Best First Modifications for the E92 BMW M3

In 2008, the world was given the best BMW M3 ever produced. While calling the E90, E92 and E93 M3 "the best ever" might be subjective, there is no denying that the car was not perfect.  Just damn close.  And as an enthusiast we're not ones to leave well-enough alone. So if you're going to tinker with this generation M3 to enhance it's whatever, here are my suggestions on where to start.  These should provide the best bang for the buck, measured in smiles.

Angel Eye Bulbs

All US-Spec BMW M3’s from 2001+ came with xenon headlights standard however the rings, or angel eyes, were not.  They were yellow all the way through 2013.  In 2012 BMW changed the color of the angel eyes on all other models to a bright white and closely matches the color emitted by the headlight bulbs.

In car years, halogen headlights are the equivalent of gray hair.  Refresh your E92 M3 by replacing the two bulbs responsible for the yellow colored angel eyes.  There are many aftermarket solutions available and these are just a few to choose from.

The price for these solutions range anywhere from $150 to $200. It’s certainly not as cheap as replacing a burned out headlight bulb but this modification will instantly take 7 years of age off of your BMW M3 and it will continue to age well through your ownership! Or until auto manufacturers changing their lighting design and start a new trend.

Test Pipes or High-Flow X-Pipe

The thing I like most about exhaust mods is that they’re two fold. For starters, you get a throatier and meaner exhaust note and in most cases some horsepower. BMW has done an extraordinary job with the factory exhaust. On most cars, replacing the rear muffler section gains anywhere from 10 to 15 horsepower, but not on the BMW M3. The factory muffler on the E90, E91 and E92 M3’s flow quite well as-is, and are designed with aerodynamics in mind. Point being, don’t waste your time and money on a catback muffler system if power is what is wanted. Go straight for the mid-pipe, most often called the X-Pipe, where BMW packaged four restrictive catalytic converters. There are two 400-cell primary catalytic converters right after the exhaust manifolds and two 200-cell secondary cats in the middle of the X-Pipe. The two 400-cell primary cats are the power robbing thieves. They’ve gotta go.

Eliminate the restrictive 400-cell primary cats with any of the many slip-on test pipes and you’ll see an easy 20 horsepower and 15 foot pounds of torque. Price? Plan on dropping $400 for a new set or $300 on the used market. Installation can be done in your driveway in a few hours. If you have a lift, less than an hour.

Alternatively, aftermarket X-Pipes are available with your choice of catalytic converters (or not), resonators (or not), if you want them. This is a great solution if you wish to retain your factory X pipe and catalytic converters for later, such as if you eventually sell the car. Plan on spending an easy grand or more for one of these.

Below are a few popular options:

Here is a sound clip of a catless x-pipe with the stock muffler. It really takes the M3’s exhaust note to another level without losing any character. It must be stated though – removing emissions equipment may not be legal in your state so these products are usually reserved for off-road usage only. Some manufacturers require an acknowledgement of the fact when ordering, so heads-up. Additionally, removing emissions equipment can result in a check engine light. Our next recommended modification provides the solution.

Custom Engine Tune

Revised engine tuning is arguably the best bang for the buck and only gets better with the aforementioned exhaust modification. A custom engine tune can not only increase power across the entire power band by double digits, but can be used to raise the RPM limiter, remove the speed limiter, and revise the vehicle’s launch control system. A good tune is one of the best modifications available for the E9x generation M3.

Near the end of the M3’s production, BMW released new factory engine software called 240E. This software was considered a significant upgrade on it’s own, changing drivability and torque management for the better. This version of software is what most engine tuners base their custom tunes on which means it’s usually included when you purchase a custom tune. Look to drop $800 or more depending on the engine tuner. The tuners below are the most popular:

Suspension

The BMW M3 is a world-class sports coupe with world-class handling right out of the box. BMW’s engineers have done a masterful job of striking the perfect balance of street and track performance. Don’t expect there to be a lot to improvement to gain here if your car rarely sees the track.

Before talking springs we’ve gotta mention electronic dampening control, or EDC. M3’s equipped with the optional EDC include 3 (4 if you have a Competition Package M3) modes that adjusted rebound through the magnetization of the fluid within to change the dynamics of the shocks and struts. There’s Comfort, Normal, and Sport. It’s not just a gimmick. It works very well for a dual purpose street car. If you want to retain EDC and simply lower the ride height, there are a number of spring options available that play nice.

A set of springs will cost anywhere from $200 to $400. Don’t forget about the labor for installation, which could run about the same and then you’ll also want to get a fresh alignment to correct any weird changes in toe as a result of the drop. Factor in another $100-150. A basic spring upgrade could end up costing $600 or more.

Look to the well known brands like Eibach, H&R, and Vogtland for a great street ride. Look for Swift Spec-R springs if you want a stiffer spring rate better suited to spirited or track driving but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a fully adjustable coilover setup. The most popular spring options today are below.

Side note: If you have EDC and your dampers are on their way out, take a look at Bilstein. They now offer replacement EDC dampers at a fraction of the cost of BMW replacements.

But EDC isn’t for everyone. Many owners choose to eliminate it in favor of a manual and fully-adjustable, fine tune-able coilover suspension. Coil-overs generally include stiffer springs that sit on height adjustable collars, perched atop dampers with 1 or more adjustment available to rebound (1-way) or compression and rebound (2-way). Entry level systems may not be rebound or compression adjustable at all so if you’re looking for a coilover, I’d probably steer clear of those unless it’s from a well renowned manufacturer such as Ohlins. 1-Way adjustable dampers are typically rebound-only. A 2-way adjustable damper allows for fine tuning of both compression and rebound. Along with all of the adjust-ability, coilovers also tend to weight less than factory components.

Tires

This one should have been obvious. Get yourself some quality rubber. Today’s cream of the crop and most talked about summer tire is the Michelin Pilot Super Sport. Look to their Pilot Sport All-Seasons if you need something year round and don’t take your car to the track. Those who live in the four seasons, consider picking up a dedicated winter tire and a spare set of wheels. This will maximize enjoyment of your M3 year round. The M3 is not some exotic Italian so stop whining. Get out and drive it!

Summer tires we’d buy are below. Find them at TireRack or retailer of your choice. Costco, even.

  • Michelin Pilot Super Sport
  • Hankook Ventus R-S3 Version 2’s
  • Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 R

If you want to follow what I’m doing to my own 2008 BMW M3, check out our project cars garage. You can also follow me on Instagram or Twitter.

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