With an award-winning turbocharged straight-six under the bonnet and massive tuning potential, the BMW E92 335i is the ultimate performance bargain.
When it comes to cheap speed, there is no single BMW that even comes close to the E90/E92 335i. Which is especially true once you dip into some tuning. BMW’s first foray into turbocharged petrol cars was a revelation when it was launched way back in 2006. It’s basically the German Supra powered by Munich’s 2JZ, the N54.
With 306bhp and 295lb ft of torque straight out of the box, it was an incredibly rapid machine from factory. Once the tuners unlocked the potential within that remarkable engine, all hell broke loose. The N54 became 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. Whichever version of the BMW E92 335i you end up choosing, you’re going to have a lot of fun.
BMW E92 335i engine 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. This should release a further 60-80bhp. A good intake kit is also worth a look, although gains on its own won’t be huge. 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. Once you crank up the power, you’re going to need to strap something studier to your engine. We’d recommend looking 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 more expensive high-flow catalytic convertors. Or de-catted ones, which are cheaper and will give you slightly 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. Checkout someone like Mishimoto, this will help keep intake temperatures down. The stock system is fine and you won’t really see much in the way of gains. The one thing you will gain is more noise and both the N54 and N55 sound great with an aftermarket 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 E92 335i will be feeling very quick. You can have more power, 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 on the suspension side of things. 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. As a result, we’d either choose a spring and damper combo, like the Bilstein B12 kit, or opt for some coilovers. For the money, you really can’t beat BC Racing’s RAs.
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. They’ll make a huge difference to how the car feels and drives.
Fancy something a little different? There’s been significant improvements in air suspension systems over the years. No longer are the days of ultimate lows and completely compromising handling. Now, you can have both worlds. In fact, some air suspension systems are more than capable of performing on track. So don’t rule out the option of air suspension. If you want to learn more about how they work, be sure to check out our guide to air suspension.
BMW E92 335i brakes
For brakes, we would start off with the classic triple combo of rotors, 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.
Brake pad choice is often down to personal preference, but we’ve always been happy with EBC Yellowstuff pads. They offer good performance without too much dust. Want something with a little more bite and resistance to heat? Check out Ferodo DS2500 pads. Great for track work but still perfect for road use, too.
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. There are a whole host of options out there, including from the big players including Wilwood, AP Racing and more.
Inside, if you’ve got an auto or Dual Clutch Transmission with the weird push-pull paddles, you can retrofit the M3 DCT paddles. 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. 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. You could also stick an M Performance electronic steering wheel in there with the digital display. Although these are not cheap and you’ll pay around £600 for a used one.
BMW E92 335i styling
If you’ve got an M Sport then you don’t need much because it’s a good-looking car. 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. We also 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. You could also 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 tuning verdict
With prices at rock bottom and tuning potential that’s through the roof, the E92 335i is, without doubt, the ultimate BMW performance bargain. 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 (check out our buyer’s guide on how to get a good one). 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.
Guide from Fast Car. Words: Dan Sherwood. Photos: Patrik Karlsson, Viktor Benyi, Christos Markou, Zayne Smith