The crew here at hkcartrader are a bunch of car fanatics and we have driven and owned a large variety of enthusiast cars. You’ve probably read and seen countless reviews from top auto jounalists such as Chris Harris, Tiff Needell and Jeremy Clarkson and we’re sure they can best tell you what its like to drive these cars at the limit.

But what is it like for us regular Joes who don’t get to test the limits of these high performance cars at a track? What is it like to drive it at ‘reasonable’ speeds on regular roads? What is it like to own them on a daily basis? We’ll be trying to answer these questions in our upcoming series of ‘Regular Joe’ Car Reviews, and this week, we will be covering the E92 M3.

E92 M3 V8

The E92 M3 is the last of the normally aspirated M3s and much has already been said about that wonderful V8 with countless comparisons to direct competitors such as the C63 and RS4. We are not going to cover any of that but instead, tell you about the real world differences between the Manual and DCT transmissions, and what modifications, if any, will make this awesome car even better.


Hong Kong City Driving

We already know the E92 M3 is great on track, but on the road, you will get no where near its limits, especially in the tight city streets of HK with plenty of stop & go traffic and speed cameras littered across the city. This V8 is a peaky unit and does not come alive until 4-5krpms.  This is my first V8 vehicle and I dare say I was dissappointed initially by the lack of torque when driving around the busy city area.

It was not until I hit the highways where I finally understood why this car is so highly rated. This engine sounds incredible when driven to its limits and the car becomes a raging beast as it devours highway miles in rapid fashion. Unfortunately by this time, you will be well into license suspension speeds and I’d imagine it would be difficult to find a time and occasion where you can do this in reasonable safety. To sum it up, this V8 behaves more like a Honda Vtec than a torque monster.

The M3 is stable and composed in corners and generally good fun in the twisties. There isn’t much feel in the steering and I actually prefer the lighter non-sport mode as the added resistance in the M mode did little other than to make the steering heavier. Despite the significant weight gain over the previous generation, the car did not feel overweight and the brakes sufficient for road use. I would imagine however that these would struggle in a trackday session.

Around town, the car is incredibly easy to manage and feels just like any regular 3-series, abeit a very thirsty one. In HK terminology, this car will easily cost you $3/km (70% city driving).

Maintenance and Ownership

I may have been lucky, but in the 9 months that I owned this 7-year-old 2007 M3, the car was absolutely trouble free. This car is very well built and equipped, the sound system is excellent and controls simplistic and purposeful. The ‘M’ button is indeed a nice touch as it genuinely does make the car feel more urgent and sharp with a single press of a button.  Oil changes are on the expensive side but not a big issue considering that this is a $400k+ vehicle. The interior quality is a little disappointing, as with all modern BMWs, the plastic either peels or feel sticky. The fancy seat-belt valet arm that pushes the seat-belt over your shoulder works less than half the time and I’ve found myself accustomed to reaching well behind my shoulders to get the seat-belt, which is a little annoying.

Manual vs DCT


Car enthusiasts often scoff at automatic transmissions and phrases such as ‘uninvolving’ and ‘boring’ frequently come to mind. We’ve had the luxury to own both the 6MT and 7-speed DCT versions and were surprised by our final preference.

The manual on the E92 M3 is one of the better MT trannys that BMW has put on their M cars. BMW manual boxes are generally notchy in feel but this one feels slick and precise with smooth engagement in the often-used lower gears. The clutch is well weighted for city driving and there should be little complaints even when stuck in a traffic jam. The engagement point is also nice and low which is generally how I like it. It all sounds quite perfect up to this point, so whats not to like?

The gear ratios are fairly long and spaced out and given that we are reviewing this from a Hong Kong drivers’ point of view, you have to stay in second most of the time to extract power from the peaky V8 unit. The S65 V8 on the E92 M3 does not provide much torque down low and really only comes alive after 4k rpms. Its sounds incredible at full song on a highway but on streets and regular roads, its just too tiring to keep the engine at its sweet spot as you will be well over 100km/h in third.


The DCT on the E92 is a very quick and versatile tranny. The automatic mode is incredibly smooth without any of the jerkiness found on earlier SMG models such as the E46 M3 and E60 M5. There is no learning curve on this tranny and anyone can just hop in and drive it like an automatic. Move off on auto mode feels very slightly delayed but generally acceptable. I do however love the ‘Manual’ mode with the very fast and sharp shifts (adjustable with 6 modes), and the blips on downshift make you feel like you are driving a racecar.  The addition of the seventh gear allows for a tighter ratio and it makes a huge difference for HK city driving.

This came as a surprise but I would say that the DCT is the one to own in HK. I love manual cars and pretty much all the sports cars that I have owned comes with three pedals. Putting aside factors such as traffic jams and daily convenience, the DCT is indeed a better match to this peaky V8 engine. I did not feel any less engaged when driving the DCT and found myself enjoying the V8 much more easily than in the manual M3.


I bought my M3 used and it came with some modifications, which I later reverted to original parts and specifications.

This car came with the very expensive titanium Akrapovic full exhaust system with the mid-pipes that replaced the ‘highly-restrictive’ catalytic converters. This system really sounds incredible and its an occasion every time I fire up that V8. I swapped this out for a full factory exhaust later due to our very strict MOT requirements here in HK, and was astonished to find that I actually liked the stock exhaust better. The Akrapovic sounded fantastic outside the car but in the well-insulated cabin of the M3, the difference is insignificant and I actually enjoyed hearing the sound of the engine much better than the drone of the exhaust. The car also pulled better in the lower rpms with the stock exhaust and I find it difficult to justify the marginal gain in the upper rpms considering the stock power is already way more than adequate.


The original EDC suspension was also swapped out for Bilstein PSS10s. I compared this to another EDC equipped M3 and I have to say the original spec car handled so much better. The factory system is much better at absorbing bumps on the imperfect HK roads and the Sport mode stiffens up the system sufficently for aggressive road driving. The PSS10 system felt soft even in the harder settings and still crashy when riding over bumps in soft settings. I see little value in the PSS10s other than for cosmetic lowering purposes.

My car also came with the very expensive Gruppe M carbon intake system. It’s a very well made piece of carbon and quite a sight to behold under the bonnet. It makes a loud barking sound on acceleration but again, I find this distracting rather than enjoyable as it mutes the wonderful sound of the engine note.


The E92 M3 is a very well designed vehicle out-of-the-box, and personally, I feel any performance enhancement modifications to be a waste of both time and money.


The E92 M3 is a very good sports car that strikes a perfect compromise between performance and practicality.  With prices coming down to $400k+ for early models, this is a fantastic choice for enthusiasts looking for an all-in-one sporting vehicle. There are however more exciting vehicles for less money and the E92 M3 could be a little dull given the very high limits which normal drivers would never get close to hitting on regular roads.

Little mechanical change has been made to the E92 M3 during its life cycle so an early model at a lower price is a superb bargain. While manual cars are generally worth more in the HK used car market, we would recommend the DCT as the one to own. Christmas time is around the corner so time to search away!

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!

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Title photo: Matthew Ng