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With full M3 styling and a very healthy 450hp this seriously mean #E91 #335i Touring is the ultimate load runner. Performance estate cars are hugely desirable things, so if BMW won’t make an #M3 Touring, you’ve just gotta do it yourself. Words: Iain Curry. Photos: Hjalmar van Hoek.
BMW Motorsport has been busy these past few years. Back in the day you’d get your M3 or your #M5 and that was it, but nowadays those multicoloured stripes before the evocative M badge can be found on practically anything in the range. Designated ‘full’ M cars, you’ve got your M3, M4 and M5 of course; no less than three different styles of #M6 ; and then there’s your truly niche #X5-M #E70 and #X6-M #E71 big boys. Perhaps more surprising than what does exist in the M stable is what doesn’t – a Touring.
There’s a decent market for big bummed performance cars – just look at Audi’s numerous and successful S and RS Avant weapons – but from M we’ve only ever had an E34 M5 Touring and the stonking E60 M5 Touring, and less than 2000 of both combined were ever built. We’re not about to argue with BMW M Division’s market research, but the affection many enthusiasts have for these M Tourings of old suggest there’s room for at least one in the range. An M5 Touring may not be justified with the M6 Gran Coupé a decent alternative, but how does an F80 M3 Touring grab you? Yep, we’d be keen on one too.
In fact, picture any of the previous gen M3s (except perhaps the E30 M3) and you can imagine that a Touring variant could have worked. Sweden’s Blend Maroof was so convinced the E91 Touring would have made it as an M car that he took it upon himself to create his own interpretation. A daunting task indeed, not least if he’d have transplanted an E9x’s 4.0-litre V8 into the front. Alas, this experienced hand at BMW modifying (he runs Sweden’s Pitstop tuning garage) was more keen on getting an authentic M3 Touring style and keeping a 335i engine in place: a motor he says has better character than the bent eight M.
The base car is a 2007 E91 335i, which most would agree is a glorious offering in its own right. Blend bought it completely stock with no M-Sport interior goodies, and knew to do things properly it would require genuine M3 parts. “I’d always wanted an E90 M3 Touring, so it was unfortunate BMW never made one,” Blend said. “I decided I wouldn’t put a real M3 V8 engine in though as it would be more expensive, heavier and I don’t like the character of it. The V8 needs 5000 revs until it wakes up but the N54 has a smooth line, so much torque on the way up and I just love it.”
You won’t hear us saying there’s much wrong with the #S65 V8 engine – just look at how many people lament its passing now the new M3 is forced induction – but it’s hard to fault Blend’s affection for the quite brilliant #N54 turbo six-cylinder. With over 300hp and 295lb ft on tap it’s certainly no slouch, propelling these #335is to 60mph in five seconds flat. With a bit of tuning by an expert like Blend, creating a true M beater isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. But back to the body. In Sweden you can buy genuine M3 parts through Schmiedmann, and Blend put in a significant order. Best of all, the front panels could be bolted straight on with the 335i items removed. We’ve seen #335i owners putting M3 bonnets on in the past – although it’s not perfectly flush as the M3 bonnet is longer. If you swap the arches, front bumper and the lights however there’s nothing to worry about. Except the man-hours and the huge expense of buying OEM M3 parts, of course.
Blend has fitted an E92 M3’s front bumper with the bonnet, and gone the #E90 M3 route for the arches. He had to use an E92’s headlights wired up by a custom harness, with #E92 headlight brackets to fit, but as you can see in the pictures it’s an impressively seamless piece of work. It also looks much tougher with the brutal Pitstop custom front mount intercooler behind the bumper and a race-style carbon fibre front splitter.
OEM E90 M3 side skirts and E92 M3 mirrors also went in place quite easily, but the rear bumper needed some serious work. To give the Touring an authentic M look, Blend bought an #E92-M3 ’s rear bumper and had to ABS plastic weld it to the top part of the original E91 item with its correct mounting brackets. The rear bumpers on these Tourings are significant chunks of plastic, so the work is highly impressive, and much like the front end, looks finished to a very high standard.
The car’s current owner is Andro Badia (Blend recently sold the M3 Touring conversion to help pay for his next venture – more on that later), who added a carbon fibre rear diffuser to the bumper to go with the front splitter he also optioned once he took ownership. But the final exterior mods – the E91 face-lift boot and rear lights – were completed at Blend’s Pitstop premises, while the paint added to the M3 items matched the 335i’s original BMW dark green.
“The beauty of this car was I could build what I wanted without having to go to BMW directly,” Blend said. “BMW has told me before things are impossible, such as adding heated and electric seats to this car, but to do so only took me a few hours. Sometimes you just have to believe that things can be done.” With the 335i Touring not meeting Blend’s standards for interior comfort, he got hold of genuine M Sport memory seats and used his expertise to have them functional: this was an M3 Touring project after all. On has gone an M3 DCT paddle shift steering wheel too, complete with Alcantara insert.
To truly give a sense of purpose to this M3 Touring conversion, the correct rims and stance were imperative. What better way than to go OEM M3 shopping again, and in the E92 M3 18” Style 260 wheels painted black, and hugging the arches thanks to an FK coilover suspension setup, this Touring would be deserving of a coveted M badge from the factory. If an M3 Touring sounds like a good idea on paper, being able to see this interpretation completed gives more reason to wish BMW had built its own: this Swede is a truly desirable estate car.
New owner Andro agrees, and even committed to buy the M3 Touring before Blend had completed the work. “The positive of buying this car was it looked like BMW itself had built it: everything looked OEM and even the M3 wheels were there,” Andro said. But can the performance match the M3 looks? Blend is convinced. As a tuning specialist he said the turbocharged N54 is easier to eke more power from than the NA V8 M3 motor, and is sure his work has boosted the 335i’s engine to 450hp. In other words, putting a genuine M3’s power figure of 420hp in the shade. While we can’t verify the performance claim, when it comes to the Swedes and engine tuning we usually don’t bother arguing. As a nation these boys know how to make magic happen in BMW engines, and big power figures are nothing new to the Scandinavians.
“This car is faster than an #E90 M3, and I know because I tested it,” Blend said. “On a closed course the car hit 301kmh (187mph)! I just love the performance of this engine.” The DP 3” cat-less downpipe leading into a full custom 3” exhaust system, carbon air box and custom front mount intercooler will all play their part in freeing a few more ponies, but the main gains have come from what Blend calls the Pitstop Stage 3 remap.
This full custom mapping of the engine’s ECU can reap significant gains on turbocharged engines, and Blend said he had altered the brain to get the very most from the 3.0-litre straight-six. Blend was sorry to say goodbye to his beautifully built E91 Touring M3 conversion, but as a tuning shop owner the next projects have to take priority. So successful was his M3 wagon effort he’s going bigger this time and has bought an #F11 #550i , which he said would become an M5 version with 550hp.
Following that he wants to modernise his M3 Touring conversion by doing similar to an #F31 335i, and who knows where this will end up, particularly with Blend’s love for the new turbocharged #F80 M3. Whatever materialises, this is one man who’s sure to keep pumping out the M3 wagons if the BMW factory won’t.
DATA FILE BMW E91 335i Touring
ENGINE: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged straight-six N54B30, DP 3” cat-less downpipe, DP 3” custom exhaust system with Simon’s mufflers, quad 3.5” glossy black exhaust tips, Pitstop carbon fibre air intake with sport air filter, Pitstop custom front mount intercooler, Pitstop Stage 3 ECU remap.
CHASSIS: 8.5x18” (front) and 9.5x18” (rear) black E92x M3 Style 260 wheels with 15mm spacers with 245/35 (front) and 265/35 (rear) tyres, FK coilover suspension.
EXTERIOR: Genuine E92 M3 bonnet, front bumper and mirrors (with 3M gloss black wrap), genuine E90 M3 arches and side skirts, modified genuine E92 M3 rear bumper custom blended with standard E91 rear bumper, E92 headlights with custom harness and genuine brackets, Schmiedmann carbon fibre front splitter and rear diffuser, E91 face-lift (LCI) boot and rear lights, roof rails removed, BMW Tiefgreen (A43) paint.
INTERIOR: Genuine M Sport with custom installed electric memory seats, E92 M3 DCT paddle shift steering wheel with Alcantara insert, Schmiedmann floor mats.
THANKS: Blend at Pitstop for building the car, my friends and crew at Sthlm(s)low, Marcin and Piotr at MPM Garage and Viktor at Schmiedmann Sverige.
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