The BMW 325iX Is The Coolest E30 Of Them All
Photography by Rémi Dargegen for Petrolicious
Today’s topic is: the E30 BMW 3-Series. If you grew up in the 1980s, you probably knew the E30 3-Series as the vehicle of choice for up-and-coming yuppies just trying to make their way in the world. Whereas if you’re growing up now, you probably know the E30 3-Series as the vehicle of choice for weird kids at your high school who smoke pot during lunch.
Just kidding! We all know the E30 3-Series has gotten too expensive for the pot-smoking high-schooler crowd, largely because E30 supply is dwindling. This is because most good E30s are now being purchased by hardcore enthusiasts–the kind of people who know where all their screwdrivers are–and converted to track cars.
The result is that they’re stripped of all useful interior parts, from the back seats (53 pounds saved) to that small piece of vinyl around the parking brake (one ounce saved, or–in E30 speak–“about as much as my smallest screwdriver, which is located right over here.”) Sometimes, they’re even stripped of non-useful interior parts, such as the odometer (one milligram saved), which measures distance in an E30 approximately as well as my desk lamp measures rainfall.
So there aren’t many original E30s left, which is a real shame to those of us who happen to like the car as it came from the factory. This is a group that includes me: I liked the light, tossable 318i. I liked the more powerful, exciting 325i. I liked the car’s excellent visibility, likely made possible by a complete omission of any type of side impact safety equipment. And I especially liked the all-wheel drive 325iX.
That’s right, folks: long before the “xi” models of the E46 3-Series generation, or the “xDrive” E90 cars, or the current models, which are called something like “xDrive28isDrive,” BMW made an all-wheel drive E30 3-Series. They didn’t make many of them, and they all went to up-and-coming yuppies in Colorado. But they’re out there.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the E30 325iX, allow me to sum things up in two simple words: fender flares. The iX had ‘em. The regular model didn’t. There weren’t many other upgrades to go along with the all-wheel drive, like increased ride height or meatier tires. Just fender flares. Presumably, this was designed to make Colorado yuppies feel like they could tackle any terrain; climb any mountain; traverse any obstacle, all with the minimum possible investment from BMW. Interestingly, the 325iX models also had larger side skirts, which seems to defeat the whole “go-anywhere” purpose.
Anyway: the E30 325iX was made from 1986 to 1991, and sold in the US during the 1988, 1990 and 1991 model years. European E30 fanatics are even luckier than us Americans, since BMW also made a Europe-only 325iX Touring: a well-proportioned all-wheel drive wagon that brings together a) the excellent styling and secure handing of the regular 3-Series Touring, and b) some fender flares.
Unfortunately for Colorado yuppies, the all-wheel drive 3-Series was discontinued when the E36 model came out in 1992–and it wouldn’t reappear until the arrival of the E46 years later. But even then, the E46 could hardly match the charm of the original E30. It didn’t have the same legendary visibility, or the same tossable feel. It was more luxurious, and less sporty, and it even had a working odometer.
And that’s why the E30 325iX will always have a special place in my heart–and in the heart of any BMW enthusiast who can’t make it through rough, snowy terrain without a nice set of fender flares.
Thanks to Mr. Manuel Lecluse, member of the board of the French BMW E21/E30 Club.