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The BMW E92 M3 isn’t as good as you remember

The BMW E92 M3 is often remembered for its howling V-8 and for signaling the end of the old BMW era. But is it still relevant today?

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There has been an obsession within the BMW community lately. It seems that the people who couldn’t get an older M car during its heyday are scooping them up now for astronomical prices. On the surface, it makes no difference to me – everyone should be happy in their automotive choices, and if you’ve always wanted a car like this BMW E92 M3 Coupe, they aren’t exactly making a fresh batch in Regensburg.

But this car is a little different.

I was far too young to remember the debut of the E30 or E36 M3, and only in high school for the debut of the E46. But the E92 is the first M3 that I was truly able to covet from its launch. I felt such a connection that I bought one new. That was 13 years ago, and I’ve not ignited a single stock S65 since. A lot’s changed in that time – so is this car as good as I remember?

Or should I say, is it as good as I want it to be?

BMW E92 M3 Coupe

2010 BMW M3 Coupe Quick Take

Get one:

Looks that have aged well. Still revs to 8,400 RPM. The last truly unique M car. Really good feedback from a car they said was dulled.

Don’t get one:

Not as fun as an E46. A V-8 that isn’t as special as you remember. Who put the couch inside?

Soul Score: 8

Does a lot of things better than modern M3s. Does a lot of things worse too.

The 2010 BMW E92 M3 Coupe overview

E92 M3

What exactly has changed, you ask? For starters, size. This car weighs about 3,600 pounds. Everyone freaked out. Go ahead, pull my G80 onto a scale today.

What’s an extra 500 pounds between friends?

The next obvious difference is power. You know this engine of course, it’s one of BMW’s most famous. I suppose they had to put a V-8 into it so it could keep up with Audi and Lexus, but it was a significant departure from an inline-six. It revs like a mad man, but high revs meant low torque, and you had to beat the 335i bros away with a stick or else they’d bombard you with the fact that their car was better because it went whooooshh.

E92 M3

Nothing gives me the ick quite like that argument. They won it anyway – now M3s go wooooosh too.

And the style? I have to whisper this so please bring your head to the screen. It looks better than the F80.

But it’s not the end-all be-all, as you’ll soon discover.

Performance: 7. Varsity jacket

E92 M3
Can confirm. High-voltage.

When I was in high school, I was on the track and field team. I worked really hard, applied myself, and by the time I was a senior, I had a varsity letter. I look back on this accomplishment with far less excitement than when I was in the moment.

And so it is with the E92 M3. It felt fast and exciting in 2010. Now? Let’s just say the varsity jacket has been collecting dust for the past 20 years with good reason.

Engine

E92 M3
An exhaust upgrade, like this Borla ATAK, is required to bring out the S65’s voice.

I’ve gone on record saying that the S65 isn’t as good as you might remember, but it’s still good, and maybe one of the best engines M has ever made.

Start with the power delivery, which is fine – 295 lb-ft of torque might not seem like a lot now, and it wasn’t really a lot back then. But it never felt slow or lifeless off the line, you simply had to understand how to drive it. Still, when a 430i has the same torque, it’s hard to call it fast or exciting.

414 horses have also become pedestrian, and even when new, the car never felt as fast as the numbers suggest. This is a poster car for 0-60 times. Get one with a DCT and dump it off the line, and you’ll get there in 3.9 seconds. Drive it normally, and you’ll add nearly a second.

E92 M3
Four pipes continue the M tradition.

It sounds wonderful, but why did M insist on muting it with a big diaper muffler? If any car needs an aftermarket exhaust, it’s this one (this example had a yummy Borla ATAK). Unmolested, the S65 has no pops, burbles or artificial noise pumped in, making it an authentic experience compared to turbocharged engines.

If you love this car, my advice is to supercharge it. Do that, and all these performance issues will be solved, while maintaining its character.

Transmission

E92 M3
Why is it so tall?

I would fault no one for getting the six-speed manual with this car, but like all modern Ms, it’s rubbery and notchy, especially with the world’s tallest shifter sticking out from the center tunnel. Fix it with an F10 M5 shifter.

But now I’d advise you to go for a DCT version, which is what the V-8 was really designed for. It’ll pull faster and allow for uninterrupted power, and with an engine that revs so quickly, you’ll really enjoy it more. Overall, this car felt like a G – the clutch engages low so you’ve really got to push it all the way in. But the throws are surprisingly long compared to a G8X.

Steering and chassis

E92 M3
You don’t even need the electronic suspension.

As this is the last M3 with a hydraulic steering rack, it offers much better feedback than newer models and made the M8 I drove to the shoot feel positively numb. But you know what? No points awarded! Judged against the contemporaries of the time, it’s merely average. An Infiniti G37 has a more engaging tiller, and forget about the E46 M3.

It wasn’t until many years later as I was driving an F80 on track for the first time that I realized how soft this car is. It leans in turns, and tends to bound over bumps more than you might be used to in a performance car. The E92 is a more forgiving M at the limit, so if you’ve never had a track day, I’d start here. There’s nothing snappy about the chassis, and there’s not enough torque to induce a sudden jolt of oversteer.

E92 M3
You also won’t miss the ZCP’s 10mm drop.

This is a 2010, so no Competition Package with its “10% firmer damping, 10mm drop and remapped EDC”. Please – it rides better without the adjustable suspension. If I put mine in the firmest setting, it was because I wanted to punish myself, or I didn’t want to have a second date with my passenger.

You can fix this this with some suspension tweaks, but we’re talking about how the car came from the factory, and the answer is: not M enough.

Brakes

E92 M3
Underwhelming brakes give you something else to upgrade.

Easily the worst part of this car is the braking system. They fade. The pedal is a bit soft. And they look gross.

Fitted with cross-drilled rotors, the main issues stems from front calipers with a single piston. While I find a tendency in modern cars to have silly piston counts, a four-pot system on a car like this should have come standard. Generally, the more pistons a caliper has, the more even the brake pressure, and the better you stop. On the street, you might not notice that much if you drive it like a 328, so maybe just drive slow.

You can retrofit the bits from an F80, a car with a much better brake setup. BMW does learn, I’ll give them that.

E92 M3

Over the years, BMW M has become too serious. It’s Christian Bale as Batman, not Michael Keaton. The E92 M3 is a car caught in the middle, half old-school, half new. It’s a fascinating thing to drive now, but it’s not as dialed in as you might hope.

It never was.

Utility Score: 8. A coupe that doesn’t dupe

E92 M3
Real people can fit back here.

I fit a TV in the trunk once. My friends would climb in the back without issue. It’s a great shape – without the severe roofline of later M4 Coupes, you don’t need to behead anyone for them to sit in the rear. If the E92 is bigger than an E46, at least it is usefully so.

Up front, the seats are fine – you’d be happy if you saw them in a Camry. But here, they perch you up too high – “Why can’t I lower the cushion more?”.

And once you start to drive with intent, you slide all over the wide bottom. If carbon buckets are too extreme, than these are the polar opposite.

E92 M3
They have nice leather on them, but they make you feel as if you’re sitting on the car, not in it.

Oh, and an important note – BMW used to use gas struts to hold up u the trunk, as opposed to the hinges introduced on the F generation. The hinges cut into cargo-carrying ability, making the E-generation’s system much better.

E92 M3
A nice, upright shape to fit life.

Fuel Economy: 8: Everything is a lie

E92 M3
A range of 300 miles is due to a smaller tank.

How you use this car will determine how much your Exxon tab will be (duh). But allow me to phrase it differently.

You might hoon the hell out of an E92 during meets and track days and what have you, but you still need to get to the hoon places, and unless you’re doing one big, smelly power drift, you’ll undoubtedly cruise. When you do that, the E92 M3 will average 18 MPG.

That’s what the G8X gets too (both manual). I fail to see why we need to kill engines like this and pretend turbo ones are better for the polar bears.

The 16 gallon tank here is on the smaller side (meant for a 328, remember), so once you start seeing red, the needle dips quickly.

Features and Comfort: 7. Still relevant

E92 M3

Inside and out, this car represents the era it was built in, meaning you get a mix of new screens and the last of that orange BMW Nintendo pixel look. I dig it and it’s still functional, if a bit austere.

Great for 2008

E92 M3
Fox Red Merino Leather is delicious.

Let’s start with the key – why do I need to put it in the dash to start the car? Boy did that always bug me.

This M3 was the last to be sold without a screen slapped somewhere inside, but if you did opt for iDrive and the dreaded “double hump” dash, rest assured that for the most part, it’s not like you’re turning on a Super Nintendo.

E92 M3
The orange pixel screens are comforting.

Well, actually it depends on what year E9X you get, because BMW updated the car in 2009 with the updated iDrive knob and newer operating system. Purchase a 2008, and you get a gigantic silver knob and graphics that date back to an E65 7 Series. The E9X is the last M3 with an optional screen, and the “single hump” dash seen here is cleaner. The owner of this car worked around it all with a customized touch screen that replaces the stereo, a good solution.

E92 M3
Todd, the owner, had a great solution to place a touch screen and relocate the HVAC controls.
E92 M3
The wheel offers a nice shape that felt smaller than the G8X’s.

Elsewhere, you get large (and wonderful) dual gauges for the tach and speedometer, butter-soft Novillo leather that feels great even if the seats aren’t supportive. a nicely shaped steering wheel, even seat belt butlers. It was a well-equipped car for its day.

Oh, and this example has a sunroof. Mine did too. Get over it.

E92 M3
Sunroof for the win.

Beauty contest

E92 M3
Blacked out grills replace the original chrome surround.

Dressed in Black Sapphire Metallic, Interlagos Blue, or baby poop green – whatever it is, this is a looker. The F8x generation might be the beauty contest winner by consensus, but I didn’t vote for it.

E92 M3

Some things like the halogen bulb angel eye lighting, or incandescent tail lights of the non-LCI model, might give the car a dated look. Whatever – it’s held up well. Fun things are here too, such as the origin of double-wing M mirrors, the carbon fiber roof (if ordered), and that power dome sticking up out of the middle of the hood.

E92 M3
Another common mod – removing the small body-color lip spoiler for a carbon unit.

The overall effect is subtle, especially if you’re parked next to a 335i Coupe, but compared to the ‘roided up monsters of today, it’s a clean aesthetic.

The BMW E92 M3 doesn’t get a hall pass because of its V-8

E92 M3

Every time someone starts a conversation with me about this car, it’s always circular. Starts off with “V-8”, and by the end, it’s “Yea, but that V-8”.

In modern times, this S65 is merely good. The Corvette Z06 shows you can make power and keep the ability to rev. How about a Mustang GT350, with a 5.4 liter that redlines at 8,250 RPM? And before you start in with the emails about how I’m the worst car reviewer ever, please keep in mind that some E92 examples, like a Lime Rock Edition, will fetch six figures.

This car does not offer a six-figure driving experience.

E92 M3

Instead, grab one in the $30s, fix the suspension, and supercharge it. The point being – you need to modify the car to make it really special.

If I’m honest, I’ve felt that way since I drove mine off the lot all those years ago.

But you know what? It’s still the best modern M3.

BMW E92 M3 Coupe

2010 BMW M3 Coupe Specifications

Vehicle Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, two-door, four-passenger coupe.

PRICE

Base: $58,400 (2010)

POWERTRAIN

4.0-liter naturally aspirated V-8
414 @ 8,300 RPM
295 @ 3,900 RPM
Six-speed manual transmission

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 108.7 in
Length: 181.8 in
Width: 71 in
Height: 55.8 in
Curb Weight: 3,704 lbs

EPA FUEL ECONOMY

Combined/city/highway: 16 / 14 / 20 MPG

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