The M3 that started it all. Sold in the US from 1988 to 1991, the E30 M3 is one of the purest driver's cars ever sold.
A modern Honda Civic Si likely outperforms an E30 M3 in every measurable way, but the M3 returns the favor by beating the Si in every non-measurable way. And it obliterates just about everything else, too.
If you've ever heard someone use the term "driver's car," they're talking about an E30 M3. It's a car that's as comfortable on the track as it is on the street, a package that seduces despite a lack of overwhelming power or grip. Whether getting groceries or grabbing apexes, the M3 never stops communicating with the driver--from behind that blocky, three-spoked steering wheel, you receive a never-ending, near-addictive cocktail of chassis, engine, and tire feedback.
Driving an E30 M3, you'll feel little brake dive, pitch, or body roll, and yet the suspension soaks up even the biggest of bumps. You'll never tire of revving the 192-hp, 2.3-liter 16-valve four-cylinder to its 7200-rpm redline. You'll never tire of hearing it scream. In short, you'll never get sick of driving it.
As a testament to that, many M3 enthusiasts hang on to their E30-chassis cars for decades, using them as both daily drivers and track rats. They're reliable, comfortable, and long-lived--200,000 or more trouble-free miles out of the M3's S14B23 four-cylinder isn't unheard of--and despite the car's modest performance figures, not much can keep up with one when the road gets twisty. BMW used the M3's combination of talents effectively in international touring car racing as well; during the five years that the E30 M3 was in production, it won more touring car races than any car before or since.
While each successive generation of M3 has upped the performance bar, none is as keenly focused a tool or as inherently sastisfying to drive, and the market tends show it. The average E30 M3 is now worth more than an E36-chassis example in similar condition, and well-preserved examples of Munich's four-cylinder rocket still command more than two-thirds their original late-'80s MSRP.