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    GOING ON TOUR

    BMW never made an #BMW-E91 M3 Touring, so this owner decided to build his own… BMW never built an E91 M3 Touring, but if it did, it’d probably look just like this… only not as low and on smaller wheels! Words: Andy Basoo. Photos: Antony Fraser.

    It was back on the 22 February 2011 the euphoria started, at 1.15pm to be precise. A build thread began on the popular M3Post forum, which within a matter of days had 35,000 views from around the globe. A dozen or so photos and a handful of words was all it took to spark such excitement; the BMW community was witnessing something special.


    The username was #63NP. The thread topic: ‘!!E91 M3 V8 DCT Estate / Wagon Full Conversion..!!’. We don’t need to tell you that BMW never built an E91 M3 Touring. In fact, the German manufacturer has never built an M3 Touring full stop. Coupés, Saloons and Cabriolets yes, but never a Touring. And that’s somewhat surprising considering how much we love estate cars here in the UK. The Audi RS4 has never struggled for sales and the majority of examples you see on the road are wagons. If Audi can make it work, why can’t BMW?

    To be fair, BMW has tried its hand at highperformance estate cars in the past. The E34 and E61 M5s were available in Touring format, and BMW even tested the water with the E39, building a one-off Touring version.

    They just weren’t big sellers though. It’s difficult to pin down exactly why not, but they didn’t capture the imagination of the public. Maybe it was because they didn’t look different enough from any other M Sportkitted model? The RS4 is wide, beefy, has distinctive aluminium mirrors and looks like it’s on steroids, while the M5s of the past have been much more understated.

    The 5 Series was also significantly larger and perhaps that’s where the downfall lay? Audi produced a larger RS6, too, and while it’s admittedly a fine machine in its own right, it was never the big seller like the RS4. So maybe 3 Series Touring M cars would have been the way to go? Nicholas Pritchard (aka 63NP), the man who instigated that build thread certainly seems to think so, hence the reason he’s built his own example. And before we go any further, let us tell you, it’s truly OEM quality in its execution.

    Nick’s a heavy goods vehicle driver and has always had a thing for estate cars. “I’ve had loads,” he confesses. “I’ve had a B7 RS4, an E61, an E36 and an E30 – that I fitted Montego Countryman roof rails to because the E30 never came with roof rails! I even had a Rover 400 estate. I just like estates!” Which is why when he saw this one, he simply had to have it.

    “I was doing a 997 Porsche at the time,” he continues. “This was back in 2009. I used to pop down to a local bodyshop from time to time to see a mate of mine. The owner of the bodyshop had this car tucked away in the corner and covered in dust. It didn’t have any wings or doors or an interior. It was just a shell, although it did have an M3 V8 sitting in the bay but it wasn’t running.”

    Nick was interested and asked the owner if it was for sale. He got a firm “no” in reply. The car was a 2007 318i auto, although the original engine and transmission were nowhere to be seen. The cabin was filled to the roof with parts and the wiring loom was in a heap in the corner of the bodyshop.

    “Are you sure it’s not for sale?” Nick persisted. “Quite sure, thank you very much,” came the response.

    Bearing in mind it was 2009 and this was a #2007 Touring, it was a relatively new car to be chopping about as extensively as this one had been. Not many of us would have the confidence to be so brutal to a BMW that was barely run-in. Nick was so taken with the car that he would drop in occasionally and the two would have the same brief but very polite conversation.

    “I noticed towards the end of the year, that the guy’s enthusiasm for the car was waning,” Nick explains, “so at the start of 2010 I asked him again, and amazingly he said ‘yes’. He’d been slowly building it up, so by the time I got it the panels were back on and an M3 interior in it, but it still wasn’t running. I think one of the guys down there had put a jump pack on it to get it started, but a power surge had fried the ECU and a few other things. I would say it was probably three-quarters complete.”

    The previous owner had sourced the V8 from a donor car, an E90 M3 Saloon LCI with a slick DCT gearbox. Amazingly, the platforms of the Saloon and Touring are virtually identical. In fact, from the nose right the way back to part way down the rear doors is the same. The rear ends of the rear doors are a slightly different shape to conform to the different boot layout. But apart from that, the layouts remain the same. So, despite there being countless views and rumours about the complexity of an E91 M3 conversion, it’s actually pretty straight forward.

    The donor car had been stripped. We mean, completely stripped down to its shell. Engine, gearbox, prop, body panels, interior, dash the lot. The same had then been done with the Touring. As you’d expect, priority had been given to the fitment of the M3’s beautiful 4.0-litre 32v V8 ( #S65B40 ) and its #DCT gearbox. It’s hard to comprehend and perhaps it sounds like we’re dumbing the process down, but there was no fabrication or adjustment made to any brackets. Using the S65’s OEM mounts, the V8 slotted easily in to place, the gearbox aligned perfectly, too, as did the driveshafts and propshaft, and all bolted straight in.

    Even the standard Saloon exhaust system fitted. All that the previous owner had to do was to add two thread bolts for the rear box hangers, readily available from BMW, and the quad exhaust sat perfectly.


    With the intention being to swap over and utilise every possible optional extra fitted to the M3 donor car, the complete Saloon wiring loom, fuse box and dash were fitted. This meant the all-important iDrive system was also available to the driver.

    Regarding the body panels, the complete front end is M3 Saloon. The front bumper, kidney grilles, vented bonnet, and wider front arches were all bolted straight on, and the shut lines matched perfectly. Obviously, a wider front end meant the Touring’s original undertrays and arch liners no longer fitted, so these had been swapped over from the M3, too. Incidentally, before the all of the panels were fitted, the V8’s ancillaries had all been set in their rightful place, including the relevant coolers and bottles being placed in the wings. The goal had been to make this car as OEM as possible.

    As you can imagine, this was harder to achieve at the rump end of the Touring. With the car having a wider track, the rear arches needed widening, so M3 Saloon rear quarters had been grafted in and expertly reshaped to meet the lines of the Touring.

    The rear bumper is a combination of M3 Saloon and M Sport Touring. It would have been easier to modify an estate bumper, but the previous owner aimed at retaining as much M3 styling as possible, and as such the central vent, angles and lines had all been adopted from the Saloon parts.

    Inside the cabin, the Touring’s carpet and panoramic roof had been retained as neither of these were available in M3 guise, but just about everything else you can see and touch is M3 Saloon. Even the rear bench bolted straight in. The rear seat back, however, is Touring, well… kind of. The seat foam had been reshaped to fit and match the bench, and then M3 Saloon covers added.

    It was in this overall state that Nick bought the car. “As I said, it was about three-quarters complete when I got it,” he continues. “He’d done a great job. But, obviously the car wasn’t running and it felt tired and a little loose.

    So the first thing Nick did was to order a new ECU and cache unit from BMW. After sorting the coding, to his joy the V8 barked into life, enabling Nick to turn his attentions to tightening the whole car up. “There were so many little things that needed sorting,” he explains. “I half stripped the car back down again. As I said, it didn’t feel tight. Things like the doorcards felt a bit loose, some of the trim was slightly squeaky, that kind of thing. As I was taking it apart, I started noticing that a lot of the clips were missing or broken. Some of the trim was scratched or damaged, the screws didn’t match, as you’d expect I guess. That’s what happens when you take a car apart.


    “For me though, the whole point of the car was for it to be OEM quality, so I ordered about £1000 worth of clips, screws and trim from BMW. I’ve also got a friend who works in a BMW dismantlers and he was able to help me out with various other parts that were missing or damaged. Things like the membranes in the doors weren’t sealed, so they would have leaked and filled with water if I didn’t seal them. Essentially, the car needed finishing. The bulk of the work was done, but I think it’d been rushed back together when the guy lost interest.”

    Nick has therefore invested heavily in transforming this car from the one that he bought. He primarily concentrated on the chassis, replacing the Touring’s factory-fit suspension with a full set of top-spec Variant 3 KW coilovers. He then ordered a set of gorgeous 20” Breyton Race GTS RM forged wheels to tuck under the wide arches, with M3 offsets, of course. Sizeable 9.5x20” wheels fill the fronts, shod in 245/30 Continentals, with broader 10x20” versions out back wrapped in 285/25 rubber by the same brand. He’s is considering nudging the front suspension down just a fraction more, but we have to say the E91 sits beautifully.

    Nick then approached Reyland Motorsport for help sorting the front brakes. “I sourced a set of six-pot Brembo calipers from a C63 Mercedes,” he relates. “They’re basically the same as the BMW Performance calipers, just with different mounts on the back. I dropped them off at Reyland along with an M3 suspension leg so they could get all the brackets right and come up with suitable discs and pads. They used 380mm discs in the end and had my car in for a few days fitting everything up and testing it for me. All the brake warning sensors are still connected and functioning. I want to get a kit for the back now.”

    We could go on all day about the fact Nick’s retained the Touring’s loom from the rear doors back because certain things are wired differently; how he’s removed individual pins from the loom plugs to ensure nothing is in place that isn’t needed; how he’s retro-fitted a CIC sat nav system that now runs ‘DVD in Motion’; details of the countless trips to the bodyshop to have blemishes removed, lines redefined and exhaust tips powdercoated in black; and why he’d only settle for BMW Performance front seats, but hopefully by now you’ve realised what an exceptional build this is.

    Learning how identical the platforms are, it would appear relatively straightforward to swap all the parts across from one car to another. And to his credit, the previous owner has done phenomenally well in doing just that, but it’s finishing the job properly that takes time and patience to get right, and Nick has those qualities in abundance.

    Without his input, this would feel like a fast, yet slightly tired, rattly estate. Thanks to Nick’s input it now possess a true OEM quality. It feels like a genuine M3 with full M car pedigree, not simply a modified 3 Series and that’s a difficult feat to achieve. Despite the photos posted on M3Post, some members still questioned whether or not this car was real, and demanded further evidence. Even the official #BMW staff and technicians at Nick’s local dealer were left puzzled when he first popped in to pick up a few parts. Other impressive E91 Tourings have been built around the world and yet more are in the pipeline, but Nick’s M3 converted example is by far the most wellknown.

    Over 100,000 views of his build thread prove that. If you get the opportunity to see this machine in the flesh try and find fault with it. After we spent the day with car, we can assure you, you won’t find any.


    DATA FILE #BMW-M3-Touring / #BMW-M3-Touring-E91 / #BMW-M3-E91 / #BMW-E91 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E91 / #BMW-3-Series-Touring / #BMW-3-Series-Touring-E91 / #BMW-M3-DCT-E91 / #DCT / #V8 / #BMW-3-Series-V8 / #Breyton-Race

    ENGINE: #S65B40 4.0-litre 32v V8 from E90 M3 LCI Saloon / #BMW-S65 / #S65 / #BMW , standard #BMW-M3-DCT transmission and LSD, full M3 Saloon manifolds and exhaust system with Saloon hanging threads added to back box

    CHASSIS: 9.5x20” (front) and 10x20” (rear) #Breyton-Race-GTS-RM wheels shod in 245/30 and 285/25 Continental tyres respectively, Bimmerworld bolt-to-lug conversion, fully adjustable #KW-Variant-3 coilovers all-round, six-pot orange #Brembo calipers from Mercedes C63 with 380mm discs

    EXTERIOR: Complete E90 M3 Saloon front end comprising wings, inner arches, bonnet, front bumper, undertrays and headlights, rear arches widened using E90 M3 Saloon quarter panels, custom rear bumper fabricated from M3 Saloon item and E91 M Sport Touring bumper

    INTERIOR: #BMW-Performance seats, M3 Saloon dash, consoles, trim and wiring, M3 Saloon door cards and rear bench with Touring rear seat back foam modified and retrimmed in black nappa leather to match, M3 Saloon steering wheel, M3 Saloon iDrive with CIC sat nav, AC Schnitzer pedals

    THANKS: Reyland Motorsport (0121 458 6010 or www.reyland.co.uk) TRS Motorbodies (0121 4548300)
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    Evolutionary Thinking / #2015 / #BMW

    Which is the better M3 Saloon, the older V8-engined E90 or the all-new turbocharged #BMW-F80 ? It’s the M4 Coupé that seems to have grabbed all the press coverage so we’ve pitched the F80 M3 Saloon up against its illustrious #BMW-E90 / #BMW-M3 predecessor. Words and photography: Mark Williams.


    Evolution generally dictates that new should be better than old. That which succeeds what went before represents an overall increment, an improvement on what was thought, at the time, to be the latest and greatest example of its type. Buildings, computers, smart phones; each iteration builds on the technology, methods and approaches deployed by their predecessor to achieve greatness. And nowhere is this insatiable urge to improve more visible than with the cars we choose to drive.


    But is new always better? And is it possible to answer that question objectively, and not open up the minefield which is subjective thoughts on design or engineering principles? Thanks to some judicious timing, I was recently able to appraise the new F80 M3 against the context of the E90 version which has just ceased production. It isn’t a direct back-to-back comparison (hence the different backgrounds in the pics), but considering that all that separated the two drives was a single night’s sleep and some Sunday evening telly, the resultant impressions are still perfectly valid. And in case you’re wondering, the reason I didn’t drive the M4 variant was not because I don’t approve of the name or any of that nonsense. Rather, I was keen to try the M3 because the media world and his wife appear to have focussed only on the M4 and the saloon version has received relatively little press.


    F80 first then, because the E90 won’t be available until Monday and it’s a warm and sunny early Saturday afternoon when I’m greeted by the rich red leather of the M3’s cabin. It’s not quite blood red, thankfully being slightly higher in tone than that, and I’m always cautious of looking after red leather correctly otherwise it ages poorly, but on first acquaintance it certainly strikes a ‘no nonsense’ tone.

    As does the carbon trim, and combined they do enough to lift the interior above the level of the cooking models. The seats don’t have thigh support extensions though, which is bizarre, but they do have illuminated ‘M’ badges in the seat backs for a little extra night time tinsel, and whatever you think of that idea I can confirm they look seriously cool once darkness falls. Then you spot the side bolstering and those ‘no nonsense’ feelings start to ebb back in.

    And that impression doesn’t really fade much during the early miles. From the orchestral start up procedure through to the coughs and spits of the exhaust and the shunting of the drivetrain which makes me wonder whether a rebodied Nissan GT-R actually resides underneath me, the M3 states its case and clarifies its purpose right from the off. We’re on our way to Rugby, traversing the A423 which later morphs into the A426 and which runs roughly north east from Banbury, out into Warwickshire, and the M3 is a delightful companion along here and when driven with purpose. Muscular and musical lower down (we’ll address the noise specifically in a moment) and increasingly bombastic as the revs rise, we scamper along, dispatching slower fare with laughable ease.


    Villages slow our progress, which wouldn’t be so much of an issue ordinarily, but the M3 dialled back to town speeds suddenly feels hemmed in and one has to start pressing buttons in order to relax the tension you wound into the chassis and drivetrain along the blacktop which brought you here. This is where the M1 and M2 mode buttons come into their own of course, as one is able to pick-n-mix individual settings for suspension, throttle response and steering weight, which sounds ideal. However, as yet another pothole signals the arrival of a set of lights and the sensitive throttle launches us across the intersection upon the green signal, I do find myself briefly wondering whether a good passive setup which strikes an ideal balance all the time would be more preferable.

    I’m being slightly melodramatic I suppose, but nevertheless there is a feeling evident here which also struck me about the M135i when I drove that a year or so ago. Drive like a man possessed and it makes perfect sense, but for the day-to-day a feeling grows that the latent energy available here is being utterly wasted.

    None of this matters when you wind it up though and let’s face facts, most of the appeal of cars like this is precisely because they have great untapped reserves of gusto, and if the price for that are some minor histrionics around town then so what. So click the left paddle once or maybe twice, and chase the throttle. And now hear the noise. It doesn’t build; it’s suddenly there. Augmented and slightly binary, yes.

    But also all-enveloping and crucially, as will become apparent when we sample the E90 the following day, available immediately as the revs pick up and not only when the motor climbs on cam. The bottom line is you get more of what you want, what you paid for, what you demand, more of the time. And with Sport engaged, and the two-stage flaps in the exhaust opened, you’re treated to an intoxicating mix of blower whine from up front, coupled to sampled intake and combustion noises washing around the cabin and topped off with proper exhaust noise from the rear. It sounds glorious. It’s been described elsewhere as being industrial but that’s nonsense and a luddite’s view.

    So with a feeling that a passing satellite has hooked the front, you disappear up the road in a flurry of road debris and exhaust roar. Go for the paddles and the whole process starts again. The M3 goes feral, the noise hardens and the blown six seems to kick again. Each change results in a thud through the drivetrain and an explosive report from the exhausts which makes me later wonder how the mechanics of these things will age. Out of respect for this car’s minimal mileage, plus my licence, I decide to back off at this point and attempt to process what this thing is capable off. No time for that though as there’s a corner suddenly approaching…


    It’s gone in an instant, the M3 tracking through the apex and out the other side, and now another is rushing at us through the windscreen. My wife, now clearly aware of what I’m up to, has placed her mobile phone in her lap and grabbed hold of the armrest just that little bit tighter as the M3 loads up under braking. Turn in, sense the total conviction at the front end, the absence of understeer and pick up the throttle. The weight shifts to the rear and the steering seems to want to unload, so dig further into the throttle and sense the balance settle further across the chassis, then diagonally to the outside rear.


    The M3 is loaded up now, and split second decisions are needed in terms of which subconscious option you select. Back off at this point and the door closes on the weight transfer, sending the tail-light and the electronics to intervene to keep you honest. Get out of the throttle by relaxing your toe pressure though and the chassis works each outside tyre equally, digging into the Tarmac and howling through the curve in spectacular fashion. But this is an M3, and those engineers know their onions, so with the chassis already loaded you ask the engine for a little more, and at this point you enter the zone where the M3 truly excels. In an instant (and it really is a heartbeat), grip is defeated, and whilst the weight transfer is still there driving you forward, the M3 is loose. But the front is still with you, it’s not gone AWOL, and whilst I won’t claim the steering maintains a constant dialogue, neither does it suddenly gain unhelpful weight or inconsistent speed. So with eyes locked on to a spot through the side window and just above the wing mirror, you instinctively relax your grip on that loaded column and the wheel quarter-locks itself in the opposite direction. Grab a hold, steady the throttle, and you’re broadside through the turn, my wife wondering what on earth she has done to deserve this and only now does my daughter look up from the iPad, wondering what’s going on. The apex zips past the nearside windows and with a steady throttle I manually offload the lock before we disappear up the road and into the morning.

    In the dry, this thing covers the ground at a frankly astonishing lick, but at that moment when the drivetrain is fully loaded and the blowers are fully lit, the chassis alights on your shoulder like the proverbial devil and goes ‘here fella, what do you want to do now?’. That moment feels like something you would only want to succumb to provided the wipers weren’t operating. You can trust the M3, and the combination of power, poise and phenomenal braking once you’ve pushed through a soft-ish spot at the top of the travel ensures that every drive is an event. And whilst we’re talking about the brakes, you really don’t need the carbon ceramics unless you particularly want or need to spend thousands extra. But that moment where the chassis switches its balance, you’d have to be very good to smile back at the devil on your shoulder and go ‘yeah, go on then’.


    Next morning, the E90 presents itself as a slightly more subdued proposition, both in terms of the bassy exhaust note and the relative lack of body agenda. Inside it’s clearly a generation removed and it seems an awfully lot more smaller in here, too. Outside it really doesn’t seem to have aged very much to my eyes but here’s the thing; where’s the noise? I’m having to wind it up in order to please the ears and the simple truth takes us back to that allenveloping comment of driving the F80. The E90 wants you to wind it up before it really hands over the goods. And that’s all very well, but I’m not convinced that I need to drive everywhere with the throttle nailed to the bulkhead before I feel that I’m achieving something. And the last time I checked, neither are the police. Overall it sounds the business of course, it’s a normally aspirated V8 when all said and done (and not a flat-plane crank either, something I’ve never quite connected with). But whereas the F80 was giving you early-doors on the noise front, the E90 is waiting until closing time comes calling at 4k or higher before it sounds like it’s really trying. When it does arrive, you’re greeted by a delightful, hollow, titanium raspy sound. I just wish it was there more of the time.


    Still, it goes well enough of course, and there’s the same unflappable feel to the front end in the corners. But the absence of turbocharged torque results in a chassis which is not quite straining at the leash to the same degree, so the feeling that one is glancing over the edge and into the abyss at the first sign of moisture from the sky isn’t evident. And that’s a good thing. But now I seem to be pushing the throttle to the carpet in order to make the thing go, and I suppose that’s a bad thing. It’s also the price of progress, or evolution, which is where we came in.

    At least the years of evolution in between haven’t apparently had much effect on its mechanicals – 35k miles have passed beneath those wheels, but you’d be hard pressed to tell from the driving experience alone, which if nothing else I guess suggests that the F80’s mechanicals will age just fine. If you can’t stretch to the circa £60k you need for modern day M3 ownership, then the £28k or so James Paul is asking for this example is a fine compromise.

    Ultimately, new wins over old for me (I go over both cars in more detail in a video review on my Quently Bentin YouTube channel, so please pop over and have a look). I’ll therefore take the F80. I actually prefer the noise it makes to the E90. I like that the noise is there more of the time, and that I can work less in order to extract it. I like the slightly dark side to its character, the suggestion of malevolence to the way it goes down the road, the suggestion that the car is secretly hoping for rain in order to reach for that pitch fork and stoke the fires. Frustration at operating at third-throttle may dog it wherever it goes, but the new M3 is magnificent, and the master of the E90. And evolution has its toughest job yet when the time comes to replace it.

    THANKS TO: James Paul
    Tel: 01403 823723 / Web: www.jamespaul.co.uk
    North Oxford BMW / Tel: 01865 319000 / Web: www.oxfordbmw.co.uk

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-M3-DCT-F80 / #BMW-M3-F80 / #BMW-M3-DCT
    ENGINE: Straight-six, twin turbo / #S55B30T0 / #S55B30 / #S55 /
    CAPACITY: 2979cc
    MAX POWER: 431hp @ 5500-7300rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 406lb ft @ 1850-5500rpm
    0-62MPH: 4.1 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph
    ECONOMY: 34mpg
    ECONOMY ON TEST: 21.8mpg
    EMISSIONS: 194g/km
    PRICE (OTR): £59,090


    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-M3-DCT-E90 / / #BMW-M3-E90
    ENGINE: V8, naturally aspirated / #S65B40 / #S65 /
    CAPACITY: 3999cc
    MAX POWER: 420hp @ 8300rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 295lb ft @ 3900rpm
    0-62MPH: 4.7 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph
    ECONOMY: 25.2mpg
    ECONOMY ON TEST: 18mpg
    EMISSIONS: 263g/km
    PRICE (OTR): £51,805 (2010)
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