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Retro drive: BMW M3 Roberto Ravaglia Ltd edition (E30). Image by BMW.

Retro drive: BMW M3 Roberto Ravaglia Ltd edition (E30)
M is 40 years old, so BMW celebrates by letting us drive its prized E30 M3 up the Goodwood Festival of Speed hillclimb.

   



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| Retro Drive | Goodwood, England | BMW M3 Roberto Ravaglia (E30) |

Overall rating: 5 5 5 5 5

Times have changed, and judged purely by its on-paper performance the E30 BMW M3 could be a bit of a disappointment. In reality it's anything but, feeling more alive and exciting than anything of its ilk currently on sale today. The chance to drive such a legendary performance saloon up the Goodwood hill was one we jumped at both feet first.

Key Facts

Model tested: 1989 BMW M3 Roberto Ravaglia Ltd edition (E30)
Engine: 2.3-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-door saloon
Rivals: Mercedes-Benz 190E Cosworth
Combined economy: 31.4mpg
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
Power: 215hp
Weight: 1,200kg
Number produced: 505

In the Metal: 5 5 5 5 5

Even standing next to it puffing on a cigar, talking on a very large mobile phone while adjusting your red braces couldn't make this car shout any louder about its origins in the eighties. It's boxy, not conventionally beautiful, and rather under-wheeled by today's standards (16-inch cross spokes). But for a petrolhead it is the epitome of cool, the wide box arches and raised boot lid screaming about its performance potential.

The cabin shows its age the most though, with plastics more often associated with modern BMW ashtrays than its dash tops and an array of switches, knobs and levers more purposeful than pretty. It still showcases the driver-centric layout found in the modern cars though, and even the instruments look familiar. Deeply bolstered seats hold you tightly in place, while the thin A-pillars afford you a great view out as well.

Driving it: 5 5 5 5 5

A mechanical throttle counts for a lot. It doesn't matter how sophisticated the electronic system found in modern car is, it rarely matches a cable for response. And almost everything about this E30 M3 is mechanical; there are no safety aids to turn off, no double-clutch gearbox - hell this one doesn't even have a stereo.

And it feels all the better for it, every movement you make reacted to instantly by the car. The 'dogleg' five-speed manual gearbox requires a firm shove through the gate (remembering reverse is where first is in a conventional shift pattern) and the heavy steering constantly communicates the front wheels' trajectory.

On the start line of Goodwood's hill climb we decide not to attempt a smoky start (abusing this mint 23-year old example just seems sacrilegious) and simply launch with mild vigour. In the eighties this was a fast car; now it should merely be regarded as brisk, at least until around 4,000rpm where the acceleration ramps up its ferocity.

But the M3 was never really about straight-line speed. No, this car was about how it handled itself in the corners. And despite more roll than more modern examples, the E30 never feels anything less than sure-footed as we leave the first bend of the hill-climb behind. Even the brakes feel positive, and the car communicates for the duration of the course.

Behind the wheel of this car you feel involved, at the frontline of the action. There's no sense of detachment, like you're merely a passenger in a highly competent car. This is a model you have to drive, an assault on your senses (and not in a loud stripped out racer kind of way) that ensures you are fully aware of everything going on around, under and inside of it. In short, the perfect experience for those who enjoy the art of driving itself.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

At the time you got one of 25 Roberto Ravaglia editions officially imported into the UK - of which 505 were built worldwide - and they're all left-hand drive. Now you get one of the world's most iconic sports saloons, with racing pedigree and a clear case of financial appreciation. There's also a hand-crafted engine, wider track, bespoke front suspension set up, uprated brakes and that five-speed dogleg gearbox to differentiate it from any other E30 era 3 Series. If you want an E30 M3 now be prepared to splash out north of 20,000 for one as good as this.

Worth Noting

Over the course of its life there were 12 different E30 M3 models created, from the original 200hp 1986 model to the 230hp 2.5-litre M3 Evo 3 Sport Evolution. Created to homologate the firm's touring car models, set to do battle in the German DTM against the Mercedes-Benz 190E Cosworth, the M3 enjoyed considerable circuit success.

Summary

The word 'legendary' doesn't even come close to describing the E30 M3's standing in the world of automobiles. And even though our drive in this example was brief, it's clear that the position is entirely justified. It feels alive beneath you, constantly communicating and demanding that you take control and drive it. Which is exactly how a good sports saloon should be.


Graeme Lambert - 21 Mar 2012



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1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.

1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.    


1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.
 

1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.
 

1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.
 

1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.
 

1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.
 

1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.
 

1989 BMW M3 Ravaglia Limited Edition (E30). Image by BMW.
 






 

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