Whether we like it or not, cars are becoming faster and harder to handle without computer intervention butting in more times than an in-law at a cheap wedding. That’s why it’s a breath of fresh air to know that focused driver’s cars like this spectacular BMW E90 M3 are still within the budget of most reasonable car nuts, but not for long.
This 2008 BMW M3 is the culmination of three previous generations of the German automaker’s most iconic model. Not only is this the first and last V8-powered M3, but unless the engineers at BMW change their collective tunes, this E90 would represent the ultimate naturally aspirated M-badged car. With more than 400 horsepower produced from its high-revving eight cylinder powerplant, fed through a traditional six speed manual transmission, it’s exactly the thing people talk about when curmudgeons utter the phrase “They don’t make ‘em like they used to.” In my opinion, it’s the best M3 model in existence.
While the coupe and convertible versions are probably the more desirable examples for the up-and-coming poseur, the smart buyer knows that the four-doors have a smidge more body rigidity, but exponentially more practicality. As the asking price is currently in the low $20k range, there’s nothing you can buy that even comes close to this kind of refinement and technological brilliance.
I usually advocate for people to buy these cars only after they do research on the model, as a five figure purchase always deserves at least a few hours of your time. However, with the M3, there’s a hidden drawback that isn’t spoken about, and one of the reasons why depreciation hit this particular generation a bit harder than older M3s in similar shape.
From the factory, there was a defect in which the rod bearings (the bearings that serve as a gliding surface between the piston and the crank) would prematurely wear and over time, and no matter how hard of soft you were on the car, would fail.
There were Technical Service Bulletins about this from BMW and while no formal recalls were issued, this car’s 95,000-mile figure seems to be in prime territory for bearing failure if the fix hasn’t been performed yet. What I would do, before buying this or any E90/92/93 M3, would be to ask the dealer to perform a inexpensive Blackstone Labs oil analysis to see if there are any microscopic particulates shearing themselves off over time. It’ll give you a ton of insight as to the true condition of the engine, which costs a metric ton of cash to replace if it pops.
If everything checks out, I’d still budget for a rod bearing replacement in the future, just so you have the procedure finished. It is quite an involved process, and having a shop do it could cost as much as $3000. It’s certainly possible to do it yourself, but novices need not apply. With that peace of mind documented on paper, you’ll always be able to sell the car on for more than any other example with a questionable rod bearing history, so it’s certainly worth the not-inconsiderable cost.
Having said that, the car represents an absolutely epic value for money if it’s indeed a well-sorted example. Every time you set off and hear the throaty, metallic-sounding V8, it’ll remind you that you’re driving a car that BMW dares not to make anymore and instead, currently muffles the sound with turbos and amplifies a fake exhaust note as if you wouldn’t notice, but you so do.
I’d give the car a thorough looking over and triple check that it’s mechanically healthy, set aside some money in case rainy days happen with more frequency, and then simply enjoy the fact that it’s a car that can pin your entire family to their seats if you feel the need to be that guy every now and again.
It’s not the only one available and you owe it to yourself to at least test drive one if you’re in the market for something cheap to buy and fun as hell.