With a turbocharged straight-six under the bonnet and massive tuning potential, the BMW E92 335i is the ultimate performance bargain.
Guide from Fast Car. Words: Dan Sherwood. Photos: Patrik Karlsson, Viktor Benyi, Christos Markou, Zayne Smith
When it comes to cheap speed, value for money, bang for your buck, there is no single BMW that even comes close to the E9x 335i. BMW’s first foray into turbocharged petrol cars was a revelation when it was launched way back in 2006 and it’s basically the German Supra and is powered by Munich’s 2JZ, the N54. With 306bhp and 295lb ft of torque straight out of the box that’s already enough to make any model in the range an incredibly rapid machine, but once the tuners got their hands on it and unlocked the potential within that remarkable engine, all hell broke loose and the N54 is the stuff of legend on the BMW tuning scene. Its successor, the N55, is less of an out-and-out powerhouse but it too has some serious modding potential and, whichever version of the 335i you end up choosing, you’re going to have a lot of fun.
BMW E92 335i tuning:
Whether you have the twin turbo N54 or single turbo N55 engine the gains that can be had are huge. First off you’ll want either a remap or a tuning box and there are plenty of options for both, which should release a further 60-80bhp. A good intake kit is also worth a look; gains with it on its own won’t be huge, but when you’re running more serious mods it comes into its own. The charge pipe on both engines is flimsy and can break even when running stock boost, so once you crank up the power, you’re going to need to strap something studier to your engine, so we’d look at the Renesis pipe from SSDD complete with uprated blow-off valve, or the VRSF item for your N55. When you up the boost the stock blow-off valves can leak, so it’s always worth upgrading them. Downpipes would be next on our shopping list – you can either pick up ones with high-flow cats, which are more expensive, or de-catted ones, which are cheaper and will give you more power. The choice is yours and even with a primary de-cat you’ll still pass the MOT on emissions. With all these mods on board, we’d also want to add an upgraded intercooler from someone like Mishimoto, which will help keep intake temperatures down. An exhaust wouldn’t be needed if you’re after power as the stock system is fine and you won’t really see much in the way of gains, but you will have plenty more noise and both the N54 and N55 do sound great with an exhaust. At this point, you’re going to have somewhere in the region of 400bhp+ on an N55 and 420hp+ on an N54, which is a good amount and your 335i will be feeling very quick; you can have more, but things get seriously expensive from this point on as you’re going to have to upgrade your turbos.
If you’re on a budget then a set of lowering springs would be our first port of call and they’ll give you a much-needed drop and will sharpen up the handling, but with anything over around 70k miles on the clock the stock dampers are going to be feeling tired so we’d either choose a spring and damper combo, like the Bilstein B12 kit for around £600, or opt for some coilovers and, for the money, you really can’t beat BC Racing’s RAs, which cost under £1000. If you’re serious about sharper handling then a set of thicker anti-roll bars are worth investing in too. We’d also definitely consider looking at some poly bushes because the stock bushes are likely to be pretty worn, and they’ll make a huge difference to how the car feels and drives.
For brakes we would start off with the classic triple combo of discs, pads and braided hoses; any discs from a good performance brake company will be fine, whether they’re drilled or dimpled or grooved, it all helps with cooling. Pad choice is often down to personal preference, but we’ve always been happy with EBC Yellowstuff pads in the past as they offer good performance without too much dust. For hoses you can try HEL or Goodridge, both are good and you can’t go wrong with either one. If you end up running big power then you might well want a big brake kit, and here you can’t beat K-Sport for value for money, with the 330mm disc kit with eight-pot calipers costing £1100, which is a lot of brakes for the cash.
Inside, if you’ve got an auto or DCT with the weird push-pull paddles you can retrofit the M3 DCT paddles, so that’s something we’d definitely do. If you’ve got the early iDrive you can upgrade to the later CIC setup, there are plenty of companies out there that offer a retrofit service, and you can also install the E9x M3 seats if you want something that looks a bit more special and offers more support. We’d also be tempted by a vent gauge to keep an eye on our engine vitals, with the one from P3 Gauges an excellent choice, and you could also stick an M Performance electronic steering wheel in there with the digital display, but they’re not cheap and you’ll pay around £600 for a used one.
If you’ve got an M Sport then you don’t need much because it’s a good-looking car, but if you have an SE we’d go for an M Sport-style kit from MStyle. We’d delete any chrome, so black grilles are a must, maybe a splitter up front, diffuser, maybe a bigger spoiler as well and we love carbon so we’d definitely have a few of those finished in the good stuff. Beyond that, some carbon mirror caps, side blades and maybe an M3-style bonnet or a CSL-look boot lid. On E92s and E93s you can’t carry out the LCI headlight swap, but you can get some custom headlights from someone like KYCS, or get some brighter, white LED bulbs for the angel eyes. It’s much easier at the rear where all the LCI rear lights will fit pre-facelift cars, though you’ll need adapters to make sure the car is happy with the LEDs.
BMW E92 335i verdict
With prices at rock bottom and tuning potential that’s through the roof, the 335i is, without doubt, the ultimate BMW performance bargain of all time. Even with the potential problems that you’ll face with the engines, there’s honestly nothing that would put us off buying one of these. If you want to go fast without spending a fortune, this is the best used BMW you can possibly buy and it requires no thought or deliberation – get one, you won’t regret it!
BMW E92 335i insurance quote
If you’ve got to this point then you’re clearly interested in BMW E92 335i tuning… so the last part of that puzzle is making sure you’re insured; thankfully Adrian Flux has you covered so you needn’t worry!
Car: BMW E92 335i
Driver and info: 28-year-old male, with a full NCB, living in the TN14 post code, with a clean license. The car is parked on the drive each night and has light modifications including wheels, suspension, exhaust and air filter.
Quote: £400 including insurance premium tax / £300 excess / Comprehensive cover / 7000mpa
Adrian Flux says…
“There aren’t many German cars out there to rival the performance-per-pound of BMW’s twin turbo 3 Series. The closest option in a similar price bracket is Audi’s B6 S4 4.2-litre quattro. You’ll get more power as standard but it’s not as tuneable as the Beemer.”