Home » You Can Buy A V8-Powered BMW M3 For The Price Of A New Hyundai Sonata

You Can Buy A V8-Powered BMW M3 For The Price Of A New Hyundai Sonata

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The 2000s was a weird but magical decade for cars. Starting with the last vestiges of pre-Audi Lamborghini and ending with both a recession and a twin-turbocharged Japanese world beater, it saw modernization before the thorough proliferation of electric power steering, and it let naturally-aspirated engines soar to new power heights, likely in a way we’ll never see again. In fifty years, we’ll gather our grandchildren around the fireplace and tell them about the time Bavarian engineers stuffed a V10-derived V8 engine into the BMW M3.

Yep, BMW took the hardest trim of the archetypal sports sedan and put a juggernaut of a V8 in it. Derived from the E60 M5’s five-liter V10, It’s a glorious anomaly of an engine, but also the end of an era, as it marked the last time a production-spec M3 would come with a naturally-aspirated engine ever. Talk about going out with a bang. When this thing came out, it stickered for north of $60,000, and compared to the competition including the excellent C63 AMG, it felt worth the asking price.

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However, depreciation is a hell of a drug, so you won’t have to pay new M3, or even new M340i pricing for a slice of German V8 nirvana. You can actually pick up a decent E9x BMW M3 for the price of a new Hyundai Sonata. Now this is a family car we can all get behind.

What Is It?

Alpine White E92 Bmw M3 2

You’re looking at the only full mass-production, V8-powered M3 BMW ever made. Sure, the E46 M3 GTR made famous by Need For Speed: Most Wanted predates this car, but that was an ultra-low-volume homologation special that was borderline cheating. Awesome car, but nowhere near attainable. The fourth-generation M3, chassis code E90 for the sedan, E92 for the coupe, and E93 for the cabriolet, is attainable, and it’s magic. We’re talking about a four-liter 90-degree naturally-aspirated V8 with individual throttle bodies revving to 8,400 rpm and making 414 horsepower right at the top of the powerband, 12.5:1 hydraulically-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, rear-wheel-drive, and possibly the best chassis ever fitted to a compact sports sedan. Even the base 3 Series of this era was brilliant, and the M3 took things to another level without sacrificing approachability. In the words of Car And Driver:

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As a result of that high redline, the M3 can fly though a turn in second gear where most cars need third. Of course, the M3 works fine in third gear, too, and that’s what makes this new car like its forerunners—it does everything well. Fast corners, slow corners, accelerating, or braking, it’s just sensational. There’s a playful, forgiving nature to the M3 that belies its extreme abilities in the same way that a tiger cub can be cuddly-cute one moment and ferocious the next. The M3 is fun to drive fast, but it’s even more fun to drive faster. There’s no starting point where the M3 comes alive, and there’s no ragged edge where the M3 switches from tossable to treacherous.

We’re talking about a car that is brilliant and mesmerizing all the time. It can tear up a day at the track and make you feel divine, then settle down and cruise home in pleasant comfort while still telegraphing enough information that you know you’re driving something special. From the standard carbon fiber roof on coupe models to the aluminum control arms to the sealed spherical bearings, you just got the sense that this car was made by people who loved driving. Even the optional seven-speed DCT was lightyears ahead of the single-clutch automated manual gearbox in the prior model. This is one of the greatest sports sedans of all time, no doubt about it.

How Cheap Are We Talking?

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It’s not just possible to buy a V8 M3 for new midsize sedan money, it’s possible to buy a nice one. A 2024 Hyundai Sonata Limited Hybrid stickers at $38,350 including freight, which gives us a comfortable cap to go M3 hunting under. There’s a fairly wide selection of cars out there for that sort of coin, including this 13,000-mile 2012 M3 coupe that recently sold on Bring A Trailer for $35,500. Not only is it a later car with the coveted Competition package, but it’s loaded to the gills, which is perfect if you’re looking for something nice with the seven-speed DCT.

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However, let’s say you want a manual and are okay with an earlier, higher-mileage car with some modifications. This 2008 coupe that recently sold on Cars & Bids is a great example of what you can get for below $30,000, in this case, $27,250. Sure, it may have 88,700 miles on the clock, black wheels, and a cold air intake, but it seems well-kept, has evidence of maintenance, and promises a lot of fun for the money.

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So far, these coupes are great, but what if you’ve procreated and now frequently have rear passengers? As fun as coupes are, it’s a pain in the butt buckling in car seats in the back of a two-door car, so what about an M3 sedan? Well, this 2011 M3 sedan with 92,500 miles on the clock sold on Cars & Bids back in January, and it seems promising. Not only is it Interlagos Blue, but it’s also a Competition Package car, with cloth seats that should hold up better to child seat bases than leather. Yes, someone painted the stock wheels black, but at $32,000, that’s not the worst downside to have.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Interlagos Blue E90 Bmw M3 Engine

Since the S65 V8 engine in the E9x BMW M3 shares a whole lot with the S85 V10 in the E60 M5, both engines share a few common issues. Accelerated rod bearing wear due to excessively tight clearances and heavy specified oil is a known issue, but aftermarket suppliers like BE and VAC have stepped up with bearings that should be a lifetime fix. Fortunately, getting rod bearings done on an E9x M3 is substantially less expensive than getting them done on an E60 M5, so expect to pay around $2,500 to have this job done professionally. In addition, throttle actuators can go bad, but you can buy a set of replacement gears to rebuild them for as little as $114.

However, one big advantage to the S65 V8 over its V10 cousin is that is uses a low-pressure VANOS variable valve timing system, so the litany of VANOS issues affecting the E60 M5 aren’t common on the E9x M3. Instead, just keep standard old car issues in mind. Power window regulators might go bad, audio system amplifiers aren’t bulletproof, bushings and ball joints wear out, you know the drill.

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Should You Buy An E9x BMW M3?

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While E9x BMW M3 ownership isn’t for everyone, as long as the rod bearings have been done or you can budget for them straight away, it’s not as maintenance-intensive as you might fear. Sure, 10w60 oil might be expensive, but from a smiles-per-mile perspective, these cars are fantastic. Given increased collector interest in this platform, it’s only a matter of time before prices go up, so if you’ve always wanted one, you might as well get in on it.

This sort of high-revving naturally-aspirated eight-cylinder car that’s still genuinely practical and comfortable enough to use every day likely isn’t something we’ll see ever again. The Cadillac ATS came close, but had a boosted V6, and while the current Ford Mustang offers plenty of RPM, it doesn’t have the practicality or the steering feel of the old M3. If you ever get a chance to drive on, don’t pass that opportunity up.

(Photo credits: Bring A Trailer, Cars & Bids)

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SYT_Shadow
SYT_Shadow
2 months ago

Such a fantastic car. I have an E90 and E92 that are keepers!

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
2 months ago

WAIT!!! Old German cars depreciate at shocking rates!!!! Who knew??? Ok really though, I love listening to German car enthusiasts explaining how they are really pretty reliable cars…once you replace the bearings, valves, timing, that one thing that happens at exactly 63.2k miles, some electronics, the widget, and the doohickey. Love the dedication of those folks but boy it ain’t for me!

Automotiveflux
Automotiveflux
2 months ago

Love the hood bump on these

Micah Cameron
Micah Cameron
2 months ago

One important and not uncommon point of failure that this article doesn’t mention is accelerated main bearing wear. Catastrophic failure of the main bearings does happen, and unlike the rod bearings, replacing the main bearings preventatively requires the engine to be removed and completely disassembled, including splitting the bedplate.

This is not an issue that plagues the S85 V10. It is something that would keep me from ever considering an E9X M3 with the S65. Sreten at M539 Restorations has a series of videos on his E92 M3 discussing this issue.

Last edited 2 months ago by Micah Cameron
Jared Johnson
Jared Johnson
2 months ago
Reply to  Micah Cameron

THIS. Main bearings as a consumable is where I check out, even as a S54 owning glutton for punishment. That said, the S65 sounds amazing when I hear one on occasion.

SYT_Shadow
SYT_Shadow
2 months ago
Reply to  Micah Cameron

Main bearing issues are incredibly, fantastically rare. Rod bearing issues are the problem, although still rare.
My brother and I wrote the DIY for replacement, but a shop will do it for a reasonable price.
It is **much** more reliable than the E46 M3, which we also wrote the rod bearing DIY for and sold after 180k miles.

Pappa P
Pappa P
2 months ago

So what you’re telling me is that this is more reliable and cheaper to maintain than a Subaru STi?
I really wanted one of these. There was a dad at my kid’s school who had an E90. The sound of that V8 was intoxicating. He traded it to a local dealer, who was selling it for $22k Canadian.
After hearing about the engine woes these can have, I was scared off, so I passed.
If the fix can be done for $2500 as you claim, I would say this might be going on my shopping list. That’s much cheaper than repairing or replacing an STi engine, and those fail pretty much inevitably.
As a side note, I don’t think the smg version is a good buy when you could get an ISF for similar money with Corolla reliability.
I’ve got to have the manual, so no Lexus.

Mike F.
Mike F.
2 months ago

A good friend picked up one of these a few years ago. Between the 12 mpg (when he was going easy on the throttle), the very expensive maintenance, and the tiny little valve spring issue that required, well, some new valves (to the tune of some $8000), his wife has ample ammunition to argue against his ever owning anything like that again. (But he went out and bought an I4 M50, anyway.)

On the other hand, another friend who was a Nissan engineer with plenty of track experience called the E90 M3 a beast, and that was a high compliment coming from him.

Davey
Davey
2 months ago

It cannot possibly be any worse than the N54 in the 335 E90s (speaking from experience).

Daniel MacDonald
Daniel MacDonald
2 months ago

Sadly (as I can’t afford a $32K weekend driver) these have already plateaued in value from what I can tell. And here you are helping ensure they don’t drop further! I had been hoping but should’ve known better they’d follow the same depreciation cycle as the e46 M3 and I’d be able to snap a clean one in the mid teens once they’d hit about 15 years old. I’ll go ahead and reveal my purist snob credentials and say imo this is the last of the “real” old school M cars. No touch screen nonsense, no 300 ways to configure the suspension, brakes, traction control and throttle. And if you’re really lucky and get one sans iDrive no screens at all besides tiny red LCDs that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the ’90s. Been eyeing one on Facebook MP the last couple days with a rebuilt title but looks clean and is only $16K and thinking that might be cheap enough to roll the dice on.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
2 months ago

I don’t even think that’s a purist snob take, I think it’s more or less widely accepted. I think most BMW enthusiasts would argue that peak M was the roadster, E46 M3, and E39 M5. They then decided to snort a bunch of cocaine and dropped the E60 and E90, which are fire breathing, high revving, RWD, naturally aspirated psychopaths.

All available in stick as well. While you all are well aware that I’m hardly a manual diehard I do think it’s the proper transmission in golden era Ms. No one wants goddamn SMG. I personally don’t think I’d take on any of the cars I listed because I’m not particularly mechanically savvy and don’t want to go bankrupt when things inevitably go south…but I still love them.

Daniel MacDonald
Daniel MacDonald
2 months ago

Well IMO part of what was desirable about the e46 M3 was outside of the stupid rod bearings on the S54 and a few other slightly higher maintenance items on the engine they’re otherwise more or less an acceptably reliable e46. Replace the cooling system before it’s likely failure interval and do the rod bearings if they haven’t been done and while no Honda they’re generally old enough to have escaped the worst of the modern day German car complexity that can fail on you in all kinds of creatively expensive ways.

And maybe it’s not that much of a purist take-but a whole lot of people bought F8x generation M3/M4 cars-anecdotally I’d guess they outsold the e90 so clearly a lot of folks like(d) them. Probably because they looked better and they have a certain dumb fast appeal that feels more American muscle car than “traditional” BMW but that overpowered feel let’s me get a hot car adrenaline grin anywhere whereas handling and a high winding powertrain require a twisty backroad. And the DCT transmission in them is genuinely the next best thing to a stick at least that I’ve driven. But obviously it’s popular, BMW hasn’t appeared to have been hurt by throwing most of their brand legacy under the bus so maybe it’s not purist but it’s a niche even if it is a wide one.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
2 months ago

I mean the E46 is just so iconic. I was just getting into cars as an adolescent when it was showing up in video games/on the cover of magazines so it’ll always be special to me. I don’t really want to pay the premium that the manuals currently require or to deal with the damn SMG gearbox, but every now and then I see a well loved one that tempts me.

And I’ve daily’d two DCTs in a row…so you definitely don’t have to tell me about how engaging they can be. I think the NO MANUAL NO CARE gang really sleeps on them/maybe a decade from now everyone will be waxing poetic about how good we had it when they were mainstream. I’ve never driven the M one but I assume it’s excellent based on what I’ve heard. Believe it or not I actually like the current M2 for the reasons you’re citing as to why people like F80s.

If you think about it as corner carver/momentum car then yeah, it’s a bit of a miss. But if you think about it as a German take on a pony car it suddenly makes sense. I basically think of it as a fancy/less ostentatious Camaro. In that way it’s appealing to me since I love pony cars, but I get why the purists turn up their noses at it.

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