Featured: The BMW 325iX Is The Coolest E30 Of Them All

The BMW 325iX Is The Coolest E30 Of Them All

By Doug DeMuro
August 11, 2014
30 comments

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.

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Jeremy Reed
Jeremy Reed
2 years ago

My ex-wife’s father used to rebuild crashed E30’s back in the early 90’s and he eventually did a 325iX. I believe they were sold officially in the UK but only in left hand drive. I remember him explaining that the reason for the body kit was to hide the increased ride height necessary to accommodate the drive gear for the front wheels which ran underneath the engine. I never drove it but he was disappointed with how it drove and in the end did t keep it for long. More interesting was his supercharged 325i sport which ran 280bhp with an auto box and 2.7 litres derived from fitting the taller block and parts from a 525e.

Kevin Tear
Kevin Tear
3 years ago

But… the 325iX DOES have increased ride height, about .5 inches and bigger wheels 15in vs the 14s on the 325i (can’t speak to the meat of the tire as I was only being born during the production of the last model.) This info was taken from MotorWeek’s review in 1988, so things could’ve changed by the time I was born.

Brent Falin
Brent Falin
4 years ago

Cool article. There is also a handful of Dinan E30 IX’s out there and here is one of the 2 doors. This one was converted by Dinan when showroom new and had every cool part in their catalog thrown at it. That included removing the flares and adding their lowered sport suspension. Many cars in the bay area saw the taillights of this female owned IX!

Patrick O\'Neill
Patrick O\'Neill
5 years ago

Come and drive mine… I live in Boston and am restoring one… Last step is the interior. I’m serious.

Great article, I had read it before but didn’t know it was by the guy who makes fun of the quirks of people’s dream cars on YouTube. After seeing the article after reading the byline… I feel like we’re friends.

You’re awesome. I’ll let you drive my car.

BozoWolf
BozoWolf
6 years ago

Love the writing 😀 Keep it up. I like this car,looks great.

Frombersa
Frombersa
6 years ago

Not ALL of them ended up Stateside. I’m in northern Alberta – Canada – and have had mine for 6 years. Bought it as a ride for my 16 year old, she hated it! Once I got the throttle cable fixed, some new gaskets, and a few good highway runs in, she runs like a top! And I was lucky enough to find a parts car – with a manual transmission!!! so, my Betty will be getting a manual.

joann hall
joann hall
7 years ago

Help. Want to buy 1988-91 BMW 325IX. Am in mountains of CO and can’t live without mine that was sent to its
grave a week ago. Contact me at: aspencherub@comcast.net or 970 925 2810 if you know of one for sale. Should
be a manual shift for the mountains.

Matthew
Matthew
8 years ago

What type of rear wing is that? I don’t think that’s stock to the IX, but it sure does look good. I own an ’89 auto, 4-door and love it! And I’m in the northeast.

Richard Carruth
Richard Carruth
8 years ago

I know I’m late to the party, but I just saw this today and can’t resist jumping in. I’ve owned the “Flaming Slug” since 2003 and she is going nowhere. I’m the third owner and the car is proof that not all of them went to Colorado. The Slug is a southern lady through and through and wonderfully rust free. But I digress…. actually all of the US 88’s were sedans, of the two door variety according to BMW. We just like to call them coupes. And I am fairly sure that the number of North American ix’s was around 2400. As for whether the cars are cool? Absolutely to those of us who own one. For the dominant 16 to 30 year old regular e30 crowd, not so much. They see an overweight, under powered, more expensive to own odd duck. That’s OK. Neither the Slug nor I care. Such is automotive love.

Anthony Esmilla
Anthony Esmilla
8 years ago
Anthony Esmilla
Anthony Esmilla
8 years ago

Check out the build on my 325iX. Thanks for this article….its great 🙂

http://www.r3vlimited.com/board/showthread.php?t=187702

Bill Giltzow
Bill Giltzow
8 years ago

There are several of these cars around the Easton PA area being used as daily drivers. All rather shaggy looking, but being used with enthusiasm.

Scott McGlynn
Scott McGlynn
8 years ago

I just bought one of these a few months ago.

I was searching on Craigslist to buy a car thats purpose was only to drive. I’ve always considered myself a car guy and I always drove cars that contradicted this. I had always known of the E30 and thought they were pretty cool cars. Then I came across this one night while searching my local Craigslist. I thought about calling the guy to learn more, but I just wasn’t ready to jump into a car just yet.

Yada, yada, yada, Two weeks later I searched for it again and it was gone. I figured it must have sold. A car like this, for sub $5000 would go pretty quick. It was a Tuesday and I was driving to vitamin shoppe to try a new protein out (manly I know) and I drove by a Black E30. The entire time I was running my errands all I was thinking about was “Is that [i]the[/i] car I saw on CL?” Something made me stop by and look at the car.

I called the man, and ended up buying the car. I have every single receipt from 55k miles and on. The guys (and girl) who have owned it prior to me loved it just as much as I do. Much to the idea that things happen for a reason, It was the car on CL. It has everything I want from a car; Fun to drive, Great handling (Holy cow does it grab corners), Character, a great noise, very subtle pretty looks and two doors. Seriously, I could go on and on.

I hope to continue the lineage of this car and to continue its story.

Terry V
Terry V
8 years ago

All the talk about screwdrivers is a little strange, and the track car mentality is only shared by a small amount of people who just happen to have a strong online presence.

“There weren’t many other upgrades to go along with the all-wheel drive, like increased ride height or meatier tires. Just fender flares.”

Not sure where this comes from, as it’s not exactly a secret that they came with 15×7 versions of the baskeweaves offered in 14×6.5 for RWD cars in NA, and the iX obviously sits at a higher ride height than the RWD cars (pull the flares off and compare, it makes it much more obvious.) BMW also spaced the rear subframe down ~10mm to adjust the camber/toe back to what it is supposed to be because of the additional height.

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago

The iX is a brilliant thing for sure. Rare and increasingly desirable to some. But the M3 is the coolest E30 of all.

motoring con brio
motoring con brio
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Then you have obviously not read [url=”http://www.theeurophile.com/reviews/2014/3/8/the-bmw-320is-is-better-than-an-m3″]this[/url] review 😉

Terry V
Terry V
8 years ago

I feel it is more than fair to disagree with that article, given all the additional perks of the M3 (looks, suspension, brakes, widebody, etc.) I feel that article lists the M3 as so much heavier because US M3’s typically came with all the bells and whistles.

I have a late 325iS, a euro iX and an M3, and I would definitely consider the M3 to be the coolest of them all (not by a lot though)

Matt
Matt
8 years ago

Glad to see Satch write in. If memory serves correctly, the official numbers were 6300 units to the colonies. 1988’s were loaded 2 door only, 5 speeds in your choice of black, silver, red or white. 1989 ushered in the plastic bumpers and delivered a 4 speed slush box option along with 2 additional doors. 1990 saw air bags and the loss of the ellipsoid lights and 1991 delivered dark green or blue.

I’ll write more later…time to hit the friendly skies.

Satch Carlson
Satch Carlson
8 years ago

The iX was sold in the U.S. in 1988, ’89, ’90, and ’91. The ’88 was a full-on bells-and-whistles 325iS coupe loaded with what you want: heated sport seats, nav lights in the mirror, etc. etc.

They sold like cold cakes.

Turns out that the stupik yuppies didn’t WAN’T a great BMW they could drive in the winter; to go skiing, they bought a beater Subaru. And they wouldn’t pay $4,000 more than the cost of a 325iS for a car whose looks did not enhance their status any farther. Rally drivers gnashed our teeth and waited for the used price to come down; it took until 1994 for the price to fall far enough for me to get my hands on an ’88 by dint of creative financing.

That was my first iX, and I still have it. It’s the first car that I ever decided I would be buried in, and I have invested about three times its cost to make it suitably quick. (Alas, 167 stock horsepower was really about 100 shy of what the iX needs; now I have a comfortable surplus.) Ironically, while it was vacationing at Dinan, I bought a rat-around four-door ’89 to substitute as a rally car, and had several years of success with the Red Rat in the Pacific Northwest before my navigator used it to assassinate Bambi. I also had another that was so pristine that all my friends said, “What are you going to do with it? You’re not going to rally it, are you?!”

After the ’88 sales drought, BMW stripped the iX to the bone, and everything standard on the ’88 became an option. I took my wife (well, she is now, she wasn’t then) on a Friday-night rally with her driving and me in the navigator’s chair. When it got dark, I reached up to turn on the map light in the mirror, and discovered that, yep, those map lights were an option in ’89!

Ever try to run a rally by holding up the route instructions so you could read by the light from the cars behind you?

Parasight
Parasight
8 years ago

Wonderful cars! Nimble, relatively fast, and the wonderfully smooth straight six.
The functionality of the 4-wheel drive system left something to be desired though.
Our local Alfa Romeo club organized a come-and-skid-the-crap-out-of your-car-event on a makeshift winter race track, when a couple of 325ix:s turned up. They were all over the place. Understeer, understeer, understeer, massive oversteer, snow wall. Fun to watch though.

RB
RB
8 years ago

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that the flares are specific of the north america market, I don’t recall seeing them in Europe (at least in France)

RB
RB
8 years ago
Reply to  RB

Actually, I’ll correct myself, because it seems that Ii’m wrong ! This also mean that I’ve bad memories from the one my father had 🙂

TJ Martin
TJ Martin
8 years ago

Guest ( Rich ) Nope ! Only 4drs here in the US as well . At least legally ( versus ‘ grey market ‘ ) that is

motoring con brio
motoring con brio
8 years ago
Reply to  TJ Martin

This is incorrect. 2drs were sold here, and they weren’t grey-market imports.

John Nassar
John Nassar
8 years ago

They definitely sold the iX in the USA in 1989 as well. I have one. 🙂

Stephen Fitzgerald
Stephen Fitzgerald
8 years ago

I see these come up fairly regularly on Colorado Craigslist for very reasonable sums. Snatch ’em up!

Rich
Rich
8 years ago

Why the Hartge badge on the grille?
Anyhoo, In Canada we got E30 iX sedans, and no coupes. I believe it was the opposite in the US? I would happily give a kidney for a pristine E30 iX coupe… maybe even both of them?

Antoine
8 years ago
Reply to  Rich

This one is registered in France, probably a European serie…

TJ Martin
TJ Martin
8 years ago

Yup ! A mighty fine Bimmer it is/was . And yes … a lot of them found their way here to Colorado .. specifically because in CO with snow in Denver possible from August 10th – May 21st and all year round above 8,000 feet [ as Aspen , Vail Steamboat Springs etc are ] we need AWD . Though I’d take issue with the ‘ up and coming yuppies ‘ comment . The majority of the E30 325Xi’s initially finding their way into serious Bimmer fanatics hands [ wanting a year round capable BMW ] as well as the well heeled enthusiast wanting a prestige winter/snow/ski car and not willing to buy a 911 . Albeit many of them now falling into the hands of the children of said enthusiast/Bimmer fanatic … and …. errrr …. dare I say this here ?

More than a few 420 ‘ business ‘ … and I use that term loosely … men and women wishing to look legitimate when in and amongst their fellow nouveau riche peers …… Eeesh !

21st century
21st century
8 years ago
Reply to  TJ Martin

Yo, those “420 businesses” are legitimate. These are entrepreneurs in a modern world. You sound like a snob