Sheerest Driving Pleasure | BMW M3 E30 Test Drive

If people designed cars in terms of how they should perform rather than how they should look, 95% of the designers would come up with the handling of a BMW M3 E30. It is an absolute dream to drive. How do we know? Well, we drove it. To be honest, we didn’t actually drive it. The M3 E30 came out almost 30 years ago, how would you find one in a factory fresh condition? Fortunately, microprocessors have granted us the power to simulate real-world driving scenarios right in our office spaces. So we took out our simulator with paddle shifters, force feedback and spring assisted clutch pedal.

After deciding which simulator to use, it was then upon us to decide which game to go for. With a force-feedback wheel at our hands, which can transfer even the smallest of potholes into our palms, only one game could do justice to it, Assetto Corsa. You see, what most of the game devs do is that they make their tracks similar to the real ones, with the same elevation and dimensions. However, the tracks in Assetto Corsa are true to real world, which means that they are accurate down to every pebble in the tarmac. Lasers were used to map the topography of each millimeter of some of the most famous tracks in the world.

So, we decided to hit the Nurburgring in the just-out-of-factory M3 E30. Thanks to its Naturally Aspirated engine, the M30 was able to deliver its 300 horses right from the starting line. It steadily climbed up the gears till it was time to brake for Yokohama, a sharp right-hander which requires you to brake hard. And so we did. And that is when magic happened.

We realized why the M3 E30 is called a dream to drive and why it’s got a legendary status (after a few laps in the Z4, M3 E92 and 1M, we also realized why people miss old Beemers, but that’s for later). Even though we were hard on the brakes, the M3 didn’t go out of control. Usually, cars start swaying under hard braking, not this one. It was really dramatic to come down to 2nd gear from 5th under hard braking with the car not losing it balance even slightly.

Circuit Nürburgring-2013-GP.svg

Upon reaching the Mercedes Arena, the car again showcased its ability to hold the line in turns 3 and 4. Valvoline Kurve and Ford Kurve were really easy to take in the M3 and then we were pedal-to-the-metal for the turn leading to Dunlop-Kehre. Once again we were hard on the brakes and the car didn’t misbehave. Schumacher-S is a series of 2 turns which F1 cars can take almost flat out. Road cars have to lift off the throttle to not to spin out.

However, we were able to take the corner in 4th gear without even lifting off the pedal, except for the entry, otherwise there’s a chance that you go wide. Warsteiner was a breeze and then we were headed to the fastest section of the track, the ADVAN Arch, at the end of which lied the toughest test for the car, the NGK chicane. And yet again, the stability under braking and cornering caught us by surprise. We shifted into 2nd to take the Coca-Cola bend and were on 100% power halfway through it, and no, the car didn’t spin out, obviously.

Flaws of a car can’t be highlighted unless it is pitted against a few competitors and lap times are compared. So we filled the grid with the M3 E92 (the previous generation of the M3), the Z4 and the 1M. And guess what? We were able to keep pace with the 21st century line-up. And soon, the actual good and bad bits of the E30 showed up.

Firstly, the E30 has the cornering capability far greater than what any Beemer of today can provide. Secondly, stopping ability and stability of the E30 is mesmerizing even by today’s standards. And thirdly, the E30’s straight-line speed is not too spectacular. The competition would catch up on every straight, and pass us, and then it was upon to us to use their draft and out-brake them and hog the inside lane towards the corner. We would lead all the way from Mercedes Arena to Schumacher-S, creating a good gap. However, at Advan, we would be overtaken and would have to wait till Yokohama and Mercedes Arena to catch-up and overtake.
Even though we finished at P1, it was clear to us that our tactics, more intelligent than that of the AI and our aggressive driving is what kept us alive in the race. We were just 0.5s ahead of second place when we crossed the line and the other E30 that was in the race was behind by a good 20 second margin.

We also drove the Z4, the M3 E92 and the 1M subsequently, but expect them to appear in future articles. What we can tell you right now is that the E30 cornered better and was better at killing the momentum it carried, and even though it wasn’t fast in a straight line, it was fast nevertheless. And its stability and balance is something that BMW secretly strives to attain in every new car that it introduces, we are sure. What do you think of the M3 E30? Let us know in the comments.

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