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The BMW E92 M3 Buyer’s Guide

The BMW E92 M3 was built from 2008 through 2013, and this guide as all you need sort through model year changes with beautiful reference images.

e92-m3-lineup

Among these pages, there is no more hallowed car than BMW’s E92 M3 Coupe. Its one-of-a-kind V-8, svelte good looks and long distance comfort made it the premiere luxury performance car of its day. The car went through typical LCI changes (2011 was particularly turbulent), but the good parts remained the same throughout. This BMW buyer guide will help you sort through what will likely be the only M3 to have eight cylinders under the hood.

Understanding the BMW E92 M3 Coupe

Read my original ownership recap here.

As always, we begin with POGs, or product ordering guides. The E92 M3 was produced from 2008 through 2013, with the F82 M4 Coupe replacing it in 2014.

Pre-LCI years include:

And post-LCI years:

We won’t be covering the sedan or convertible in this guide. The E90’s production run ended in 2011, while the E93 hardtop convertible was produced alongside the coupe through their production run. All are nearly identical, but only the coupe received the carbon fiber roof.

M3 tachometer
This is what all the fuss is about: 8,400 RPMs.

Was there an E92 M3 Competition?

e92-m3-competition
359M wheels were the only exterior clue that an M3 has the Competition Package.

Technically, no. But if you’re looking for the origin story of the Competition trim current BMW models feature, it starts with the E92 (the E46 had it too). Compared to newer models, this one was tame.

Beginning in 2011, post-LCI models could add the ZCP (Ze Competition Package, yes really) to their car. For $2,500, it included:

  • New 359M style 19-inch wheels
  • 0.4-inch (10mm) reduction in ride height
  • Revised Electronic Dampening Control that includes greater variability for the shocks
  • Revised Dynamic Stability Control with an MDM mode that allows more slip

No changes to the S65 V-8 or transmission choices were made. There was some confusion about the 359M style wheels being forged (the brochure said so), but they are simply spun cast and are prone to pot hole bends. Forged wheels are stronger, so be sure to check that the wheels are true if you’re purchasing an M3 with 359s.

bmw-220M-style-wheel
Polished 220M style wheels were the upgraded option if you did not get the Competition Package.

What’s the difference for an LCI E92 M3?

2008-m3
Pre-LCI cars had non-LED taillights.
m3-lci-taillights
And here are the LED units. You can retrofit them to earlier models.

The LCI model was produced from 2011-onward, but production for the car started very early, in April of 2010. Aside from the aforementioned availabilty of the Competition Package, the LCI models featured:

  • Revised LED taillight design
  • Updated iDrive module and iDrive controller
  • Revised HVAC buttons
  • Seat heat buttons were moved to integrate with the rest of the HVAC.
M3-dash
You can see the original location of the seat heating buttons. Post-2011.5 models would move the auto start/stop here.
m3-hvac-panel
Post-LCI models received some slight changes to button labels. This is a pre-LCI panel.
post-lci-hvac
Here’s a post-LCI panel, along with a revised iDrive layout.

2011 was an important model year, depending on when it was built:

  • 2011.5 models introduced a revised combox that allowed you to stream music over Bluetooth, and added the auto start/stop feature for the engine.
  • 2011.75 models added BMW apps to the iDrive system
iDrive
The original iDrive system is by now a very dated unit.

Aside from the Competition Package, this is a BMW model that did not benefit greatly from its LCI updates. Pre-LCI models can retrofit the LED taillights, and though the iDrive upgrade is a nice feature, at over ten years old, both systems are dated. You can avoid it all together by getting a single hump car. Speaking of…

What’s a single and double hump E92 M3?

m3-double-hump-dash
Two humps.

The E9X 3 Series came out during a time that made it straddle two generations. The E46 had no iDrive system, and the F80 made it a requirement, but you can have your E92 with (double hump), or without (single hump) iDrive. The hump simply refers to the mounds in the dashboard to accommodate the screen and instrument binnacle.

Were any special versions made?

M3 Lime Rock Edition
Lime Rock Editions can fetch big money, but do not have any significant mechanical changes from a regular M3 with a Competition Pack.

Sort of. While Europe got a full-on M3 GTS, here in the States we had but one “special” edition that wasn’t anywhere near as special. You get:

  • Fire Orange paint
  • Black 359 M wheels (optional)
  • Standard Competition Package
  • Alcantara steering wheel and some special trim inside
  • Carbon fiber spoiler and front splitters

There’s nothing here to differentiate the driving experience, but Lime Rock Edition M3s command a premium on the market.

There were also a few Frozen edition models that featured frozen paint and Competition goodies, but just because you see one painted a Frozen color does not mean it was a Frozen Edition M3

BMW M Performance Parts for the E92 M3

m-performance-exhaust
The exhaust had straight cut tips as opposed to rolled, and an engraved M logo on each one. Also visible here is the carbon fiber spoiler.

This was the first car for BMW M to dip a toe into the aftermarket waters. A carbon fiber spoiler, front splitters and side mirrors, along with a unique exhaust, were a decent first effort.

The M Performance Exhaust was made from a material called Inconel, which is a very strong, light and corrosion resistant alloy. Yet the first batch of mufflers tended to crack. (Nice work, BMW).

They came out with a V2, so just check the system out beforehand to make sure it’s not compromised if you are purchasing an M3 equipped with it.

This might be a good spot to tell you that many people swap out the stock manual shifter for one from an F10 M5. It’s shorter, looked better, and still has a plug to remain lit at night. It’s easy enough to install yourself, but you must cut the boot to fit the the shifter hole of an E92 vs an F10.

BMW Individual

e9x-lineup

The Germans went for it big time with this car, so there were quite a few Individual colors, more than any M car beforehand.

The standard color palette remained mostly the same throughout the car’s run.

M3 Color Gallery

fire-orange
Fire Orange
interlagos-blue
Interlagos Blue Metallic
java-green
Java Green Metallic
space-grey
Space Grey Metallic
jet-black
Jet Black
silverstone
Silverstone Metallic
alpine-white
Mineral White Metallic
Dakar-yellow
Dakar Yellow
atlantic-blue
E90 in Atlantic Blue (I think – message me if it’s not accurate).
imola-red
Imola Red

Where to find one, and the importance of doing a PPI

The E92 M3 Coupe was produced from 2008 through 2013. It was the last M3 Coupe, as BMW replaced it with the M4 Coupe in 2014.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a good one on a BMW dealer lot due to the car’s age. Beyond that, look to Cars & Bids and Bring a Trailer. BMWs pop up all the time on those sites, and are almost always in good shape.

Regardless of where you find one, a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) is critical. I will not sit here and write that BMW M cars are driven by angels, used solely for picking up baby from day care or taken out only on date night with your boo. I’ve been around hundreds of them, and while 90% are not abused, they are all driven hard (as they should be).

Personally, I’d stay away from any modded car, especially one that’s supercharged. You can do that yourself, and who knows just how much “’bout dat boost life” the previous owner was, or who did the work. Work receipts can help – if a reputable shop did the upgrades and you like the car, by all means.

What’s a good price for a BMW E92 M3?

For used examples, I always recommend looking on BaT, which shows price history for the model: Bring a Trailer E92 M3 search.

LCI models command a bit of a premium, with low-mileage Lime Rock editions fetching the most. Individual colors also draw a higher price. You should not be paying over the original sticker price for any E92 at this stage, and asking over $100k for one will only lead to disappointment. The car does not offer a $100,000 driving experience, no matter how good the engine is.

Moving on to Cars & Bids show something a bit different: Cars & Bids M3 search.

Some have sold for much less on here, as low as $18,000, so take a good look. If you don’t need a pristine example, an E92 M3 can be had for economy car money, allowing you plenty to budget in engine repairs.

As a general rule, single hump cars are usually more desirable. The E92 was also the first M car with a carbon fiber roof, so if you opted for the sunroof, your car will be worth a bit less. Slick top E90s are sedans with no sunroof, and those are more coveted because they had no carbon fiber roof option.

There’s one more thing that makes a big difference…

Common problems with the E92 M3

s65-v8
C’mon, you’ll be fine. Don’t be afraid.

S65 rod bearings

Rod bearings. Whether a design flaw from the factory or the habits of previous owners, the S65’s bearings are really eager to taste open sky. I would consider this a “must-have” when purchasing, or something you should do yourself by a trusted shop as soon as you take delivery. BMW is fresh out of S65s. If the car you’re purchasing has not had the service completed, know that it can cost around $2,500 depending on the shop, Lower your offer accordingly.

The second “big one” are throttle body actuators. Like any other M car, this V-8 has individual throttle bodies, and those butterfly valves are controlled by two actuators. This is a poor design from BMW – the gears inside are made of plastic and are exposed to the extreme conditions of the engine because of where they sit on top of the motor, so they become brittle and fail. There’s no set distance or age as to when they go, but it’s best to replace both at the same time.

Everything else

Another fun item is the Idle Control Valve. The car will idle roughly and erratically if this goes, and it’s around $800 for a new one.

Spark plugs and coil packs can sometimes say bye-bye. This is an easy enough problem to solve on your own if mechanically inclined, but having done the service myself, it’s not fun. Cylinders allll the way in the back are especially thrilling.  Your socket wrench will look like the arm of a Transformer. You’ll need the dexterity of one too.

Finally, the car likes to drain its battery if it’s been sitting for a considerable amount of time. Consider a trickle charger if you are planning on giving it a long period of rest, as I did here.

Should I buy an E92 M3?

e92-m3
This one is for the hall of fame.

The above might look scary, but that’s all the more reason to find a cheaper one with more miles on it. You’ll be able to get the work done yourself and refresh the car, having your own piece of mind.

I think the sweet spot for this car is an example around $25-30k. This will enable you to clean up the car and get it mechanically sound to the point of being bullet proof. From there, you can add power with a supercharger or just keep it as is and enjoy that naturally aspirated goodness. Either way, you’re in a fast, modern M3 for less than a new one, unlike some F8X prices.

Beyond that, it might just be my favorite M car. It’s definitely my favorite M3. If you say modern cars are faster, you’re missing the point. Maybe an E92 M3 isn’t for you.

It is for people that roll the windows down, find a tunnel, upshift to third gear, and punch it. The resulting sound is what an M car should always sound like, but we now know doesn’t.

interlagos-blue-m3
Long live the high revving M car.

Want your car reviewed?

If you live in the tri-state area and want me to check it out, send me an email! 

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