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    Finely Honed #BMW

    The M3 is a hugely accomplished machine straight out-of-the-box, but with the full Schnitzer treatment it’s an even sharper instrument Words and photography: Steve Hall.

    We take a trip to Germany to see what a set of AC Schnitzer upgrades can do for the M3.

    Wheelspin… let’s try third. There’s the boost… and there’s the wheelspin. Okay, how about fourth gear? A flicker from the traction control, the looser MDM mode allowing a moderate amount of traction loss. Yep, probably not the ideal conditions to test the performance envelope of a rear-wheel drive saloon sporting 70lb ft of torque and 60hp more than the already punchy standard M3. It seems churlish to reference traction issues given the rain has been falling in a deluge for the last hour leaving the roads glistening with a sheen of water that even German drainage is struggling to cope with. With no let-up in sight, my run of luck (after four days of German autumnal sunshine) has come to an end; there will be no photoshoot today…

    Fast-forward one week, and we’re greeted with a late October day basking in sunshine. Chilly it may be but the roads are bone dry, perfect for those turbos to gulp down cool air and operate at maximum efficiency. You’d think they already were – particularly in 450hp Competition pack form – but no, with the ACS3 Sport, Schnitzer has managed to squeeze 510hp out of the M3’s lusty #S55B30 in-line ‘six, backed by a solid wall of torque, peaking at 475lb ft.

    Given that we’ve found the standard M3 hardly lacking in the area of straight line performance, adding 20 percent more power and 17 percent more torque has a suitably eye-opening effect on the level of performance on offer, and explains the M3’s difficulty in getting that performance onto the ground the previous week. Hardly an M3 strong point, wet traction is something that either occupies the traction control system or demands a lot of your attention, depending which setting you’ve deployed in the stability control system. Either way, you’re glad of the M3’s natural chassis balance.

    To be fair, it comes as no surprise that a 475lb ft rear-wheel drive saloon struggles to put its power down in sodden conditions, particularly when you look at the torque curve – maximum torque arrives before even 2000rpm has registered on the tachometer. The ramp up in torque so low down in the rev range can have the rear wheels over-rotating before you can say sideways, requiring swift and accurate corrective lock, but with time you learn to measure your throttle inputs and start to enjoy the ACS3’s exuberance. You always need your wits about you in the wet as a small amount of lateral load (such as when joining a motorway) can set the tail wagging in even fourth gear, but generally speaking the task of managing the Schnitzer M3’s rampant torque delivery is an entertaining challenge.

    Naturally things are much calmer on the dry roads of today’s photoshoot. There’s more than enough torque to break traction in second (and third over undulations) but we’re able to delve deep into the ACS3’s power band and really give it its head. There’s a stretch of autobahn between the Schnitzer factory in the east of Aachen, Germany and our photoshoot location to the south which allows several kilometres of derestricted running, and despite the smattering of traffic there are a few opportunities to really let rip through the intermediate gears. So we find ourselves cruising at the posted 120km/h limit, waiting for the fabled white circle with the diagonal triple black stripe to appear, shifting down into third as we approach, then bury the throttle as we enter the zone. Third, fourth and fifth gears are swiftly dispatched, the sixth ratio quickly taking us deep into an indicated 250km/h+ (155mph) before traffic ahead brings speeds back to normal. We repeat the exercise a few more times – all in the name of science, you understand – and find the M3’s ability to leap from 130km/h (81mph) up to serious territory north of 250km/h deeply impressive. This is major league performance, and feels way beyond the standard M3 in its ability to shrug off weight and aerodynamic drag to pile on speed. Repeating the exercise in fourth and fifth gears underline the torque-rich nature of the S55B30’s mid-range, the motor pulling hard from 3000rpm, making short work of the sprint back up to 250km/h. There’s plenty of reward to be had from letting the engine rev right out to its 7600rpm redline, too; just as with the standard M3/4 the Schnitzer-massaged S55B30 has a freerevving nature and energetic top end delivery which belies its forced induction, accompanied by a sonorous howl from the Schnitzer exhaust.

    Which brings us neatly to one of the star facets of this car; it sounds ripsnortingly good. The M3 (and M4) are hardly a pair of shrinking violets but the addition of the Schnitzer rear silencers introduces an extra level of volume from the rear which sounds suitably menacing at idle (particularly on start up), with a deep, powerful, sporting timbre through the mid-range. As one of the prime senses excited whilst driving a performance car, the added aural signature of the ACS3 is an important and integral part of the package. The silencers incorporate flap control, so startup soon calms down to sociable volume levels whilst adding a pleasing visual flourish.

    It will not have escaped your attention that adding visual flourish is very much part of the Schnitzer remit for the ACS3 Sport. Ticking the box marked ‘San Marino blue-metallic’ is always going to be an excellent starting point – this colour looks sensational in direct sunlight – and we applaud the decision to opt for the four-door M3 over the perhaps more obvious M4 Coupé as the ACS3 Sport demonstrator. There’s something terrifically butch and aggressive about the pumped up M3 shape, particularly from the rear three quarters.

    Schnitzer has fitted its familiar, gorgeous, fivespoke AC1 Lightweight forged alloys wrapped in 265/30/R20 (front) and 285/30/R20 (rear) Michelin Pilot Super Sports. They hunker into the arches of the 30mm lower ACS3 Sport, and alongside the myriad carbon exterior elements – front splitter and side wings primary among them – combine to create a cohesive and imposing aesthetic signature. The flourishes continue inside in the usual Schnitzer fashion, so footrest and pedals are replaced with aluminium items whilst handbrake handle, mats and key holder are Schnitzer items. With photography duties just about finished it’s time to head back to the factory, taking in a few twisties along the way. It’s here that the AC Schnitzer RS adjustable suspension comes to the fore, demonstrating an impressive ability to round off the worst the road surface can throw at it without introducing the crashiness sometimes associated with lowering a car and reducing suspension travel.

    Naturally the setup is very firm, but this affords superb body control, the ACS3 Sport changing direction sharply with little discernible body roll. The ACS3 feels taught, controlled and keyed into the road surface with none of the vertical bobbing the M3 occasionally elicits over long amplitude bumps. As a passive system for a road-based car, we’d say Schnitzer has nailed its setup, delivering the level of control we look for in a tuned car of this power without overstepping the mark and making it too harsh for road use.

    On the autobahn, at the very high speeds the ACS3 is so easily capable of, stability is just as supreme as you’d expect; you could drive with one hand at 150mph should you so desire (naturally, we don’t recommend this!). Of course, we’re pretty much in one of the ACS3’s natural habitats here on the autobahn, but it’s another demonstration of how thoroughly the package has been developed. Indeed, this is part and parcel of buying a car such as the ACS3 Sport. With a company as well known and respected as Schnitzer, you know the car has been subject to a fulsome testing programme before it was ready to launch.

    Consequently, others in the M3/4 tuning world may have got to market sooner, and some may offer higher power outputs, but with the ACS3 you’re paying for the thoroughness and the confidence that comes with that. A confidence reflected in the two-year warranty Schnitzer supplies as part of all its upgrades. With the tuning box approach (whereby the new ECU effectively piggy-backs onto the existing one) it’s even possible to return your car to factory standard settings should you so desire. And, of course, that thoroughness of engineering is reflected in every element of the driving experience. We love the M3/4 family as it leaves Munich’s hallowed halls, but a visit to Aachen moves the M3 onto another level: sharper, faster, visually imposing and replete with an aural signature to make you smile.

    TECHNICAL DATA #2017 #AC-Schnitzer-ACS3-Sport / #AC-Schnitzer-ACS3-F80 / #AC-Schnitzer / #BMW #M3-based #AC-Schnitzer / #AC-Schnitzer-F80 / #BMW-F80 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-AC-Schnitzer / #AC-Schnitzer-M3 / #AC-Schnitzer-F80 / #BMW-3-Series-F80 / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-M3-AC-Schnitzer / #BMW-M3-AC-Schnitzer-F80 / #BMW-M3-F80 / #ACS3-Sport

    ENGINE: Twin-turbo, straight-six
    CAPACITY: 2979cc
    MAX POWER: 510hp
    MAX TORQUE: 476lb ft
    0-62MPH: 4.0 seconds
    50-120MPH: 6.2 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
    DIMENSIONS: (length/width/height in mm): 4671/1870/1383
    WEIGHT/MATERIAL: 1572kg/steel aluminum and composites


    ENGINE: #AC-Schnitzer-performance-upgrade and exhaust system with valve control and Sport Black tailpipe trims / #S55 / #BMW-S55 / #S55-AC-Schnitzer / #S55-tuning

    WHEELS AND TYRES: #AC-Schnitzer-AC1 lightweight forged in BiColour finish.
    Front: 9x20-inches with 265/30 R20 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.
    Rear: 10x20-inches with 285/25 R21 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres

    SUSPENSION: AC Schnitzer adjustable coilover ‘Racing’ package, lowered 30mm at the front and 40mm at the rear
    STYLING: AC Schnitzer carbon front spoiler elements, rear diffuser, upper rear spoiler, Racing front splitter, side wings, carbon rear spoiler, carbon fibre wing mirror covers

    INTERIOR: AC Schnitzer aluminium pedal set and footrest, handbrake handle, key holder and floor mats

    CONTACT: AC Schnitzer UK
    Tel: 01485 542000
    AC Schnitzer (Germany)
    Tel: +49 (0) 241 5688130

    Visual flourish is very much part of the Schnitzer remit for the ACS3 Sport.

    The added aural signature of the ACS3 is an important and integral part of the package.
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    It might look like a normal Schnitzered 1 Series but this unassuming hatch is packing a triple-turbo straight-six from the M550d! Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Dave Smith.

    What’s the best way to make the 1 Series hatch quicker? By fitting a triple-turbo 3.0-litre diesel!

    While I’m sure it isn’t an actual law in Germany to accelerate like a banshee when joining a motorway it does quite often seem to be the way things are done over there. It certainly makes a welcome change from the status quo in the UK where inevitably I seem to always be following someone who seems to think that 45mph is an ideal speed to try and merge with fast-moving motorway traffic. I think perhaps the German model has something to do with the fact that on derestricted sections of autobahn the traffic you’re trying to merge with could be tanking along almost at the speed of sound so it makes sense to try and join them as fast as possible.

    As luck would have it the section of autobahn that runs past AC Schnitzer’s HQ is of the derestricted variety and having warmed the cars through in the workshop and on the slow trundle to the autobahn it would be rude not to follow the approved German method of getting up to speed as soon as possible. Our support vehicle for today’s shoot is an F80 M3 and as I follow it on to the motorway in ‘my’ 1 Series hatch I’m pretty sure I know what’s going to happen: the M3’s going to disappear and I’ll spend the next few kilometres trying to play catch up.

    Bizarrely this couldn’t be further from the truth. As I see the M3’s rump start to squat as the power’s applied and I wind off the last bit of slip road lock from the 1 Series’ steering I bury my size nine into the carpet and am stunned by the ferocity of this machine’s acceleration. There’s an angry, but not unpleasant, rumbling coming from the car’s engine and exhaust and that M3 is in no shape or form pulling away. The eight-speed auto melds the cogs together virtually imperceptibly and all I’m aware of is a seemingly inexorable accelerative force. It’s as if the 1 Series is attached to the back of the M3 with a steel hawser and nothing’s going to separate them.

    If I’m going to be completely honest then I need to admit that before I drove this unassuming 1 Series I already knew what was under the bonnet. Had I not been aware of the power it was packing I would have been well and truly gobsmacked by its performance. If I’d have been in Schnitzer’s shoes I think I’d have been tempted to send me out for a drive in the car saying ‘see what you think of our new 120d’.

    While this might look like a 120d, it’s packing a far superior punch – the triple-turbo straight-six that’s usually found under the bonnet of the M550d and X5 M50d. In standard tune it’s good for 381hp and 546lb ft of torque, but if you’re going to pop this engine into a 1 Series then obviously what it really needs is some more power, so Schnitzer’s boffins turned up the wick to 400hp and 590lb ft of torque.

    Nice. As I’ve already discovered this makes it a very rapid machine indeed, and according to Schnitzer’s figures it’ll knock off the 0-62mph dash in just 4.5 seconds and can accelerate from 80-180km/h in a scant 7.9 seconds – more or less exactly on par with a standard F82 M4.

    This 150d has actually been around for a little while now – Schnitzer built it to wow the crowds at the Essen Motor show at the tail end of 2015 – and while it was quite a showstopper its real purpose was to highlight the company’s range of accessories for the face-lifted 1 Series. What better way to do that than to get just about every motoring website on the planet slavering over the prospect of a 400hp super hatch? But to our knowledge no one’s actually tested the show car before, and we’re eternally grateful to the chaps at AC Schnitzer for pulling out all of the stops to get it ready for our latest visit. While the car has been up and running since it was built, Schnitzer discovered that some (fairly serious) reworking of the cooling system was going to be required so the car was put on the back burner while the company concentrated on more pressing projects.

    There’s no getting away from the fact that the car does look pretty sharp, and this could be the case for any 1 Series hatch, not just those with 400hp under their bonnets. At the front there’s a two-piece front spoiler that has the effect of really tying the front end to the road, while at the rear a spoiler atop the hatch gives the impression that the car needs to be pulled down to the Tarmac at speed. The whole package is assisted by the suspension setup which hunkers the car down to the road and can be had either as the fully adjustable Racing setup, or more simply just as a spring kit. Either way the car’s lowered and when sitting on a set of Schnitzer’s AC1 rims (19-inches in this case, shod with 225/35 rubber) the look is very purposeful and aggressive. Other than that, just about the only giveaway that this car is packing some serious power is the twin-exit exhaust sprouting from the rear valance, but given that an M135i is so equipped it’s not really that much of a surprise.

    Physically slotting the triple turbo version of the N57 diesel unit into the 1 Series hatch wasn’t too tricky – after all the engine’s no physically larger than the straight-six petrol unit in the M135i, but getting the engine’s electronics to talk with the 1 Series chassis was a bit of a challenge. As BMW’s most powerful diesel can only be hooked up to the fourwheel drive xDrive powertrain with the eight-speed auto the donor car was a 120d xDrive and as a result Schnitzer’s hottest 1 Series really is an absolute doddle to drive. Simply jump in, press the starter, slip the auto gear knob into D and off you go. On part throttle applications around town you really don’t get the feeling that there’s anything desperately special about the car – it really does behave just like a 120d with a slightly more vocal than standard exhaust.

    As we’ve already experienced, its straight-line acceleration is sensational but what’s it like when it comes to the twisties? En route to our photo location it feels like it’s pretty eager to turn into corners and at moderate-to-brisk speeds there’s no telling there’s anything non-standard about the car. As is often the case stopping for pictures to be taken spoils the fun and while photographer Smithy positions the car to make it look like there’s a power station under the bonnet I have a quick gander at the engine bay and am greeted by one of Schnitzer’s now familiar engine optic packages. If the engine cover wasn’t painted in red and black I’d be hard pressed to see what was out of the ordinary here – it really does look like a factory installation. Inside it’s pretty untouched too, just with enough Schnitzer embellishments to make you aware that there have been a few changes from standard. There’s an alloy pedal set and footrest along with a handbrake handle and a set of floor mats. The only major change from standard is an Awron digital gauge that sits where one of the air vents on the centre consul should be.

    Fortunately our lake front spot for pictures has a time limit on it so before too long it’s time to hit the road again and now the shots are imprinted to the camera’s memory card I can start to properly get to grips with the car’s performance. In the olden days of performance diesels one would always have assumed that slotting a 3.0-litre oil burner under the bonnet of a small hatch would have led to a pretty serious handling imbalance, but these days there’s very little to choose between the weight of 3.0-litre petrol and a 3.0-litre diesel unit, and while the N57S from the M550d is heavier than the N55 in the 135i it’s probably not by quite as much as you would think. Thus the 150d feels pretty handy on the back roads and can be thrown about quite happily without encountering the serious dose of understeer that your brain might be telling you should be rearing its ugly head.

    That’s not to say that it can be driven like any other rear-wheel drive BMW, though, as like every xDrive machine we’ve encountered you do need to slightly modify your driving style to get the best from it. The key is to get those driven front wheels working for you and as a result you need to get on the throttle far earlier than you normally would, and when you do you can really feel the effect as they start to pull you around any given corner as the rear wheels are pushing you. It takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve got the hang of it the speed you can carry through corners has to be experienced to be believed. The more you try it the more you grow accustomed to the car’s abilities and you do find yourself starting to take liberties with the car.

    On a twisty section of Tarmac it feels immense and I can’t imagine many machines feeling significantly quicker, or significantly more comfortable being treated like this. The 150d is fitted with bigger-than-standard brakes which helps to give you confidence and once you’ve gelled with the car and got accustomed to the levels of feedback on offer you really do start to feel invincible.

    For once I’d have been quite happy if we’d encountered sheeting rain on our shoot, as I can only imagine how much confidence the xDrive system would give you in the wet. Transmitting this amount of power and torque to damp Tarmac in a rear-wheel drive BMW can really show up a chassis’ deficiencies – witness all the criticisms levelled at the F8x generation of M3 and M4 when driven hard on wet UK roads – but in the 150d you could really put all that power and torque to good use. As an everyday, all-season performance car that could quite easily pass under the radar, this unassuming grey hatch really can have few, if any, peers.

    A couple of months back I came away from driving Schnitzer’s take on the 340i xDrive Touring thinking that it was the ultimate all rounder… I’m afraid I’m going to have to revise that opinion – my favourite everyday machine is now the Schnitzer 150d. It’s just a shame that it will remain a one-off show car as I reckon it would sell like hot cakes. As a one-off show car its build cost was in the region of €150,000 and at that price point perhaps there are too many other machines vying for our attention. If my lottery numbers come up though I’d be sorely tempted to make Schnitzer an offer it really couldn’t refuse.

    CONTACT: AC Schnitzer UK
    Tel: 01485 542000
    AC Schnitzer Germany
    Tel: +49 (0)241 56 88 130

    TECHNICAL DATA #2016 / #AC-Schnitzer-150d / #AC-Schnitzer / #BMW-150d / #BMW-150d-F21 / #AC-Schnitzer-150d-F21 / #BMW-150d-AC-Schnitzer / #BMW-150d-AC-Schnitzer-F21 / #BMW-F21 / #BMW / #BMW-1-Series / #BMW-1-Series-F21 /

    ENGINE: Straight-six, 24-valve, turbo diesel
    CAPACITY: 2993cc
    MAX POWER: 400hp @ 4400rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 590lb ft @ 2400rpm
    0-62MPH: 4.5 seconds
    80-180KM/H: 7.9 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
    EMISSIONS: 177g/km

    ENGINE: Installation of #N57S / #BMW-N57S triple-turbo straight-six; AC Schnitzer engine optics
    TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed auto, #xDrive four-wheel drive / #ZF8HP
    EXHAUST: AC Schnitzer bespoke exhaust
    SUSPENSION: AC Schnitzer Racing suspension
    WHEELS AND TYRES: #AC-Schnitzer-AC1 Bicolour, 8.5x19-inch (all-round) with 225/35 tyres
    AERODYNAMICS: AC Schnitzer two-piece front spoiler elements; AC Schnitzer mirror covers (carbon); AC Schnitzer rear roof spoiler
    INTERIOR: AC Schnitzer aluminium pedal set; AC Schnitzer aluminium foot rest; AC Schnitzer key holder; AC Schnitzer floor mats

    As an everyday, all-season performance car that could quite easily pass under the radar, this unassuming grey hatch really can have few, if any, peers.
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