Road test BMW 318i E30. There are all sorts of detail changes to the new 3-Series E30 but the heart of the 318i is a new four-cylinder engine. Capable handling, extremely comfortable interior and superb build quality now add up to a package that’s hard to beat.

A BMW doesn’t feel quite right without a full set of options. Or perhaps Autocar has been spoiled by the extras normally fitted to UK BMWs. Whatever the reason, a basic 318i on the German launch felt unremarkable, even though the engine was very good indeed. After a week with a fully-equipped UK example, we were much more impressed.

There are all sorts of detail changes to the new 3-Series BMWs, but the heart of the 318i is a new four-cylinder engine. With 115bhp instead of 105 and more torque throughout the range.it gives the BMW an extra 8mph at the top end and knocks a second and a half off the 0-60mph time.

 

In truth, the M10 four-cylinder engine was overdue for replacement, its origins dating back to the ’60s although it still forms the basis for the M3 E30 and BMW’s F1 engines. At 84 mm x 81 mm bore and  stroke the M40 is less oversquare (the 318i engine was 89 mm x 71 mm) allowing the bore centres to be closer together.

1987 BMW 318i E30


PRICE £77,095

TOP SPEED 115mph

0-60mph 9.3secs

MPG 27.4

FOR Performance, ergonomics, build quality

AGAINST Steering


The 84mm bore is the same as the M70 V12 engine in the 750i E32 so the 318i shares its cylinder head design. Combustion chamber shape, the 14 degree valve included angle and spark plug position in the aluminium alloy head are identical, although the exhaust valves are 1mm larger in the 318. Both engines share belt-driven overhead camshafts with rocker arm valve actuation via hydraulic tappets. Long conrods allowed BMW to use short skirt, lightweight pistons, with the combustion chamber partially in-crown.'

Bosch’s Motronic engine management system has replaced the L-Jetronic fuel injection on the old E30 318i, again similar to the 7-Series E32 system and operating the fuel injectors in pairs rather than together. To cut fuel consumption during warm-up, the new engine uses less coolant: BMW claims a 15 per cent reduction in fuel used while the engine is reaching running temperature. The new engines also need much less maintenance — which will be welcomed by anyone familiar with BMW service bills — since the valve clearances, ignition and fuel injection systems are now maintenance-free.

All this careful design has produced a 1795cc engine developing 115bhp at 5500rpm, compared with 105bhp at 5800rpm for the old unit. Its compression ratio of 8.8 to 1 allows it to run on unleaded or regular fuel, and torque is up from 107lb ft at 4500rpm to 122lb ft at 4250rpm. This might sound like the recipe for a peaky engine, but in fact 90 per cent of peak torque is available all the way from 2200rpm to 5500rpm.

Brake cooling ducts are incorporated in new frontspoiler

Apart from the M40 engine, the 318i gets the same detail improvements as the rest of the 3-Series: impact absorbing bumpers, a new front spoiler with brake cooling ducts and a new rear spoiler tidy up the exterior, together with larger rear light clusters and a good deal less chrome trim.

A variable ratio rack is fitted to lessen steering effort on full lock, and the 318i gets larger section 195/65 HR 14 tyres. Dipped beam lamps now use the ellipsoid technology pioneered on the 7-Series E32.

Inside a cassette rack and new cloth trim are the only changes. The UK 318i has green tinted glass, central locking and electric mirrors as standard.

BMW’s five-speed gearbox has the same internal ratios as before, but the final drive ratio has been raised from 3.64:1 to 4.1:1. Together with the improved power and torque of the M40 engine, this has transformed the performance of the 318i. The 115mph top speed is achieved in fifth with the engine spinning over smack-on its 5500rpm power peak. The old model would do an identical 107mph in fourth and fifth.

Larger rear light clusters and a new rear spoiler tidy up appearance. Much of the previous chrome trim has been removed.

Inside, a cassette rack and new cloth trim are the only changes. Owners can still revel in BMW's 'driving environment': clear dash, good seats.

Sixty mph now comes up in 9.3secs, a full 1.6 secs quicker than before, while 100mph is reached in 31.9 secs against 45.1. Acceleration in the gears is similarly improved, 50-70mph for example now taking 6.5 secs in third gear compared with 8.3secs. With rear wheel drive, getting the BMW off the line provides no problems — just ease the clutch out quickly with 3700rpm on the clock and the 318i sprints to 30mph in a very creditable 3.0 secs. This performance hasn’t come at the expense of fuel consumption either — we managed an average of 27.4mpg, giving a range of well over 300 miles from the 12.1-gallon tank.

Although the front disc/rear drum braking system is carried through from the old 318i, the friction material is an asbestos-free blend. ABS is not fitted, but pedal weighting is sufficient to prevent panic locking of the wheels in the dry. We managed a best of 1.1g for 50lb pedal load and the brakes proved reasonably free of fade.

Quite rightly, BMW has an enviable reputation for creating a ‘driving environment’. Instruments are clear and well placed, as are the switch gear and minor controls, although the value of the economy meter in the lower half of the tachometer is questionable. The seats are well-shaped, supportive. Apart from the normal slide and backrest tilt adjustments, you can alter the height on a curved track. With the optional manual sunroof, taller drivers will need the lowest position to get enough head and legroom.

As well as the sunroof, our car had optional alloy wheels, electric windows, heated mirrors and door lock, and power steering — a total premium of more than £2000. The power steering is a substantial improvement, giving low gearing at four turns lock to lock but the manual version’s extra 0.8 turn is the wrong side of manageable.

The steering is pleasantly weighted with good feel and excellent straight-line stability. On faster comers the 318i is a satisfying car to drive, remaining neutral until the onset of slight under- steer near the limit. With the relatively modest power output of the 1.8-litre engine there is no trace of the tail happiness attributed to the semi-trailing arm rear suspension on more powerful models, even if the throttle is lifted in mid-corner.

The mid-range punch of the engine comes into its own on twisty roads, the 1987 318i E30 needing less downshifting to keep it on the boil than its rather peaky predecessor. You don’t need to approach the 6000rpm red zone, and indeed the rev limiter cuts in 100rpm below the 6400 absolute red line. The engine still feels and sounds like a four-cylinder, lacking the silken power delivery and delicious noise of the six-cylinder models, but there is no real roughness to the power delivery — a weighty flywheel that can be felt on gearchanges can take some of the credit for that.


MODEL - BMW 318i E30 2-DOOR

PRODUCED BY: BMW AG, Munich, West Germany.

SOLD IN THE UK BY: BMW (GB) Limited, Ellesfield Avenue, Bracknell, Berkshire


SPECIFICATION

ENGINE

Longways, front, rear-wheel drive. Head/block al. alloy/cast iron. 4 cylinders in line, bored block, 5 main bearings. Water cooled, viscous fen.

Bore 84mm (3.31 in), stroke 81 mm (3.19in), capacity 1795cc (109 cu in).

Valve gear ohc, 2 valves per cylinder, toothed belt camshaft drive.

Compression ratio 8.8 to 1. Electronic breakerless ignition, Bosch Motronic fuel injection and management system.

Max power 115bhp (PS-DIN) (85kW ISO) at 5500rpm.

Max torque 122lb ft (165Nm) at 4250rpm.


TRANSMISSION

5-speed manual, single dry plate clutch.

Gear Ratio mph/1000rpm

Top

0.81

20.8

4th

1.00

16.8

3rd

1.32

12.7

2nd

2.02

8.3

1st

3.72

4.5

Final drive: hypoid bevel, ratio 4.1

 


SUSPENSION

Front: independent, MacPherson strut, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar.

Rear: independent, semi-trailing arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar.


STEERING

Rack and pinion. Optional power assistance. Steering wheel diameter 15.0in,4 tums lock to lock.

BRAKES

Dual circuits, split front/rear. Front 10.2in (260mm) dia discs. Rear 9.0in (228mm) dia drums. Vacuum servo. Parking brake, centre lever acting on rear drums.

WHEELS

Pressed steel, 6in rims. Radial ply tyres (Pirelli P6), size 195/65 HR14, pressures F26 R27 psi (normal driving).

EQUIPMENT

Battery 12V, 44Ah. Alternator 80A. Headlamps 110/120W. 2-speed plus intermittent and flick wipe screen wipers. Water valve heater; air conditioning extra. Cloth seats, vinyl headlining. Carpet floor covering. Scissor jack; 2 jacking points each side.


PERFORMANCE              

MAXIMUM SPEEDS

Gear

mph

kmh

rpm

Top

Mean

115 185 5500

Best

116 187 5600

4th

106

171

6300

3rd

80

129

6300

2nd

52

84

6300

1st

28

45

6300

ACCELERATION FROM REST

True

Time

Speedo

 

mph

(secs)

mph

 

30

3.0

32

 

40

4.6

43

 

50

6.6

54

 

60

9.3

64

 

70

12.4

75

 

80

16.9

85

 

90

22.4

95

 

100

31.9

105

 

 

Standing 1/4-mile: 16.9secs,79mph

Standing km: 31.8sec, 98mph

 

ACCELERATION IN EACH GEAR

mph

Top

4th

3rd

2nd

10-30

-

9.2

6.6

4.0

20-40

11.4

8.2

6.0

3.7

30-50

10.8

7.8

5.9

4.0

40-60

11.5

8.1

6.0

-

50-70

12.7

8.4

6.5

-

60-80

13.8

9.0

-

-

70-90

16.3

10.9

-

-

80-100

17.3

-

-

 

FUEL CONSUMPTION

Overall mpg: 27.4 (10.3 litres/100km) 6.0mpl

Autocar formula:

Hard24.7mpg

Driving  Average 30.1 mpg and conditions 

Gentle 35.6mpg

Grade of fuel: Regular, 2-star (91 RM) or unleaded (95 RM)

Fuel tank: 12.1 Imp galls (55 litres)

Mileage recorder: 1.5 per cent long

Oil: (SAE 15W/50) negligible


 

BRAKING Fade (from 79mph in neutral)

          

Pedal load for 0.5g stops in lb

start/end

start/end

1

20-15

6

30-25

2

25-18

7

35-25

3

25-22

8

30-32

4

25-22

9

35-30

5

28-25

10

35-33

Response (from 30mph in neutral)

Load

g

Distance

10lb

0.15

201ft

20lb

0.45

67ft

30lb

0.80

38ft

40lb

0.96

31ft

50lb

1.10

27ft

Parking brake

0.35

86ft


 

Max gradient: 1 in 3

CLUTCH Pedal 25lb; Travel 5.5in


WEIGHT

Kerb 2390lb/1085kg (Distribution F/R, 54/46)

Test 2786lb/1265kg

Max payload 991lb/450kg

Max towing weight 1200lb/500kg

Tyre-each (typical) £102.41

Windscreen

Headlamp unit

Front wing

Rear bumper


WARRANTY

12 months/unlimited mileage, 6-years anti-corrosion

Automatic

£680.00

Economygauge

Limited slip differential

£354.00

Tachometer

Self-levelling suspension

N/A

Steering rake adjustment

N/A

Tripcomputer

N/A

Head restraints F/R

•/£100.00

Heated seats

£217.00

Height adjustment

Split rear seats

N/A

Door mirror remote control

•/•

Sunroof(electric)

£665.00

Tinted glass

Frontfoglamps

£133.00

Headlamp wash,-wipe

£277.00

Тai Ig ate wa sh/wi pe

N/A

Central locking

Anti-lock brakes

£1172.00

Internal boot/tailgate release

N/A

Metallicpaint

£336.00

Airconditioning

£1197.00

Radio/cassette

DO

Aerial

DO

Speakers

DO

 

EQUIPMENT

• - Standard

N/A - Not available

DO - Dealer option


TEST CONDITIONS

Wind: 2-7mph

Temperature:  7deg C(45deg F)

Barometer:  30.0inHg (1015mbar)

Humidity: 85 per cent

Surface: dry asphalt and concrete

Test distance: 735miles


Figures taken at 1360 miles at the Motor Industry Research Association proving ground at Nuneaton and the General Motors proving ground at Millbrook. All Drive-My test results are subject to world copyright and may not be repro­duced in whole or part without the Editor's written permission