From the moment it debuted, the BMW E90 sedan was a real head turner, the Chris Bangle BMW design language was a bit radical for BMW, and while many critics initially railed against its unique styling would later come to praise it. The E90 Sedan is a clean piece of automotive design, but some of the lower-spec details and ‘decontenting’ of the car in its lower trim levels gets in the way of what Chris Bangle’s original vision of what the E90 BMW 328i and 335i sedan was supposed to be.
In the next few paragraphs, we’ll be going over what some of the best mods are a as starting point for the beginner to make your E90 BMW 3-series sedan exterior look a hell of a lot better – whether what you want is a simple and clean “classy” look, a wild-ass stanced out Hellaflush rolling sculpture, sleeper sedan or something fresh from a DTM circuit race. We’ll also cover how to make the 4-door that’s been the benchmark for “Sport Sedans” for 30 years now even faster, make the “ultimate driving machine” handle better and stop quicker. Everything the full potential of the “Ultimate Driving Machine”.
(Avant Garde M359 Hyper Silver Wheels 19×9 ET35 / 19×10 ET38 on BMW E90 335i)
1. Pretty, Stylish Wheels for BMW E90
Unless you’ve got one of handful of desirable option packages on your BMW E90 as factory, your OEM wheels are kinda ugly. Sorry, but we’re really starting to think half the styles BMW rolls out are deliberately bad to force you to replace them with something actually decent looking. As we’ve said before, and we’ll say again – STOCK WHEELS SUCK (check out 5 great reasons why they suck so hard here). And, as we’ve said before, when you’re trying to change up the look of a car, one of the fastest, easiest and most effective ways to do that is with set of wheels. Any of our Mod Experts who’ve gone through a few sets of wheels on one car will tell you the same, but let me go ahead and give you a firsthand example.
Breaking from BMWs for a second, this right here shows you how dramatic wheels can be. Personally, I daily drive a pretty aggressive looking Fiesta ST, and I usually run a set of black mesh wheels on the car – and hardly anyone looks twice at the car. However, for the Fab Fords show back in April, I swapped on a bright gold set of Sparco wheels (changing NOTHING ELSE) and all of a sudden, everyone on the street would notice the car and stare to watch me cruise by. And that’s just a Fiesta! Imagine what the right set of wheels can do for a BMW!
It was really eye opening just how dramatic a change JUST A SET OF WHEELS makes on the look of a car, and that’s true for the BMW E90 328i and 335i – the type of wheels you choose sets the tone for the rest of your build. If you’re looking to make a car “POP”, wheels are an ideal way to do it, and there are so many options to suit your taste and style, whatever that is – whether that’s trackday, VIP style, hellaflush, sleeper or OEM+ style daily driver.
(VMR V710 Wheels 18×8.5 ET35 / 18×9.5 ET33 / F: 215/40-18 / R: 245/35-18 on BMW E90 335xi ZMZ)
Since we’ve helped out tens of thousands of enthusiasts with their fitments all over the world – a large part of which were E9X fitments – our Mod Experts have the expertise with the E90 platform and the experience to recommend a wheel width and offset paired with the right tire combination to give you a trouble free set of wheels for your E90. Check out just a few examples of the options you have available to you.
If you’re into concave wheels, a set of Forgestar F14 Wheels might be perfect for you – they’re custom made to order, manufactured for your exact car in your specifications for color, offset and you’ve got the choice of Semi Concave, Deep Concave or Super Deep Concave, which look stellar in a Deep/Superdeep configuration – but are real neckbreakers with Superdeep Front and Rears on an E90, as seen above – though we should mention that running super deeps front and rear on a non M is an EXTREMELY aggressive fitment. While yes, it’s technically possible to run super deep front and rear, but you have to make a lot of other changes to the car to make that happen. (Be warned, doing Super Deep Concave fronts on a non-M3 E90 takes a LOT OF WORK – click here to find out what it takes to run Super Deep on all 4 corners of your BMW 335i)
Since Forgestar Wheels are made to order, they usually take about 8 weeks start to finish, which feels like a long time to wait, but quality takes time. After all, you don’t order a Souffle for dessert and then complain that it isn’t there instantly (a souffle takes a long time to cook, but it’s pretty darn good).
That said, if you need instant gratification, we have you covered too, as we do stock some pre-made Forgestar F14 wheel sets here at our warehouse in the most popular E90 fitments and have a large selection of BMW tire fitments on hand.
Avant Garde Wheels offers a very clean looking design that works well on the E90 – A set of Avant Garde M510 Wheels for BMW is a great option if you want something a little ‘different’ than the next guy.
If you’re on a bit of a budget, VMR V718 Wheels for BMW E90 are a great choice, and VMR Wheels is one of the most popular manufacturers of wheels for E90, and has been since long before the E90 platform even debuted.
One of the new options available for the E90 is the Sportline 8S wheel. Available in 18in and 19in fitments in Hyper Silver and Gunmetal finishes, these are a sharp looking set of wheels on the E90 – the fitment is super clean and looks amazing when you lower the car.
The 8S wheels have a bit of concavity to create more of a feeling of depth, in Semi-Deep Concave up front and Deep concave rear fitment. These wheels work brilliantly on nearly any build and are extremely budget friendly – not to mention in stock here at ModBargains.
2. Pipe Up with An Exhaust System for E90
On your BMW E90 Sedan, the exhaust system serves two functions- altering the sound of your BMW’s engine and defining the look of your rear end. Your exhaust configuration says a lot about you – for instance a quick glance at the rear bumper reveals whether you’re a 328i, 335i or M3 even if you’ve debadged/rebadged the car.
Whether it’s 335i exhaust or 328i exhaust, you have quite a few options to change up the look and sound of your 3-series. A Remus Exhaust for BMW E90 335i with quad Carbon Fiber trimmed tips is an extremely popular option, offering a throatier tone that’s still got a distinctly “european” sound to it.
The 335i guys have it easy as we’ve already written an article outline the Best Exhausts for E90 BMW 335i in detail with HP gains and sound clips – click the link to check out the best 335i exhausts specifically, but for the sake of keeping things short we’re going to talk in general about exhaust.
The HKS Cat-Back Exhaust For BMW E90 335i is a great sounding and popular option, offering a tuner kind of exhaust note.
Good for an 13hp/ 8tq gain, the HKS Catback for E90 BMW 335i performs and sounds as good as it looks, and it’s in stock here at ModBargains.
Many folks love the sound of the OEM BMW Performance Exhaust for E90, for both 328i and 335i – and even the E90 328i’s single exit exhaust setup looks sharp – and both versions look great when paired with a Carbon Fiber Diffuser.
Cobb Tuning has made a huge splash with their AccessPORT for the BMW N54 and N55, and they’ve recently gotten into the parts game too, offering a free-flowing yet street-suitable 3in Cobb Catback Exhaust for BMW E90 335i to go with their other parts that offers a bit different sound than some of the other options thanks to the unique configuration.
Your exhaust truly defines the style of the entire rear end of the car, so consider the aesthetic as well as the sound when looking at an exhaust for your E90.
If you’re after something really specific or unique, however, you can always have your own fabbed for you.
While it’s true that it’s possible to determine objectively what the BEST exhaust is for BMW E90 by simply looking at it in terms of power, but the trouble is that it’s subjective.
It’s a matter of personal taste. I can no more guarantee you’ll like the same exhaust note than I can decide for you whether or not you like the taste of Coca-Cola or Pepsi more. So, we really can’t tell you what exhaust note you will like best, that’s why it’s so important that you listen to sound clips of as many systems as possible – since it’s not me who has to to live with the volume and tone your exhaust system while driving around every day – you have to live with it. So, think long and hard about whether or not you’ll like how loud something is in the long term when considering an exhaust.
Of course, if you give the Mod Experts some input as to the sort of characteristics you’re looking for in an exhaust system, we can give you a few options that might be close to what you’re after. Give the Mod Experts a call at 714-582-3330 if you have questions about an exhaust for your BMW E90 328i or 335i.
3. Get Low with Upgraded Suspension
Springs & Shocks
Once you have your wheels and exhaust figured out, the next thing up is the car’s suspension – it’s a fact of life, a lowered car always looks better than it does with stock wheelgap. In addition to the obvious cosmetic benefit, lowering your suspension offers enhanced performance benefits, like sharper handling, better ride quality and lower center of gravity.
There are three common ways you can go when it comes to your E90 suspension – Lowering Springs & a Set of Shocks, Coilovers or Air Ride. It’s that or go OEM; there really aren’t that many different classes of suspension setups for E90 to choose from on the E90 platform.
Beyond these, we offer sets of Springs and Shock Absorbers from Bilstein, Vogtland, Eibach & KONI and all of the finest names in suspension upgrades for the E90. We’ve mentioned before that since these cars are getting older, you’re going to have to replace the OEM shocks no matter what, and a set of lowering springs will wear out OEM shocks even faster – and since it takes the same amount of effort to install coilovers, it becomes a lot clearer why so many E90s are on coilovers these days.
Given the fact that the install cost/effort is the same for both springs and coilovers, most of the Mod Experts here -myself included- have lowered their personal cars using Coilovers, and often Coilovers can be smoother than stock if you set them up the right way.
Coilovers offer the flexibility of being able to change the dynamics of how your E90 handles and responds to suit your style and the roads. If you want control over your car’s ride height and have some adjustment, you want coilovers. If you want to be able to tune the car if you’re hitting a trackday or feel like you need more clearance or want to compensate for something. KW Coilovers for E90 are a popular option for the 3-Series, but ST Suspensions Coilovers for E90 are also a solid choice if you want a quality coilover on a tighter budget.
For those of you on a budget and don’t need all the extra frills, a set of Solo-Werks Coilovers for BMW E90 will set you back only a paltry $599. Check out how they look installed on the white E90 335d below.
Solo-Werks Coilovers for BMW E90 Sedan offer adjustable ride height and fixed dampers that have been specifically tuned for the E90 platform, making them inexpensive and painless to setup.
So if you’re looking for coilovers, we have you covered with options from CKS Suspension, Vogtland, BC Racing, Ohlins, H&R Coilovers, RS-R Coilovers, Bilstein and Eibach.
And of course, if you want to get REALLY LOW on demand (and have the few thousand dollars it takes to purchase) – there’s always Airrex Air Suspension systems.
4. Exterior – Make your E90 Your Own
You have quite a few styling options available for the E90 BMW 3-series sedan for several different bumper configurations, making it doable to create a totally unique combination.
One of the easiest ways to alter the front end aesthetic of your BMW E90 is with a front lip or a set of splitters- and you’ve got options regardless of what front bumper you’re running.
This Carbon Fiber HM Style Front Lip for BMW E90 is for non-M-sport models and fits the base bumper.
These MSport Style Carbon Fiber Splitters for BMW E90 (Pre-LCI) are MSport Style Carbon Fiber Front Splitters for BMW E90 (LCI) are available as well and are a great way to add some extra flair to the base model bumper.
Then there’s the also-popular M-Sport Style front bumper for E90, for those of us who didn’t get a factory M-sport equipped E90. After the bumper, there are a few other things to do to the front end. The M-Sport – aka M-Tech- front end probably has the largest selection of aftermarket front lips, splitters and spoilers available.
This Mtech Style Carbon Fiber Front Lip for BMW E90 w/MSport is a popular option, it adds a dash of aggression but still is restrained enough to be all “boy racer” about it. Vollkommen Design also offers a Mtech Style Front Lip for BMW E90 MSport in Polyurethane for those of you who would prefer to paint it or need a lip that can stand up to a little abuse.
Don’t feel like adding a full-blown front lip? A set of Carbon Fiber M-Tech style front Splitters for BMW E90 Msport is another option for changing up the aesthetics of your E90.
This is an M3 style front bumper for an E90. You can’t just run a E90 M3 bumper on a non M, it’s not that simple. The E90 M3 is wider and so the bumper won’t fit right – but this aftermarket M3 Style bumper for E90 modeled after the M bumper is a great way to achieve the look. This particular car also sports a Carbon Fiber Front Lip for M3 Style E90 Front Bumper.
Installed view of Carbon Fiber Front Lip for M3 Style E90 Front Bumper.
As far as side skirts go, your options are actually quite limited, unfortunately, as the M3 Style Side Skirts for E90 seem to be the predominant option for 3-series, coupe and sedan alike.
At the rear of the car, the M-Sport Style Rear Bumper is likely your best bet for any E90 3-series sedan.
The way the exhaust tips are spaced on a non-M is much wider than it is on an M3 – so if you fit an OEM M3 rear bumper, none of the exhaust setups for your engine will match up, hence why the M3 Style Rear Bumper for BMW E90 is needed if you want the M3 look, and the M3 style rear is available in single exit or dual exit.
Once you have the M-Sport Style rear bumper for BMW E90, there’s a few other ways you can mix things up – you can accomodate an aftermarket exhaust or simply change the look of your rear end by swapping out the center “diffuser panel”. There’s a Performance Style Carbon Fiber Rear Diffuser for E90 BMW 328i & 335i, as seen above…
If that’s too aggro looking for you, there’s also the Carbon Fiber 3D Style Diffuser for E90 BMW w/MSport Rear Bumper.
While the rear bumper doesn’t offer many options, of course, there’s always trunk spoilers to change up the rear end look of the car. There’s two ways you can go here – you can either install an aftermarket spoiler, or an aftermarket decklid.
A Carbon Fiber Performance Style Trunk Spoiler for BMW E90 is a great option for adding a little extra flair to the rear end of your E90.
If subtlety is your bag, the Carbon Fiber M3 Style Trunk Spoiler for BMW E90 adds the subtlest carbon fiber accent to the rear end of the car.
As we mentioned, beyond the spoilers that sit on top of the trunk lid, your other option for changing the contours of the rear end is to replace the trunk lid with something like the CSL Style Trunk Lid for BMW E90 pictured here.
5. Performance – Oil Coolers
It’s pretty common knowledge that the BMW N54 and N55 Turbocharged I-6 engines run very hot. Heck, even the non turbo motors run hot – the E46 M3’s most effective mod for trackday use is a upgraded cooling fan setup – so keeping cool is something BMW sixes seem to struggle with.
Considering that turbochargers are exhaust driven, the turbo motors running hotter makes sense- they’re naturally going to be hot and accumulate a lot of heat. This heat generation, coupled with the fact that BMW E90 335i models have a small radiator, means that under spirited driving conditions (like your favorite canyon or autocross course), your coolant temperature can quickly exceed 250 degrees – more than 20 degrees above what’s considered “hot” for other cars (230* F). This overheated condition can send your car into “Limp Mode”, making your drive home scary, and a whole lot less fun.
Many early turbo BMW E82, E90, E92 and E93 models did not include an oil cooler from the factory or have one that’s simply too small for the job. What it works out to is that basically, any kind of spirited driving will QUICKLY have your engine operating much hotter than it should be, causing your oil to stop lubricating your engine’s moving parts properly and even overheat. (You can read more about this HERE) Considering that BMWs are intended to be driven hard, this can make enjoying your ultimate driving machine a bit difficult.
What can you do to solve the problem? BMW attempted to put a bandaid on the problem by adding a small oil cooler to later N54/N55 models – but this still isn’t enough. This is why if you do any of spirited driving at all or just want to extend the life of your motor, you should install an oil cooler large enough to sufficiently cool the oil, keeping your engine running cool and happy.
If you want to build your N54 for power, click here to read our guide for Full Bolt On Power for N54 335i
If you want to build your N55 for power, click here to read our guide for Full Bolt On Power for N55 335i
Lighting for BMW E90 is something that should be on your list of things to consider, whether or not you drive at night. Your lighting systems should allow you to see and be seen, and beyond that, your lighting’s just another way to set your car apart from the crowd.
If your 3-series had halogen headlights stock, replacing the bulbs with a set of HIDs is a great idea – check out our post on HIDs to learn more about how they work and what the best practices are for an HID system – an HID kit for BMW E90 is a great place to start, but the rest of your lighting will leave you feeling bleh.
Upgrade your “halos” or “Angel Eyes” from the yellowy OEM incandescent illumination to a crisp, bright look with a set of LED Angel Eyes from LUX for BMW E90. Available in fixed white or adjustable, a set of upgraded angel eyes will really help your E90 stand out from the crowd in traffic.
The OEM sidemarkers aren’t exactly the prettiest thing either, but you can replace them with a clean looking smoked or clear LED Sidemarkers for BMW E90 that’s also brighter than stock as well.
Now that we’ve talked about the front, let’s not forget the rear. Shave years off your rear end’s appearance with crisp, modern OEM LCI LED Tail Lights for E90 and unlike some of the cheap low quality aftermarket LED tails on the market for the E90, these OEM BMW LED tails will install hassle-free without causing a ton of error codes.
If the LCI style isn’t your bag, we also offer this other style of LED Tail Lights for BMW E90 – available in smoked, clear and red clear. They’re not OEM BMW and as such aren’t the same quality, but still offer an aesthetic improvement over stock.
Beyond the LCI tails, there are a few other LED upgrades that you can make that’ll further enhance your night time appearance, like a set of 18-LED Courtesy Lamps for BMW E90, which pair brilliantly with LED Luggage Compartment Lamps for BMW E90.
And a pair of LED License Plate lamps is a great finishing touch for extra clean lighting.
7. Firm Up with Upgraded Brakes
While we use our brakes constantly, we probably don’t think too much about them until they become a shortcoming, but the E90’s brakes can use a little beefing up, and you can add a good bit of stopping power without having to step up to a $spendy$ big brake kit. A set of larger diameter wheels will expose your brakes quite a bit, and in addition to enhancing your stopping power, a set of nicer brakes can add a nice backdrop for your wheels – and though we didn’t mention it earlier, the wheels you use will also have a small effect on the cooling capacity of your brakes as well.
Brakes are the ultimate “While I’m at it” upgrade. Since you’re going to have to replace your brakes as you put miles on the car no matter what, why not use something better, if you have to replace the parts anyway?
A StopTech Stage 2 brake package makes it straightforward and surprisingly affordable to step up your stopping power for a fraction of the cost of a Big Brake Kit – the simple combination of upgraded brake rotors, pads, stainless steel brake lines and high performance brake fluid makes a noticeable difference in the firmness and response of your brakes and helps prevent brake fade for a longer period of time. No matter how you look at it, superior stopping power is going to be an improvement your car – stopping faster means a greater margin of safety, and better brakes means you can be a bit more aggressive with your braking on track than the next E90.
So that’s it for our rundown of the best mods for the BMW E90 328i, 335i and 335d – we hope this was informative for you, and thank you for reading.
Interested in changing up the look and performance of your BMW E90 328i, 335d or 335i? Ask the Mod Experts what exterior upgrades are available for your car to change the style of your ride. Call us at 714-582-3330 for expert car mod advice and schedule your installation at the Mod Auto shop today.
Story & Photos Nick Gregson