I admit it. I’m a snob when it comes to engines. When the F80 first arrived, I thumbed my nose at it. The S55. It sounded so terrible next to the mighty S65 V-8 in the E92 M3. But soon, something much worse popped up: the supercharged S65. Who would do such blaspheme to God’s engine? How dare they!?
If you want speed, you might as well sell your E9X and move on to something in size F or G. So heavy and floaty. Those newer platforms are a better starting point. You’d need to throw loads of money into it to make it even remotely interesting. Right?
The supercharged 2010 BMW E92 M3 Coupe overview
Truth be told, the F80 that replaced this car is a better one on paper. It’s lighter. The engine is more powerful, with a much broader torque curve. The chassis is significantly more solid and maneuverable. If you have but one chance to save the princess and restore order to the kingdom, the F80 is probably the M3 you want to take to get you to the castle in a timely fashion.
But you know where I’m headed – the E9X is the car with more character and soul. Going through the process of supercharging it is not that easy (or cheap), because you really must upgrade the entire car to make it feel like a cohesive platform. What remains is a sort of Frankenstein, a mix of E and F.
You’ve lost that naturally aspirated goodness.
Well, that’s bullshit. This car is glorious, and I won’t keep you in suspense – I’m swapping that Blackwing at the top of the MWS board for this.
Performance Score: 10. Sex-65
This is not the fastest car I’ve ever driven, but it’s the most thrilling. Best enjoyed with the windows down and the throttle open. I don’t care about anything electric – name it, and it cannot hold a candle to the visceral experience this E92 M3 provides.
In a way, I’m glad I learned how to drive on a track in an E9X. If you don’t feel comfortable pushing it, that’s cool – it drives like a normal car. Newer M3s are always on, always ready to pounce. Are you ready yet, brother? How ’bout now?
…How ’bout now? Chill out Cookie Monster.
But if you do feel comfortable, an E9X can be your best friend on track – just keep the revs up beyond 5,000, and the car in third gear if you row your own. You must earn this speed. Bolting a supercharger to the car does nothing to ruin this. At low speeds, it’s normal, barely engaging the ‘charger. But aim the nose at a distant point, floor it, and holy hell will it pull. And pull. And pull.
Turbocharged M3s feel sort of like it, but the S65 gives you an extra 1,500 RPM or so to play. I short-shifted the first few times I drove it (hey, it’s been awhile).
The sound coming from the rear is part S65, part F1 car, and part B-25. The supercharger doesn’t whine so much as whoosh, perhaps the only disappointment in an experience otherwise best described as surreal.
It’s time to give up the ghost here. The six-speed in any BMW is fine, and that’s all it will ever be. But the DCT unit was designed specifically for this engine, and it’s a magical combo. Firing off shifts faster than anything with a ZF, it’s not exactly smooth, but fits the car’s personality perfectly.
I’d actually go so far as to say the manual would dampen the experience. This car rips so quick, it feels silly to stir the pot when you could just be killing corners, C63s and anything else foolish enough to get in your way.
Steering and Chassis
I’ll start with this: the suspension improvements done to this car have helped to alter the chassis and bring it closer to an F80. But it would be a lie to say that chassis technology hasn’t improved over the past 15 years. The G80 strikes a better handling and comfort balance.
This car is low, and combined with less weight, feels closer to M3 go-cart than family hauler. Steering is better than anything modern, but you can’t fool me – it was merely average when the car debuted. Like water in the desert, anything old feels good now.
Upgraded StopTech units feel great, but pedal feel was never an issue in a stock E92 M3 – Fade was. Single pot calipers and small discs with no carbon ceramic option meant fade would arrive, especially if you’re a track noob. I certainly hope you never find yourself barreling down the back straight at Pocono Raceway with a pair of overheated brakes, but I promise if you do, you’ll learn your lesson quickly. Ask me how I know that.
Definitely upgrade your brakes before you add your ‘charger.
Actually, that last line applies to this entire car.
But maybe I don’t want to encourage you to get one of these and upgrade it. Maybe I want all the E9Xs for myself.
Right – this is a boring car, yawn. Move along…
Utility score: 7. The coupe that can
Some time after the E9X came out and BMW was deep into planning the M4’s arrival, they decided that low roof lines equals more sex appeal.
And in a way yes, they are right. The M4 is a prettier car. But the last of the M3 Coupes is no Rhino. Its more upright cabin gives you more headroom, especially in the rear. The kids, your dates, pretty much everyone can fit back there.
Plenty of trunk space too, although I will tell you that the G8X can fit my entire roadie case in the trunk – earlier generations could not.
Economy Score: 3. Whatever
What? Bring money, fill up the car at the gas station, move on with your life.
Ok ok, yes it’s bad.
This M3 gives me range anxiety. The tank was too small – 16 gallons and a thirsty V-8 makes you list a second residence at the local Mobil. And that’s before you add that technology from the Civil War on top of the manifold.
Hey, the first series car to be supercharged was a Mercedes, so this is all way less ‘Murica and more achtung than you think.
Features and Comfort: 8. Nothing ///Missing
Sitting in this car is neat. It has a lot of old-school BMW touches, like red numbers in the climate control display, or white M dials. But it still feels modern. Kind of like how the 90s were the best decade, and everything else before or after is crap. Ahh, nostalgia.
This being a 2010, it has an updated iDrive system. Hopping back in the G80 wasn’t so much “whoa” as merely different.
Over the course of ownership with my E, something very strange happened to me. I got older.
This shocking occurrence made me grumpier, and changed what I thought a comfortable seat was. You sit so high in a stock M3. The cushions were comfortable, but these are not really speed thrones.
Bob, the owner here, installed a set of Recaros that are literally perfect. These chairs are what those carbon fiber prison sentence buckets in the G8X should be. They fit like a glove, keep me in place during Death Star trench runs, and are all-day comfortable. They also look gorgeous, with a little M stripe and supple Fox Red leather.
Elsewhere you have the aforementioned iDrive (maybe you want a single hump, but this doesn’t bother me), automatic climate control – everything you expect.
Well, almost. I miss a backup camera (insert kids these days joke here), and I never figured out why BMW gave this car Comfort Access, but still made you put the key in the dash.
Look at me
Outside is a delicious mix of fix-‘er-up and pure upgrades.
Start with the paint – Nardo Gray, from Audi’s catalog, looks like it’s always belonged on the car. This is no wrap either.
The carbon fiber roof is here, refinished because they are known to crack and fade. There’s also a good amount of carbon everywhere else (including the trunk lid), helping to elevate the car’s styling a bit to modern levels.
You don’t need to go all-out of course – keep the car looking stock for the ultimate sleeper. Com’ere, cute little Mustang.
Finally, notice anything missing? LCI tail lights? Bob likes ’em like this, and who am I to argue. Dare I say they now look…vintage?
You don’t need to supercharge your E92 M3, but you’ll enjoy it more if you do.
There is no such thing as the perfect car. I’m not really sure why we can’t have the Blackwing’s soul with the M5’s refinement.
That’s the case here as well. To see this E92 through to completion defies logic. It’s still not a “better” M3 on paper than the cars that come after it. You will probably never see a real return on your investment – only unmolested E9X cars are heading into six figures. Yet any M3, old or new, is a silly purchase. No one needs 500 horsepower to get to work each day.
I don’t give out Soul Scores based on logic or financial theory. Try as they might, BMW still hasn’t gotten the formula right since the E9X. There’s a reason why the S65 doesn’t need any artificial sound piped into the cabin.
Zeroing out the chassis and replacing the aged bits have turned the E into the M3 of your dreams. It’s why cars go beyond basic transportation, and into something that should be cherished. And no other car entices giggles like this one.
Find a tunnel. Lower the windows. Pull a paddle to downshift. Floor it. Repeat any time you feel unhappy with life.
All hail the new Soul champion.
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