Unless you count the incredibly limited availability E46 M3 GTR, the E9X M3 was the only to bear the name and receive a naturally-aspirated, high-revving, small-displacement V8 under the hood. With the introduction of its successor, the F80 M3 and coupe counterpart F82 M4, BMW went back to a straight-six paired with a set of turbochargers. For that brief, shining, glorious moment, though, BMW blessed enthusiasts with the E9X generation and what some would call the most M-Car of all M-Cars produced. While that may be a point of contention, the fact remains that the E9X M3 powered by the legendary S65 V8 offered the snappy responsiveness, high-revving, naturally-aspirated fun that we may never see again from our beloved M-GmbH division. If you are lucky enough to have one or are in the process of buying one, there are still ways you can get the most fun out of the E9X M3 that we’d like to address.
Following our recently set format, we’ll first talk about maintenance, then move on to have some fun with modifications. In the E9X chassis, since the oldest is just barely ten years old, you really don’t need to do much. What does need attention, however, is not exactly what we would call fun.
If you just picked up an M3, hopefully, it came with an extensive service history. If not, be ready to dig in for some fun. The S65, and most modern BMW performance engines, notoriously eat up rod bearings. If yours hasn’t been serviced or you aren’t entirely positive that it has or hasn’t, you’re going to want to tackle the rod bearing replacement with some WPC Treated Rod Bearings for future-proofing and peace of mind. These engines love to live at the red line, so don’t have one of your fun sessions become a not-so-fun surprise bonfire. Replace your rod bearings. Our catalog of BMW M3 parts has everything you’ll need to keep your E9X in peak condition.
Basic service is recommended as well. That means spark plugs, coil packs, drive belts, and looking for any sign of oil leaks. We love LIQUI MOLY Molygen oil as it provides essential lubrication benefits we have discussed in articles before and also reacts under UV light to let you know where any leaks might be hiding. When you go through and do your initial oil service, ignition service, and accessory service, clean around all the major gasket locations. After a few drive cycles, any oil leaks will begin to present themselves. Just take that UV light provided with your Molygen oil service kit and shine around all the gaskets. If you see a green glow, then you found the source of your leak!
Any other services with cars this new and reliable should be on an as-needed basis. No need to fix what isn’t broken! Places you may need to check are pretty self-explanatory like brake pads, rotors, fluids, tires, and suspension components. We hope you checked all those during your initial inspection before purchase, but your first services are as good a time as any to have the car in the air and wiggle everything around to see if you may need to replace anything. Fortunately, at least in terms of suspension and cooling system replacements, we’re going to suggest some upgrades here next that will offer the benefits of both maintenance services and performance upgrades to help you enjoy your M3 to the fullest.
Moving on to the fun bits, let’s look at some simple ways we would suggest improving your M3. For example, we’re going to look at our very own M3 and tell you what we did. Short answer, not much. Aside from the rod bearings and general maintenance, it really did not take a whole lot of effort to make the already impressive car exactly the way we wanted.
As we mentioned before, these cars are about ten years old and probably approaching the 100k mile mark if used as daily commuters and short trips. That means the struts, shocks, and some of the bushings could probably stand to be replaced, though they may not need it. In the interest of performance, we went with a set of KW V3 coilovers on each corner and Turner Motorsport Monoballs in the front control arms. Everything else is good enough for any amount of fun, even for some hot laps on the track, where the coilovers and Turner goodies provided the extra traction and handling confidence we needed.
For brakes, the M3 already sports some top-notch hardware. Opting for some street performance pads from HAWK Performance, factory replacement brake rotors, and stainless steel lines from StopTech is more than enough to handle spirited drives and bring the V8-powered M3 to a quick stop.
If the coilovers just don’t do it for you in terms of reducing the body roll, a set of H&R Sway Bars and Bushings will keep the M3 cornering flat and help improve those lap times. The upgraded sway bars aren’t exactly what we’d call necessary, but they do give you some added adjustment to play around with, which will let you find the perfect settings that let you drive the car how you want.
The engine really doesn’t need much attention at all. Screaming ITBs and a high-revving, small-displacement, potent power-producing V8s found in these cars check all the performance boxes on their own. Honestly, a simple tune from Turner Motorsport is all it took for us to be more than pleased with the power from our E90 M3.
A major difference in terms of driving pleasure will come from the exhaust. Tons of manufacturers have tried their hands at making the raspy V8 sound good. We have used Borla, a pre-production ECS system, Corsa, and Supersprint on our M3. Personally, my absolute favorite was the raw sound from the highly engineered and well manufactured Supersprint exhaust. Their system has always made me smile, and it would be my suggestion. However, it is important that you do your research on what each option sounds like before you buy since they all will have about the same small performance benefits and will really come down to looks, price, and sound for you.
Wheels, as we have said, make a massive difference in the car. If you are going to be daily driving the M3 and possibly tracking it on occasion, we always encourage BMW enthusiasts to consider APEX Wheels. They’re lightweight, durable, relatively inexpensive, and designed to be a perfect fitment for your BMW. APEX Arc 8 wheels are a solid choice and look incredible in the gunmetal finish, which we use on our M3. I would always recommend APEX Wheels for any BMW, particularly, the E9X M3.
That’s it. You don’t need much in these cars to have fun and keep them in peak condition. While you can always make interior changes, like upgrading to a Turner Motorsport Adjustable Short Shift Kit in the manual version, or harnesses, race seats, and more for the aesthetics, we honestly love the simple OEM look of the E9X. BMW did an excellent job blending luxury comfort and performance function into these cars, which we would just hate to remove for something less comfortable. However, they don’t all belong to us! Go out and make your E90, E92, or E93 M3 the perfect one for you and let us know what you did! Be sure to check out our full catalog of E9X M3 parts and start wrenching so you can enjoy your M3 as we love ours.