Despite Chris Bangle’s revolutionary design and a slightly modest cabin, the E90’s performance capabilities meant it was well received by the automotive community. Jason Plato raved about the car in his review for Fifth Gear and the fifth-generation 3 Series is the only BMW to have ever won the “World Car of the Year” award. I have personally owned a couple of E90 3 Series here in India and driving them made me realize how good BMW is as a carmaker.
And for any potential E90 3 Series owner, I have compiled a buyer’s guide that shall help you to make the right decision. Of course, this article may miss out a few points; so if you own an E90, feel free to add your inputs in the comments below.
What To Buy
As with any 3 Series generation apart from the E21, the best variant is the M3.
In fact, if you live in Europe and have a hefty bank account, you ought to enquire about the M3 GTS from your dealer. With its 450 hp 4.4-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine and the track-optimized set-up, the GTS is a monster of a car. However, only 150 units were ever built and they are going for nearly $200,000 these days, which is enough money for you to buy a M6 and a F30 320i.
The standard M3 will cost you around $30,000, which isn’t a lot, but it can be very expensive to repair if there’s a major breakdown.
So the two models that we particularly like are the face-lifted versions of the 335i and 330d. The LCI models do cost more but they get the updated iDrive system, restyled exterior with larger ORVMs (that significantly improve the visibility) and better engines.
While the 335d was the most powerful diesel E90 3 Series, it got the M57 pot with the hugely unreliable turbochargers. Hence, this is why we have shortlisted the 330d LCI instead. It got the more robust N57 motor and with 241 hp and 520 Nm of torque being fed to the rear wheels, you won’t be let down by the performance. A 6-speed manual is our choice of transmission but the Steptronic served me really well with the 320d.
The 335i was the first 3er to be turbocharged when BMW launched it with the 6-cylinder N54 engine. However, despite all the accolades it earned, the N54 was notorious for its fuel pump and turbo issues. BMW engineers worked hard upon those problems and came up with the N55 mill, which was fitted on the 335i in 2010 and those are the cars you should try to get your hands on. They are more reliable and get the same power and torque ratings as the N54 (302 hp and 400 Nm respectively), enabling for a sprint to 100 km/h of around five seconds.
What to Expect
The 330d and 335i are considered very reliable cars. As long as the previous owner(s) got the car serviced on time and didn’t miss out on the oil changes, you shouldn’t worry about any breakdowns.
That said, there are some Bimmers with the N57 engine that have suffered from broken timing chains. This issue is not as prominent on the N57 as it was on the N47, but timing chain failures can cost truckloads of money at the service center.
Apart from that, some common E90 3 Series faults that I faced were cabin rattles, window regulator malfunctioning (twice) and a couple of electrical issues. Nothing major, but it did mean a visit to the workshop every couple of months. Also, my brake pads used to wear out really quickly.
How Much To Pay
A well-maintained 335i with the N55 engine will cost you between $10,000 and $25,000 and the 330d goes for around £15,000. You might find these figures a bit inflated but well-maintained models are worth the money.
If you want to go for something cheaper, the 330i is a good alternative. It got a 3.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-6 engine with over 250 horses on the tap and you can get a decent model for around $8,000. In India, the 330i was the range-topper and having driven it a few times, I can say that it’s one of the best BMWs ever sold in the country.
If you like driving, you won’t regret buying the E90 3 Series. Some of its engines are pure gems and the chassis is very well balanced. The car is a lot stiffer than its successor but if I can daily it in a country with one of the worst roads in the world, driving one shouldn’t be a headache on the well-laid tarmac of the United States and Europe.