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Immaculate AWD: 1989 BMW 325iX

All-wheel drive used to be a much more exotic offering on automobiles sold in the U.S., registering as a mere blip across most models sold in the middle 80s. Fast forward a bit and that has all changed, with all-wheel drive configurations dominating across multiple vehicle segments. Perhaps that’s why older vehicles sporting AWD systems seem more exotic than they really are, simply owing to the scarcity and fairly low take rate of such models when new. That’s why this 1989 BMW 325is listed here on eBay is such an intriguing find, as it was sold new in Tennessee and has lived there ever since – not exactly the snow capital of the U.S.

Given the merits of all-wheel drive weren’t necessarily widely-embraced at the time, especially in states where it didn’t snow all that much, I wonder what compelled the first owner to buy this car, which had to be knocking up against the M3 when all the options were tallied up. This 325ix also sports the optional automatic transmission, which likely played a role in this E30 remaining as spotless as it still is. The 325ix is distinguished not only by its badges but also the larger 15-inch wheels and the flares added to the fenders. This particular 3-Series also wears desirable Zinnoberrot” paint over black leather.

Though you could order your AWD E30 with a 5-speed manual, many owners didn’t, again emphasizing that this car was likely purchased when new by someone who simply wanted the most gussied-up 3-Series they could get. The irony is that today, the later models with AWD aren’t nearly as coveted and certainly don’t have the same level of rarity associated with them as production of these all-weather friendly models has ramped up significantly. This E30 doesn’t have the sport package, but it does have heated seats. While the automatic may be a bummer, the E30 is one of the easiest models out there to perform a manual conversion to.

The M20 inline-six engine is a hearty motor, known for making good torque and being fairly long-lived. I have the same engine in my 1987 325is coupe with 151,000 miles on the clock and it’s been very dependable. You definitely want to change the timing belt out on a proactive basis, as these engines feature an interference design that will lead to catastrophic failure if not replaced in time. You’ll also want to make sure the IX-specific axles are in good shape, as replacement parts have become very hard to find. Overall, this is a very clean example of a loaded-up E30-chassis 3-Series, and bidding is super low at the moment with no reserve.


  1. alphasud Member

    Step one on how to make the ultimate driving machine just a looker. Equip the car with an automatic transmission. Other than a weight penalty I have not heard the X models suffer from poor chassis dynamics like the Porsche 964 model. Looks to be ordered by someone who wanted the BMW image but not how it drove. RWD cars are so fun to drive in the snow. Not by choice but I found myself having to drive my SL500 this winter and I live on top of a mountain and just having new all season tires I was amazed how well it does. I did get stuck 1/2 way up after a surprise wet snow event but that was because ESP took all the fun away. Turned off the ESP after backing down the hill and went full send mode or I should say drift mode. Fun times!

    Like 5
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      I used to dream about having a 325iX when I had a 318i and lived in snow country, which, sadly, I still do. I agree, alphasud, the automatic is a bummer, but for a dedicated and cheap winter car, even with the automatic, this would be hard to beat. I’m so tired of giant, hulking, angry SUVs everywhere. Jeff knows a thing or two about converting an automatic to a manual so that’s not just internet talk when he says that this one is very doable. This is a great find.

      Like 4
  2. Derek

    I’m not sure that we got AWD BMWs here. The 2.5 six is a crackin’ motor though; my favourite BMW that I’ve encountered is a 1985 525i. Having said that, the early 80s 323i was a fun car too.

    Like 1
  3. gyates

    Speaking as a Tennessean, it does indeed snow here… All of our household vehicles are 4×4. We aren’t the frozen north, but our most recent snowfall in January was 8″ and kept roads in very slick conditions for almost a week. The problem here is ice, We warm up just enough to melt some snow during the day, then the water becomes glaze ice overnight. Now onto the BMW, very cool car!

    Like 5
  4. jnard90 jnard90 Member

    Very cool find. Don’t think I’ve even seen an AWD E30. So common now, but l prefer RWD in my current G20. If I need 4×4 I just hop in my good old Toyota truck. Automatic is a bummer, but still a great vehicle at the current price.

    Like 0
  5. justpaul

    I had a 91 four door in silver and I can assure you that the automatic is not a deal breaker; it’s still plenty of fun to drive. Just stomp and steer. And unlike the current models, it’s a true AWD with no traction control, so it doesn’t cut power to the wheels when they start spinning; it just keeps clawing until it finds traction or you take your foot out of it. Amazing car in the snow even with just road tires on it, and the looks you get from people who don’t understand how that old E30 is hammering along while the 4WD trucks are sliding all over the place is a bonus.

    The wheels are different from any other E30 and they are not interchangeable, but these appear to be in good shape. Some of the drive parts are indeed scarce, and it carries all of the other standard BMW expenses when something goes wrong. On the other hand, it is a helluva driving machine, even with the slush box.

    If it was a two-door, or the wagon model, I’d have to consider a road trip to TN.

    Like 3

    If it had a manual and a 2 door I would be a player also. I have several BMW’s all manual including one ’02 with a converted 5 speed from automatic which was a dog. This car is just not the same without a 5 speed.
    justpaul mentioned that the wheels are different. On this car BMW chose to install 15″ wheels with a different offset and with the offset they had to install fender flares and this gave the car a different track for even better traction. Oh by the way these wheels are not the same as the E30 M3.
    Nave a good day and Good Luck,

    Like 2
  7. GlennC

    I had an red ’88 325is 2 door with a manual transmission that I bought new and had for 9 years and 240,000 miles before selling it. One of my all-time favorite cars. Very fun to drive car and I had very few issues with it.

    Like 0
  8. Claudio

    My aggressive montreal/ suburd driving would have this little beauty in pieces after the first snow storm , i will stick with my higher suv , still a nice car …

    Like 0

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