2009 BMW M3 Long Term Road Test

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2009 BMW M3 Sedan: You Sure You're OK?

August 11, 2009

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I ran an electronic check of the oil in our 2009 BMW M3 sedan yesterday and I got the following display. Everything's green. The oil level is OK.

But look where the level reads on the virtual dipstick. If the oil read at this level on normal dipstick, I wouldn't think the level was OK. Rather, I would add a 1/4 to a 1/2 quart of oil to get it back up to the halfway mark.

Well, we're treating our E90 BMW M3 (and our other cars without a conventional dipstick) the same. If the oil reads below the halfway mark, we add oil.

I looked for the M3's preferred 10W60 synthetic at the auto parts store, but of course didn't find it. I did find 5W50 synthetic, which, per the owner's manual, is one of the acceptable alternates (10W40 and 10W50 are the others), for $6.99/quart plus tax. But the ratings on the bottle don't quite jibe with the more specific requirements BMW lays out on its web site (thanks to sodaguy for directing us to this page).

So, through gritted teeth, I drove to Santa Monica BMW and paid $20.87 plus tax for one liter (1.05 quarts) of Castrol TWS Motorsport 10W60. That's nowhere near as bad as buying differential oil for the GT-R, but if we were going to be living with the M3 for more than a year, I'd try to find a cheaper solution for oil top-offs than this. Surely, there's an M-friendly wholesaler out there.

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I added about 1/3 of the liter to the M3, and we'll monitor the oil level to make sure that was enough.

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Adding oil is an uncommonly pleasant experience -- yes, I'm serious. The under-hood packaging is such that you can easily slide a liter of oil into the space ahead of the filler cap and pour it without a funnel and without burning yourself and without getting a whole bunch of gunk on your hands. This is a good setup on a high-performance car that will need meticulous attention throughout its life.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 7,417 miles

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