is simply outstanding.

Not even in terms of sheer speed, but how great the BMW drives. With its high-precision, but not finicky steering and because of the perfect all-round view, it can be steered along the pylons with centimeter precision. Understeer, load changes, rear fidgeting? None of that, he just stays neutral, so cheerful, light-hearted, elated. This is also due to the fact that it has exactly as much power and power as it can translate into speed - it doesn't need electronics that serve it up in appropriate portions. It only has 195 hp, but it lets you experience the power of every single hp and the speed of every km/h. In a 510 hp M4 Competition xDrive at 100 km/h you have the feeling of standing around on the country road. This is exactly why the M3 achieves a thrilling, unmatched level of perfection in the handling experience - as more and more power, electronics, weight and four-wheel drive have thrown it off balance.

Is it, we ask ourselves as we measure the interior, good luck or a hindrance for a long career to have achieved a success like the M3 right at the beginning, against which everything will then be measured and against which many things will pale in comparison? Is it perhaps better to enjoy success and not just courage with caution? But then we think to ourselves: Why are we standing here and chatting about operas? We are in Hockenheim. With the M3, which only has to be on the truck in an hour. Let's take advantage of the round. The entrance to Parabolika, Otto, I can get there even faster. It will be okay.


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