My story begun when I was a young. I have always been into performance cars and as I grew up becoming more financially capable, I set out to save enough money to find my dream car. Being at the age of 20, my main criteria for the car were cheap and fast, not a hatch, manual trans and preferably a coupe. The Toyota 86 was bang on with that criteria, however, I was not content with the power - although most people would say the car was never about power but how it goes around a corner.
Moving onto my early 20’s, I had my first serious relationship and I was reminded by my partner to get a house before getting a car (a car that is more than a necessity). With that in mind, I was thinking with my head over my heart and agreed.
Fast forward to my mid 20’s, and we'd had a nasty breakup. By that time, I was in the darkest place of my life and what most people would laugh off as a quarter life crisis. “You’ll be right mate”, I heard.
Over time I reconnected with my interest in cars and with enough money saved, I pulled the trigger and purchased a second-hand 2008 BMW M3 E92. The criteria for the car was important to me at the time, it had to be Alpine White, with a carbon-fibre roof and a manual transmission. My heart had finally won over my head. Prior to purchasing the car, I had researched the main issues that could go wrong with the car and the two things that came up were rod bearings and throttle actuators being the weakness of this car. More on this later…
I remember at first sitting in the car and taking it for the first drive. It was exhilarating, the exhaust note, and the way the engine revs all the way to the redline at 8400rpm. Having driven ordinary, non-performance cars, you would normally and naturally shift at around 6000rpm at the latest. Not with this car, as when you reach 6000rpm it had only just begun. The power pulls linearly all the way through to the redline with no hesitation.
The handling was very good, with the help of the adjustable Electronic Damping Control (EDC) settings and the type of tyres having very little flex in the side wall. Although the car weighs more than 1640kg, it hides the weight well when thrown around a corner, but if you were coming from a Mazda MX-5 or Toyota 86 it would feel pretty nose heavy. The car was an absolute animal in the rain and could easily be “encouraged” to flick the tail out.
The interior of the car was standard BMW at the time, with the old iDrive infotainment system (sluggish) and leather heated seats. It was nothing to rave about compared to the interiors today. There was no Bluetooth audio streaming for your music (which can be corrected with a Tune 2 Air device). The rear seats were surprisingly spacious in the coupe and could sit people comfortably on long trips when compared to the Toyota 86 or Nissan GTR rear seats. The exterior styling of the car was superb with the quad exhaust (functional and not just looks) and the smooth coupe silhouette and bonnet bulge at the front. This was further confirmed by people on the streets as you drove or waited at the traffic lights. They would look at the car. I even had a person comment as I exited the vehicle saying, “That is a very nice car.”
Here is where the fairy tale ends… a long list of problems appeared.
I had the rod bearings replaced as preventative maintenance, as a new engine replacement is $15k to be completed (compared to $3k for the bearings). I will not delve into the rod bearing issue; search it up and you’ll understand the issue with this particular engine.
After having the car for six months, we had a huge downpour and suddenly one of the xenon headlights stopped working. While I talk of being interested in cars, I was also more of the practical hands-on type. I started to inspect the car and did a bit of diagnostics/troubleshooting myself. I realised what had happened, the inspection cover under the wheel fender had fallen off and water had gone into the headlight area. I went on to remove the headlight bulb from the other side of the car and swapped them around to see if it worked. The bulb worked. I deduced that the headlight ballast was the culprit and took it into an independent shop. The shop went on with the repairs and in turn fried the footwell module (FRM).
“It will be $1000” was the response. A few expletives to myself later, I begrudgingly agreed and got the repair underway.
Moving onto the eighth month of ownership, one day without warning when the car started up, it had put itself into limp mode and the dash lit up like a Christmas tree. "Ah F&!@" was my response. The car was still driveable with behaviour I could only describe as driving a Toyota Yaris with half the power. I limped the car to the shop to diagnose the problem. It was the throttle actuators. For those of you who do not know, the throttle actuators control the amount of air that goes into the engine. The actuators have plastic gears in them. The teeth get worn over time and starts skipping or jumping. There are two actuators in the car. As I dug further, I had found out that one of the actuators got replaced recently and the other one had a rebuild kit done on it (replaced plastic gears with brass gears). The previous owner had cheap-ed out instead of getting a new one. Here comes the killer… a brand new one from BMW costs $2300.
After literally a month, while driving, all of a sudden I heard this loud bang coming from my engine bay. The power steering was lost and I knew at that moment something had gone terribly wrong. I managed to drive this back home and opened the bonnet. To my surprise, the auxiliary belt had exploded and shredded to pieces inside the engine bay and the alternator belt only had three ribs out of the six remaining. The idle pulley had disintegrated. I was particularly frustrated at this because I had the car serviced every 10,000km (or every year) and they had not mentioned that the belt/pulley needed to be replaced.
The following two months down the track, I thought my bad luck would end, but nope. While driving, the ABS/DSC and Hill Assist had all stopped working. I did a bit of research and found it could've been one of two things; either ABS wheel speed sensors (cheap) or the ABS pump module or pump (expensive). Through trial and error I replaced the sensors, and that worked for about two weeks before it was back again. I paid $120 to get the codes read and boy oh boy it was showing up as the ABS pump. The mechanic told me, “Sorry to say but it will be $4000 new from BMW or $2000 for a refurbished one.” You could imagine the horror on my face. Defeated, I stepped out and drove the car away. Determined and fired up, I did a bit of research and found that there were companies that actually repaired the units, so I paid $450 and had the unit repaired with one year warranty.
After that ordeal, for the next service, I was told there were two major issues for the car. One being the valve cover gasket leaking and engine mount being cracked. Roughly $1500 to repair both items mentioned. Sigh…
Once the car was all up to scratch, another three months passes and there is a noise that sounds like someone had strapped coke cans to the car as you drove. I did a bit of research and found that could be be the centre support bearing failing for the prop shaft. (this is due to the design of being two piece to lessen the vibration into the car).
With all the issues I had mentioned, I would like to give readers a bit of advice after having gone through this. Although I had done research on the main issues for the car I wanted to purchase, there could be another ten so called “minor” issues that could go wrong and will easily add up to thousands of dollars.
Through self-reflection, I believe there is a fundamentally underlying issue with the culture of most European car manufacturers. This is not a standalone BMW issue but is an issue for Euro cars. For example with this car, when you replace the valve cover gaskets you cannot reuse the aluminium bolts because they are one-time use. I requested a quote for a bolt from BMW and found they were $17 each!! And there 13 of them each side. And has anyone else figured out how to pick up aluminium with a magnet tool if you dropped one in the engine bay?
Time will tell if the reliability has improved for the owners of F80 M3/M4 when they reach the 10 year + mark…
Another issue - and I get this a lot - is the "while you are in there you might as well replace this and that" phenomena. It's not because the item needs to be replaced but simply because you must move a lot of stuff out of the way to get to it. This is where the labour cost will bite you. You have noticed I have not talked about any items that are standard maintenance items, such as tyres, engine oils etc. These costs come with any car.
My advice to anyone looking for a performance car especially Euro;
1. Have deep pockets, pay to play,
2. DIY most of your repairs if you are competent (or know a mechanic friend),
3. Buy one within warranty and sell it with around six months warranty remaining.
I know there will be a lot of people disagreeing with my views or saying that there shouldn't be complaints after buying a 10 year + performance car and expecting things to not go wrong.
So all in all, I am now driving a 2019 Mazda 3 GT BP Series and I will be doing another review once I get more years out of it.