Is BimmerWorld’s E90 BMW the ultimate 335i?

The E90-chassis BMW 3 Series may be one of the best performance bargains on the market today. Starting with the already powerful N54 engine, see how BimmerWorld transformed a used 335i into a seriously capable, street-legal track machine—so fast, in fact, that it beat both the Toyota GR Supra and Honda Civic Type R.

Presented by CRC Industries.

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ChrisTropea Associate Editor
2/19/21 9:13 a.m.

It is getting harder to convince myself not to buy an older N54-powered BMW after this track day. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
2/19/21 9:41 a.m.

In reply to ChrisTropea :

Same. Also realizing that maybe I should have purchased my parents' wagon--not the same engine, I know, but still....

ChrisTropea Associate Editor
2/19/21 10:39 a.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

Even without the N54 wagons are always cool.

z31maniac MegaDork
2/19/21 11:18 a.m.

I still can't get past this generation of vehicles needing rod bearings so frequently. It's completely inexcusable for a vehicle that costs as much as BMW. The includes the S54, S65, N55s have rod bearing issues as well.


2/19/21 11:30 a.m.

I love my 09 E92 335. Every time I think I want a new fun car I hop in the 335 and the feeling disappears. Mine has 378 RWHP and it's plenty fast. Gets 26 MPG at 80 mph, great seats, heated steering wheel and looks great. I will say that you should have the rear camber set to about neg 1° if you want those expensive rear tires to last more than 5000 miles. Stock spec is neg 2°!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
2/20/21 10:53 a.m.

We had a 335i back in the day, and it was way cool--terrific street car that seemed to hold much potential. On track, yeah, it ran into cooling issues. That was its downfall. Looks like we were (again) a tick too ahead of the curve as now those issues have been resolved by the aftermarket.

Look for a deeper dive on this car in the magazine, too. It's time.

CyberEric Dork
2/20/21 11:58 a.m.

I drove an E90 335i 6MT when they first came out and really liked it. The thing that always turned me off about these (besides the engine issues) was the fact that they had no LSD. That's a lot of torque going to one wheel. I'm not sure if this car has an LSD or not.

I know you can buy a diff for them, but it's not a trivial amount of money. I suppose it makes more sense now that they have gotten cheaper.

Impressive performance!

TheFlyingClutchman New Reader
2/21/21 11:45 a.m.

In reply to ChrisTropea :

Late model N54/S54 BMWs are tempting but I've heard so many issues about oil leaks on everything from valve covers (relatively simple) to engine-out jobs to reach others seals and more. 

Has anyone compiled a 'bulletbroofing checklist' for these cars/powertrains with either OEM or aftermarket parts or are they consigned to low resale 'run 'er till she blows' markets? 


calteg Dork
2/21/21 2:09 p.m.

Friend has a 135 with a Dinan tune that he keeps offering me temptingly cheap. I know I'll likely spend twice what I paid for it trying to keep the motor from grenading. 

Byrneon27 Reader
2/21/21 2:35 p.m.

In reply to TheFlyingClutchman :

They're old BMWs who appeal much more to the sideways hat crowd than members of the BMWCCA they're pretty well confined to low resale value. Thankfully this means you can have a truly incredible car for next to nothing. They're also not nearly as crummy as people suggest and there is no reasonable service that requires drivetrain removal. 

Common failures and solutions:

Early car (07-08) ecu failure: Injector drivers can be replaced by any electronics repair place. Alternatively the later MSD81 ECU is an easy retrofit with the right software. 

Injectors: Common and expensive fault, if your car has never had a FULL SET replaced under warranty/recall action BMW will install and program a set at no charge. If you have to pay for 'em FCP Euro is the go to, not the cheapest but close and lifetime replacement. 

High Pressure Fuel Pump: The later revision and aftermarket pumps seem pretty stout this honestly isn't a big problem anymore. The sub $200 aftermarket pumps are surprisingly okay. 

Water pump: Again the early pump was kinda junky but the aftermarket seems better. Currently over 100k on a VDO pump on my personal car. 

Carbon build up: It's a DI engine walnut blast every 30k if stock, 50k with a good catch-can setup, or never with reworked PCV and/or port/methanol injection 

Leaks: Yeah they leak from everywhere. Valve cover is very common but it's not a gasket failure, replacement plastic covers are out there for $100 and work for awhile, the BMW plastic cover is the best but close to $500, M18 and VTT both now make cast aluminum valve covers expensive at $600ish but no more issues. Those covers also allow you to rework the PCV system helping to prevent blowing other gaskets out. Oil filter housing gasket is common and important as it pukes oil onto the belt drive, if the belt fails on one of these it will almost certainly be sucked into the timing chain assembly. Oil pan gasket is another very common one. It's hot under the hood of these things gaskets fail. Replace neglected gaskets with good replacements and ignore for a long time. 

Misfires: Stock ignition system is garbage N55 Eldor coils are the drop in and go upgrade, I prefer for the money the Precisions Raceworks coil kit 

Turbos: This again is largely over with, the wastegate arm bushings in the BMW turbos aren't great and you end up with rattling wastegates and boost control problems. Lots of non BMW turbos out there fairly inexpensive that cure this. 

The new one seems to be mysterious low compression on a cylinder or two, the fact is these things are cheap and make big power easily they routinely get the tar beaten out of them without mercy. 

Rod bearings: I simply disagree with the rod bearing fault...  I cant say I recall an N54 having rod bearing failure without cause. That said given the age and mileage of most of these cars many have worn (note I didn't say failed) bearings it's reasonable to replace them if you're in there 


If a stock stock N54 car came into the shop (few are) with an enthusiast owner asking for it to be bulletproofed" my recommendation would likely be as follows

M18 Valve cover

Atmosphere vented crankcase

Precision Raceworks Coils

Front main seal retainer/guard plate

New tensionser and idiler pullies, Gates Racing belt

VDO water pump and thermostat housing

Mahle upgraded oil filter housing gaskets, Burger motorsport oil cooler valve. Factory oil cooler at an absolute minimum 

Index 12 fuel injectors

Carbon cleaning

Redline fluids in differential(s) and transmission. Liquimoly 5w40 in the crankcase. 

Aluminum cylinder head water fitting 

Replace as much under hood rubber as budget will allow. 

Metal charge pipe and cone intakes 

MHD tune (necessary for the coil upgrade) 

This is an easy 350hp car you could drive to the moon. Intercooler, charge pipes, and downpipes make a nearly 500hp car you could drive to the moon. 


 My car is close to 200k early last year it was driven from PA to NH without so much as opening the hood, in the fall I drove from PA to The Dragon and then straight across NC to a wedding (yes my best friend from college is a dolt who got married during COVID) the only thing I didn't feel uneasy about all weekend was the car. In the six years I've owned mine it has done three years back to back as a sales repmobile driving all over the state everyday, took a break to be my toy and spent a couple years being railed on every weekend (drag racing, half mile, autox, track day you name it) then my ex used it as her repmobile for the better part of a year. They  are fantastic everything cars a little heavy and the open diff is a bummer but you can fix everything wrong with them relatively easily. 

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