Throughout my tenure at Unique Cars, I’d often get asked how to pick a collectible vehicle.
There’s no hard and fast answer, but collectors of anything will generally gravitate towards the first, the last or a significant out of character departure within a particular model of interest.
The fourth-generation BMW E92 M3 is a car of lasts, and a radical departure from all M3s before – and after – it.
It’s the last M3 coupe, and it’s also the last naturally aspirated M car we might ever see – and its sizzling 4.0-litre V8 – made for a truly unique distinction within the M3 lineage. And boy, did it cause controversy at the time.
The BMW M3 is a lot like the Porsche 911, whereby whenever a new model is announced, purists inevitably seem to denote the old model as ‘the last good one’.
So you can imagine the conversation surrounding the then-new M car when it came out that its traditionally refined inline-six would be replaced by a blue-collar V8.
"The E92 M3 scorched the lap times at MOTOR's 2008 PCOTY, and ultimately finished second"
But that unusual V8 might just be the reason you should get into one soon.
Debuting at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show, the new M3 coupe sported an all-new, all-alloy 4.0-litre S65 V8 capable of 309kW at 9300rpm and 400Nm at 3900rpm, which catapulted the svelte coupe to triple digits in 4.5 seconds in DCT guise (4.7 for the manual).
Though perhaps less engaging than the six-speed manual, the DCT-equipped E92 scorched the lap times at MOTOR’s 2008 PCOTY, and ultimately finished in second place overall – an impressive effort.
Down on power against Mercedes-Benz’s popular W204 C63 of the time, the M3 was far lighter, especially sans the optional sunroof which saw a slick carbon fibre piece grafted in its place. The two rivals ultimately yielded a near identical power-to-weight ratio.
In the modern age of downsized powerplants and turbocharged technology, the E92 will be remembered as the veritable capstone of a naturally aspirated era in BMW M division. What’s more, in the face of the successive F82 M4, and the divisively styled G82, we suspect that many will grow to revere the E92’s graceful styling and burly S65 V8 through the long lens of time.
In the market
While we’ve primarily been speaking on the two-door E92 coupe, this generation of M3 was also available in sedan and convertible configurations (denoted by chassis codes E90 and E93 respectively).
Pre life-cycle impulse (BMW speak for mid-life update) examples are prevalent and easily found asking between $40-$60,000 with no discernible discrepancy between the rare manual versions and the predominant DCT-equipped examples. Post-2011 LCI examples carry a premium and quickly approach $70,000 and upwards, and feature minor trim changes, a superior iDrive system, LED tail lights, white halo headlights and a marginal performance increase.
Values are already on the move, as we’d have been talking between $35-$45,000 as little as two years ago.
Body & Chassis
As a modern contraption, there shouldn’t be much to go wrong in the way of obvious external degradation. However, inspecting for accident damage is always good practice. Inspect uniformity of paint finish, panel gaps and front and rear bumpers for signs of removal and refitting. Front headlights are also known to fill with moisture and water.
Engine & Transmission
BMW’s S65 was produced at the Landshut foundry in Germany, parallel to the F1 engines the firm was supplying to Sauber at the time. Despite adding two more cylinders, the S65 weighed 15kg less than the outgoing inline-six.
Dreaded VANOS faults aren’t as prevalent as in the preceding E46, although they aren’t entirely unheard of.
Particular attention should be paid to service history (saved on the key and viewable on the internal display), as the S65 is known to drink oil under regular circumstances, and missed oil changes can lead to catastrophic failure. Oil leaks are a known fault and often occur around the valve covers and the transmission’s plastic sump. With no dipstick to be found, engine oil level (as well as status of brake pads, fluids and cabin microfilter) is checked through BMW’s iDrive system.
One of the most common faults are failing throttle body actuators, which can lead to obvious error codes as well as a loss of power and engagement of limp mode.
Suspension & Brakes
Dampers, either standard or optional EDC (electronic damper control) should be inspected for leaks, and EDC modes should too be tested for functionality.
Many cars on the market display quite meagre odometers, so bushings should still be in good health. Significantly uneven wear between all four tyres can indicate misaligned suspension geometry from sustained hard use or hard knocks with kerbs.
Interior & Electronics
Old iDrive infotainment systems have been known to develop issues, often pertaining to navigation. As an aside, the post-LCI iDrive system offers a vastly nicer experience than the old ‘flying saucer’ interface.
Ensure all adjustable configuration modes (throttle response, steering, EDC and traction control) are operational. Pre-saved driver settings may too give an indication on the previous owner’s driving style.
Three other options you may consider
- Mercedes-Benz W204 C63 AMG
The most obvious alternative is this M3’s arch nemesis: the W204 C63. Hugely popular in its time, there are many more on the market displaying softer values than the M3 (with a premium on wagons, unfortunately).
- HSV Clubsport R8
BMW’s M3 was marketed as one of the main targets of HSV’s Clubsport R8, despite costing $100,000 more when new. The HSV won’t be as nicely finished, or steer as sharply, but if you buy in to Aussie David vs Goliath lore, prices are largely lineball at the low-$40k mark.
- Lexus IS F
A cast aluminium block, alloy head, oversquare 5.0-litre V8 with forged conrods and crank – co-developed by Yamaha – headlines Lexus’ defunct rear-driven IS F. It’s a peach of a motor, plus the IS F carries a certain fly-under-the-radar coolness to boot. There aren’t many on the market to choose from though.
BMW E92 M3 specs
Body: 2-door, 4-seat coupe
Engine: 3999cc quad-ohc 32v V8
Power: 309kW @ 8300rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 3900rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual/7-speed DCT
Weight: 1665 kg
Used range: $40,000-$70,000
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