BMW S65 E90 E92 E93 M3 Buyer's Guide

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BMW S65 E90 E92 E93 M3 Buyer's Guide

Post by kingr »


The BMW M3 still retains the crown as the benchmark amongst car enthusiasts for what a sports car should be, 21 years after its initial launch, the competitors have come and gone, and BMW M3 is still the ultimate package for daily driving, utility, and spirited driving when required.

The E9x M3's are now considered dinosaurs, but this line-up of M3's still offers thrilling performance, and their prices have reached less than half of what they cost new. When released the E9x M3's fell in the bracket of a "million rand" car, yet today you can pick up early models for ⅓ of this price.

The E9x M3 was first released in 2007 on the back of the success of the BMW E46 M3 and featured a V8 normally aspirated engine, this high-revving V8 being a first for the M3.

The E90 was the sedan, the E92 was the coupe, and the E93 was the convertible. The new 4.0-litre V8 S65 made a massive 309 kW and 400 Nm and was mated to either a 6-speed manual or another M3 first, the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). A limited-slip diff (LSD) was also thrown into the parts bin and top speed governed at 250kph. Performance figures reflected the power upgrade with the coupe managing 0 to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds with the DCT transmission and 4.8 seconds with the manual. BMW had knocked it out of the park again and created a monster disguised as a sophisticated cruiser.

During the course of its lifespan, the E92 M3 had several special editions released including the GTS which was meant to be a street-legal racer. It boasted a power upgrade to 331 kW as well as upgraded brakes, weight reduction, and suspension changes. Since BMW South Africa wasn't able to get the GTS edition into the country, they developed a special edition strictly for the local market called the Frozen Edition. Only 25 were made with 19 available in grey and the remaining six coming in matte black.

The Frozen Edition M3 was locally tuned with a software upgrade and an intake manifold and exhaust system from tuning company, AC Schnitzer. The new updates meant that the output was increased to 330 kW and 420 Nm, and of course, the exhaust note also got louder. For those who couldn’t afford the M3, there was a great alternative in the BMW E90/E92 335i, which is also a classic in its own right with its legendary N54 engine [/color].

Watch our used BMW E90 335i Sedan review to see what we thought about this sporty sedan.

BMW E9X model years: 2007 - 2013

Fast Facts
  • Used Price: approximately R270 000 to R600 000
  • Engine: S65 Naturally aspirated 4.0 litre V8
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission
  • Fuel Consumption: 12.4L/100km (Claimed)
  • Power/Torque: 309kW/ 400 Nm
  • Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive

Model Range:
2008 - 2011 E90 BMW M3 - Sedan
Base Model
Automatic - 0 to 100 km/h – 4.6 seconds
Manual - 0 to 100 km/h – 4.8 seconds

2007 - 2013 E92 BMW M3 - Coupe
Base Model
0 to 100 km/h: 4.5 seconds

The E90x M3 has aged tremendously well and has a sleek and distinctive look. The early models that arrived in 2007 came with non-LCI taillights but were changed to the LCI variants from 2009 onwards.

It’s advisable to get an M3 with the optional Electronic Damper Control ( EDC) settings. These settings allow you to switch the suspension stiffness between Normal, Sport, and Comfort depending on whether you are on the track or road.

The E9x M3 range came with a choice of either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). Despite the manual being the fun choice amongst some purists, the DCT is a masterpiece and can upshift in around 60 milliseconds. When looking at buying a used example, keep in mind that it can leak oil. Also, ensure that all warranty and maintenance has been carried out on time with the relevant paperwork as proof. Make sure everything feels tight and smooth and check if there’s any hesitation with high rpm. Also, listen out for and the sounds you hear while driving like random clunking, ticks, jingles, etc etc. But the key things are service history, documented maintenance and an extended warranty if you’re unsure.

When looking for replacement parts, remember that BMW changed the clutch design between the 2008 and 2009 models. The flywheel and clutch of the earlier models were slightly smaller and caused the transmission to be noisy. After the change, BMW stopped making the older, clutch and flywheel, meaning owners have to upgrade to the newer version. So, if the clutch goes you need to replace the Dual-mass flywheel (DMF), as it's impossible to get the '08 design replacement clutch. The clutch costs around R11k and the DMF costs around R21k.

Watch our BMW F80 M3 Review here to see what it’s all about.

Common Problems
One of the reasons why the E9x M3 range is so highly regarded is because of its reputation for reliability and generally being a solid all-around performer. However, as with all cars, there are a couple of known issues that can occur with the BMW S65 engine and M3.
  • Rod Bearings failure
  • Throttle Actuators failure
  • Seatbelt Extender wear

Rod Bearings Failure

This issue is well-documented and can potentially lead to catastrophic engine failure if not dealt with accordingly. The engine has a flaw in the design with the original equipment (oe) rod bearing clearances, this is a flaw in the design and the clearances are below what other manufacturers considered the minimal industry standard. Because the clearance is so small, and also because BMW recommends using thick 10W60 oil, there is a possibility of the engine being starved of oil, which in turn will lead to engine failure.

One of the solutions to this problem is to use a thinner oil to get between the bearings, but this could cause the oil pressure to drop low and the bearings will run dry anyway.

Some people send their oil for analysis to see if there is evidence of metal shavings. If there are traces of metal in the oil, it could be a sign of the rod bearings not having enough clearance.

This matter has been discussed on many forums and people can’t seem to agree as to how serious it is and how many cars are affected. What is certain is that many owners have had this issue and it’s worth changing the bearings when they reach their average lifespan of around 100,000 km.

There’s the option of getting the latest revision of the original BMW bearings, or good-quality aftermarket ones like VAC bearings. In South Africa, the job can cost between R20,000 to R30,000 at an RMI approved workshop for the replacement bearings and labour.

To improve the life of your rod bearings, it’s also wise to warm up the car and let the oil reach the optimum temperature before driving the car hard.

Throttle Actuators

The faulty throttle valve actuator is also another common problem with E9x M3s. The car has two throttle actuators, one for each cylinder bank. The flaw in the actuator is because of the internal gears that can wear prematurely, and gear shavings can drop into the gear casing. When this happens, the electronics get overloaded, which then leads to a decrease in engine performance. Some of the symptoms of the throttle actuators failing are the car going into limp mode, poor engine performance, and fault codes. In some cases, the fault codes will appear beforehand to warn that there is a problem and it is advised to attend to any fault codes as soon as possible.

Because the internal electronics are often the cause of the failure, the whole valve actuator unit needs to be replaced, and luckily, it is quite a simple procedure, probably as difficult as changing the spark plugs. Both units should be replaced at the same time to avoid extra costs later. To replace, just remove the intake system and either replace the entire throttle valve actuator or just the gears.

The throttle valve actuator is known to fail at around 70 000 km with genuine BMW replacements coming with a two-year warranty. There are second-hand examples available for about R9 000 each, as well as some improved, aftermarket types.

Seat Belt Extender

The coupe variants of the E9x M3 has a seat belt extender that hooks onto the seatbelt to bring it closer to the driver. After lots of use, the extender is known to stop working, and the driver will have to pull the seatbelt manually. This problem can be caused by either the extender arm getting worn out after some time, the seatbelt itself becoming less rigid over time, or a combination of both.

Obviously, the best way to fix this problem is to replace the extender, or the seatbelts themselves. Considering the substantial costs involved in something that can be considered trivial, there are also some popular DIY fixes for this issue.

If the extender itself isn’t working, cleaning and lubing can sometimes help. Some people also remove the spring, shorten it slightly, and then put it back to create more tension. If the seatbelt has lost its rigidity, a quick fix is to use some starch and iron it to make it stiffer.


The BMW E9x is a solid performance car that’s already a classic. With prices having dropped over the years, they are much cheaper than the F80 M3, and the big 4.0 litre V8 delivers enough thrills to satisfy most petrolheads. With the right TLC, it will give you many years of sheer driving pleasure, and who knows, it might actually appreciate in value one day like the old 325is.

For more in-depth buyer’s guides, reviews and the latest in car news, check out Wheel Index. The VIN Number Check tool and Car Book Value Tool can give you peace of mind whether buying or selling a car or selling a car.

Looking for a used BMW M3? Check out our classifieds for an extensive range of BMW E90 M3's for sale.
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