BMW started their all-wheel-drive journey more than 35 years ago, with the introduction of the 325i “Allrad” in 1985.
An extensively-upgraded and modern version of this original AWD system is found in one out of every three vehicles that the company sells today, according to BMW.
This success does not come from their luxury SUVs alone, however, and an intelligent xDrive system can be found in every model stretching from the 1-Series to the 7-Series.
It is constantly being improved and refined, and is even offered alongside a hybrid drivetrain – as well as on a front-wheel-drive based platform.
None of this would have been possible without the original “Allrad”.
Rear wheels first
The BMW 325i Allrad was unveiled at the 1985 Frankfurt International Motor Show as the first all-wheel-drive vehicle from the German company.
From the outside, the Allrad sported the same body as a rear-wheel-drive 3-Series, bar some AWD nomenclature.
It had two doors, the signature kidney grille, and it conformed to the styling trend of the time which consisted of long and straight edges with black protective strips on the front and rear bumpers.
Below the bodywork, however, is where the 325i Allrad shined.
The visionary all-wheel-drive system was built on the rear-wheel bias of BMW and ensured that more power was sent to the back rather than the front.
The ratio was tuned to send 63% of power to the rear axle in order to ensure dynamic handling characteristics and a decrease in torque steer compared to the standard variants.
If a difference in wheel speeds was to be picked up, an intelligent rear differential was capable of providing an almost completely rigid connection with the front wheels to get the vehicle under control.
An impressive engine was then needed to showcase the revolutionary car, and BMW looked tow their M20 motor to get the job done.
The engine was in straight 6 and had a 2.5-litre displacement.
It also featured in other 3-Series and 5-Series models of the 80s, but was fitted to the Allrad and tuned to produce 125kW of power and 222Nm of torque.
This not only served to give this special car its standout handling and off-road capabilities, but also gave it a segment-leading 0-100km/h time of just under 10 seconds.
The combination of these impressive capabilities led to the Allrad retaining the excellent handling that the E30 generation was known for, and ensured it a spot in the top ranks of the all-wheel-drive cars of the 80s – which included the Audi Quattro range.
A rare Bavarian beauty
Finding a well kept BMW E30 in 2021 is difficult.
Finding an E30 325iX in 2021 is almost impossible.
The Allrad was a high-end model at the time and only enjoyed a handful of years on the market.
It was marked by the “iX” badge at the rear, a slight increase in height and track width, and subtle fender flares which signaled that this 3-Series had an ace up its sleeve.
For the first four years it only came in a 2-door body style, and in 1988 a 4-door version was added along with a touring spec.
The latter extended the roofline of the car all the way to the back bumper and was even more rare due to it being reserved for European markets.
Sticking to the rarity theme, BMW made the decision that the imposing US market would only receive under 3,000 Allrads, and each and every one will only have two doors.