Performance Sedan / Coupe / Convertible
Lusted after by fans of high-strung, German-engineered performance cars, the BMW M3 entered its fourth generation for model year 2007, packing, for the first time, a V8 engine. Not just any V8 engine, either, but a wound-up, hand-built, 4.0L beastie cranking out a glorious, free-revving 414 horsepower en route to an 8,300 RPM redline. Yeehaw!
Shoppers considering an M3 from this era can look for a sedan, coupe or convertible, manual or dual-clutch paddle-shift transmission, and access to one of the most storied performance car driving experiences on the road. Feature content was fitting of a world-class performance car, and included goodies like adjustable dampers, an adjustable rear differential, premium audio, memory seats, Bluetooth, navigation, iDrive central command, automatic lights, automatic climate control and more.
It’s not BMW M3 weather at the moment, but with the recently-launched next-generation M3 and M4 models hitting the market, the time is right to start researching the used market for a copy of the last-generation machine. Spring will be here soon, and if this will be your year to be a total champ and invest in an E90 generation M3, you’ll be firing off millisecond-precise paddle-shifted gear changes at obscene revs before you know it.
What Owners Like
Performance, discreet styling upgrades, a magnificently tuned engine, track-ready handling and brakes and all-around recognition and exclusivity are highly rated by M3 owners. Many owners report that the M3 also does well as a daily driver when driven gently, too. Comfortable seats and a look that favours sportiness, not bling, round out the package.
What Owners Dislike
Common gripes include heavy fuel consumption, a stiff suspension, a plain-Jane interior relative to some competitors, and the perpetual threat of driver’s license revocation. Many owners wish for a sturdier cupholder design, too.
Here are some owner reviews.
The Test Drive
The M3 looks to be a really solid performance car bet – but some checks are advised ahead of your purchase
Start with all on-board electronics – including the navigation system, instrument cluster, Bluetooth, climate control and all lighting. Try everything inside of the M3 that runs on electricity, several times, to confirm proper operation. Note any warning lights in the instrument cluster, too.
Next, using the iDrive system, click MENU, then VEHICLE INFORMATION, then CHECK CONTROL to see if the vehicle has any issues you should be aware of. This on-board interface can alert you of some potential issues, and a highly-advised scan of the M3’s drivetrain computer systems should be considered mandatory, too.
Check the convertible top, if equipped, for proper operation and signs of water leaks, damaged seals or signs of hardtop panel contact, which may be visible as damaged or scuffed paint. Confirm that all rubber seals are present and in good shape – plump and intact, not dried up or cracked. Cycle the roof between open and closed several times, noting any unwelcomed noises or signs of straining.
There’s some discussion relating to bad rod bearings inside of the M3’s engine, which could wear out and cause engine failure. This is an expensive repair, and may occur with little to no warning. Many in the owners community say that the issue has been blown out of proportion and exaggerated, likely due to failure on some non-stock engines getting plenty of publicity. Still, shoppers are advised to seek out a model with all service records, and especially, proof of regular oil changes, for maximum peace of mind.
Other reported issues are mainly minor – bad window seals on coupe models which could cause the glass to scratch, some interior squeaks and rattles, and a wonky brake-light fault system which could cause a “brake-light failure” message to display, possibly even if the brake lights are working. Have all exterior illumination double-checked to be sure.
Drivetrain wise, the V8 looks bulletproof so far – though ensuring the one you’re considering has been treated to all regular maintenance and fluid changes is key to ensuring its long-term durability and reliability. The M3’s transmissions look solid too, albeit some programming-related clumsiness from the M-DCT control system, which allows drivers to fine-tune the operation of the dual-clutch transmission (if equipped). Some owners have had issues with this high-tech gearbox resolved with dealer-installed software updates. If you prefer a manual transmission, stick to your guns.
Listen for any clunking or popping sounds through the rear floor of the M3 while accelerating hard in first gear, which could indicate a differential mount that needs replacing. Finally, note that many in the owners community note that first year copies of this generation M3 are the most likely to exhibit issues, though most will be electronic in nature.
To ensure you benefit from maximum long-term reliability and durability from your M3, avoid a model with extensive modifications to the engine or suspension. Especially if the M3 you’re considering is boosted, or runs altered engine management software, seek out another model.
Best bet in a used M3? In any case, be sure to take the unit you’re considering to a BWM dealer for a pre-purchase inspection. This might cost $200 or so, but could reveal a far pricier problem waiting to surface. Ask the technician to inspect the tires, brakes, undercarriage and rear differential, and to scan the computer, to check all fluids, and to give you a sense of how well the vehicle was maintained. Note that tires, brakes and suspension components will be pricey to replace, so be sure all are in decent shape.
The M3 owner’s community reports that the 2007 to 2013 M3 is a reliable performance machine that’s fantastic to drive and free of serious issues. Common issues are minor and easily identified – not to mention largely electronic and not mechanical in nature. A model purchased through a certified pre-owned program with full service records is your safest bet. Ultimately, this looks like a mechanically solid used performance car buy.