Tag Archives: Evo III

First ride E30 M3: Superb handling, engine and classic BMW styling

3 May

By Matt McCarron

What do you get when you take an E30 M3 in pristine condition, add a list of modifications as long as the Great Wall of China, some windy back roads and an experienced driver? A memorable experience, that’s what.

When GermanAutoNews was offered the chance to take a ride in an E30 M3, it didn’t take much time to come up with a decision. After all, this is the E30 M3 we’re taking about, a car synonymous with the S14, a high-revving inline four-cylinder that loves to be pushed above 3,000 rpm, and impeccable handling thanks in part to the vehicle’s 52 to 48 weight distribution. However, this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill E30 M3. In fact it’s about as far from the stock North American spec E30 M3 as it could possibly get.

1991 BMW E30 M3

This special E30 M3 was built by Turner Motorsport of Amesbury, Mass. To make this M3 stand out from the pack Turner went all-in with just about every option or upgrade available including a 2.5-liter stroker kit, stage 3 ported/polished head, Evo 3 throttle bodies, Evo 2 camshaft, B&B Triflow muffler, heavy duty clutch, lightweight flywheel, coilover suspension and a whole host of other improvements.

All of these improvements were evident as the M3 rounded the corner of Haigis Mall at UMass Amherst. The vehicle’s exhaust gave off a subtle yet undeniable drone as it made its way toward our camera, and the suspension could be seen trying to keep up with the never-ending bumps and dips that are much too prevalent around the UMass campus. The final component to be experienced before even entering the vehicle was the award-winning sound system, featuring two Focal 27VX 11″ subwoofers,  165EX 3-way and 136EX 2-way speakers and Precision Power 4400 and 2600 amplifiers.

As the ride began we hoped the owner and driver of the M3 would drive the car like it was supposed to be driven. And it didn’t take long to figured out the owner wasn’t intent on leisurely driving around town, all the while being careful to stay under 3,000 rpms and stay at the recommended speed limit.

Actually, from the moment we left the first stoplight it was apparent this was going to be a fun ride. So we fastened our seat belt and away we went. The 2.5-liter S14 screamed with ever-growing intensity as it roared towards redline, while the heavy duty clutch gave the ride a sudden and attention-grabbing snap as it ripped into the next gear. Both upshifts and downshifts came quickly, maybe even somewhat harshly, courtesy of the five-speed Dogleg transmission and upgraded drivetrain.

2.5-liter S14 with Evo II valve and intake cover paint design

The stiff and tight suspension, featuring coilovers along with upgraded camber plates, control arms, strut braces and sway bars made taking corners at high speeds a thing of beauty. There was practically no bending and no nose-diving whatsoever when carving through a corner. The 52 to 48 front to rear weight distribution really showed its worth on the back roads, allowing little to no understeer or oversteer.

As we made our way back toward the campus we really showed the under-appreciated power of the 2.5-liter S14. In today’s high-end, high-performance car industry, where more and more vehicles are approaching or eclipsing 500 horsepower, the 270 provided in this M3 might seem like a pathetic amount. I mean really, the Hyundai Sonata Turbo puts out 274 hp, but that doesn’t matter. The Sonata might have more horsepower, but the S14 delivers all 270 horses to the driver in an unforgettable crescendo of noise and emotion. The S14 screams and howls in ways modern engines just can’t match. In a world where naturally aspirated engines are increasingly being discontinued in favor of forced induction units, the S14 stands alone as one of the truly great naturally aspirated four-cylinder engines of all time.

Our ride in the E30 M3 showed us something. It isn’t the most powerful, quickest or most eye-catching vehicle we have been in. However, when push comes to shove it just might be the best. It combines a raw, un-computerized experience, something that is becoming harder and harder to find in today modern vehicles, and something we will not soon forget.

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