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Opinons on the Succesor to the E30?

Posted by Earendil 
July 19, 2009 10:11PM
First off, I can answer this question my self, there isn't one smileys with beer

However, if their had to be, what do you guys think? E36? E46? E90? Each one keeps getting successively heavier, even if it's more powerful. But Bimmers have never been about straight line power or drag racing, but instead about how fun they are in the curves. So is there a general opinion among the enthusiasts about what holds the title? Is the 135i actually getting back to the E30 roots, or does it still have a ways to go?

A friend just picked up an E46, a 2000 328i which I am looking forward to taking around the block. But as my old E30 gets closer to being reserved for weekends/track use, and my mind shifts more towards "fun daily drivers", I'm becoming ever more interested in the question :-)

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1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

it should be e30 m3 smiling smiley

I wouldn't get E46. If you don't mind $$$ go for E90, otherwise e36.

my $0.02
I disagree on the E46 assessment. I think they're very nice cars, and from most reviews I've read over the last decade or so, they are all around better built and designed than the E36. As far as ours goes, we love it. I would very much prefer a 330iT (not brought to USA) or a 325iT (which we couldn't find when we needed to buy a car) over our 325XiT, but it is a great car and has served us well. It's not nearly the same driving experience as an E30, but is still a fun car.

I had/have high hopes for the 1-series as far as "replacing" the E30. However, that car is way heavier than I think it should be, and part of the E30's appeal, IMO, is the car's simplicity. Modern cars in general are so complex that you tend to need advanced and specialized equipment just to check the oil level! That turns me off.

If they made a coupe version, I'd say the Miata/MX-5 would be a nice current E30-like car, but then you lose the practicality of having a rear seat. The Hyundai Genesis coupe may turn out to be a nice option, but other than that, there simply aren't many small RWD cars that could fit the mold of the E30. I hate that BMW's opinion seems to be "we don't need a small BMW, we have Mini!" The Cooper is a great car, fun, good mileage, good looking, etc, but there's just no substitute for RWD. So that leaves us with a variety of FWD or AWD options. I think my Mazda3 is a nice little car for commuting and everyday use, it's even fairly fun to drive, but it doesn't hold a candle to the E30.

Cab
1990 325i(s)
2004 325XiT
if you afford to chose between e36, e46, e90 or e87 (1 series) AND you want to keep some of the fun you have with the e30, then the 1 series is the only one that will come close. or you could get a Z4 ///M, which is simply amazing.

dom't get me wrong - all of them are nice and they are better with each generation, but the fun factor is dropping a lot. they are just nice family cars.

my $0.02 smiling smiley

--
A physics truck just turned over outside. There's physics everywhere!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2009 04:32AM by jaffar.
No, I can't afford to choose between all of them, but I'm certainly open and curious about the wider question.
Without being clear in the original question, though maybe people guessed, we're going to throw out the ///M versions of these cars, as they are not really in the "daily driver" category. Though props to bimmer for making a fairly practical sports car.

For reference, the curb weight of these cars goes about like this...
(according to KBB, and by the largest engine at the mid point in the model year).
E30: 2855 lbs
E36: 3164 lbs
E46: 3256 lbs
E90: 3594 lbs

E87: 3252 lbs (128i)

Due to this, the power/weight ratio of the E36 and early E46's (325i/328i) is barely better than the E30. Yet physics dictates that it is ever so slightly harder to throw mass around, and change it's direction all willy-nilly like. However, the E46 is also wider by 4 inches, and has a longer wheel base by 6 inches, so perhaps that is weight is overcome a little?

So Cab, when you say the E46 isn't the same to drive as the E30, is it a handling thing? Do you think the E46 handles better or worse than the E30?
Perhaps it's nicer so you don't treat is as harshly around those corners as the old timer bimmer? winking smiley

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1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2009 11:52AM by Earendil.
in stock form, i would be extremely surprised if an older 3-series handled better than any of the newer models (in terms of lateral grip, g-force, slalom, however you want to measure it), no matter what their stock curb weight is.

meaning, in terms of handling: e90/e92 > e46 > e36 > e30 > e21. i would also guess that the e87 > e90.

with that said, i would believe someone who said the e30 is more fun to drive, simply because there is a more direct connection between the driver and the road (less electronics, less assistance, a bit more noise, feedback, etc).


rkj
in terms of handling: e90/e92 > e46 > e36 > e30 > smiling smiley 2002>>>>> e21
So, if in fact each successive 3 series does move faster, and handle better, what are people complaining about and/or how is it departing from the E30?
Or are we dealing with E30 elitists who think anything not E30 < E30? ;-)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

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Earendil
Or are we dealing with E30 elitists who think anything not E30 < E30? ;-)

a lot of it is this, and i am partially guilty. with that said, heavier cars still *feel* heavier when "tossing" them around corners, regardless of whether they have better grip.


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Earendil
So Cab, when you say the E46 isn't the same to drive as the E30, is it a handling thing? Do you think the E46 handles better or worse than the E30?
Perhaps it's nicer so you don't treat is as harshly around those corners as the old timer bimmer? winking smiley

In my case, our E46 is an AWD station wagon that weighs 3600 lbs, motivated by a 184 hp/175 lb-ft engine. It is definitely a much "nicer" car than my E30 ever was, in terms of critter comforts. It's a great car, I love it, my wife loves it, and when the day comes when we get rid of it, that will be a sad day indeed. When I say it's not the same to drive as my E30, I say that in full awareness that I'm comparing apples to oranges. A much lighter, smaller, RWD car with similar power numbers is going to feel much different. I have never spent any kind of significant time in an E46 that I would consider "comparable" to my E30.

Here's my way of thinking: My 325i was the "higher" (I use quotes because M42 fans can easily say that their car is truly the higher of the models) of the non-M 3ers offered in 1990. It did not have all the goodies that came on the 325is (LSD, leather, power sunroof, etc), but I have done a lot of work on it, and I consider it to currently be roughly comparable, if not better, than a stock 325is (I've added LSD, Bilstein/H&R sport suspension, chip). So, in my mind, my car is mechanically sort of equivalent to or better than the stock "best non-M E30." The analogous E46, in the lineup that was available in the US, is the 330i/Ci ZHP. I'd have to spend a bunch of time driving a ZHP in order to really give my judgment on how it compares to my E30, and I can tell you that emotion would play a lot in that comparison anyway. Anyway, the only times I've driven E46s other than the one we own is on short test drives, so I can't give any kind of comparison.

To me, lightness is crucial. People talk about 0-60, 1/4 mile ET, power to weight ratio, raw power, etc etc, but in my experience, while those numbers are nice, the "feel" of a car is very important. My brother in law has a 1991 M5, chipped, upgraded suspension, extremely nice condition. It's a great car, and from the same era as my E30. I've driven that car quite a bit, and it's a lot of fun. But despite the 300+ hp, rock-solid build quality, aural delight listening to the engine (I always turn the radio off and listen to the S38 - what a sweet song), I frankly prefer to drive my lowly 325i, because no matter how good, engineering simply can't hide an extra 1000 lbs from physics. That car brakes relatively nicely, turns well, gets up and goes amazingly, but it just feels heavy and cumbersome to me. I don't know numbers, but from the butt-dyno, my E30 "feels" like it brakes and turns better, due to the extra weight. Doesn't mean I pass up the chance to drive it, it's just a very different experience as compared to a relatively lightweight car. Of course, the 5er and 3er have always had different missions. The M3 has always been the sports car, and the M5, while an extremely capable car, has always been the high speed/long distance touring car. It can go on a track, but that's not truly where it shines. And in general, it doesn't fit my idea of the kind of car I like or want.

That brings us to the modern 3ers. In terms of raw performance numbers, they obviously stack up very well, and BMWs have always been fantastic all around cars. They don't generally do any one thing better than all of their competitors, but taken as a sum, the overall experience has always been right up there with or ahead of the rest of the industry. I'm sure if I had a chance to play with a 335i for a month or so, I'd love it. But I'm just not so sure I'd lust after it in the same way that I would after a beautifully maintained and modified E30. They're also much heavier (similar power/weight as my BIL's M5, roughly 300 hp/3600 lbs). I'm sure they've done a helluva job on that car, but those numbers don't imply the same level of "tossability" that I associate with the E30.

I also prefer the ability to work on my own cars, and that's getting harder and harder these days. I have no fear whatsoever about wrenching on the E30, I am comfortable doing a lot of things on our E46, but I think I'd be scared sh!t-less under the hood of a 335i. Doesn't mean it's not a great car, just lowers its desirability in my mind. Same goes for the 1er, especially if it has iDrive.

So there's a long answer to a short question. Perhaps I'm just a luddite, but I like simpler, smaller, lighter (older) cars, even if that means I won't win every stoplight drag race. I never, ever drove my E30 and got out without a smile on my face, and to me, that's far more important than raw performance numbers.

Cab
1990 325i(s)
2004 325XiT
Well said, Cab!

I totally agree.
Cab, beautiful post. If I had to take a guess, that's what I would have hedged by bets on, but I've never heard it said (or at least articulated so well) from someone who owns both an E30 and E46.

I remember being surprised that in the last decade or two, BMW's base and base+1 models haven't gotten all that much "faster". Which shouldn't be a surprise I suppose, since there is a certain threshold for "fun enough", especially when the average car driver is concerned. I suppose I have the tech-space mindset that if the new product isn't 10x faster than the previous, there is something wrong with the company ;-)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1989 - E30 - M20 - Manual. Approximately 270,000 miles
2000 - E46 - M52TUB28 - Manual. Approximately 110,000 miles

rkj
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Ferdinand
Well said, Cab!

I totally agree.

Me too. Very plainly stated for a true sports car man. thumbs up
btw tyler, i am jealous you are in *buying a new or newish car* mode. soon i will be too!


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I never, ever drove my E30 and got out without a smile on my face, and to me, that's far more important than raw performance numbers.

And that sums it up very well!
Thanks Cab.
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Cab Treadway
If they made a coupe version, I'd say the Miata/MX-5 would be a nice current E30-like car, but then you lose the practicality of having a rear seat.
It's funny. Recently over on the Miata forum someone asked the same thing in reverse: what would be a good replacement for a Miata? And among all the responses, the most frequently offered was... you guessed it: an E30! There's a lot in common between the two, despite the difference in the number of seats, but the biggest is lightness and agility.

I can't think of any car made in the last 20 years that is even close to an E30, and more's the pity. Are there even any 4-passenger cars currently made that are under 3000 pounds?

__________
Dave
'91 325iX
rkj
Yes, its too bad the good old sports cars values have gone up in smoke but you know, what momma wants, mama gets sad smiley
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Dave_G
Are there even any 4-passenger cars currently made that are under 3000 pounds?

Yes, but not that compare to the E30, IMO. They're all FWD econoboxes. The Mazda3, Corolla, Civic (and Fit), Rabbit/Golf all are <3000 or just barely over it. Weight was one of the key factors when I chose my Mazda3 over an Impreza when I bought my car 3 years ago. I do recognize that AWD has a benefit in deep snow conditions, as you mentioned in the AWD thread, but my winter driving needs are not as severe as yours, and so when I compared Mazda3 to Impreza, the extra weight of the AWD system was a big reason I decided to go with the Mazda. Winter tires serve me well, and the extra weight (and power) of the Impreza just make the mileage worse, so that was one thing that helped me decide.

It's a shame that there aren't any lightweight, 4-place RWD cars anymore. 3200 lbs is considered "light" these days, and it seems that just about every "normal-sized" car is at least 3500. And power of cars is up quite a bit in general from 20 years ago, and yet overall gas mileage has improved as well. Just think what they could do for economy if they didn't make such heavy cars and they used modern technology to focus more on efficiency than power. I'm sure 300 hp is nice, but when the car weighs 4000 lbs and gets mid-20s mpg on the highway, it makes me wonder how many people need that. I'd be much happier with a 200 hp car closer to 3000 lbs that gets 35 mpg, and that is totally possible. But with gas as cheap as it has been over most of the last 20 years, power numbers are sexier. These days mpg is "in," but it will take a while for the industry to catch up, lower weights, lower power, etc.

Cab
1990 325i(s)
2004 325XiT
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