The 320is was a model built exclusively for the Portuguese and Italian market. It uses a 325i shell with a drivetrain powered by a 2.0 litre S14 engine from the E30 M3.
What BMW did was essentially taking the brilliant S14 engine from the legendary E30 M3, which displaced 2.3 liters, and de-stroked it down to 2.0 liters (1990cc to be exact). Aside from the shorter stroke, the two engines were identical, which meant they both had the same M10-derived block with the same M88-derived cylinder head and four valves per cylinder. The smaller 2.0 liter engine also had the same individual throttle bodies as the larger 2.3 liter engine.
The S14 engine fitted to the 320is has an identical appearance to the unit found in the E30 M3 and thus shares the "BMW M Power" inscription on its cam cover. The only difference was in power, as the smaller 2.0 liter engine made 192 hp compared to the M3 2.3 liter’s 200 hp. Not a significant drop off in power at all and the higher compression ratio and shorter stroke seems to make the car rev even sweeter.
Mated to that modified 2.0 liter S14 engine is the same five-speed dogleg manual transmission as the E30 M3 and a shorter 3.46:1 rear axle ratio with a 25% limited slip diff, also from the M3.
The 320is has the standard E30 body, without the fender flares of the M3. Four door models have standard exterior, no M-Technic bodykit, Shadowline (de-chroming) and body-coloured bumpers, mirrors and spoilers. The interior is fitted with front sport seats, an M-Technic steering wheel, electric windows and the same dash cluster as the E30 M3, but without the red needles. An oil temperature gauge is integrated in the rev counter.
BACKGROUND AND HISTORY:
By the mid-Eighties, the E30 was firmly established within BMW's line-up, but in some markets the top end models weren't selling as well as anticipated. Specifically, Portugal and Italy had crippling taxes on cars over 2000cc, which meant BMW lost its competitive edge to smaller, sportier sedans such as the Alfa Romeo.
Following the example set by Ferrari with the 208s, BMW’s E30 M3 just fell afoul of the tax rules with its 2.3 – 2.5 litre engine so the 320is was born. BMW lashed together parts from the two sporty E30s, mating a de-stroked version of the M3’s S14 engine, the 320is’ capacity came in at 1,990 cc with power only slightly down at 192 bhp, aided by a higher compression ratio than the M3. The 320iS use the standard 325i shell, complete with that model's stiffer suspension. The package was topped off with ABS and power steering to create an E30 uniquely for those market.In addition to the engine, the M3’s Getrag 265 5-speed gearbox was used along with a limited-slip differential with a shorter ratio than its more famous cousin.
In true ‘Q car’ fashion, the flared wheel arches of the M3 were left off. Further features included ‘Sportfahrwerk’ suspension and various subtle details such as an M3 instrument cluster without the red needles or M-division logo. Despite BMW’s intentions, only 2540 two-door and 1205 four-door examples left the factory at Regensberg making the 320is one of the rarest BMWs of the era. Because of this, the 320iS is an increasingly collectible car.
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