BMW 3-Series: The Car Bible (E90, E91, E92)
The E9x 3-series is the fifth generation in the storied line of Bavarian rear-wheel-drive sports sedans introduced in 2006.
Welcome to the BMW 3-series Car Bible. This covers the sedan, coupe, convertible, and wagon from the E9x family, but not the M3. As you scroll down you’ll learn all about this vehicle’s qualities, features, finer points, and shortcomings. If you’re thinking about buying one of these, want some help maintaining or modifying one, or just want to deepen your knowledge for the next round of car trivia, you’ve come to the right place.
This is a living document that’s updated as we learn and confirm new valuable info. Got something to add? Drop a comment or send us an email. Don’t be shy; the more dialogue we have the better this Car Bible will get.
–Andrew P. Collins, Car Bibles Editor-In-Chief
(Disclaimers, Disclosures: Some Car Bibles will have links to specific forums, groups, brands, shops, or vendors for parts shopping and such. We have no sponsorship deals or official affiliation with any of them unless explicitly stated. We also have to explicitly state that you should work on your own car and follow our advice at your own risk.)
There’s a lot of information packed into this Bible. If you’re looking for something specific, hit command/control-F, type one of these terms, and your browser should bring you straight in.
- The Short Story
- Fast Facts
- Spotter’s Guide
- Check This Car Out If …
- Important Trim Levels and Options
- Year-To-Year Changes
- Obscure Details
- General Reliability and Ownership Costs
- Red Flags and Known Issues
- Where To Buy Parts
- Aftermarket Support
- Popular Modifications
- Key Technical Details
- Fluids, Filters, and Capacities
- Factory Service Manuals
- Other References and Resources
- Professional Reviews
- Owner Reviews
- What They’re Worth Now
- Where To Find One For Sale
- What To Ask A Seller
- Competitors To Consider
- Photo Galleries
- Pop-Culture References
- Enthusiast Inquiries
- Downloadable Paperback Car Bible
- Comments Disclaimer
The Short Story
The E9x 3-series is the fifth generation in the storied line of Bavarian rear-wheel-drive sport sedans introduced in 2006. Produced until 2013, this was the last BMW 3-series ever made with a naturally aspirated straight-six as an option, the first one with an optional turbocharged engine, the first with push-button start, and the last 3-series with hydraulically assisted power steering. It also came to the United States in four body styles: the E90 sedan, E91 wagon, E92 coupe, and the E93 hard-top convertible. Oh, and don’t forget the rare but cool 335d diesel-engine option available after 2009.
On its 2006 launch, the car debuted with two trims and powertrain options: 325i and 330i in sedan form only. The year 2007 saw the addition of the turbocharged 335i in the sedan and the addition of the coupe, convertible, and wagon. That carried the car to the end, with minor and major updates along the way, resulting in a fun, fast, comfortable, and capable BMW 3-series that might be a future classic.
The M3, of course, is the top-tier performance variant of this car but we won’t be covering that one here. It has a completely different engine and will be discussed in another Car Bible.
If you’re looking for a deep collection of images, scroll down to the Photo Galleries links toward the end of the Car Bible. Meanwhile, here’s a tidy little photo set of an E90 335i to make sure you recognize the car we’re talking about.
This generation of 3-series marks a huge shift in design language compared to previous models and arguably every model since. Hearing the name Chris Bangle might inspire fear in BMW enthusiasts across the globe, but he was responsible for the handsome, taut design of the sedan, the expensive aura of the coupe and convertible, and the contemporary utility of the wagon. This is arguably his best work, especially the sedan. You can easily tell this generation of 3-series apart from the rest with a few easy giveaways:
• They use fully round “angel eyes” for the front daytime running lights, a first and last for the 3-series. Later F30-chassis cars use semicircles.
• This car also introduced the now-industry-standard rear LED-tube running lights with a simple three-tube design for the 2006-2009 cars and a more curvaceous tube design for the facelift (LCI in BMWspeak) for 2010-2013.
As far as distinguishing trims apart, that’s also simple. Naturally aspirated trims like the 325i, 328i, and 330i have twin tailpipes on the left side of the rear bumper, and the 335i uses twin single exhausts on either side of the rear bumper. The 330i and 335i come standard with larger 18-inch wheels compared to the 325i and 328i. On the interior, 335i models come with an oil-temperature gauge under the tachometer and have more squared needles that extend through the center of the gauge. The 325i, 328i, and 330i have an mpg gauge under the tach, and more pointed gauge needles.
Telling the facelift and pre-facelift cars apart is relatively easy. Note that in world of BMW, LCI will be thrown around to denote facelifts. LCI means Life Cycle Impulse, which is BMW’s own terminology.
LCI cars get updated front and rear lighting assemblies. Pre-facelift cars have halogen angel eyes, while facelift cars get LED angel eyes, along with LED-matrix turn signals with spiky-looking design detailing for the front. Out back, the taillights are LED on the facelift with an updated running-light design and LED turn signals. New front and rear bumpers are included with the facelift, and a new trim is added with the M-sport package. M-sport cars are very rare for the 328i and 335i and have aggressive front and rear bumpers, a lip spoiler, and an exclusive but optional Le Mans Blue paint job.
Not much changes in the interior besides an updated iDrive setup. The easiest way to distinguish the pre- and post-facelift iDrive is the controller on the center console. Facelift cars have a black and silver knob with buttons in front of the knob, and pre-facelift cars have a solid silver knob with no buttons. BMW nerds call early iDrive CCC and later I-Drive CIC.
The E9x was one of the last BMWs to have hydraulic steering.
The 1-series borrowed most of the important mechanicals of the E9x 3-series, most notably the front and rear subframes and powertrain packaging.
The 335i wasn’t the first turbocharged BMW. That honor belongs to the ’70s BMW 2002 Turbo.
The 335i is actually much faster than a contemporary M3 in the real world thanks to more torque everywhere in the powerband.
Being an early modern turbocharged effort from BMW, the N54 was mechanically overbuilt while being overly complex in its systems. The actual internals of the engine itself can hold more power than the legendary 2JZ with the right mods, but it’s plagued with finicky piezo fuel injectors and ignition system, along with garbage stock turbos. A popular conversion is a larger single turbocharger that ends up being much more reliable than stock.
The E9x platform and suspension architecture forms the basis of what the newest 3-series became with some revisions like electric power steering and some geometry changes. It introduced the virtual-steering-axis split lower control arm that is now an industry staple.
The E9x was possibly the most pivotal and important 3-series, even if it isn’t the crowd favorite. It is the first turbocharged one, the last naturally aspirated straight-six 3-series, the last hydraulic power-steering car, the first push-button-start car, the first of a totally new design language, iDrive set the industry on an infotainment frenzy, and it might be the last 3-series to ever set an industry trend.
Not rare at all. You can find any number of E9x 3-series for sale at any time, any place, with nearly any configuration. There are a few notable exceptions, however.
The one-year-only 2006 330i sedan should be rarer, but I see them for sale regularly. They are kinda cool and somewhat desirable for being a 255-hp naturally aspirated oddball. They also come standard with the bangin’ Logic7 stereo.
The 2009-2013 335i M-Sport manual-transmission cars are rare and hard to find. They still command $13,000 and more regularly. They are even rarer than the 335is.
The rarest of them all is a 328i wagon manual, which is nearly unobtanium.
Check This Car Out If …
You’re in the market for a luxurious, refined, and beautifully balanced sport sedan that fills every need nearly flawlessly. Add powerful and tuneable to that list with the 335i.
Important Trim Levels and Options
The 325i, 328i, 335i, and 335d are available as sedans, while only the 328i and 335i are available as coupes or convertibles. The wagon only comes in 328i or 328xi, which is all-wheel drive but does come in the very rare manual.
Pre-facelift 328i and 335i models have an available sport package that is a prerequisite for a sporty driving experience with an E9x 3-series. You can tell the pre-facelift sport-package sedans with the sport steering wheel that is thicker and smaller than the standard one and concave 18-inch wheels for the sedans. Coupe sport packages came with 18-inch five-spoke wheels.
Pre-facelift 335is also come more commonly with some desirable options like the Logic7 13-speaker stereo and high-speed synchronization package that includes an external oil cooler and increased top-speed limiter. It’s easy to tell once you open the hood. Look for the oil-filter housing, and there will be two hex bolts and two oil lines running from the oil-filter housing closer to the radiator.
Post-facelift cars are the most desirable cars and the rarer cars. In 2009, there was an exterior and electronics facelift, but the N54 engine was retained until 2011. The Logic7 stereo was rebranded Harman Kardon and is more scarce, and the oil cooler is standard. The M Sport package is introduced for 2009, which is a much more attractive and sharp-looking car, with some extra M-branded parts and retuned suspension.
The rarest of the rare 335is are the 2011-2013 M Sport models. They have the much more reliable N55 engine with a single turbo. The crown of most desirable depends on if you want N54 tuneability or N55 reliability.
The 335is was a special model that came with the M-DCT gearbox or a six-speed manual bolted to the N54. It was made from 2011 to 2013 as a last hurrah to the N54 and the only time a DCT was paired to that engine.
Another cool E90 was the 335d, which is semi-rare and can be tuned to make 500 pound-feet of torque while getting 30-plus mpg highway. It only came with an automatic transmission, so it makes for a great daily driver.
For all E9x, there were a few interior colors that are desirable but rare. You could get a red leather interior or a dark-brown interior, which I believe to be the best options after black leather. The beige leather interior looks kind of ugly, as does the gray interior. Finding an exciting exterior color will be tough as well, with most being made in Sparkling Graphite Metallic, which is basically metallic gray. Alpine White is surprisingly uncommon, while red or blue is impossible to find.
In summary, the premium stereo (Logic7 or Harman Kardon) is a must-have for its wow factor, and the sport or M Sport package is an absolute must. The 335i may be a problematic car to own, but it is absolutely worth the headache if you can wrench a bit. It makes impressive power and drives extremely well and is much better than any other E9x.
These changes reflect the U.S. market.
2006 model year:
- Car debuts as sedan only
- Launch trims: 325i, 330i
- Launch colors: Alpine White, Black Sapphire Metallic, Jet Black, Titanium Silver Metallic, Arctic Metallic, Sparkling Graphite Metallic, Sonora Metallic, Monaco Blue Metallic, Barrique Red Metallic, and Deep Green Metallic
2007 model year:
- 335i and 335xi introduced with N54 twin-turbocharged engine with eight-bolt flywheel
- Coupe, convertible, and wagon introduced
- 325i, 330i dropped from model range
- New colors added: Crimson Red and Montego Blue Metallic. All colors carried over to coupe, convertible, and wagon.
2008 model year:
- 335i fuel injector, turbocharger wastegate revisions
- New colors added: Platinum Bronze Metallic, Space Gray Metallic, Atlantic Blue Metallic, Barbara Red Metallic
2009 model year:
- LCI exterior facelift for sedan and wagon: new front and rear bumpers, updated LED lighting assemblies, and updated iDrive system
- M Sport package introduced for sedan models
- 335d introduced
- Coupe did not get LCI for 2009, besides updated iDrive
- 335i fuel-injector revisions, switch to six-bolt flywheel and crankshaft hub
- New colors added: Tasman Green Metallic and Mojave Metallic
2010 model year:
- 335i fuel-injector revisions
- New color added: Bluewater Metallic
- New interior color added: Chestnut Brown Leather
2011 model year:
- LCI exterior facelift for coupe: new front and rear bumpers, updated LED lighting assemblies
- M Sport package added for coupe models
- Engine update for all 335i models: new N55 engine with single turbo, conventional style injectors, many small revisions but still based on N54
- 335is trim added with optional DCT gearbox, comes standard with all M Sport hardware
- Logic7 stereo rebranded as Harman Kardon with no hardware changes
- New colors added: Vermillion Red Metallic, Deep Sea Blue Metallic, and Le Mans Blue Metallic exclusive to M Sport package
2012 model year:
- No significant changes
2013 model year:
- No significant changes
- End of production
The N54 of the pre-facelift 335i used Mitsubishi TD03-based turbochargers.
The E9x 3-series manual has cruise control that doesn’t disengage when shifting, a neat feature.
2007 335i models use a rear differential with a bolted ring gear, while the rest of the 3-series range used a welded ring gear.
The original ignition coils are made by Bosch, but for some reason Delphi makes replacement coils.
You can bolt the E9x M3 control arms onto the normal 3-series.
Only coupe models came with door-mounted red ambient lighting.
General Reliability and Ownership Costs
These cars are generally expensive to run, especially if maintenance is parsed out over time. If you’re willing to spend a few grand from the moment of purchase, you can have a pretty reliable car for tens of thousands of miles, mostly on N54-powered cars. N55-powered 335is are a lot less problematic but still suffer from oil leaks.
Naturally aspirated E9x 3-series are some of the most reliable BMWs ever made and rarely cause a fuss, being almost as reliable as most cars with simple maintenance. Namely, the cooling system is a primary concern for naturally aspirated cars.
If you want to have the fast, fun 335i, budget some maintenance and modification money. They need it, no doubt about it. What’s good about these cars is a very mature aftermarket that can finally fix most of the weaknesses of these cars, and don’t break the bank relative to stock genuine parts. You can upgrade for not much more money and have a reliable, trackable car.
Red Flags and Known Issues
Because of the sheer German excellence of these machines, they have a ton of completely avoidable engineering issues that are now your problem. Look out for these problems:
Water pump and thermostat failure. The water pump is electric and is known to fail. Luckily, revisions were made and newer OEM parts are more reliable than ever.
Carbon buildup on the intake valves. This is a byproduct of direct injection. Gasoline doesn’t clean the back side of the intake valves, so carbon builds up in that area.
High-pressure fuel-pump failure. This was so bad that it was a 10-year or 120,000-mile warranty item. They tend to just fail.
Fuel-injector failure. Due to the nature of the high-pressure fuel system, these can wear out faster than conventional injectors due to their increased workload.
Oil-filter-housing gasket leak. This is a common leak that is easy to fix.
Serpentine-belt shredding. This system had some design faults, and if the belts snap they can really do some damage.
Valve-cover leakage and valve-cover cracking. This is partially due to high heat and pressure under the valve cover, especially on 335is.
Oil-pan-gasket leaks. These just leak.
Oil-filter housing and oil-cooler-gasket leaks. This leak will drip onto the serpentine belt and cause a cascading chain of failures that could potentially blow your motor by shredding the front main seal and clogging the oil pickup or jamming your timing chain with metal belt material. Read about it here.
Turbo rattle and failure. The twin turbos on the N54 are weak and can fail if not properly warmed up before stomping on it. Increased boost pressure decreases their life significantly, requiring aftermarket solutions to fully cure this.
Staying on top of BMW recommended service intervals, performing “while you’re in there” maintenance, using quality replacement parts, changing oil frequently, keeping an eye out, and not driving these cars too hard before they’re up to operating temperature help stave off issues immensely.
There have been a couple of extended-warranty items on 3-series cars. Some of the most significant ones have to do with the N54-equipped 335i. The high-pressure fuel pump and fuel injectors carry a warranty period of 10 years or 120,000 miles. Wastegate-related maintenance is at eight years or 82,000 miles.
As far as firm recalls, there are a few. The NHTSA’s website details them, and they include: potential explosion of the driver airbag inflator, faulty blower-motor wiring that may result in a fire, heater short that may result in a fire, driver’s front airbag creating metal shrapnel upon deployment, loose camshaft bolts, a total loss of electricity, sound insulation around the seat belt might ignite causing a fire, a faulty cooling-fan motor that results in a fire, and faulty rear CV joints might cause a stall.
Luckily, since these are open recalls, they can be checked and remedied by any BMW dealership. Also, the newer the 3-series is, the fewer issues they have. Only early models have the frightening fire risks, while 2013 model-year examples might only need their airbags replaced.
Where To Buy Parts
Aftermarket and OEM parts support is still very good for these cars, especially those equipped with N54 or N55 engine.
Because the 3-series is so mass produced, the chances of replacement parts being readily available for years to come are very good.
Besides doing common brake and suspension upgrades, there’s a myriad of tuning options available for N54- and N55-equipped 3-series: ECU tuning, turbo upgrades, intake-manifold upgrades, exhaust and intake upgrades, and so on. The possibilities are endless with the N54 and even the N55, although the forum dwellers will say otherwise about the N55.
The 325i, 328i, and 330i don’t have as much going for them besides intake and exhaust upgrades. There is one OEM upgrade that can bump up power significantly: the 330i HO intake-manifold upgrade with accompanying tuning. While this can be a bit expensive, it yields as much as a 60-hp gain, which is frankly phenomenal for a naturally aspirated non-race engine, especially one that’s using other OEM BMW parts.
Key Technical Details
Engine: There were several U.S. engine options in these cars:
325i: N52 3.0-liter 24-valve, rocker-actuated DOHC inline-six engine with dual-Vanos variable valve timing, longitudinally mounted. 10.7:1 compression ratio. Coil-on-plug electronic ignition. Composite intake manifold. Magnesium-alloy engine block with aluminum heads. Continental MS43 engine management. Naturally aspirated with 215 horsepower.
328i: N52 3.0-liter 24-valve, rocker-actuated DOHC inline-six engine with dual-Vanos variable valve timing, longitudinally mounted. 10.7:1 compression ratio. Coil-on-plug electronic ignition. Composite intake manifold. Magnesium-alloy engine block with aluminum heads. Continental MS43 engine management. Naturally aspirated with 228 horsepower
330i: N52 3.0-liter 24-valve, rocker-actuated DOHC inline-six engine with dual-Vanos variable valve timing, longitudinally mounted. 10.7:1 compression ratio. Coil-on-plug electronic ignition. Composite intake manifold. Magnesium-alloy engine block with aluminum heads. Continental engine management, naturally aspirated with 255 horsepower
335i (2007-2010): N54 3.0-liter 24-valve, rocker-actuated DOHC inline-six engine with dual-Vanos variable valve timing, longitudinally mounted. 10.7:1 compression ratio. Coil-on-plug electronic ignition. Composite intake manifold. Magnesium-alloy engine block with aluminum heads. Siemens VDO engine management. Twin-turbocharged with Mitsubishi TD03 turbochargers, 300 horsepower.
335i (2011-2013): N55 3.0-liter 24-valve, rocker-actuated DOHC inline-six engine with dual-Vanos variable valve timing, Valvetronic variable valve lift longitudinally mounted. 10.7:1 compression ratio. Coil-on-plug electronic ignition. Composite intake manifold. Magnesium-alloy engine block with aluminum heads. Bosch engine management. Single turbocharged with Borg-Warner 53-mm turbocharger, 300 horsepower.
335is: N54 3.0-liter 24-valve, rocker-actuated DOHC inline-six engine with dual-Vanos variable valve timing, longitudinally mounted. 10.7:1 compression ratio. Coil-on-plug electronic ignition. Composite intake manifold. Magnesium-alloy engine block with aluminum heads. Siemens VDO engine management. Twin-turbocharged with Mitsubishi TD03 turbochargers, 322 horsepower.
Transmission: Four transmissions saw duty in the U.S. market:
GA6L45R is the six-speed conventional automatic in the 328i and 325i from 2007 to 2013, made by General Motors. This is actually tough territory to describe as the ’08-’09 automatics were only the GM unit, and the 2010-2013 models could be this unit.
GA6HP19Z is another six-speed conventional automatic in the 328i from 2010 to 2013, made by ZF. Owners will have to be especially cognizant of which one they have as they require different fluids and maintenance procedures.
The GS7D36SG seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, six-speed manual. 335is from 2011 to 2013.
The GS645BZ was the six-speed manual bolted up under manual 328i, 330i, 335i, and 335is.
Drivetrain: Longitudinal front-engine rear drive
Suspension: MacPherson five-link strut front, coil springs front and rear. 50/50 weight distribution with multi-link rear suspension
Wheelbase: 108.7 in
Overall length: 178.2 in
325i: 3285/3351 pounds
330i: 3417/3450 pounds
328i: 3351/3417 pounds
328i xDrive: 3582/3627 pounds
335i: 3571/3582 pounds
335i xDrive: 3759/3770 pounds
OEM tire size:
328i coupe, base: 205/50R-17
328i coupe, convertible: 205/55R-16
328i coupe, Sport Package: 205/50R-17 front, 225/45R-17 rear
335i/328i coupe and convertible, Sport Package 18-inch: 225/40R-18 front, 255/35R-18 rear
Fluids, Filters, and Capacities
Fuel: The lowest acceptable octane rating for the 328i is 87; the 335i requires 91 or higher.
Engine oil, 335i: Uses seven liters of BMW TwinPower Turbo 5W-30 Engine Oil, part number N54OCI. The recommended interval by enthusiasts is 5,000 miles, although BMW states 10,000. Err on the side of caution and change it at 5,000. Oil by brands like Ravenol and Liqui Moly should be considered as they’re renowned for being of OEM or better quality.
Engine oil, 325i,328i, 330i: Uses seven liters of BMW Twin Power Turbo (7.4 quarts), 0W-20 Engine Oil, part number 83212461988. The recommended interval by enthusiasts is 5,000 miles, though BMW states 10,000. Err on the side of caution and change it at 5,000. Like the 135i, oil by brands like Ravenol and Liqui Moly should be considered as they’re renowned for being of OEM or better quality.
Battery size: 70 AH. 570 CCA. Part number 61217586960, although this is discontinued from BMW’s parts catalog. Remanufactured batteries are available but come with a core charge. Non-lead acid upgrades are always recommended, as they don’t leak, are lighter, and last longer. Braille’s B7548 is a good choice. Typically, batteries last three to five years, depending on the climate. They last for shorter periods in hot climates and five years in colder climates.
Oil filter, 335i and 328i: One BMW filter kit, 11427953129. This should be changed when you change your oil.
Air filter, 335i: BMW Genuine part number 13717556961. The Mann-branded product is a great, inexpensive alternative. BMW recommends this be replaced at 50,000 miles, although a visual inspection to ascertain how dirty it is should be priority. It might need to be replaced much sooner.
Air filter, 328i: BMW Genuine, part number 13721730449. The Mann-branded product is a great, inexpensive alternative. BMW recommends this be replaced at 50,000 miles, although a visual inspection to ascertain how dirty it is should be priority. It might need to be replaced much sooner.
Cabin air filter: BMW Genuine part number 64316946629, changed every 15,000 miles.
Manual transmission oil: 2.1 liters of 75W-90 Transmission Fluid, part number 83222339221. The recommended service interval is 50,000 miles.
Automatic transmission fluid, 335i automatic and 328i ZF automatic: Uses seven liters of Shell M1375.4 automatic transmission fluid, part number 83222220445. The drain plug and fill plugs, with accompanying washers, are also recommended replacements. The recommended service interval is 80,000 miles.
Dual-clutch transmission oil, 335is DCT: Uses six liters of BMW DCTF 1+ Gear Oil, part number 83222446673. Again, doing a full service is recommended to keep this complex transmission happy. Companies sell service kits to make it easy. BMW states the fluid from the factory is “lifetime,” but enthusiasts recommend it be changed at least every 40,000 miles, included with a full service.
ZF automatic transmission filter, 325i, 328i, 330i and 335i: BMW part number 24117571217, this is actually a part of the transmission’s oil pan and is recommended to be replaced when the fluid is replaced. Luckily, companies sell this service as a kit.
Differential oil, open: 1.2 liters of OEM Differential Fluid, part number 07512293972. This is to be used with open differentials that are not LSDs. The recommended interval is every 40,000-50,000 miles.
Coolant: Genuine BMW, part number 82141467704, diluted 50/50 with distilled water. Its recommended this be flushed and changed every two years. One gallon of coolant equaling two gallons after dilution should do the trick.
Power-steering fluid: Two liters of BMW Hydraulic/Power Steering Fluid, part number 83290429576KT. Enthusiasts recommend changing this every 30,000 miles, although BMW states it’s a lifetime fill.
Brake fluid: OEM is BMW DOT 4 Brake Fluid, this comes in 335-ml bottles, and requires three bottles to do a complete flush. Part number 81220142156. Upgraded DOT 5 fluid is always good for improved braking performance in warm climates. This is recommended to be changed every two years.
Clutch fluid: This system integrates with the brake fluid.
Spark plugs: OEM BMW spark plugs, six total, part number 12120037244KT. BMW states the service interval is every 40,000 miles, but some enthusiasts say 30,000-35,000 is a better idea.
Ignition coil pack: OEM BMW, six total, part number 12138657273. Enthusiasts seem to agree that the more often the plugs are changed, the less the coils have to be changed. It also seems, however, that 50,000 miles is on the safer side.
Carbon cleaning: This affects 335is due to their direct injection. Carbon builds up on the backside of the intake valves, due to gasoline being injected directly into the combustion chamber instead of the intake manifold. This should be done every 30,000 miles, and luckily companies make DIY-friendly kits.
Factory Service Manuals
Bentley Publishers is considered the go-to for BMW factory workbooks, but surpisingly, finding one for the 3-series is somewhat challenging. A Haynes 3-series manual exists, but it’s not U.S.-model centric. This $21 downloadable BMW 3-series workshop manual from emanualonline.com seems enticing, but we haven’t tested it.
If you just need a 3-series owner’s manual, not a full FSM, bmwsections.com has free downloads.
Other References and Resources
We’ll add links to more critical resources as we find them.
“Tested: 2006 BMW 330i Is Greatness Evolved” (Car and Driver, April 2005 Issue)
Ray Hutton had much to say about the one-year-only 330i sedan, praising it for its tech and classic BMW flavor.
“All of this adds up to a car that runs smoothly, feels wonderfully safe and secure on the road, and drives with a rare precision. As our exclusive test numbers show, it is also very quick for a less-than-$40,000 compact sports sedan: zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and the standing quarter-mile in 14.3 seconds at 98 mph. Although these figures were recorded on a surface with poor grip, they match the performance of the current-generation 330i with the Performance package and its much larger rear tires. Our Euro-spec test car ran a bit beyond its 155-mph governor. U.S.-bound cars will be limited to 130 mph with the standard suspension and 150 mph with the Sport package.”
“Cabin furnishings may disappoint those brought up with BMW’s driver-focused dashboards, but we think the new layout is neat and efficient. The instrument cluster in front of the driver is supplemented by an LCD screen high in the center of the dashboard if the optional iDrive is specified. That location makes the display accessible to driver and passenger both and reduces the distance the driver must look away from the road to read it. The iDrive is the simpler version already used in the 5-series. Around here, opinions are split on its functionality and convenience.”
“2011 BMW 335i Sedan” (Car and Driver , May 15, 2010)
Mark Gilles at C/D liked the minor improvements of the new N55 power plant and still enjoyed what made the 335i good in the first place.
“The N55 is notable because it marries direct fuel injection, turbocharging, and Valvetronic variable valve lift for the first time on a BMW inline-six. The exhaust gas pulses from the front and back of the engine are fed separately to the two scrolls of the single turbo, thus minimizing lag because there’s no delay in spooling up. As a result, the new engine delivers its 300 pound-feet of torque at 1200 rpm, 200 revs earlier than the N54’s identical output. The car’s 300 horsepower, delivered at 5800 rpm, also is unchanged from that of the N54.”
“There’s no improvement in the 335i’s performance, with BMW claiming a zero-to-60-mph time for the manual model of 5.4 seconds and 5.6 seconds for the automatic. Invariably, the company is pretty conservative with its claims, as we recorded 4.9 seconds for the last 335i we tested. Of course, we and many others figure the N54 was highly underrated from the factory and that the N55’s official output numbers might be more realistic. Thus, the new car might not match the N54-powered 335i’s acceleration times. The top speed for the 2011 is 130 mph on regular models and 150 mph on cars equipped with the Sport package. The EPA mileage has improved from 17 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway to 19/28.”
“First Drive: 2007 BMW 335i Turbo Coupe” (MotorTrend, September 1, 2006)
Todd Lassa of MotorTrend enjoyed the familiar excellence of the 335i and lauded much praise on the then-new turbo BMW, with interesting insights on the controversial active-steering option.
“The 335i’s suspension offers more compliance than one might expect, although springs and shocks are stiffer than any 3-series sedan’s. North American 335i buyers get as standard the Euro-spec Sport Package suspension, with a delete option. For the U.S., Sport Package means 18-inch wheels with 225/40R-18 front and 225/35R-18 rear tires, upgraded from the standard 225/45R-17 all-seasons. Both sizes are no-spare run-flats, and their stiff sidewalls allowed German engineers to remain on the supple side of the ride and handling equation. It works as well or better than it’s always worked for the 3-series. While our drive was limited to mostly tabletop roads in the Austrian Alps, there was enough rough blacktop to learn that Americans who are used to substandard pavement will be comfortable in this car.”
“Neither the beautiful scenery in the Alps nor the supple ride could detract from the driving. This is an engaging car, whether you tackle the curves like a mogul skier in the World Cup finals or you only find enough traffic holes to drive at a moderately brisk pace. The 335i fits like a sports-car glove, becoming one with you. At higher speeds, the noninterventionism of the active steering feels just right, with a light, direct touch and good feedback.”
Chris Rosales (July 22, 2021)
2007 335i; stock; owned eight months
“My old 2007 BMW 335i might be the best/worst car I’ve ever owned. I remember from the moment I floored it on the test drive, with the person I now call Evo Man in the passenger seat, that it was the first car that felt like an absolute spaceship. Its capabilities were otherworldly to me. The N54 had so much chest-punching thrust that never got old, and it happened to be paired up with a manual gearbox, an exquisitely quiet cabin, and one of the most ridiculous stereos I’d ever heard, and it handled extremely well.
Even though I sold mine quickly, it wasn’t for lack of love for the car. It was more that I couldn’t afford to own one. Me, a mostly broke college student working for a school yearbook photography service for barely more than minimum wage could never afford that car, even at the steal of $6700.
My 335i, like many others, was plagued with issues. No matter how many seals or gaskets I changed, the car never stopped leaking oil. It sprung a major, undrivable coolant leak three times from three separate parts. It once left me stranded in an extremely Republican neighborhood where I had to fix the car because there was no where else suitable for a few miles, which then led to every homeowner calling security on me. I finished much before local sheriff’s deputies could harass me for my stereotypical car choice as a Latinx 20-something.
The 335i was much less of a car and more like the sword of Damocles. All of that power, that poise, along with the peril of imminent breakdowns and financially ruinous repairs. It was ever present, and it would take another $6,000 to cut the string holding the sword to the ceiling and gently bring it down for your hands to wield instead.
It might be the most complete and capable 3-series of all time. Be warned: It will cost you.
Own or owned one of these and want to share your thoughts? Hit up in the comments or email email@example.com.
What They’re Worth Now
As of 2021, on average, it looks like between private sales and used-car dealerships of all sizes, the 335i ranges in price between $6,000 and $15,000, with the higher end occupied by manual models with the M Sport Package in very good condition and with lower mileage. The lower segment is usually all 325i, 328i, and 330i models in rougher shape, with automatic transmissions and no noteworthy options. They can be had as cheap but baller transportation for less than $4000.
The 335is goes for a bit more, hovering between $10,000 and $24,000 depending upon age, condition, options, mileage, and other standard factors, along with LCI M Sport 335i models.
Where To Find One For Sale
Because the E9x 3-series isn’t too old, you can still find examples for sale at popular used-car dealers such as CarMax and Carvana. However, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are full of them, as are clean, cared-for examples on various auction sites such as Cars & Bids and Bring-A-Trailer.
As with any used-car purchase, the more prepared you are, the better. At Car Bibles we’ve got some great reference material for navigating a used -ar purchase.
What To Ask a Seller
No matter what car you’re considering, you’ll want to ask its seller about service history, remedying recalls, usage, condition, and why the car’s being sold. With the 3-series, because there are quite a few components under the hood that are known weak points, pay close attention to topics like:
• When was the water pump and thermostat last replaced? Have they ever failed?
• Have the intake valves ever had any kind of carbon cleaning?
• Has the high-pressure fuel pump ever failed or been replaced?
• Have you ever had an issue with fuel injectors?
• Has the oil-filter housing gasket been replaced?
• What’s the condition of the serpentine belt?
• What’s the condition of the valve-cover gasket and valve cover itself?
• Are there any oil-gasket leaks?
• Is there any turbo rattle? Has the turbo ever been replaced?
Lower mileage doesn’t necessarily mean better mechanical condition. Some of these could’ve been freshly replaced on higher-mileage examples.
For the 335i, one particular maintenance item to be sure to ask about is that above-mentioned intake-valve cleaning. Since the N-series engines are direct injection, carbon buildup occurs on the backside of the intake valves, which can lead to a host of issues if not cleaned regularly. Opinions vary, but figure this type of service interval can be anywhere between 30,000 and 60,000 miles.
Competitors To Consider
Surprisingly, there isn’t a whole lot of direct competition to the 3-series. The Audi S3 is probably the closest thing to it. The A3 is more in line with the 328i as it is the less performance-oriented model, whereas the 3-series takes on the 335i.
One could potentially also compare and cross-shop the Porsche Cayman and Cayman S to the 3-series. The Porsches’ original MSRPs were significantly higher, and they have fewer seats. But depending on how flexible your budget is, if you’re sniffing around for “not terribly expensive rear-drive German fun cars” that might be on your radar.
The BMW Press Room always does a great job at this kind of stuff, with an excellent gallery and some N54 cutaways there. NetCarShow has albums of the 3-series sedan from 2009, the 335i coupe from 2007, the 2011 335i coupe, and the 2011 335is coupe.
Also, here is every single brochure I could find, which BMW inexplicably divided up by body style:
Pop Culture References
As far as our research has dug up, not many celebrities have owned a 3-series.
The 3-series hasn’t really had any kind of prominent role in mainstream media.
Every car has a collection of common questions that pop up in forums and Facebook groups whenever new blood joins. We hope a lot of those have been answered above, but if we see specific questions pop up on the regular, we’ll include them in this section.
Downloadable Paperback Car Bible
If you’re old school and like to keep reference notes on paper or you’re just a completionist and want a free accessory for your 3-series, you can download a paperback Car Bible. Well, you have to also print it to put it on paper. But you knew what we meant.
Think of it like an owner’s manual supplement. Keep it in your car and your days of waiting for slow internet on your phone at the auto parts store are over.
You’ve reached the end of the BMW 3-series Car Bible and are about to scroll into the comment section. If any questions were left unanswered in the text above, try posing it in the space below. Unsolicited BMW tips are also welcome.