Depreciation Station: 2008-'13 BMW M3

Photograph Courtesy BMW

[Editor's Note: This article orignally ran in the January 2017 issue of Classic Motorsports. Some information may be different today.]

The E92-chassis BMW M3 offered stellar performance for its $65,000-plus retail price. Now that time has eroded its value by more than half, this M-car is even more of a bargain.

The world received the all-new M3 for 2008, and the big news was found under the hood: BMW replaced the model’s trusty inline-six with a V8.

And what a V8 it was, as its 4.0 liters of displacement produced 414 horsepower in U.S. trim. In other words, it surpassed the coveted 100-horsepower-per-liter benchmark, all without the help of forced induction. Redline was a staggering 8400 rpm.

More progress: Despite four cams, eight throttle bodies and 32 valves, the V8 actually weighed 33 pounds less than the inline-six it replaced.

The M3 continued to be based on BMW’s popular 3 Series platform, and this new E92-spec chassis was also bigger than the outgoing version: longer, wider and sporting more trunk space. This growth spurt didn’t alter the scales much, as the new M3 was a negligible 68 pounds heavier.

The car was more than a 3 Series with a hotter engine, though. Company engineers also fitted an aluminum hood, 18-inch wheels, giant brakes, reworked suspension, a limited-slip differential and sportier interior details. BMW eventually offered this generation of the M3 in both two- and four-door guises, with the coupes getting a carbonfiber roof panel.

We were there for the press introduction and came home impressed, with our review in Grassroots Motorsports ending on a high note: “Those who can afford it will find that the new M3 is a fantastic driver’s car. In some ways, particularly with the grabby brakes and lightweight, no-frills roof, it’s even racier than we expected.” Thanks to our friend depreciation, today more of us can make that commitment.

Care & Feeding

James Clay has been serving the BMW community for almost 20 years through his BimmerWorld brand. He offered some shopping and ownership tips just for our readers.

As with any BMW purchase, when shopping I search for a clean car that looks like it was well taken care of and has a solid service history. If I’m being picky and looking for a super-clean car, I want an owner who has exceeded the recommended maintenance intervals: oil changed every 5000 to 6000 miles. If I’m looking for a cheap track donor, I make sure it shifts well up and down through all the gears and doesn’t have any currently glaring issues-and ideally no recurring service problems. Everything past that can be fixed or maintained.

The first thing we do on a used purchase is stabilize the investment. For us that means changing the engine oil to Red Line 15W50 and saving a sample of the old oil to send to Blackstone Labs for analysis. These high-revving engines are susceptible to rod bearing issues, especially if the previous owners didn’t warm the engine and oil properly–a task made even harder by the heavy 60-weight oil they came with.

Like most BMWs, the car is quite good out of the box in almost all areas. However, if I had to do one thing, I’d improve on the car’s strongest point with an intake and exhaust. You will make more power, but the big reason for me is to make the amazingly revvy V8 that much better. And with the available options, you can really fine-tune the tone to your personal preference and tolerance.

Wheels and a proper suspension to lower the car and make it sit right is another popular first modification.

As far as maintenance items go, the aforementioned rod bearings are about $600 in parts to replace with the good stuff, and the task isn’t terrible to do yourself. Past that, just warm up the engine and feed it a proper diet of good oil. These are solid cars that really just take the basics to make them a lot of fun for a long time.

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Desert 2009
Desert 2009 New Reader
1/18/19 3:39 p.m.

No real issues except rod bearings....

t44tq New Reader
1/23/19 12:08 p.m.

Not just rod bearings, throttle actuators and rear subframe cracking.

Nickdoc New Reader
7/25/21 4:17 p.m.

Yes, please expand a little more on the rear suspension tear-out syndrome.... specific to the whole E92 build period or just a limited series of chassis ?

wspohn SuperDork
7/26/21 11:25 a.m.

And what a V8 it was, as its 4.0 liters of displacement produced 414 horsepower in U.S. trim. In other words, it surpassed the coveted 100-horsepower-per-liter benchmark, all without the help of forced induction. 

No big deal - the S54 engine had done that years earlier with a 3.2 l engine putting out 343 bhp, a slightly higher specific output. The E46 M3 had used that straight 6  back in 2000 - 2006.

The rather neat S65 V8 shared the proclivity of the S52 of needing periodic rod shell renewal if you were going to use it to red line all the time (7900 rpm vs. the M3 at 500 rpm higher). 


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