The BMW 3 Series E90 was a turning point for BMW, it was the car that made the transition from “Ultimate Driving Machine” to “Efficient Dynamics”. BMW’s last huurah to maintain the 3 Series as the absolute benchmark for driving pleasure. And today we talk about the BMW 3 Series E90 in detail.

Launched in 2004, the BMW 3 Series E90 has failed to be as popular as the BMW E46. Yes, it created some waves at first, being a modern car in appearance, especially if we compare it with it’s competitors at the time, the Mercedes C Class W203 or Audi A4 B6. And yet, the E46 still roams the continent and parking lots while the BMW E90 is a rather rare sight.

Why wasn’t the BMW E90 as successful as the E46?

Because the BMW E46 was built out of a passion for driving. BMW 3 Series E90 on the other hand no longer addresses those with inverted hats or those who have in their pockets a bottle of Fosters and a CD of Richie Hawtin. BMW had already tried to go into the premium / business segment, a world where average buyers are more interested in the color of the leather on the seats and the features of the iDrive than in the limited-slip differential and 0-100 times.

Is the BMW E90 a bad car?

On the contrary, the BMW 3 Series E90 remains a fantastic car, it’s just that it will always live in the shadow of it’s predecessor, the E46. We all know that Usain Bolt is the fastest man on Earth, but how many of us know who the second fastest man on Earth is? That doesn’t mean Justin Gatlin is an rolling tub of lard. Justin Gatlin is extremely fast, just not Usain Bolt fast. What the E90 did however was to present itself as an entry-level business car, for people wearing shirts that attend “business lunch” and “quarterly all-hands meeting” and other corporate babble.

BMW 3 Series E90 Engines


  • 316i of 114 or 121 (facelift) horsepower – A child born too late, 316i comes in 2007 with a furious and devastating 114 horses. Like a dying man, it can only be transported around the city, with it’s feet facing forward. An excellent engine for those who definitely want that BMW logo, but who want a simple and economical engine and who do not care about rear-wheel drive or sportiness.
  • 318i of 129 or 143 (facelift) horsepower – Sort of an decent engine, being also the most balanced engine for the european city dweller. A decent balance between reliability, consumption and performance. Definatelly the engine of choice for the sort of buyer that doesn’t rush anywhere and especially not at the mechanic.
  • 320i of 150 or 170 (facelift) horsepower – Literally the same engine as the 318i, but with other engine computer settings. Yes, it is factory made chiptuning, not in some dubious barn made by some shady looking immigrants for 50 pounds and a pack of ciggarettes.
  • 323i / 325i / 328i and 330i of 200, 215, 231 and 268 horsepower – Pretty much the same engine, just that comes in different sizes, starting from  with Warwick Davids and we reach up to Idris Elba. Each version of this 6-cylinder engine comes with enough power to rearrange your organs every time you leave the traffic light. By the way, do you know what’s the worst thing about Warwick Davids? He’s the last of his friends to find out it’s raining.
  • 332i of 302 horsepower – The very first petrol 3 Series to have a turbo connected. Do I really have to talk about a 302 horsepower BMW 3 Series? I feel a sudden urge to grab some tissues and head for the bathroom.


  • 316d of 114 horsepower – With a miserable 114 horsepower coming from the equally miserable N47 engine, it’s hard for me to talk about this engine. But we are talking about the N47 anyway, in the general issues section.
  • 318d and 320d of 121 and 161 horsepower – Both variants are the same M47 engine, which was previously used on the E46, and then it went on to move the BMW 3 Series E90 in comfort, with decent power, reliability and fuel consumption. Everything was fine until the N47 engine attacked in 2007, which was a brown spot in BMW’s recent history.
  • 325d / 330d / 335d of 194, 228 and 282 horsepower – As with the 2-liter engine, the M57 engine came in various flavors and sizes. An rather old but sturdy engine, without major issues but filled with muscles and testosterone, this real inflatable Luke Sandoe is retired in 2006 by the N57 powerplant, a real inflatable Boris Johnson.

BMW 3 Series E90 General Issues

  • I’ll start with the big one. I think you realized by now that there is a problem with post-2007 N47 and N57 diesel engines: the timing chain. Much like the average brit, it has it’s fair share of teeth problems. And here specifically the chain tensioners break, causing the chain to break and it’s sent off to the engine. The problem is less common found on the N57, but on the 2-liter N47 engine it’s party hard all day all night. Moreover, in their galactic intelligence, the Bavarian engineers placed the timing chaing at the bottom of the engine, being placed between the engine and the gearbox. What this means? When you want to do the timing chain job, you will have to take the whole engine out. What this means? You’d much preffer to be in the middle of the Montreal Screwjob, rather than doing an N47 timing replacement.
  • The second big issue is at the oil seals, hoses and every piece of rubber or metal that transports fluids. As with the E46, the BMW 3 Series E90 loses fluids faster than a college student who drank 5 beers down at the pub and isn’t feeling very well. The advantage is that the parts cost pennies, the disadvantage is that the labor will cost you fortunes.
  • The BMW E90 is the first 3 Series to come with Run Flat tires. This means that there is no spare wheel and the ride comfort has to suffer. The advantage of Run Flat is that if the tires go hocus-pocus, they will still have some strength left in order to crawl to the nearest tire shop.
  • The iDrive system, like any classic BMW, is going pixelated and offline altogether. But with or without a display, balkan techno music sounds the same anyway.

BMW 3 Series E90 Verdict

I said it and I will say it again: the BMW E90 is not a weak car, on the contrary. It is only in the shadow of its predecessor, the BMW E46. However, the BMW 3 Series E90 came with that much needed brand recognition increase and the much needed transition to the business segment. Because BMW is a company, and companies have to make a profit. And through E90 they brought clients from the business area, people who own small businesses, corporate managers, they brought a whole new spectrum of clients altogether. Thus, money was raised from the sale of truckloads 318ds and other cars were developed, built for the enthusiasts aswell not just white-collar workers, such as the E90 M3 (the only M3 with a V8 engine) or the M135i.

Maybe the BMW E90 doesn’t talk about sportiness with the same passion that its predecessors did, but it gains points by the fact that it is a complete car, which handles decently in all situations. Maybe a BMW E90 320d is all the car you’ll ever need in life. That is if you buy it with the M47 engine before 2007, otherwise you will have a car as useful as when you put a toothpick between your big toe and nail and then kick the wall.