First of all, before I get started with my review, there has already been an oppo review of the E90 M3. There have been dozens of other reviews, so there is no reason to redo some that has been done before. No, I plan to focus on what it’s actually like to live with, what it’s been like to maintain, and what it’s been like to drive after three years of ownership.
Before we get started on that, let’s talk about the about the actual car itself. My car is a 2011 model year with an October 2010 build date. It is finished in Space Grey Metallic over Black Novillo Leather, and has the following options:
- Metallic Paint - $550
- Convenience Package - $2,900
- Cold Weather Package - $1,000
- Premium Package 2 - $2,500
- Moonroof - $1,050
- Satellite Radio - $350
- Manual transmission - $Free.99
Add all those together, along with the base price of the car, $55,400, a destination charge, $875, and a gas guzzler tax, $1300, you get a car with an original MSRP of $65,925. That’s not exactly what I would call cheap. In fact, cheap is not a word that should be associated with this car.
Cost seems like the perfect place to start. Now that the E9X M3s are down into the 20s some of you maybe salivating over the prospect of owning the only M3 with a V8. Before you do this, you have to be ready for those repair bills.
We might as well get this one of out the way early, and we might as well start with the elephant in the room: throttle position actuators. The S65B40 is the screaming V8 that comes standard in all E9X M3s. It has 8 individual throttle bodies. Just look at those glorious throttle bodies:
Now, take note of what is in between the bank. For those of you who haven’t had your S65B40 go into limp mode, you might be unaware of what these these are. They are the throttle position actuators; the E9X M3 has an electronic throttle, much like pretty much every modern car, my 1997 Explorer had an electronic throttle. They take the input from the throttle position sensor and turn this signal into the motion of opening and closing the individual throttle bodies. Now this part contains plastic gears. These gears wear out. This causes your throttle bodies to not open and close correctly, which then puts your car into limp mode, much like this:
When this happens, you need a new throttle position actuator. You might be thinking, oh they can’t be that expensive. Well, there is no easy way to put this, they’re $1100, each. Just for the part, don’t forget labor. My first one failed at 24,833 miles and the second one at 36,116 miles.
While we’re on the subject of premature failures, apparently my thermostat had also gone bad. BMW of Tulsa fixed this when they took care of my first throttle position actuator. Luckily, that was only a $50 part.
Other than those two major hiccups, it’s been reliable. It reliably eats tires. I got a little over 24k on the original tires, Bridgestone Potenzas, and after only about 18k my Pilot Sport 2s are begging to be replaced. Fortunately, rear tires should be less than $300 a piece.
Oil changes take 9L of
unicorn blood 10W-60 oil. At the dealer it costs a little more than $200; however, don’t forget to throw in that extra bottle of oil for top ups. I hadn’t experienced this problem until December of 2016 when I was in the middle of rural Alabama and my car tells me that we need more oil:
Other than this one time, my car hasn’t seemed to burn oil. I usually try and go about 7000 miles between changes. This time the oil had seen over 7000 miles. I topped it up and continued to drive until it’s annual oil change in March of 2017. Now this is when we talk about the other big maintenance item on an E9X M3, rod bearings.
Apparently they were a poor design and may people had seen premature failure. If not caught earlier enough, they could cause catastrophic engine failure, apparently it’s only around a $2,000 job if caught early enough. This leads to a lot of E9X M3 owners having oil analysis’s done on their cars. Likewise I figured I should have the same thing done:
It came back very clean. I should note, the oil that was analyzed had seen 9,606 miles. Remember how I mentioned that my car was a late 2010 build date? Well this is important because apparently in late 2010, they changed the rod bearing design. Doing some internet researching it seems that there haven’t been too many new cases of rod bearing failure.
Economy? What is that? I get around 15 MPG per tank. I think in the entirety of my ownership I’ve gotten over 20 mpg on a tank a total of 3 times. This thing just drinks gas. In Atlanta rush hour traffic my mileage would be in the very low double digits. On straight interstate driving, I get around 18 MPG. Maybe I’m just a terrible economy driver or maybe that S65 just begs you to keep it in gear a little longer.
There is just something special about this engine. I know some engines are objectively and subjectively better, but there is just something incredibly special about a V8 that screams all the way to its 8300 RPM redline.
It sounds fantastic, even still coupled to the stock exhaust. Put the windows down in a tunnel and take the S65 to its redline and you’ll understand.
To get any performance out of it, you have to grab it by the scruff of the neck and wring it out. It wants to rev. Once you’re about 50, there is a gear to keep it screaming above 5k. I find myself downshifting when I get off the highway on an offramp and get it back into third at 60, and just nailing it because I know the engine just wants to scream.
There is no other way to put this, it is phenomenal. It’s got this thing called servotronic which adjust the steering; basically it makes the steering feel the same at 10 MPH or 100 MPH. It just feels so right, there is a reason people have bitched about the steering in the new F80, it’s because the steering is so much better in the E90. Drive my E90 M3 and E92 328i back to back and you’ll understand why even a 5% difference here and there add up to so much more. The E92 328i isn’t a bad car, buy any measure, but put it against the M3 and the 20k price difference really shows.
It’s got four doors and a large trunk. There really are no everyday situations that are flummoxed by the E90 M3. Unless there are 300 miles between gas stations, then yeah, take a differnt car. It’ll take four people in comfort and still scare the shit out of your passangers.
It’ll also eat up the miles. There have been several occasions I have put over 700 miles on the car in a day. It’s taken them in stride. It’s very comfortable to cruise in. On TX-130 Toll, the road with 85 MPH speed limits, it’ll cruise at over 100 MPH in 100°F weather all while blasting the AC and act like it’s nothing. It’ll even return 18 MPG. I drove from Corpus Christi to Tulsa on a June day and it took it all in stride.
I love all the little difference between the E90 M3 and a regular E90. The mirrors, the flared arches, the power bulge, the quad exhaust, the front air damn. Just all these little things add up. My phone is littered with random picture of my M3. There really isn’t a bad angle on this car.
After three years do you still want it?
Well, I did my due diligence and went and test drove both a DCT M4 and a 6MT F80 M3. I got back in my car and drove home with a massive smile on my face. The newest M3 is faster. 425hp is a damn lie; unless we’re talking about wheel horsepower. It is way faster than my car. Does that matter? No, the E90 is more fun to drive, has way more feedback. That auto rev match downshift was cool, but it’s not as rewarding as it is when I nail a downshift in my car.
So why the hell do you DD a 328i then?
Like I said, the E90 M3 is not cheap car. A differential oil service in my M3 costs $175 in
unicorn tears oil alone. It drinks gas and eats tires. Yes it’ll eat up the miles, but at a cost. I’ve put 15k miles on my E92 328i in 6.5 months, something that would cost way more in the M3. If anything, having another E9X makes me appreciate my M3 more. It makes me realize how special my M3 really is.
The E90 M3 is an incredible car, and if you can afford it and want one, get it. I would recommend a one owner low mileage car, like mine. It might not be the fastest car money can buy, but even years after it’s gone out of production, it might be one of the best.