Regular Joe’s Review: M3 vs 335i

HKers love BMWs and the E9x 3-series is no exception. From the top-of-line M3 (read my review of the E92 M3 here) to the highly popular 335i, there is no shortage of used selections to choose from. While the two belong to different price segments, there are enough similarities to make the 335i a viable alternative to the highly rate M3. Having owned both vehicles for an extended period of time, I’ve come to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both vehicles. So should you fork out an extra HKD100-200k for the //M Division product? Read below to find out!


Looks are subjective but most would agree that the M3’s muscular fenders, bulging hood and more aggressive bumpers is easily the more imposing of the two. The 335i, depending on spec, can look quite boring and ordinary considering that the E9x 3-series are a dime-a-dozen here. I do quite like the M-Sport spec-ed vehicles with the more aggressive bumpers though, understated with a sporting intent. Interiors of both cars are largely the same but the M cars are usually fully-optioned with better seats. Get a M-Sport 335i and you’ll get the same sporty seats and chunky steering wheel, bringing the two on level playing ground.



Winner: M3


You will find endless debates about the two power units online so I would like to stress that I am evaluating them purely from my perspective as an owner that drives these on HK roads.

The S65 V8 and the N54 turbo-charged inline-6 are entirely different beasts. On paper, the award-winning V8 would look like the clear winner with the extra 100hp but it is the power delivery that makes the biggest difference for the HK road user. Unlike normal torque monster V8s, the M3’s power unit requires lots of revs and only comes alive north of 4k rpms. I found it both tiring and stressful to keep the M3 in its powerband as you have to stay in the first 3 gears all the time and would be at insane license-suspension speeds by the time you extract the full 400hp from the power unit. Having said that, the V8 does reward when you hit that sweet spot and the sound it makes is pure magic. The engine begs to be thrashed and feels more alive as you get closer to the redline.

The turbo-charged N54 in the 335i is no slouch and you would be surprised by the lag-free power delivery. Torque comes early at just 2k rpms and stays relatively flat until 5k rpms. The engine does fall a little short at the upper range but I seldom found the need to rev so far out as you will be making significant ground with your back pushed well into your seat by that time. The power is just so much more usable on the road and I found it much easier to enjoy for day-to-day driving. Fast and usable is probably the best way to describe it. While the N54 lacks the drama of the V8 in the aural department, it does sound pretty sporty even with the stock exhaust.



The 335i I had was equipped with the older 6-spd steptronic automatic transmission, while it is a fairly quick-shifting unit, it is day and night when compared against the extremely responsive 7-spd DCT on the M3.


It is incredibly difficult to choose between the two but if I had to make a choice for regular street driving… it’s the turbocharged N54.

Winner: 335i


Still shocked by my choice on the N54 inline-6 over the S65 V8? Calm down, no surprises here, the M3 wins by a mile. The 2 cars look very similar but the M3 is MUCH more solid. If you jump from the M3 to the 335i, you will immediately notice significantly more body flex in the 335i, so much to a point that they feel like different cars. The EDC suspension in the M3 is also way superior with its adaptive damping modes. Without going into the ‘Sport’ setting, the ‘Comfort’ mode of the M3 already out performs the much softer sprung 335i. Turn-in is more immediate and everything just feels 2 notches tighter, especially on the less than perfect roads of HK. While there isn’t a lot of feel in the M3’s servo assisted steering, it feels much quicker and more responsive than the slower 335i rack. Some 335is do come with the ‘active-steering’ option which I quite like as the rack is much quicker and quite enjoyable for winding road drives.

Winner: M3


A wise man once said, “With great horsepower, comes great re$pon$ibility!”. As with all high-performance vehicles, maintenance will be more expensive than regular cars. Both BMWs are generally reliable but little problems do come up here and there. I was fortunate that nothing went wrong on the M3 during my ownership but wasn’t as lucky on the 335i. Pretty much all N54 valve cover gaskets leak with time and the ignition coils tend to go at around 40k kms. While not expensive items, these little issues do get annoying to deal with sometimes. The key really is to look for well-maintained examples with service history if possible. M3 parts can get quite expensive so do factor in $10-20k in maintenance costs per year if you intend to get one.

Winner: 335i (only because the parts cost less)


And the final verdict is… The M3 is the car with proper sporting pedigree and is also the last of the naturally-aspirated M powered cars. We can’t say if it will reach collectability levels given the large number produced, but it will certainly continue to depreciate for the next 5 years easy. The 335i is produced in even greater numbers and is extremely easy to find in the local used car market. Prices now range between HKD100-200k and has become one of the best performance bargains in the market. So which is the car to get? The M3 is no doubt the better car but if you factor in value, usability and everyday fun, the 335i is quite an unbeatable package. I sold my M3 for a 335i. What do you think?

Let us know your thoughts on our review or tell us if you would like us to review a specific model by leaving a comment below!