- Driving the 318is

This page tells a little bit about me and opinions of my car. I have tried to be as objective as possible - but it is hard when enthusiasm creates some bias!

Jump to: About me! - Performance - MOVIES - Handling - Braking - Living with a 318is - Costs

My Photo's

My 318is:

My previous 316:

About me!

Our Omega CD100Our old VectraOur old Vectra again

E:mail me at purcellb@hotmail.com! You can also get me at the the E30 Forum...

My name is Brendan Purcell. I am a professional Engineer (DipEng, BSc). I was born in 1969, am very happily married with two beautiful daughters (as you can see above my eldest likes BMW's too...) and one handsome son. I live in Ireland and have been a fan of German cars for many years, liking their engineering depth, durability and level-headed design. I have owned:

2 Opel Rekord E's 2.0S   1 Opel Ascona (Cavalier) 1.6D   1 BMW 316 E30  Vauxhall Cavalier (Opel Vectra) 1.7 turbo-diesel (see pics above)

I currently own:

  • BMW E30 318is
  • Opel Omega CD 2.0 16V (the family car)

I undertake all my own repairs and maintenance, having done most jobs possible for the weekend mechanic (i.e. everything from lube checks to engine rebuilds).

P.S. I love RWD.....


Main upgrades: Desired upgrades (I'm dreamin'):
  • Engine chip (from Superchips Ltd.)
  • Jetex drop-in panel air filter
  • EBC Greenstuff front and Pagid rear brake pads on Brembo (stock) discs
  • M-Tech front spoiler extension
  • BMW Sports Seats
  • Front foglights
  • M3 control arm bushes
  • Updated timing chain guides and tensioner
  • Bridgestone Potenza S03 Pole Positions 205/55/Z15
  • BBS 15x7" shadowline cross-spokes
  • Reduced front negative toe (15')
  • Thatcham alarmed, double immobilised, krooklocked, wheel locks, glass breakage detection, radar disturbance monitor
  • 4.10 LSD
  • H&R Sport springs
  • Bilstein Sprint dampers
  • Sports steering wheel and spacer
  • Xenon headlights
  • Stainless steel exhaust (probably Supersprint)
  • Strut brace (looking for a straight, non adjustable)
  • Better speakers (anything is better than the current junk)
  • Quicker steering rack (possibly a custom build?)

With just a free flow air filter my engine was dynoed at ~144 bhp. I then fitted a chip to increase the power above 160bhp (see the rolling road graph produced below) - but which I think is inaccurate. Note the transmission losses of ~20kW which are a little higher than expected (perhaps due rundown inaccuracies) - if a more normal 17% transmission loss is assumed then backcalculating would yield a more believable 154bhp.

Rolling road printout, before & after Calculated torque & power curves after superchip was fitted.

The engine seems potent after my previous 316, but I am sure 325i owners would prefer more low down torque. However, its tractability can be deceiving as it pulls quite well at low-revs. This is most notable when following another car. Pickup from a light throttle is excellent at any revs. Motorway cruising at 60-70 mph / 100 - 120 kph in fifth is reasonable, however being up to 1000rpm off its torque peak can make the car feel slow to respond, really requiring to drop down a cog or two.


Here some AVI movies taken from a track day in September 2003. If they don't work in Media Player, try Quicktime!:

Getting the corner all wrong! - 482kb Getting the corner right! 2 laps in car at Mondello Park

I have made two AVI videos showing the cars' acceleration, one showing the 0-60mph (just under 10 seconds) and 0-100mph (~27 seconds). These were made with the engine unchipped @~144bhp. These times are consistent with most other tests of the car, given my sub-optimum starts. They use DivX Codec 4 - click here to get updates.

A quick retest (at night though, so no video pics) with the Superchip installed has indicated that, with a good start, a run in the low-to-mid 8's is possible. Click here for the sound file link. Pause the file at the gear changes which were at 6500rpm. 2nd equates to slightly under 55mph in ~6.5 seconds and 3rd equates to ~83mph in ~12.5seconds (true values). I would approximate 60mph to come up in a little over 8 seconds.

I found the best acceleration (I don't dump the clutch) is to feed in the clutch quickly from around 2500 rpm. Any higher just causes wheelspin and puts another second on the 0-60 time.

Compared to my previous 316, the car is light-years ahead in every way, but is most impressive when overtaking - having greater mid-high range (3rd gear) punch coupled with high-rev power (which the 316 was poor at). I test drove three 320i's before buying the 318is and found them lame in comparison. They did not have the mid range torque at all and had to kept over 4500rpm just to make decent progress. They did sound delicious though...

Although I have never had the pleasure of driving a 325i, I believe that their additional midrange horsepower provides excellent all-round grunt, the increased capacity compensating for the six cylinders' inherently poor low-speed torque.


My 318iS has no power steering but runs 205/55/15's and the standard M-Tech suspension. Parking is very difficult. Furthermore, the suspension has quite a bit of negative camber, so that the tyre partially contacts the road in the straight ahead position but squares out under load. This means that the steering is light within the first 90 degrees of steering wheel movement but loads up thereafter. Tight roundabouts are tricky as the car turns in quickly and easily (but understeers if it is slippy) but further lock requires extra effort. However, as speeds build >40mph the steering balances out.

Comparing this to a 318i with P/S, I found my set up to be much more difficult to use at lower speeds but the rewards were greater in terms of feel and "chuckability". The 318iS was made for speed not for the commuter or car park!

Small changes in direction are simple and fluid with high force cornering providing oodles of feedback and easy adjustment of attitude. If the back starts to loose grip, removing the lock slightly re-settles the car.

Most impressively, is the ability to steer the car on the throttle in medium and high speed bends. This is where the real challenge is. The car must be cornered with a small amount of accelerator - and this is not always natural. If the throttle is closed suddenly, the car will suffer lift-off oversteer as load is transferred forward from the back axle. Too much throttle causes the front of the car to drift wide. Just rolling around the corner shows understeer to be a primary characteristic.

As with many RWD sports cars, the trick in driving is slow in (to load the front tyres and kill initial understeer) followed by a smooth reapplication of power as the car settles - the accelerator can then be used to transfer load front or back to steer the car. 2nd gear cornering can cause wheelspin & oversteer but 3rd doesn't have the torque - you can pick the gear depending on driving conditions and mood! Braking and cornering is not a good idea, as it risks causing understeer (too much load on front suspension) and oversteer (not enough load on the rear) - although a little trail braking at 9/10's of the limit is not a problem.

The steering ratio is too high, with my manual rack taking well over 4 turns lock to lock. At higher speeds this is not a problem but in town a lot of arm twirling is needed. The power steering models have a marginally faster lock but additionally loose some feel.

These comments generally echo's the motoring press reviews (at the time) - especially criticising heavier front end P/S 6 cylinder models for a lack of feel v's balance. The 320i's I test drove seemed ponderous on turn in and looser at the back, which is probably due to the heavier 6 cylinder and lack of M-Tech suspension.

Tyres also have a big effect - particularily in the wet. I am currently running Bridgestone Potenza S02 Pole Position's. They have a slightly smaller contact patch but incredible grip in the wet. Given that they are about 25% dearer than a conventional sports tyre, I guess that is to be expected - but still good value.


The 318is is one of the few E30 models with rear discs. Compared with the drums fitted to other E30's I have driven, they are a noticeable improvement.

The initial bite can be a bit vague until a back-pressure is established but then brake progression is good. Accurate feedback allows the point of locking to judged quite well, this equating to a proportionally high pedal pressure. The right-hand drive cars use a pushrod from the pedal, across the rear of the bulkhead into the master cylinder which causes up to 25mm free play in the pedal which can be disconcerting at first (even though a backlash spring is fitted).

The car can be braked lightly but can snatch under 10mph. I have never encountered serious fade (although I have never had the car on a track).

I have metallised Pagid pads on the car which give a firm pedal when warmed up.

Living with a 318is

I have ranted and raved about the car all over the site, but the 318is is a sports car and is not really suitable for commuting or long distances. Below I've listed some of its negative aspects:


  • Noisy at speed (wind, tyres and suspension)
  • Stiff suspension is jiggly most of the time and can jar at slow speeds. It improves as you go faster .
  • Sharp throttle responses make it hard to drive smoothly in town and hard to regulate speed in first gear. A lightish flywheel doesn't help when you are releasing the clutch either. The idle control system can suddenly kick in in combination with the fuel injectors restarting after a deceleration. This can cause the car to buck.
  • Mid speed 5th gear cruising has the engine running up to 1500rpm below its torque peak making it feel sluggish.
  • Gearbox can be notchy, especially when cold.
  • Hydraulic clutch is relatively heavy.
  • Steering (without P/S) is heavy below 10mph.
  • Non sports seats do not provide sufficient lumbar nor side support.
  • For those with long legs, adjusting the seat position for comfort means you are too far away from the steering wheel.
  • Driver feedback and turn-in requires constant attention making the car tiring over time.
  • 2nd and 3rd gear punch can have you over the speed limit without you realising. The car is difficult to drive slow under 40mph.
  • In the wet, the car can oversteer easily. Even driving respectably in town can give the driver big surprises if a rear wheel breaks traction (on paint, manholes, tar, cobbles...). Although easy to catch, the unexpecting or inexperienced driver could get into difficulties. A LSD should be standard.
  • Lift off oversteer is potentially dangerous if not considered when driving.
  • The balance of the car is such that it need conscientous consideration - it cannot be hacked around like other cars.


All prices in Euro

Parts - guideline prices :
Most parts I source are OEM, but I avoid paying dealers prices (local shop imports parts directly)

Typical DIY service = 50, Typical BMW service = 300 depending on replacement parts

  • Oil filter 7
  • Plugs 18
  • Clutch Master Cylinder 100
  • Clutch Slave Cylinder 45
  • Brake Master Cylinder 150
  • Front brake pads 25-85; Front discs, pair 70
  • Rear brake pads 30; Rear discs, pair 60
  • Pair of rear dampers 180
  • Front wishbone and balljoints 70 per side
  • Exhaust system 550
  • Tyres 200 per pair
  • Rear window 180
  • Timing chain tensioner 50
  • Sealed headlight unit 50
  • Inlet manifold gasket 15 each
  • Track rod ends complete, per side 90

Fuel consumption
I average about 32 mpg from a mixture of country road driving and town driving. I have a heavy right foot! This costs me about 35 per week as I try to keep the mileage around 300 miles per week. As of 2002, petrol costs ~0.86 per litre.
Fixed speed cruising can see consumption improve to over 40 mpg (At 65 mph the fuel consumption reads ~47mpg).

Road Tax
Being ridiculously high for "relatively" big engined cars (in Ireland anyway), I pay over 500 per year.

The car is classified as Group 13 (out of 20). Fully comprehensive insurance costs between 600 and 1200 for drivers over 30 with a full licence and reasonable no-claims bonuses.