Production for the 1984 325e starts in December 1983 and the first models arrive at U.S. dealers in early 1984. The 325e is positioned as the top-of-the-line 3-series with the 4-cylinder 318i marketed as the base model. Available only as a 2-door coupe, it is well-equipped with standard cloth or leatherette sport seats, Service Interval indicator, On-Board Computer, Active Check Control, Alpine 4-speaker stereo system with power antenna, power sunroof, power windows, power mirrors, central locking, cruise control, air conditioning, 3-spoke leather sport steering wheel, leather shift knob, bumper-mounted foglights, and trunk mounted toolkit. It is powered by the M20 SOHC 2.7 liter inline-6 engine with 121 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque and coupled to a 5-speed Getrag 260 manual transmission and 2.79:1 differential.
Individual options are limited to an automatic transmission, leather seats, metallic paint, and a limited slip differential.
The 4-door 325e and 318i are introduced. The ECU receives a minor revision from an 0-261-200-021 to an 0-261-200-027 unit that has a detachable chip, though it still remains a Motronic 1.0 system.
The 318i is dropped, making 1986 the first time the 3-series is not available with a 4-cylinder engine. BMW reshuffles the lineup with three different versions of the eta: 325, 325e, and 325es. All models have identical and unchanged 121 horsepower, 2.7 liter inline-6 engines.
The 325 is positioned as the base model, officially replacing the 318i. It is available as a 2-door coupe and 4-door sedan and comes standard with manual sunroof, leatherette or cloth seats, 4-spoke steering wheel, 6-button clock, and 4-speaker stereo, along with air conditioning, power windows, power mirrors, power antenna, and central locking.
The 325e is now positioned as the luxury model and is only available as a 4-door sedan. Called “325e Luxus” in marketing materials to differentiate from the 325, it is fully equipped with the same features as the 1985 325e 4-door but now adds leather, premium 8-speaker sound system, rear headrests, and center rear armrest, though sport seats are no longer available.
The 325es makes its debut as the sport model and is only available as a 2-door coupe. Standard equipment includes a front airdam with integrated foglights, rear decklid spoiler, larger grille air inlet, sport suspension with twin-tube gas shocks, limited slip differential, sport seats (in either cloth or leatherette), M-Technic 3-spoke steering wheel, on-board computer, premium 8-speaker sound system, power sunroof, and cruise control.
ABS is now standard on all models, indicated with an ABS sticker on the instrument cluster, as is a center high mounted stop lamp (CHMSL) mounted on the rear shelf.
Metallic paint and automatic transmission is optional for the 325, 325e, and 325es. A limited slip differential is optional on the 325 and 325e.
Interior changes for the 1986 model year include an updated instrument cluster with a coding chip (for cars built after 1/86) and a different speedometer layout, plastic front kickpanels instead of carpeting, higher front seat rails, revised rear shelf with center lock for the middle lapbelt, black seat belt buckles with holders, and revised sunvisor clips. Exterior changes include revised sidemarkers that are rectangular instead of square and a revised front valance that deletes the brake cooling ducts.
Mechanically, a 2.93:1 differential ratio is now used in place of the 2.79:1, the airbox is redesigned, various fuel silencers in the engine bay are removed, and the fusebox has a revised circular C101 connection.
Twin-tube gas shocks used on the 325es are now standard on the 325 and 325e. Mid-year, the 325e is replaced by the 325i while the sporty 325es is succeeded by the 325is. Both the 325i and 325is use a higher revving, 2.5 liter variant of the M20 SOHC inline-6 that produces 167 horsepower and 164 lb-ft of torque.
The 325, still with the 2.7 liter eta engine, continues on as the base model.
In order to meet federal emissions standards in its final year of production, the 1988 325’s eta engine is revised with a 325i cylinder head, exhaust system, and Motronic 1.1 engine management control with self-diagnostic capabilities. To accommodate the 325i’s cylinder head, the pistons are revised with a slightly lower 8.8:1 compression ratio, a larger intake manifold is fitted, and the valve cover is updated. This variant of the eta engine is often called the “Super Eta”, as these changes bump the eta’s power rating from 121 to 127 horsepower and allows for a higher 5400 RPM redline. Additional revisions are made to the oil dipstick, fuel cap, cooling system (shifting the expansion tank to the driver side), and the fuel tank is enlarged to 16.5 gallons.
All 1988 E30s receive a cosmetic upgrade that include shorter aluminum bumpers that met the lower federal 2.5 mph bumper standards, revised front valance with integrated foglights, a lower rear apron, larger rear taillights with horizontally mounted reverse lights, and a lower rear fender line.
Numerous subtle changes are made to the interior, including a redesigned window regulator after 2/88, leading to the elimination of the power window override provision in the door. The external stereo fader switch disappears, the hazard switch is revised and swaps positions with the defrost switch, and the power window circuit breaker is moved onto the center console. The instrument cluster warning lights are revised with slightly larger lettering and “BRAKE FLUID” replacing “BRAKE”. On the rear shelf, the center high mounted stop lamp (CHMSL) becomes sleeker. The door panels are also revised with the horizontal ribbing replaced by a smoother design.
The 325 is cancelled and replaced by the 325i as the base model in the E30 lineup, marking the official end of the eta era.