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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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    SMOOTH OPERATOR

    12 years of ownership have resulted in one gorgeous E46. It’s traditional after 12 years of marriage to celebrate your silk anniversary, so it’s fitting that 12 years of ownership have resulted in one super-smooth E46. Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Matt Petrie

    Ah, the E46. What a great car, both to own and drive. It’s arguably one of BMW’s best efforts on all fronts. It’s also a great way to get your first taste of modified car life, a nice way to ease yourself into the scene gently and take things slowly while you find your feet, right? Well not for 27-year-old New Jersey resident Jorge Hernandez. Not only is this awesome build is his first BMW, or even his first modified car; it’s both of those things, as it’s his first ever car. It’s not that he’s just learnt to drive, though, he’s actually owned this E46 330i for 12 years!

    “I was first made aware of how special BMWs were when my cousin came home with his brand-new car: a Techno violet E36 M3,” explains Jorge. It clearly made a big impression on the young man. “Since then I knew I had to have a BMW,” he says. However, as a four-door fan, with no E46 M3 Saloon available, Jorge ended up buying a blue E46 330i Saloon in 2004.

    While he was well aware of the modified car scene at that time, he had no clear vision for his E46. Flick through a 2004 issue of PBMW and you’ll see that the modified BMW scene was a very different, and rather scary, place back then. It was full of outrageous body kits and dubious styling mods that have, thankfully, long since been forgotten about. It was a world that needed some careful navigation to avoid creating a car that would end up looking like a mobile eyesore. Luckily, help was at hand in the shape of the E46Fanatics forum and after some quality time spent online, Jorge soon began to form a clearer picture of the direction he wanted to take his E46 in.

    One thing he’s not done much with over the past 12 years is the engine. “I always wanted to keep the motor semi-stock as I’m not a big speed freak,” he explains. “I just wanted to do all of the little bolt-ons to make a little quicker it and sound better.”

    That sounds pretty modest but Jorge’s chosen some really choice mods under the bonnet and he’s definitely not scrimped on quality with his selection of engine upgrades. To start, there’s an extremely sexy GruppeM carbon fibre intake and a set of Technik Gen 3 equal-length exhaust manifolds, which most definitely give the E46 a bit more power and ramp up the volume level of that glorious straight-six.


    And the whole lot is topped off with a Remus Powersound quad exhaust that really looks the part and sounds fantastic, too. The engine bay itself has been treated to a whole host of carbon fibre goodies, including a Radenergie strut brace and engine cover plus an EAS carbon ECU cover and oil filler cap.

    On the styling front this E46 delivers big time. Jorge has done an awesome job here and he’s definitely achieved his goal of creating a car that looks both clean and aggressive. “I feel like everything has to flow in a particular way, and that meant mixing and matching the pieces from a bunch of different companies,” he says. PBMW regular, Autocouture Motoring, was entrusted to work its magic and fit Jorge’s array of parts.

    We really have to talk about the bonnet, not just because it’s a Vorsteiner GT-R carbon fibre item, which makes it pretty special, but also because of the paint finish on it. Where some people might choose to leave their vents unpainted, exposing the carbon core of the bonnet, Jorge has had the whole lot painted but the slats of the vents themselves have been finished in a crazy rainbow flake blue that looks spectacular when it catches the light and which really makes the vents pop. The front bumper is an M Tech 1 item from the pre-face-lift Sport E46, and while it’s not as aggressive as the latter version it’s got a much smoother, fatter, fuller look that a lot of people prefer.

    It ties in perfectly with the face-lift styling, too. The bumper has been enhanced with the addition of a Rieger front lip that’s been blended into the bumper for a cleaner look. The mirrors are genuine AC Schnitzer items and are complemented by a Schnitzer roof spoiler while the sculpted side skirts are Hamann GT-R items. At the back, there’s a Euro-spec carbon fibre CSL bootlid, which looks great on the Saloon, and an SRS-Tec rear bumper with a dual-ribbed diffuser plus space for the quad tips of that Remus exhaust. Jorge’s also had the body mouldings colour-coded and fitted Euro turn signals all-round.

    The interior has been left alone. “I think BMW did it right,” says Jorge, but one area that has been improved is the audio as the stock system is pretty disappointing unless you or someone else ticked the Harman Kardon upgrade box on the options list. Up front, there’s a Kenwood double-DIN DDX371 headunit, while in the boot you’ll find a JL Audio 500/1 amp and 12w6v2 sub plus a Stinger capacitor, all mounted in a custom enclosure which has been painted body colour and features a suede-wrapped floor and side panels.

    So the styling is well and truly sorted, but it’s no good having a killer car if you don’t have the wheels to match. Fear not, Jorge’s choice for the E46 is awesome. “I’ve always been a fan of having wheels that you don’t see often,” he says. “I was offered a sponsorship by Rotiform and it had exactly what I wanted: a set of SJCs.” This bold, intricate wheel is the perfect choice to sit alongside that strong blue paint and Jorge opted for the forged multi-piece design in a brushed finish and mirror polished stepped lips. The wheels – 9x19” and 10x19” front and rear respectively – really suit the E46 well and the decision to keep them unpainted was definitely the right one as they really stand out. Plus the brushed finish looks so good. The Rotiforms have been teamed up with a stud conversion kit which has been topped-off with a set of neochrome wheel nuts. Beyond the spokes sit some bright yellow Porsche 996 911 calipers and a set of CSL discs.

    Jorge has also sorted the suspension and there’s actually a lot more going on here than meets the eye. The drop in ride height comes courtesy of a set of Broadway Static coilovers but then there are the H&R anti-roll bars, the Turner Motorsport adjustable endlinks, the Rogue Engineering rear shock mounts and, finally, the Bimmerworld camber arms. Jorge’s clearly put a lot more thought into his suspension setup than most do and this combination has not only given this E46 that all-important visual drama but also sharpened-up the handling no end, making it far more than just all about the looks.

    It’s rare to meet someone on the modified #BMW scene who has owned their car for this long but it’s refreshing to see. And aside from planning to swap the Steptronic gearbox for a six-speed manual, it looks like Jorge’s reached a point where he’s happy and the modifying will stop. For the time being, at least. And who wouldn’t be happy with this E46? It’s a fantastic-looking car with a lot of great details and it’s an incredibly satisfying point for Jorge to be at after over a decade of modifying.


    Above: 19” Rotiform SJCs with brushed centres and Porsche 911 brake kit. Right: JL amp and sub add a bit more bass to musical proceedings.

    DATA FILE #BMW-E46 / #BMW-330i / #BMW-330i-E46 / #Rotiform / Steptronic / #Technik / #BMW-3-Series-Sedan / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E46 /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six #M54B30 / #M54 / #BMW-M54 , #Technik-Gen-3 headers, #GruppeM carbon fibre ram-air intake, #Radenergie carbon fibre strut brace and carbon fibre engine cover, #EAS carbon fibre ECU cover, air filter cover and oil cap, #Remus-Powersound quad exhaust. Five-speed #Steptronic gearbox

    CHASSIS 9x19” (front) and 10x19” (rear) Rotiform-SJC wheels with brushed centres, 215/35 (front) and 255/30 (rear) tyres, Broadway Static coilovers, H&R anti-roll bars, Turner Motorsport adjustable endlinks, Rogue Engineering rear shock mounts, Bimmerworld camber arms, Porsche 996 Carrera Brembo BBK, OEM E46 M3 CSL floating discs

    EXTERIOR #Vorsteiner-GT-R carbon fibre bonnet, M Tech 1 front bumper with moulded Rieger lip, #AC-Schnitzer mirrors, #Hamann GT-R side skirts, painted body mouldings, Euro turn signals, AC Schnitzer roof spoiler, Euro-spec carbon fibre CSL bootlid, SRS-Tec rear bumper with dual ribbed diffuser

    INTERIOR Brushed aluminium trim, Kenwood DDX371 head unit, JL Audio 12w6v2 sub, JL Audio 500/1 amp, Stinger capacitor, custom enclosure painted body colour with floor and side panels wrapped in suede
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