The BMW E9X M3 is 15 years old at this point and still accurately lives up to the Motorsport mantra. Its cost-to-performance ratio certainly makes it a tempting prospect in 2022. The E90/E92 M3 has a notable defining characteristic that makes it a unique beast in the BMW M-lineup. It is the only M3 to ever be released with a high-performance V8 in factory trim and it’ll likely remain that way.
The S65 V8 engine that powers the E9X M3 is one of the most highly debated engines in BMW’s catalog. While no one questions the S65’s impressive naturally aspirated performance, its placement in the M3 was blasphemy for some diehard BMW fans. The M3 had become synonymous with inline-6 power since the E36 and the S65 disturbed that groove. Regardless, as BMW enthusiasts began to realize the S65’s power potential and tremendous reliability, outcry began to subside.
At this point in the E90/E92’s lifecycle, the full gambit of performance modifications has been realized. The 4.0L S62 V8 can be modified in unlimited ways, from superchargers to stroker kits. However, we’re going to be discussing a relatively simple bolt-on, an upgraded E92 M3 intake.
An upgraded M3 intake can not only provide better breathability for your S65, but also introduce some new fun noises into the equation as well. While the performance benefits of an upgraded E92 M3 intake might not be the most significant, it is a relatively inexpensive starter modification for your M3. In this guide, we’ll discuss some of the reasons to upgrade your M3’s S65 intake and suggest a few good options as well.
Factory E92 M3 Intake Design
The factory E92 intake design features a large airbox near the front of the driver’s side (US-Spec) engine compartment. The regular S65 V8 intake is fed through the driver’s side hood vent on the E9X M3, which does a pretty good job of supplying air. Additionally, the factory airbox is also fed through the kidney grilles as well. That means that there are already two sources of cool, fresh air supplying the factory design. Despite supplying the S65 engine with a good amount of cool air from outside of the engine bay, the factory design does have a few limitations.
Once air enters the hood vent and into the factory M3 airbox, it has to make a sharp entrance into the S65 intake manifold. The factor design features a flexible elbow tube that juts from the airbox at a 90-degree angle before entering the intake manifold. That is where the most gains can be scavenged from an aftermarket E92 intake design perspective. Since the air entering the airbox doesn’t have an optimized path into the manifold, some flow is sacrificed. Most aftermarket options focus on smoothing out the E9X M3 intake elbow to increase flow.
Beyond the limitations created by the factory M3 intake elbow design, the filter that BMW uses in their factory E92 airbox is by far the most restrictive component in the intake system. That is especially the case for early model 2008-2009 E92 M3s. The stock early model filters feature an additional charcoal filtration layer which significantly reduces airflow. Later 2010+ models use a factory paper filter design. However, there are adapters that allow early model E9X M3s to run late model filters. With that being said, the M3 aftermarket community has produced better filters than either of the stock options.
E92 M3 Drop In Air Filter Upgrade
Since the E9X M3 airbox design has proven to be a relatively solid option other than the air filter, quite a few enthusiasts suggest simply swapping out the factory E92 M3 air filter for a less restrictive one. In terms of a performance gain from an E92 drop-in filter replacement, you won’t see much of one. If you do, it’ll be in the 1-5 horsepower area. As we have already established, you will see marginally better performance from early model E92 M3s with a filter swap, as it gets rid of the restrictive charcoal intake filter.
Most people opt to swap to an M3 drop-in filter for the louder and improved induction sounds. In fact, louder induction sound is the primary reason that most people upgrade their E9X intake system anyway. Generally speaking, M3 drop-in filters will produce those sought-after intake suction noises that everyone knows and loves. Most BMW E9X owners that swap to a drop-in filter claim that there is a much more pronounced intake growl above 3,500 rpm.
Aftermarket S65 drop-in filters tend to be thinner and retain oil better than the stock paper filter. One of the most common drop-in filters for the S65 V8 is the Active Autowerke Green Filter. The AA filter is made from two layers of tightly woven cotton which retains the particle-stopping properties of the factory filter while also being thinner and more absorbent.
Active Autowerk Green E92 M3 Drop In Filter
Purchase Here: turnermotorsports.com
S65 E90/E92 M3 Intake Upgrade Benefits
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let's move on to how an upgraded E92 M3 intake can help to increase performance marginally. Outside of just the performance realm, an E9X upgraded intake has additional benefits that can make your M3 more fun from a driver's perspective.
The ultimate goal of an upgraded M3 intake is to maximize the amount of air entering the intake manifold. Beyond just the quantity of air being supplied, how the air is delivered also matters a significant amount. An airbox can suck in a massive volume of air, but if the incoming air has to encounter a ton of obstacles on the way to the intake plenum the system won’t be properly optimized. Therefore, aftermarket E92 M3 intake manufacturers focus just as much on how air flows within the system as they do on the amount of air entering the system.
Aftermarket E92 M3 intakes often feature a more direct path from the filter to the manifold by reducing the angle on the elbow tube coming off of the airbox. This reduces the amount of turbulence caused by uneven intake piping. As a high-revving naturally aspirated 4.0L V8, the S65 needs a lot of air to supply the cylinders. The demand is even higher when you introduce supercharged S65s into the mix.
Here are some of the performance benefits that you can expect to see from an upgraded E92 M3 intake:
- 0-15 horsepower gain
- Similar torque gains
- Improved/enhanced induction noises
- Better looking engine bay
- Noticeably better performance when paired with other mods like forced induction
BMW E92 M3 Upgraded Intake Sound
We already touched on this topic a bit when discussing E92 M3 drop-in filters, but it’s worth reiterating when talking about a full E92 M3 intake upgrade as well. Sound is one of the most important parts of owning a performance car for a lot of enthusiasts. The E9X M3 already provides one of the best grunty German V8 soundtracks available. However, if you are looking to introduce another satisfying sound into your E92’s cabin, an intake really does fit the bill.
It is hard to describe exactly what sound an upgraded M3 intake sounds like, but throaty and aggressive are two accurate adjectives. That is especially the case for open-air intakes, which aren’t enclosed in a sealed box that muffles the noise. Upgraded M3 intakes make stepping on the throttle more of an occasion through the additional noise. Most aftermarket intakes are especially loud and noticeable when on the throttle and around 3,500 rpm on the S65. You’ll certainly be turning more heads both inside and outside your M3’s cabin.
Best S65 E92 M3 Upgraded Intakes
In this section, we will list a few popular, quality intakes that we believe are among the best options for the S65 E92 M3. There are tons of options so this is not at all an exhaustive list.
Dinan High Flow S65 E9X Intake
Purchase Here: dinancars.com
If you’ve been in the BMW game for any amount of time, it’s almost impossible that you haven’t heard of DINAN. They have built up such a profound reputation in the BMW community that they were an approved vendor with BMW for years. While DINAN and BMW aren’t partnered anymore, that hasn’t stopped them from continuing to create top-shelf BMW performance parts to this day. The DINAN High Flow Intake is a crucial part of building a full DINAN spec E92 and it provides 3 points towards slapping a DINAN badge to the back of your M3. Beyond just earning the DINAN brownie points, it is also a fantastic intake.
The DINAN High Flow E92 M3 intake is constructed from carbon fiber and plastic for optimal thermal dynamics. Unlike an intake that uses metal piping, carbon fiber and plastic are good insulators and cool down much faster. This reduces the chance of heat soak which can zap power from the S65 engine. The DINAN intake makes use of the factory airbox itself but introduces some heat-reducing technologies to the mix. It features an injection molded divider plate and internal high flow passage to keep hot air from the engine bay out. The elbow pipe also has 30% more cross-sectional area than the stock one for a larger overall volume which increases airflow.
Overall, DINAN claims that their High Flow S65 intake will unlock around 8 horsepower from their upgraded design. The thermal properties are another strong point for the intake, which reduces the chance of heat soak.
Macht Schnell Stage 2 E92 M3 Intake Charge Kit
Purchase Here: turnermotorsport.com
While Macht Schnell might not have the same type of brand recognition that DINAN does in the BMW community, their E92 intake is equally, if not more, touted among E9X enthusiasts. At a significantly lower price point, the Macht Schnell intake does everything that the DINAN intake does but with a slightly different approach.
The standout feature of the Stage 2 E92 M3 Intake kit is the extremely large performance filter that replaces the factory one. The Schnell filter is not only significantly larger in terms of sheer surface area, but it also provides superior breathability. Unlike the factory paper, or graphite, filter usually fitted to the S65, the Schnell filter is made of cotton gauze, which is much less restrictive.
The Schnell’s intake piping is another important upgrade over stock hardware. The elbow piping included in the Stage 2 kit is 18% larger by volume which allows for more air to travel into the manifold. It is also less angled than the stock elbow and features a glossy internal finish which reduces internal turbulence to a sizable degree. All of the parts included in the kit are made from nearly indestructible polyurethane that are made to last. Performance gains are said to be similar to the DINAN intake at around 8 horsepower.
Eventuri Gloss Black Carbon Fiber E92 M3 Intake
Purchase Here: fcpeuro.com
Unlike the other E9X intakes listed here, the Eventuri brings some stage presence into the picture. While most people are focused on performance and sound when shopping for an upgraded E92 M3 intake, aesthetics are often left out of the conversation. Well, that certainly isn’t the case for the Eventuri. The entire Eventuri intake, including the additional inlet scoop, is made from glossy carbon fiber. While it might just seem like a party trick, there is a benefit to its construction.
As we discussed with the DINAN intake, which also features some carbon fiber, carbon is much more efficient at dissipating heat than steel or aluminum. For that reason, an intake made out of carbon fiber has less of a risk of heat soaking than a metal counterpart. Like the other intake manufacturers on the list, Eventuri recognized the superior design of the OEM M3 airbox and left it alone. They did, however, redesign the elbow piping to have a more direct path into the intake manifold for superior flow.
The culmination of design changes results in an S65 intake that produces an additional 8-10 horsepower over the stock system. Obviously, the price tag is extremely high for an intake that provides similar results to the less expensive competition. However, it is evident that the extra cost went into the build materials. If you are looking for a carbon fiber part to spruce up your E92 M3’s engine bay, the Eventuri is a good choice.
E92 M3 Intake Upgrade Summary
The BMW E92 M3 is a staple of the M3 lineup and one that can certainly benefit from some aftermarket modifications. One of the easiest to install and most cost-effective modifications for the S65 is an upgraded intake.
While the factory E9X airbox is incredibly efficient from the factory, there are a couple of factors that significantly impact the intake’s performance. One of the most significant handicaps is the OEM air filter which is extremely restrictive. The other is the sharply angled intake elbow piping which causes turbulence within the system. While some E9X M3 owners opt to simply drop in a less restrictive filter, a performance M3 intake can solve both of the above issues.
The benefits of an upgraded E9X M3 intake might not be the most significant, but they certainly do make a difference. It can be generally assumed that you’ll pick up somewhere in the ballpark of 5-10 horsepower from an upgraded M3 intake. When paired with other S65 engine modifications like forced induction, the benefits of an upgraded intake are much more significant. Enhanced induction noise is another major selling point to M3 owners looking for some additional engine noise when stepping on the accelerator. If you enjoyed this article and are looking for more E9X M3 or S65 content, check out our BMW S65 M3 Bolt-On Performance Mods Guide. As always, safe driving!