RE: PH Fleet: BMW E90 M3

Friday 8th March

PH Fleet: BMW M3 (E90)

PH welcomes one of Munich's finest onto the fleet



I've never been very good at maths. I can get by with the odd sum here and there, and I'm actually not too shabby when it comes to the numbers game on Countdown, but I'm in no way a mathematician. However, I have always considered myself to be well above average when it comes to that most special form of arithmetic; the long-celebrated PH pastime of "Man-Maths". As defined by those witty cads in the PH merchandise team, Man-Maths is "the process of making the hopelessly unaffordable seem unequivocally finically logical. See also; self-denial, head in sand, massive balloon."

However, I'd like to challenge this with my own personal definition: "the process of replacing a practical and reliable Skoda Yeti family car with a 10-year-old V8-powered super saloon. See also; fuel prices, throttle actuators, massive bills."

To summarise I was left in charge of replacing our Skoda Yeti family car and we now have an E90 M3 sitting in pride of place on our driveway. In my defense, I genuinely believe that the additional running costs associated with an E90 M3 will be nullified by the (hopefully) strong residual value. If you take a look at the values of E46, E36 and obviously E30 M3s, they're all on the up - especially where low mileage and desirable specifications are involved. Let's not forget, either, that the E90 represents what will surely be the last ever naturally aspirated M3, let alone that it features such a special motor in the form of the high revving "S65" 4.0-litre V8.


I'm no prospector, the car is no garage queen and I know we'll never get rich from an E90, but it is nice to know it shouldn't shed too much value either (if any). In terms of the car playing the practical family wagon, it does have a surprisingly large boot and so far there are no apparent compromises in using it for everyday life. I'm also at the sweet spot of parenting where my kids are old enough to not need an insane amount of paraphernalia every time we leave the house, yet also small enough to not need much leg room either. And yes, for a fleeting moment I did wonder if 911 may be possible, but not even a PhD level Man-Mathematician could have made that calculation work.

If all of this reasoning sounds well practiced, it is. Very. Anyway, I've always wanted one, I managed to convince my wife it was a good idea and I've bought it now anyway so there is no going back. Enough of this silly "justifying the purchase of a performance car" anyway; let's get into the nitty gritty of what I've actually bought.

I'd been keeping my eye on E90 values for some time, patiently waiting for the "right time" to buy the "right car". Of course, while researching them I used the excellent PH buying guide for E9* M3s, as well as the combined knowledge of PH's M Power forum. I'd concluded that I didn't really mind what colour the car was, and I wasn't precious if it was an earlier car or a facelift model, introduced in 2011 (an "LCI" in BMW fanboy parlance). I also decided that must-have options were limited to a four-door E90 (both on grounds of practicality and taste) and a manual gearbox. Nice-to-have options included a DAB radio, Harmon Kardon sound system, split folding rear seats and heated front seats, although finding a car in great condition with low mileage and comprehensive history was more important to me.


And so it was that the car we see here popped up on a saved search, and as I read more about it, chatted to the owner and took it for a test drive it became clear that it was the one. By that I mean that aside from it being a manual E90 it had more or less none of the options I had been hoping for, although it does have a DAB radio. Crucially, though, it did have the necessary service history and just 35k on the clock. It was also just on the cusp of needing an oil change, and had a few other bits and bobs that needed addressing which I factored in when negotiating. In the end a deal was done and I drove home a very happy man.

Aside from the usual rituals of new car ownership like setting radio presets, adjusting the seats and - crucially in this car, setting up my preferences on the "M" button - the first order of business was to get the car booked in for the work it needed. I was considering using a main dealer for this, but the existing service history of the car is already a mixture of main dealer and specialists, so in the end I went with Auto-Technik in Lutterworth. Not only are they a well-regarded BMW and MINI specialist, but they knew the E90 M3 and its foibles inside out. Furthermore the owner of the business, Wez, has a lifelong history with the brand and is himself a former E92 M3 owner. The fact that they are literally walking distance from my house made it an easy decision, too.

The main things that the car needed were an oil and filter change, some fresh brake fluid and a minor adjustment to the handbrake to stop it from nearly hitting the roof every time I parked the car. I also asked them to run a diagnostic check and to give the car a very thorough warts-and-all once over.


While researching E90 M3s I'd read at length about the known faults of the car which are mercifully few and far between. The most common fault is the throttle actuators, which are such a common issue that it is a case of when, not if. Fortunately, my car had them both replaced just last year, and thanks to upgraded parts they now have a lifetime warranty.

The second scarier but thankfully less common fault is a rod bearing failure. This is caused by revving the car too hard from cold; the tolerances on that special engine are so tight that the 10w-60 oil specified to cope with the engine's other characteristics can't penetrate as deeply into the rod bearings as it needs to when the engine is cold. This means anyone too keen to rev the car hard before it is up to temperature is likely to be causing serious long-term damage which will ultimately lead to a bearing failure, followed quickly by a trip to the scrap yard to try and find a new engine. The problem with this is that the rod bearings work right up until the point that they really don't work at all, and there is no easy way to check their condition with any accuracy.

However, there are a few things to do: a) ask the previous owner how carefully they warmed the car up, b) wait for the engine to catastrophically fail in spectacular fashion, c) preemptively replaced the rod bearings at a cost of around £1,400 or d) send off an oil sample for analysis and see if it shows an unusual amount of metal particles that indicate that the bearings are worn. In the end I went with options a) and d), although in hindsight I guess that also means I've gone with option b) too, albeit only temporarily.


Anyway, Wes and his team went over the car and, aside from a couple of minor niggles and highlighting some servicing requirements that are on the horizon (brake discs and pads for one), the car was declared a "good one" with nothing obvious being in need of any attention for now - clearly that low mileage is paying dividends.

Hopefully I'll have the results of the oil analysis back next month, but until then I must confess that as much as I'm loving driving the car, I do keep having pangs of fear that the engine might lunch itself, especially when making use of the 8,400rpm rev limit. I guess that is par for the course when you own a car like this, and I keep reassuring myself that failures are rare.

Keep your eyes peeled and you may spot the M3 at some upcoming Sunday Services. If I get my way you may well hear it coming too. More on that next time. Until then, if you're impressed by my Man-Maths and want to join me on a voyage of M3 ownership, you know where to go...


Car: 2008 BMW M3 (E90)
Bought: February 2019
Run by: James Drake
Mileage at purchase: 35,555
Mileage now: 36,237
Last month at a glance: Bought the car, drove the car, serviced the car!
Costs: £315 (Oil and filter service, brake fluid change, vehicle check and diagnostic test)

Author
Discussion

Esceptico

Original Poster:

1,594 posts

48 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
He missed an important point in the article - how much did he pay!

I had a E90 M3 for just over half a year. It was okay but never didn’t like it half as much as an E46 M3 I had had a few years before. However it wasn’t really a like for like comparison as the E46 was a manual coupe and the E90 an auto convertible. I only really bought it because it was blinding value proved by selling it to a dealer for the same amount I had paid from a dealer.

helix402

4,362 posts

121 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
Good choice. I think it looks better with the standard chrome grilles. I think the article may have been written with an American spell check. Defence not defense.

Edited by helix402 on Friday 8th March 07:31

lord trumpton

5,092 posts

65 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
Awesome timing- Ive just bought a low mile e92 M3 myself.

Like you I HAD to have a manual 'box and also I wanted EDC and the later CIC I drive.


Nicholasavis1

1 posts

29 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
Will be watching with interest as I've been considering one of these myself. I just need to answer the practicality question as to how much rear leg room there is... Can I get a isofix base and child seat in whilst leaving sensible space for the front passenger.

Shnozz

20,317 posts

210 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
Esceptico said:
He missed an important point in the article - how much did he pay!

I had a E90 M3 for just over half a year. It was okay but never didn’t like it half as much as an E46 M3 I had had a few years before. However it wasn’t really a like for like comparison as the E46 was a manual coupe and the E90 an auto convertible. I only really bought it because it was blinding value proved by selling it to a dealer for the same amount I had paid from a dealer.
I entirely agree with you there. Adored the E46 M3. Hugely underwhelmed by the E92 M3.
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st4

1,359 posts

72 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
I think for £1400 I'd have replaced the rod bearings given the potential catastrophic consequences of them going wrong.

phil_cardiff

3,991 posts

147 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
Nicholasavis1 said:
Will be watching with interest as I've been considering one of these myself. I just need to answer the practicality question as to how much rear leg room there is... Can I get a isofix base and child seat in whilst leaving sensible space for the front passenger.
You should be able to. I had an E91 (same wheelbase) and had no issues with a 2 year old in his seat and my wife in the passenger seat.

BFleming

900 posts

82 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
The whole reason for me selling my E90 was that my kids couldn't fit in the back any more - and that was was more about headroom than legroom. I found the boot space 'okay' for most purposes. I bought a 5 series (F11) to replace the E90, and couldn't go back to any E-car now - they feel too dated inside.
I did a trip to the Nurburgring in an early manual E92 M3; it was a superb machine on the track, in particular with the big brake kit (sorry, forget brand) and Eibach springs the owner had fitted. The stock brakes weren't great.
I'm not convinced these are going to appreciate just yet; I think they have a little way to go down first. Possibly not much...

323ti

105 posts

60 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
Man maths at it's finest, but the essence of it all lies in this, quote;

"I managed to convince my wife it was a good idea"...

So well done there sir!
Enjoy the car, I've heard the manual box has a rather longer gearing than the DCT, do you find that at all?

Owlwood

187 posts

95 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
Congrats James. I had my M3 for 4 years and loved every trip in it. Sold it for an M2 and regretted it. M2 lasted 12 months. It's always hard replacing a car you really loved....

Edited by Owlwood on Friday 8th March 09:32

Itsallicanafford

1,921 posts

98 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
The key to this working is always sandbag the performance when you have the wife and kids in the car.

pjv997

562 posts

121 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
Sounds very similar spec to my E90 - loved that car - part-exed in 2012 for about £23K if I remember correctly - probably hasn't depreciated a huge amount since.

Opportunity for a gratuitous picture


2 GKC

450 posts

44 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
Lovely car

I do wish we'd leave the man-maths bullst alone. Either you can afford it or you can't

Berkut666

22 posts

95 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
I traded my broken Insignia VXR for an E90 M3 in Jerez Black with the red leather. Man I loved that car. Great 2 years ownership. Every time I walked away from it I had to look over my shoulder. Pressing the start button and the V8 starting up made me grin. I found it very easy to live with. Sedate classy and refined when you want it but a screaming animal when you want to make progress.

Surprised a few people on here preferred the previous model. I had it about 10 years ago and didn't warm to it. Possibly due to the SMG box, where as the E90 was manual.

In regards to rear leg room, kid seats etc. Mine had ISOFIX and with the 2 youngers in full size child seats in the back they were fine. However add my oldest into the equation he was crammed in a tiny spot in the middle with the transmission tunnel in his way. The curve/bolsters of the rear seat and the way the doors are mean that 3 in the back is a squeeze. Even leg room for adults is not great. My wife and I are both just under 6ft and with us in the front 2 adults of a similar size are just comfortable in the back. Any taller or add another person into the rear and its only suitable for short journeys. The boot is a good size though,

Due to the kids I had to get rid of it and have had an RRS for the last year. I love the RRS but do miss the M3....

fred bloggs

320 posts

139 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
(Quote)In my defense, I genuinely believe that the additional running costs associated with an E90 M3 will be nullified by the (hopefully) strong residual value.


In the words of Liam Neeson. 'Good Luck'



culpz

3,918 posts

51 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
323ti said:
Man maths at it's finest, but the essence of it all lies in this, quote;

"I managed to convince my wife it was a good idea"...
I would assume that it's not a difficult as it may seem. For someone that isn't a car person, they would just see a normal 3-Series saloon. Bar the quad exhaust and the bonnet-bulge up front, which is hidden well with the black paint anyway, there really isn't much to make is seem like a crazy idea. Even the price, which you could easily get away with, simply with the fact that it's a BMW.Something like a Porsche though, as stated, wouldn't be the same end-result, I'm sure.

Speaking of Porsche: "And yes, for a fleeting moment I did wonder if 911 may be possible, but not even a PhD level Man-Mathematician could have made that calculation work". In terms of trying to convince the other-half, I can agree. However, In terms of running costs, I'm not so sure. Some of the parts prices, servicing and repair bills for proper M-cars are truly astounding, even more so than Porsche.

With that being said, this is easily my favourite variation of M3. I do personally think that the Coupe is much more handsome and it would be DCT for me without hesitation, but that V8 engine is a glorious sounding thing in either 'guise. I know some claim that the power band can be frustrating and I do actually like the F80 M3/M4 (noise n'all!), but these are more desirable to me.

Hope it treats you well!

nomadics2k

20 posts

124 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
Good choice - will be watching this thread - I like the M3 and need 4 doors - it's been on my radar for yonks. I just can't get rid of my S2K yet!

ollybromley

2 posts

46 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
Sounds like decent man maths to me. I did exactly the same and bought an LCI manual with EDC and around 38k on the clock. A private sale but with an extended manufacturer warranty.

I also have an E46 M3 CS and i agree with Esceptico that the E46 is a more exciting car. I was initially underwhelmed by the E90 but it has really grown on me. Its a massively different car to the E46; much more of a grown up car, more refined, and better for long journeys. However given the choice of the two on a favourite road it would be the E46 every time.

ollybromley

2 posts

46 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all

CousinDupree

234 posts

6 months

Friday 8th March
quotequote all
Esceptico said:
He missed an important point in the article - how much did he pay!

I had a E90 M3 for just over half a year. It was okay but never didn’t like it half as much as an E46 M3 I had had a few years before. However it wasn’t really a like for like comparison as the E46 was a manual coupe and the E90 an auto convertible. I only really bought it because it was blinding value proved by selling it to a dealer for the same amount I had paid from a dealer.
Yes exactly. All that talk about maths, then no figures.