If you own an automatic E30 BMW, this is probably not news for you, since you probably love your car very much. BUT! If you've never driven an automatic BMW, this may surprise you; it doesn't suck! At all!
A CCC member just picked one of the mintiest base E30s I've seen since, well, the early 90s. It's got about 112k miles and might just be the best documented E30 ever in terms of service history. In the trunk is a box of books with meticulously organized receipts and records going back to 1990 when it was first sold, including the window sticker.
This little box of a BMW cost some $27,000 when new, which according to an inflation calculator, would be the equivalent of $46,700 in 2012. That's a lot of money, although a 2012 BMW 335i coupe MSRP'd for $45,000. So what I'm saying is this E30 is more expensive than an E92 335i; none of this makes sense.
The real surprise is the automatic transmission. I walked into the garage and saw this E30 coupe and was immediately intrigued. I started checking it out, and was severely dismayed to see the automatic gear selector. The owner saw the distress on my face and insisted I take it for a spin, telling me how smooth and intuitive it is. A 24 year old 4-speed automatic? Smooth?! PSH!
I soon realized how wrong I was. The gearbox is indeed smooth like butter. It doesn't clunk into gear on upshifts, or idle strangely fast. It kicks down, I daresay, more intuitively than a 2012 Mercedes S550 I drove a few weeks ago. And by more intuitively, I mean the E30 seemed to respond to my inputs in a sportier nature, which of course, is not what the S-Class is tuned for. Anyway, tangent aside, the gearbox was really surprisingly good.
The suspension felt tight with no creaks or loud thuds. The steering, while I wouldn't call it tight, was precise and gave good feel to the truck sized steering wheel. The owner has possessed a great many cars in the past; everything from Mitsubishi Evo race cars to VW Beetles, but he swears this E30 is one of the best.
I'll disagree until he takes off the ///M plate frame. Then it'll be just about perfect. I also asked the owner much he wanted for it, he said his emotional attachment is worth far more than anyone would be willing to pay; but make an offer.