This BMW 320is Is an Ultra-Collectible E30 M3-Lite

Mack Hogan
·2 min read
Photo credit: Hemmings
Photo credit: Hemmings

From Road & Track

Everybody loves the BMW E30 M3. They're light, agile, and quick. They're also absurdly expensive, with every big-pocketed collector on the prowl for one. For those with tighter budgets and a more keen eye, though, there's a perfect alternative: the E30 320is.

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In the world of E30s, though, a "tighter budget" doesn't exactly mean cheap. This 1990 320is is $29,900 (U.S. dollars, despite the car being in Canada), no doubt a lot of money for a 30-year-old BMW with 109,500 miles on it. But it's so much less than an M3 in similar condition would go for.

That low price is despite the fact that it's even it's even rarer. The car was only sold in Italy and Portugal, built to dodge heavy duties on cars with over 2.0 liters of displacement. So BMW fitted the 320iS with a de-stroked version of the S14 in those markets. It was an ultra-specific car for an ultra-small market, so just 2540 320iS E30s were built, per the ad. That rarity makes them much less well-known than the M3, a benefit considering you don't give up much.

Peak power comes down to 192 hp, but that's barely noticeable compared to the U.S.-spec M3's 195 hp. In return, you get a more rev-happy engine with a delightful top end, with a redline of 7300 rpm and peak power all the way up at 6900 rpm. You also get 325iS brakes and suspension, though reviews from the time note it has sharper turn-in and less understeer than an M3. Even the gearbox is less aggressive, ditching the overdrive in favor of five closely-spaced ratios.

You don't get the M3 name, but those who know what they're talking about will recognize the 320is as a sleeper legend.

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