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    E90s are go...? / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-Sedan / #BMW-3-Series-Sedan-E90 /

    I may not be the only one who thinks this, but a nice spec late E90 is a better proposition than an F30. Don’t get me wrong – the F30 is a nice car but I just think the E90 was a better one. It’s smaller and more compact-looking, has a simpler and cleaner dash and to my mind, the handling and ride balance is definitely biased towards the former with steering that is sharper and better resolved than the electric PAS on the F30 (that is nowhere near as bad as many claim). To my mind, the E90 is just the better sports saloon.

    Looking around, there are some stonking cars for sale – I mean some real honeys for not a lot of money. Stratstone Chesterfield has a 42,000-mile 330d SE manual in Space grey with anthracite half leather, electric folding mirrors, sports seats and xenons – and it’s immaculate… I’ve seen it up close. What a fabulous 3 Series for under 12 grand; all that 3.0-litre diesel grunt, 45mpg and for less than half the price of a new, no-options 318d. For the purposes of this column, we’re discounting four-cylinder stuff – six-cylinders or nothing for the full effect and it’s got to be LCI with some nice fruit.

    It’s a grand more than the 330d, but a 20,000 mile one-owner #2010 #BMW-325i-SE-Auto , silver with black leather and a wheelbarrow full of tasty options (adaptive xenons, flappy paddles….) for £12,900? Clarkson recently said that anybody who bought anything other than a 530d made a mistake. He’s not wrong but we don’t all have 40 grand. Still want the ‘new shape’? Here’s two facts: firstly, the F30 is on the chopping block with a new one out before long. Secondly, our 12 grand budget stretches as far as a 316i or one of a billion 320ds – I’ll leave that thought with you.
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    M3 CRT 4.4-litre V8, 450hp, 180mph, £120k. We drive the ultimate M3 on UK roads for the first time

    The E90 M3 CRT was the last of the naturally-aspirated M3 Saloons and now we’ve finally driven one in the UK we can’t help but fall for its considerable charms Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Gus Gregory.
    Last Action Hero

    The last of the normally aspirated M3s, the glorious #CRT was an appropriate swansong.

    I’ll be the first to admit that I had a little bit of a downer on the E9x generation of M3 during its lifetime; not that there was anything in particular wrong with the car, but for the plethora of special editions that it spawned. Indeed, when I returned from the international launch of the Coupé I was initially raving about the car, while it seemed that much of the rest of the motoring world seemed to be less enthused. I’m not quite sure why, perhaps it was because it didn’t feel quite as special as the E46 CSL, but to me its wonderful V8 combined with its staggering pace and poise and everyday practicality had me lusting after one.

    Timing though, is everything, or so they say, and unfortunately for BMW the E92 M3 erupted on to a world on the brink of a recession and after the initial early-adopters had bought their cars, sales struggled big time. For the company directors and the like who were the target audience it just wasn’t seen as the done thing to be arriving in the company car park in a howl of V8-awesomeness when the workforce were being told there was no money for pay rises and the like. So BMW embarked on a series of Edition models to try and tempt buyers back into the showrooms.

    This was more or less a worldwide phenomenon and in the UK we had a plethora of machinery being kitted out with additional equipment and unique colour schemes to part potential customers from their hard earned cash. During the car’s life we saw the arrival of the Edition, the Edition 500, the Frozen Silver Edition and the Performance Edition and while they all offered value for money (bar the latter machine which weighed in at a frankly ludicrous £74k!) I was concerned that BMW was diluting the M3 brand too much.

    Back in the day, M3 special editions were made to either enhance the racing experience or to honour success on the race tracks of the world and to me the plethora of V8-engined M3s with some special paint and black alloys (argh, this is where the rot really set in – regular readers will know my feelings on black wheels!) just didn’t cut the mustard.

    I was more pleased to see the arrival of the Competition Pack-equipped M3. Here was a machine that actually had some appreciable performance upgrades – the power might not have been boosted but subtle suspension tweaks and a set of sexy CSL-style alloys (thankfully in silver) made it an option box worth ticking. In total BMW offered around 25 different special editions worldwide but it saved the best for last when it announced the E92 M3 GTS and the E90 M3 CRT (Carbon Racing Technology) in May 2010 and June 2011 respectively.

    These two models made BMW look like it had just been toying with us for the past three years or so and here were two machines that really were worth writing home about. We’ll talk about the CRT here as that’s the machine we’ve driven, but mechanically both models were virtually identical. At its heart was a meatier version of the #S65 V8 with a longer stroke (up from 75.2mm to 82mm) to give a swept volume of 4361cc which endowed the GTS with 450hp at 8300rpm and a torque peak of 325lb ft at 3750rpm – gains of 30hp and 30lb ft, and that torque figure was developed a smidgen lower down the rev range, too. Performance was up, with the CRT’s 0-62mph time of 4.4 seconds beating a DCT-equipped ‘regular’ E90 Saloon by 0.3 seconds, while the CRT had its limiter removed too and was good for 180mph flatout.

    We’re not too sure that economy and emissions would have been too high on most potential owners’ wish lists but the larger engine did drop economy from 25.2 to 22.2mpg while emissions rose from 263 to 295g/km… but the CRT was never about saving the planet was it?

    The V8 was hooked up to the rather excellent seven-speed M dual clutch gearbox (there was no manual option) but for the GTS and CRT applications it was modified with increased oil capacity and had different software to endow the ‘box with even quicker changes. The CRT’s suspension followed the path set by the more overtly track-orientated GTS by adopting a full coilover setup with adjustable compression and rebound. Ride height was dropped slightly (16mm at the front and 12mm at the back) and there was solid bushing in the rear axle mountings too.

    To ensure the CRT would stop as well as it went the brakes were given a comprehensive going over – front discs were upgraded to 32x378mm drilled items while the rears were 28x380mm clamped by six- and four-piston callipers front and rear respectively. Even the brake lines were upgraded, showing the car was intended to be driven hard and not found wanting in the stopping department.

    But that’s enough of a history lesson for now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. With the CRT being the rarest of the rare (just 67 production examples were manufactured) and never listed as a UK market machine I’d always thought that the chances of driving one over here were minute to infinitesimal.

    But then I received an email from the owner of the example you can see here urging me to come and have a drive in his. Even better, the car wasn’t based in Germany or some other far-flung corner of the globe, it was in the very next county at specialist seller, Millennium Heroes, who were selling the car on his behalf. I must admit to feeling rather excited as I hotfooted it over to Surrey before the owner changed his mind.


    After having exchanged pleasantries with the everhelpful chaps at Millennium Heroes and taken a couple of minutes to drool over its veritable smorgasbord of mouth-watering stock, it was time to fire up the CRT and head off to meet up with snapper Gus Gregory in the Surrey hills. As soon as I’ve hit the starter button I know this is going to be something considerably more exciting than the stock E90 M3 as its lightweight titanium exhaust system shouts its approval at being awoken from its slumber. I spend a minute or two getting the seats and mirrors to their correct positions and familiarising myself with the lefthand drive layout while allowing the #V8 to gently warm through.

    Initially the drive is dominated by me being super careful while threading the M3 through the narrow lanes to the shoot – the last thing I want to do is leave a set of horrendous scratches down the side of this super-rare machine and the fact that it’s the only one in the country keeps nagging at the back of my mind. With some miles under my belt I become more familiar with the car and while the E90’s not exactly huge it does take a few miles to become properly accustomed to its dimensions before I feel comfortable exploring the performance.

    With the engine now fully up to temperature and some fast A roads that cut through the rolling hills unbelievably almost completely deserted it’s time to play. Those roads might be nearly empty but they’re unexpectedly poorly-surfaced too, with coarse Tarmac that has great divots cut into it in places as well as some tricky cambers in the quicker corners. The CRT almost feels at home here but every now and then it feels slightly wrong-footed and can skip from bump to bump, with the tyres never feeling fully keyed into the surface.

    Despite the fact that I know Gus is waiting for me I decide to give it another go, so I turn around and drive the section of road again, but this time at full chat – no dilly-dallying this time. With the throttle and ‘box in their most aggressive settings and the traction control in its halfway house mode, the CRT really comes alive – the suspension now responding as I had expected, the engine revelling in the full use of its rev range and the DCT ‘box swapping cogs with blink-and- you-miss-it alacrity. Understeer is conspicuous by its absence – I can really feel the rubber keying into the surface now and there are superb levels of feedback and a smidgen of oversteer as I exit some corners, but not so much that the electronic nanny is called into play. It’s a mesmerising performance and one that seals the CRT’s place in my mind as one of BMW’s true greats.

    Tempting as it is to do it all over again for a third time I head off to get some pictures in the bag and continue the history lesson on the CRT – snapper Gus get’s the full works when he stupidly asks what’s different about it. Having run him through the mechanical changes I move on to the body and from where the car’s name is derived. As previously mentioned, its moniker is short for Carbon Racing Technology and, in part, the CRT was used as a test bed for BMW’s CFRP (carbon fibre reinforced plastic) manufacturing skills that it was looking to perfect for the i brand. Raising the bonnet shows that this panel is manufactured from CFRP as it feels very light and was manufactured from cast-off CFRP parts that were then fashioned into the bonnet panel.

    BMW used a similar process to construct the delicate front CFRP spoiler extension and the simple lip spoiler on the bootlid (far preferable to the huge wing on a GTS to my eyes) and both of these items have a sliver of Melbourne red paint along their extremities, as do the air intakes on the bonnet and the side gills behind the front wings. The rest of the exterior is finished in Frozen Polar silver metallic and in the autumn sun the effect is rather stunning.

    Inside BMW also went to town on the CRT with the front seats being replaced by CFRP-backed sporty numbers that give more support than the standard seats as well as looking absolutely stunning with the carbon weave visible on their backs. The rear bench has been replaced by two sculpted seats and the whole interior is decked out in a combination of Black and Sakhir orange extended Novillo leather, although in the flesh the Sakhir orange actually appears significantly more red than orange. The only fly in the ointment is the black wheels, but I can almost forgive the CRT this minor misdemeanour…

    And that’s because it goes like no other E90 I’ve had the pleasure to drive before, or since. It feels monumentally fast and the extra slug of torque is very welcome, even if keeping the V8 on song is absolute child’s play thanks to the recalibrated DCT. On our lumpy roads the suspension can feel a little less than sharp when you’re not fully on it, but up the pace and it really comes alive, and no doubt this could be further tailored to your specific requirements as it’s a fully adjustable coilover setup.

    Overall the CRT has left me feeling a little foolish. Back when it was new I didn’t really ‘get’ the car, and I was all too ready to dismiss it as another of the surplus of M3 special editions. Now I’ve sampled it, though, I absolutely love it. It’s a full-on M car that has to be driven, and driven hard to be really appreciated. I still think it was too expensive when new, and wish that BMW would offer something in between the Comp pack offerings and the ultra-limited production GTS/CRT type machinery but as a glorious swan song for the normally aspirated M3 Saloon this CRT will never be beaten.

    CONTACT: Millennium Heroes / Tel: 01483 338 902 / Web: www.millenniumheroes.com

    It goes like no other E90 I’ve had then pleasure to drive before, or since.

    TECHNICAL DATA #BMW-E90 / #BMW-M3-CRT / #BMW-M3-E90 / #BMW-M3-CRT-E90 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-Sedan / #BMW-3-Series-Sedan-E90 /

    ENGINE: V8, 32-valve, quad-cam
    CAPACITY: 4361cc
    MAX POWER: 450hp @ 8300rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 325lb ft @ 3750rpm
    0-62MPH: 4.4 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 180mph
    ECONOMY: 22.2mpg
    EMISSIONS: 295g/km
    WEIGHT (DIN): 1580kg
    BRAKES
    FRONT: 32x378mm drilled and vented discs, six-piston fixed callipers
    REAR: 28x380mm drilled and vented discs, six-piston fixed callipers
    WHEELS: Black 19-inch M light alloy Y-spoke style #359M
    FRONT: 9x19-inch
    REAR: 10x19-inch
    TYRES : Michelin Pilot Sport
    FRONT: 245/35 R19
    REAR: 265/35 R19
    STEERING: Hydraulic rack and pinion, M Servotronic
    TRANSMISSION: Seven-speed #M-DCT
    PRICE: €130,000 (2011), £124,995 (today)

    With the throttle and ’box in their most aggressive settings and the traction control in its halfway house mode the CRT really comes alive.
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    POWER HUNGRY

    The M3 is certainly a powerful car, but this supercharged E90 takes things to another level… Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Matt Petrie.

    Supercharged E90 M3

    When it comes to the E9x M3 we, like a lot of you out there, would likely go for the E92 if given the choice, as the Coupé is arguably the sleeker and sexier car of the two. However, there are plenty of good reasons to opt for the four-door. For starters, if you’re in the family way or are simply looking for greater levels of practicality when it comes to transporting human cargo, the saloon offers up five seats to the coupé’s four.

    If you’re not interested in ferrying people about and are more interested in the driving experience then we’d cite the words of one of the #BMW M Fascination Nordschleife instructors we spoke to whilst taking part in the event who, when quizzed as to why he wasn’t driving an E92 M3 Coupé like the rest of us, informed us that the shorter saloon changed direction more quickly, felt stiffer and was better to drive on the track than the E92. His words, not ours. Of course, both cars are as capable as each other but don’t let any of your E92-owning buddies ever talk down to you for having four doors on your M3.

    We can’t imagine that’s something that ever happens to Islam ‘Izzy’ Gohar because he’s got an E90 M3 with a supercharger on it, but then again that’s exactly the sort of car you’d expect from the owner of IMG Motorsport, purveyor of some of the finest performance parts you can buy, and someone who has been driving and modifying BMWs since the age of 16. “My first BMW was gifted to me by my parents at the age of 16, having accomplished the required grades to get into engineering school in Europe. It was more than I could handle at that age but I was lucky to attend multiple driving schools where I learned a lot about car control and more.

    “The car didn’t last long in its stock form. It was tuned and lowered right away and then a full exhaust system was added to complete my first toy. When I moved to the States in early 2000 after college, I purchased a low mileage E36 M3 from a close friend. The car was a ’99 in Titanium silver over a black leather Vader interior, and had 30k miles on it along with some mods which kept me tame for a couple of months.

    “In 2002 I was introduced to Corry Prime by a couple of friends; Corry happened to be (and still is) one of the top three techs for BMW North America and also a race car instructor. We became friends and he helped me get my new baby to where it needed to be, and more. He didn’t just work on the car, he explained everything in depth and advised what to buy and use. I paid good attention to my teacher and learned a lot from him and still do to this day. He built me an amazing M3, which I still own and I started doing track events and fell more in love with my journey with BMW.”



    The E36 served as both daily driver and track beast for many years until Izzy decided he fancied a newer BMW, an M3 specifically. However, the long waiting list put him off so he instead purchased a brand-new 135i, which was quickly modified and just as quickly written off by his boss’s son.

    This was unfortunate for sure, but it was clearly a sign that it was about time to have another go at getting his hands on an M3. “I went out looking for an E90 M3 and ended up taking over someone’s lease. It took a while to find what I wanted; a slicktop (no sunroof) with no folding rear seats and a six-speed manual in Interlagos blue. When I did find the right car, I closed the deal right away. It had 9k miles on it and was in a very clean condition.” Not only did Izzy start modifying the car straight away, he started buying parts while the car was in transit from Ohio to its new home, some 600-odd miles away in Connecticut, so when it arrived it went straight to Corry. “I’d ordered an Xpipe, exhaust, intake, lowering springs, short shift kit and a tune and Corry had the parts on over the space of a weekend.”

    A solid start to any project, and enough to tide most owners over for a while, but Izzy is clearly a guy who doesn’t beat about the bush. “Corry and I soon starting discussing power upgrades. Initially we wanted a stroker built motor but the price and gains didn’t justify it,” he says, “so instead we went for an ESS Supercharger kit and once that was on the car it stayed like that for two years, until it hit 50,000 miles. Then it was time to start pushing the limits,” grins Izzy, and he’s not kidding…

    “First up, Corry pulled the engine out and we contacted Mahle Motorsports for custom lower compression pistons, which took eight weeks to build, and at the same time Carrillo rods were also ordered. As soon as the pistons were received, the block was sent to Dinan Engineering out in CA for boring and honing; when everything came back assembly didn’t take more than two weeks with Corry assembling a custom fuel delivery return system, though it took quite some time to get the proper fuel pressure needed for the added power.

    “In its first dyno session, running on a custom tune by Asborn ‘AJ’ from ESS Tuning, the car put down 666whp at 12- 13psi.” This is certainly a devilishly good power figure and an impressive increase over what even the most powerful off-the-shelf ESS kit is able to produce. “I was very happy with the power level for a little while but I hurt the motor at an event which I wasn’t prepared for.” Another unfortunate event but naturally if something breaks then that gives you an excuse to do some more modifying so obviously there was only one option…

    “At that point we decided to push for more power,” says Izzy, matter-of-factly, “so Corry pulled the engine out and started tearing it apart and inspecting everything. He found one damaged piston due to a bad batch of gas from a no-name petrol station, so we ordered larger diameter pistons from Mahle and sent the block back to Dinan for a second round of boring and honing. At the same time, we sent the cylinder heads to L&M Racing in PA.

    Michael, the owner, is a great friend and he got on the heads right away for porting and polishing so the engine could breathe better. Custom valve springs were used to handle 8800rpm. We also sent him the pistons, rods, and crank for balancing the rotating assembly for smoothness and reliability. Everything came in and Corry started assembly and after a week, the motor was ready to go in the car.

    “At the same time as all the engine work we decided to add KW V1 coilovers and ditch the lowering springs as well as adding a Brembo Gran Turismo big brake kit with yellow calipers all-round, six-pots up front and four-pots at the rear and 380mm slotted discs all-round. Everything went in smoothly and once the car was back on the road I took it to P1 Motorcars where it made 740whp on the company’s Dynojet dyno.”

    Now, that is a vast amount of power, way more than anyone could ever need and probably approaching the limits of what most sane people would actually want but Izzy wasn’t done just yet: “The engine felt like it had more in it so I reached out to Nick and Steve at American Racing Headers and they decided to develop a set of long tube headers for my car, mated to a 3” cat-less resonated X-pipe and an Awron gauge was installed to monitor AFR at all times. Nick installed the headers at his shop at no charge, and the car then went back on the rollers where it put down 785whp and 550lb ft at the wheels, at 13psi on ‘medium boost’.

    That makes it the highest horsepower E9x M3 to this day. I’ll eventually turn the boost up once the record is broken by another one,” and he’s not even joking. Considering just how much power this M3 is pushing out (almost 900hp at the crank) it’s a car we’d consider to be pretty darn stealthy from the outside, and yes we have seen the wheels, thanks very much. They’re rather gorgeous Volk TE37s, 9.5x18s up front and beefy 10.5x18s at the back, the fronts barely able to contain those vast six-pot Brembo front calipers, with one of the six-spokes on each wheel sporting the Volk Racing logo on a bright yellow background that matches both the brakes and the intake plenum of the ESS supercharger kit.

    “I chose the Volks because of their perfect offset, build quality, and weight; they are forged which makes them very strong – extremely necessary for our bad tri-state roads,” explains Izzy and the fact that they’re also such a good-looking wheel certainly doesn’t do them any harm.

    The exterior styling additions amount to no more than a Just M Performance carbon fibre rear spoiler, carbon fibre diffuser and a set of Euro rear lights, while the interior has been treated to an M Performance flat-bottom steering wheel and custom Alcantara-wrapped trim with yellow stitching, tying in perfectly with the yellow elements that appear throughout the car.

    Having built such an incredible powerhouse of an M3, Izzy isn’t about to let it go and based on his list of planned modifications it sounds like this E90 will be joining his E36 as a permanent fixture in his collection. “I’m going to add a RKP carbon fibre roof, KW V3 coilovers, AlekShop solid subframe bushes, leather Recaro Sportster CS seats with yellow stitching, Alcantara headlining and I also want to get the car resprayed.”

    With those mods done and with an M4 GTS and F10 M5 also on the shopping list, we’d wager that the E90 M3 will retire for as long as it takes for someone to break Izzy’s dyno record. And lord help anyone who does because that’s when he’s going to bring the M3 back, crank up the boost and who knows what’s going to happen then…

    Inside, yellow stitching matches the other yellow highlights and there’s an M Performance steering wheel.

    There are plenty of yellow highlights on this E90, but the ESS plenum is the biggest and yellowest.

    “When I did find the right car I closed the deal right away”

    DATA FILE Supercharged #E90 M3 / #BMW-S65 / #S65B40 / #S65 / #L&M-Racing / #S65-Supercharger / #Dinan / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E90 / #V8 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-Sedan-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-E90 /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre V8 S65B40 , L&M Racing ported and polished heads, custom valve springs, #Mahle-Motorsports pistons, #Carrillo rods, block bored and honed by #Dinan , #ESS-Supercharger kit, American Racing Headers long tube headers, 3" cat-less resonated midsection, #Akrapovic axle back exhaust with carbon tips, six-speed manual gearbox

    POWER AND TORQUE 785whp and 550lb ft wtq at 13psi

    CHASSIS 9.5x18” (front) and 10.5x18” (rear) #Volk-TE37-SL forged wheels with 265/35 (front) and 295/35 (rear) Continental ExtremeContact DW tyres, #KW-V1 coilovers, #Brembo-Gran-Turismo-BBK with six-pot calipers (front), four-pot calipers (rear) and 380mm slotted discs (front and rear)

    EXTERIOR Just M performance carbon fibre boot lip spoiler, Euro rear lights, carbon fibre rear diffuser

    INTERIOR M Performance V1 flat bottom steering wheel, Alcantara dash trim with yellow stitching
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