Poor thing! This engine is BMW’s unappreciated black sheep. Not suited to American tastes. Not advised in anything with an automatic transmission attached. Not well suited to BMW’s sporting image. Compared to the inline sixes, it runs a little rough. It’s also conservative in output next to the Japanese competition. I’d expect the fanboi/stance/drift crowd to hate. R3vlimited is a seething pit of ignorance about the M42B18 (among many other things). But a lot of people that should know better still dislike the M42. Why?
I’ve been back and forth over this ground many times. I think it’s just plain ignorance. In my humble opinion, the M42 is a work of art. In the right place the M42 is a gem. Metric Mechanic will custom-build you a powerful 2100cc M42. BMW also gave the M42 their Motorsport treatment, developing the little-known S42 racing motor. Admittedly, I’m pretty biased…but you can trust me. I’m also an expert. I’ve owned a bunch of them. The M42 loves to rev. Having the motor mass sitting father back in the chassis allows the E30 to feel nearly as nimble as an ’02, while maintaining the E30’s far higher level of creature comfort. Torque is adequate, although not abundant. The other side of that formula is that it tends to be durable. It’s never been an especially quiet or smooth motor like the inline sixes, but you could say that about mostly any motor, BMW notwithstanding. Their inline-sixes are famously smooth. The shockingly expensive hydraulic mounts do help out substantially.
Don’t agree with me? That’s fine. Just try to find a cheap & clean E30 318iS or 318Ti Club Sport. They’re hard to find, I suspect these black sheep must be special to someone.