BMW 325e Coupe Is Spotted on the Street

Jackson Wheeler
5 Min Read

BMW may have kicked off the 3-Series with the E21 generation for the 1977 model year stateside, as a spiritual successor to the 2002. But it wasn’t until the next-generation E30 that the US market saw some real variety in engines and bodystyles, albeit without a longroof option.

The E30 generation, which landed for the 1984 model year, is where the 3-Series really kicked things off, arriving just in time for the worst days of Malaise to be in the rearview mirror.

The changes in exterior design between the two generations could be safely called evolutionary today, keeping the familiar boxy look.

The two-door layout continued to be a popular base model bodystyle, while the four-door sedan became a real alternative overnight to the more expensive 5-Series, laying the foundation for further 3-Series sales success in North America. A true convertible also turned the E30 into a luxury cruiser—something the previous-gen E21 Bauer conversions never quite managed.

While the European market kicked things off with the 316i, featuring a 1.8-liter inline-four underhood, the base model stateside was badged as the 318i, featuring a slightly more powerful version of the same M10 engine.

a silver car parked on the side of a road

The E30 was offered in two-door and four-door form, as well as a true convertible. But the station wagon stayed in Europe.


But unlike with the E21, North American buyers of the E30 could get an inline-six underhood as well, with the 325e promising greater efficiency on the side.

The 2.7-liter M20B27 inline-six arrived in 1984, offering 121 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque.

“Its sophisticated fuel-injected engine, the Eta, puts 20% more horsepower and 65% more torque under the 3-Series hood,” BMW ad copy of the time promised. “For unflagging zest on the open road and significantly more low-rpm power in city driving.”

A base price of $21,500 (in 1985) made the 325e a logical choice for many looking at the 3-Series who had some extra coin to spend if they wanted to stay out of the four-cylinder models.

The numbers of E30 sedans on the road today, 40 years later, attest to two other qualities: longevity and ease of maintenance.

It certainly helps that the exterior design aged well. The E30’s design process was overseen by two BMW design legends: Claus Luthe and Boyke Boyer.

And what about the efficiency?

a car parked on the side of the road

The dimensions of the 3-Series of the 1980s would probably surprise most car shoppers today. But even with the longer US bumpers the design is instantly recognizable and has aged remarkably well.


“The Eta is assisted by another 3-Series first: a computerized engine-management system that helps it deliver an absteminous 36 mpg highway, 23 mpg city,” BMW said at the time.

Today that 36 mpg on the highway would be considered impressive, even though your eyes probably aren’t used to seeing such a big spread between the city and highway numbers.

Of course, this was also a much smaller car on the outside, so it wasn’t carrying around a lot of metal or making much power by today’s standards.

More importantly, the E30 has remained a daily driver for many well past the end of the 20th century. That’s not something a lot of its contemporaries could say, even though the indirect competition from Team Europe included other nearly immortal machines: The Mercedes-Benz W123, Volvo 240, and the Saab 900.

Seeing this well-used 325e on the street reminded us that BMW, at one time, could give even modest two-door sedans a timeless and uncluttered look that could be admired for its simplicity and elegance decades later.

In hindsight, what was the E30’s strongest competitor in the US market, in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below.

Headshot of Jay Ramey

Jay Ramey grew up around very strange European cars, and instead of seeking out something reliable and comfortable for his own personal use he has been drawn to the more adventurous side of the dependability spectrum. Despite being followed around by French cars for the past decade, he has somehow been able to avoid Citroën ownership, judging them too commonplace, and is currently looking at cars from the former Czechoslovakia. Jay has been with Autoweek since 2013. 

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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