- Post is under moderationTALES OF THE UNEXPECTED Wild supercharged E90 M3
Karel Silha’s M3 has been evolving for a few years, getting ever madder and more frightening. As he teeters on the cusp of his next round of innovations, we pin down his green monster to see just how deeply this lunacy has spiraled… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Patrik Karlsson.
840HP E90 M3 Supercharged wide-arch beast
The most fun cars are the ones that do surprising things; ones that subvert your expectations and lead your preconceptions down a hitherto uncharted path. We’re not talking about sleepers here – that’s a well-documented area, and a whole textbook in itself. No, what’s flicking our switch today is the idea of using a novel base to build something devastating. Like when Top Gear commissioned Lotus to build a trackslaying Lada, and the Norfolk spannertwiddlers ended up throwing £100k at it. Or when Volvo entered the BTCC in the 1990s with an 850 estate. These are not the logical cars to choose for such endeavours, which is what makes the whole concept so eminently desirable.
So it is with Karel Silha’s M3. He wanted to build an unstoppable and terrifying car with which to distort reality in the otherworldly and near-mythical amphitheatre of the now-world-renowned Gatebil events, so he chose to go with an M3. Fair play, sound reasoning, we can see why you’d do that But, just for the sake of waving two fingers at the rest of the paddock, he didn’t take the obvious route and buy himself an E92 coupé. He chose the sensible, dad-spec E90 fourdoor saloon.
Alright, we’ll immediately retract ‘sensible, dad-spec’, that’s a moronic way to describe a machine as formidable as the E90 – but you have to admit that the act of deliberately choosing a car with extra doors you know you’re never going to use is something only a belligerent and confrontational person would do. It’s Touring Car rules; you’ve got four doors so that people spectating can relate your car to their own salesman-spec diesel commuter. Karel’s just cranked things up a notch, simply to be mischievous. Oh, those effervescently zany Swedes…
“My first car was a Toyota Starlet,” he explains, which is actually something we hear a lot. A surprising number of skilled helmsmen cut their teeth in that balletic Japanese poppet, it must teach its drivers an awful lot about car control. “I’ve been working with BMWs for about 12 or 13 years now though. My first was an E30, which I wanted to turn into a bit of turbocharged weekend fun. Most of my BMWs have been E30s in fact; the most recent one was making 982hp and 887lb ft on an old M20 engine.”
It’s probably safe to assume that this fella knows what he’s doing when it comes to perving over BMWs then. However, the E90 is a world apart from the E30 (just look at the maths, it’s 60 #BMW Top Trump points adrift), so this little race car project was always going to be something of a challenge, right? No, not a bit of it. Karel’s the sort of chap who just knuckles down and gets on with it and there’s no half-measures here. Allin or nothing.
“I wanted to do fast lap times and the goal was to be quick,” he says, with hilarious modesty and masterful understatement. “With that in mind, there was only one chassis that was suitable for this: the E90 M3. So I bought the car from a friend – it was in really good condition, aside from the engine, which was trashed. One of the rods had found its way out…” But with the plans that Karel had made, a blown motor was an irrelevance. Stock engines aren’t Gatebil fodder. It was always the gameplan to tear the motor apart and beef everything up like Meat Loaf in an Angus Steakhouse.
“Yes, the whole build was fully mapped out from the start,” he assures us. “We even drew up 3D renderings of how it would look when it was finished. The plan was always clear.” Oh, and what a plan it was. With ruthless efficiency and the sort of clockwork dominance of the to-do list that you normally find in school staff rooms, Karel and his crew set about ripping the E90 to shreds and building it back up as an apex-humiliating, spectator-arousing beast.
“In the first year, we dealt with the chassis,” he says. “KW three-way competition suspension, and also a big brake upgrade from Endless, to get the chassis fully dialled-in. We’d initially talked to a local company about our suspension options, and the support was terrible, so we ended up talking to KW suspension in Germany. They answered all of our questions in one email and the support was just above and beyond, so it was a no-brainer to go with KW! They made a custom three-way competition kit for us, and those guys have been a strong partner ever since.”
With the chassis tested and thoroughly proven, the second year of the E90 build threw up some proper mischief. “In year two we did the forged engine,” says Karel, “and then we supercharged it – and this was no off-the-shelf kit, it was the biggest setup ESS could make for us. We ended up with 840hp, and we also upgraded the ECU to a full Motec setup, with PDM [Power Distribution Module], dash and ECU. We fitted a Samsonas sequential gearbox with paddleshift too.” Phew. Time to take a breath, drink in the magnificence of the spec, and just have a little think about our own life choices. Stick the kettle on for some pondering time, we’ll see you at the next paragraph.
Better? We know, it’s a lot to take in. But brace yourselves, as there’s a little more to come. You see, it would have been amusingly stealthy to jam all of this sweaty grunt into a stock-looking four-door shell, but stealth has never been the Swedish forced induction enthusiasts’ watchword. So what you’re seeing here is a searing vision in Snakeskin Green, a Dodge Viper colour no less, and to prove that this build isn’t just about dumb horsepower there’s a frankly staggering aero setup. Just look at the frickin’ size of that rear diffuser, for goodness’ sake! And the front splitter’s big enough to stand a family of six upon, let alone allowing them all to have a little nap on the rear wing. This thing may have enough horsepower to make a Bugatti owner think twice, but it’s also glued to the track by the crushing inevitability of downforce. It’s actually kinda frightening. Another hugely impressive element of this build is just how stock that S65 motor is, aside from the comically large blower. It’s got forged pistons and rods from Pure Performance Motorsport in Australia, and a suitably juiced-up fuelling system feeding through a Weldon 2345 pump (which is good for 1300hp!), but aside from that it’s pretty much as the M Division intended. Talk about over-engineering, eh?
Still, there was a global vibe developing in this Swedish-honed, German-built car with Australian engine upgrades and Japanese interior addenda, so it only made sense for the rolling stock to come from somewhere unexpected too. That’s why you’ll find a set of Work VS-XX wheels under those widened carbon fibre arches – custom-built wheels from Japan. And the rears are a spanking 12.5” wide, which allows for some seriously dirty contact patch. “We wanted a wheel that could match the rest of the car,” Karel reasons, “and Work Wheels were the only choice for a quality wide wheel.” Having hand-crafted his own bruising arches, we’ll happily take his word for that.
“Function over form was the overarching idea,” he continues. “The look has always been secondary to the act of going fast. The chassis’s actually being modified for a Version 3 that we’ll be debuting soon, but yes – the capability has always been more important than the look.” This statement, of course, writes a very large cheque, as the car looks absolutely phenomenal. Thankfully, we know that the setup can cash it with ease. “I’d say my favourite element of the build is all the carbon fibre,” Karel grins. “When you start with carbon, you kinda get the fever and it’s hard to stop! For 2017 most of the car will be in carbon fibre, and for 2018 a new chassis is being built with even more mods and 100% carbon.” Blimey. 100% is a big percentage. We’ll report back as the news filters in.
“It took some five-to-six months to build the first version of the car,” he says, “then it evolved over the off-season; 2015 Version 1, 2016 Version 2, and 2017 is Version 2.1. Just wait – 2018 will bring it up to Version Badass.” We can’t wait to see that. But for now, let’s just bask in the unutterable lunacy of Version 2.1 – the as-yet ultimate evolution of your neighbour’s four-door 3 Series, built to tear up Gatebil and atomise any rubber that may stray into its workshop. The fact that it’s not a coupé just makes the flawless victories all the sweeter. ¬
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Supercharged / #BMW-E90 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E90 / #BMW-M3-Supercharged / #BMW-M3-Supercharged-E90 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #ESS-supercharger / #ESS / #BMW / #Work / #MoTeC-ECU
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre #V8 #S65B40 / #BMW-S65 / #S65 , fully-forged, custom #ESS-supercharger-kit , 1000cc injectors and uprated fuelling with #Weldon 2345 pump, #Motec engine management. #Samsonas six-speed sequential gearbox
CHASSIS 11x18” (front) and 12.5x18” (rear) #Work-VS-XX wheels with 305/35 (front) and 335/35 (rear) tyres, #KW three-way competition suspension, #Endless race brake setup with six-pot calipers (front and rear) with 355mm (front) and 345mm (rear) discs
EXTERIOR Dodge Viper Snakeskin Green, wide steel rear wings and plastic-welded M3 front wings – now remoulded in carbon fibre, Gatebil-sized custom wing, splitter and diffuser
INTERIOR Sparco seats, Takata harnesses, OMP steering wheel, custom cluster by Karel S Motorsport, paddle shifters, full painted FIA rollcage
THANKS All of my friends who helped, especially to Tim and Jens, and also all of my sponsors last year and also the new ones for 2017 – it would not have been possible without them
No air-ride here, just air jacks.
The rear view is dominated by that custom diffuser.
Fully-painted FIA roll-cage.
“Function over form was the overarching idea, the look has always been secondary to the act of going fast”
MOTEC engine management keeps things running right.
Sparco seats with Takata harnesses up front.
MoTeC C127 Race Display behind OMP steering wheel.
Custom ESS supercharger kit makes 840hp.
“In year two we did the forged engine and then we supercharged it [with] the biggest setup ESS could make for us. We ended up with 840hp”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationSafety First 650hp supercharged E90 M3.
Safety cars are always in front – they have to be, they’re there to back the pack up. But in the case of this raucous tribute, it’s in front because nobody else can keep up… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Speedyshots.
THUNDERSTRUCK 650hp #G-Power supercharged E90 M3
Safety cars, or pace cars, have always been a little bit naughty. This makes perfect sense, as they need to be inherently fast and capable machines if they’re going to have any hope of taming a pack of wild racing machines. Sending a farty old Lada out into a field of DTM tearaways would be the very antithesis of ‘safety’.
On the face of it, they’re a necessary evil in motorsport; they break up the action, they slow things down. They’re sent out to haul up the pack when there’s debris to be cleared up or a surprise monsoon has suddenly presented itself, and there’s a natural perceptual bias against them in the eyes of the fans in that, no matter how fast or formidable they may be, they are – by virtue of why they exist – the slowest things on the track.
This, of course, is all rather unfair on the poor beleaguered safety car. But fear not – there’s a groundswell subculture that celebrates these often-iconic creations, championing them for their mighty performance as much as the vital role they play in keeping motorsport ticking. This kind of thing’s been going on since the first appearance of a safety car in the Indianapolis 500 in 1911, while the first example in Formula One – a Porsche 914 – appeared in 1973. Classic NASCAR pace cars have taken on a life of their own as collectors’ items, and arguably the most popular safety cars of recent times are the BMWs used in MotoGP. 2016’s weapon of choice was the shiny new M2, and the series has variously used the M5, M6, X6 M and numerous others; each one has offered aggression in spades and, as you’d expect from an M car, blistering performance. All you need to keep a bunch of wildheart racing drivers safe!
This E90, then, is a tribute to BMW’s keenness to push the envelope of safety car desirability: a four-door missile, caricaturised in all the right places to create something that’s frankly rather quicker and scarier than quite a lot of race cars – or, indeed, race bikes. This project is the brainchild of Karl Jungmayer, who regular readers will remember as the mastermind behind our January 2017 cover car – a 1 Series with a V10 violently shoved into it. The third Karl in line within a #BMW garage in the sleepy enclave of Geiselhöring, southwest Germany (his grandfather, Karl, set it up; he passed it down to his son, Karl, and it then transferred to the incumbent Karl), he spends his days doing unseemly and frankly unhinged things to powerful cars with Bavarian propeller badges. And as bases for project cars go, you can’t really miss the target if you’re starting off with an E90 M3… You’ve got 420hp right out of the box, a sublime chassis and more ingrained passion than you could possibly know what to do with.
Unless you’re someone like Karl, that is. He knows exactly what to do with it. Refract it through a filter of insanity, collect the ensuing scattered beams of light, compress them into a diamond of pure retribution, and throw it full in the face of the tuning scene. “BMW is my life, my family, my hobby, that’s why they’re so special to me,” he says. “I’ve owned a lot of them, and they’ve all had modifications. And for this project? Well, I’m a big fan of the MotoGP, and I’m also a big fan of the E90 M3, so it made sense to combine the two.” There you are, that’s about as complicated as it needs to be. “It’s effectively my interpretation of a MotoGP safety car, with more power and bigger wheels!,” he grins.
That, we reckon, is the best kind of safety car, so let’s look at that power issue first. You see, while the formidable S65 4.0-litre V8 would be mighty enough for many, Karl merely saw this as a starting block, and got on the blower to G-Power to chew over the perennial carnival affair of forced induction. The result was the acquisition and subsequent modification of an SK II CS supercharger kit, a Stage 2 setup that requires its own chargecooler system as well as, of course, plonking a hilarious mass of orange mischief right there on top of the engine like some kind of malevolent jellyfish. characteristics of BMW’s own work, rather than to radically alter and transmogrify, offering (on paper, at least) a broadly similar feel to a standard car, but amplified by several orders of magnitude.
This, however, wasn’t enough for Karl. Too much is never enough. So you’ll also find another mischievous embodiment of modern high-octane lunacy under that freshly-stickered bonnet, in the form of a Snow Performance water/methanol injection kit. The science of this is to reduce inlet temperatures by up to a 100ºC, markedly increase fuel efficiency, eliminate detonation, and ultimately increase peak power by around 20%. Which is all good fun. It basically achieves this by squirting a finely atomised mist of water/methanol mix into the combustion chambers at just the right time in the fuelling cycle for tiny rabbits to be pulled out of hats and all manner of fi reworks to go off. So how does 650hp grab you? By the lapels, that’s how, and it shakes you around all over the place like a damn ragdoll. Just look what it’s doing to Karl’s rear tyres, for goodness’ sake.
You’ll be pleased to note that all of this effervescent combustion tomfoolery is being channelled through a manual gearbox – six on the floor, maximum attack – and the interior has come in for a racy makeover. “It’s got the BMW M Performance seats, pedals and steering wheel,” Karl points out, “and there’s also a Wiechers rollcage, which has been colour-matched in Alpine White.” The insides are neatly fused with the exterior aesthetic, and what an exterior it is; the E90’s lines are naturally brutalist, masterfully combining four-door sensibleness with the sort of cartoonish proportions that make it look like a bodypumped bouncer in a slightly-too-small suit, and Karl’s taken all of this to the next level with an authentic-looking set of MotoGP Safety Car decals. It is, for all intents and purposes, the real deal. Well, the real deal plus 50% or so, really. And it does make for a hilariously imposing presence on the road – think about it: if you’re dressing up a project car in a tribute livery, it is – for fairly obvious reasons – unlawful to mimic the look of a police car or, say, an ambulance. But a motorsport safety car? Sure, that’s pretty much fair game. And no-one will be suspecting the utterly, unspeakably vast quantities of extra horsepower that this canny tuner has shoved into it. At least, not until the lights turn green.
“The car is so powerful,” he muses, thoughtfully, “I like this car.” Coming from a man with a V10-powered 1 Series in his stable, alongside heavily tweaked F11s, E46s, E61s and a whole lot more, this is a stirring (if modestly stated) sentiment. “It does need more power though,” he adds, decisively. “And more boost.”
But of course. We couldn’t expect anything less from a man like Karl. Just remember – however nuts this car becomes, it’s a safety car, it’s there for your protection. If you see him up ahead of you, you’d better not attempt an overtake – although the reasons for that on the road may be very different to those on the race track…
“As bases for project cars go, you can’t really miss the target if you’re starting off with an E90 M3”
“BMW is my life, my family, my hobby, that’s why they’re so special to me”
DATA FILE #Supercharged / #BMW-E90 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E90 / #BMW-M3-Supercharged / #BMW-M3-Supercharged-E90 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E90 / #S65-Supercharged / #G-Power / #Breyton-GTS / #Breyton-Race / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E90 / #BMW-3-Series-M3
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre #V8 #S65B40 / #S65 / #BMW-S65 , modified #G-Power-SK-II-CS supercharger kit with #Snow-Performance water/ #methanol-injection , custom home-made exhaust system. Six-speed manual gearbox
POWER and torque 650hp, 485lb ft
CHASSIS 8.5x20” (front) and 10x20” (rear) #Breyton-GTS-Race wheels, 15mm spacers, 245/30 (front) and 295/25 (rear) Continental ContiSportContact 5P tyres, #Brembo eightpot #BBK (front), stock E90 M3 brakes (rear)
EXTERIOR M3 CRT front spoiler with carbon fibre flaps, carbon fibre rear spoiler and diffuser, E90 LCI taillights, Safety Car livery
INTERIOR #BMW-Performance seats, pedals and steering wheel, #Wiechers rollcageStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationM3 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
MAX POWER: 450hp @ 8300rpm
MAX TORQUE: 325lb ft @ 3750rpm
0-62MPH: 4.4 seconds
TOP SPEED: 180mph
WEIGHT (DIN): 1580kg
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
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.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationPOWER 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 stitchingStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationTHUNDER DOWN UNDER
If you think you’ve seen everything supercharged M3s can offer, think again, as we get to grips with an awesome antipodean #Eaton-supercharged E90. Think you know supercharged M3s? Well, think again, because down in Oz there’s a company that’s doing things a bit differently… Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Jan Glovac.
Supercharger installation is incredibly neat and discreet. This car’s previous owner had maintained it meticulously.
Here at DRIVE-MY we love the E9x M3, and with good reason: it’s an absolutely awesome car. It looks good, the chassis is sublime and the engine is magical. The way it revs and the way the power just builds and builds, it’s an experience that mere words on a page simply can’t convey. We hope that every one of you reading this will one day get to feel what it’s like to be in an E9x M3 at full throttle because it’s something that you won’t forget in a hurry. For many of us performance #BMW fans, it’s a dream car, something we would love to own and we’ve featured some incredible examples over the years. It’s not just an incredible sports car but also an capable all-round package and a car that you can really use every day. But it does have a couple of problems, namely the N54 and N55 turbocharged straight-six engines that you’ll find in the 35i models.
Now, out-of-the-box, impressive as a 335i or 135i may be, it can’t hold a candle to an E9x M3. However, once a 35i has been breathed on and is running at the 400hp mark, it’s not so clear cut. The two cars are not just evenly matched – watch some videos and you’ll often see the 35i emerging victorious. Obviously in terms of a complete package, as far as braking, handling and the driving experience are concerned, the M3 is the sharper tool by far, and we’re talking about head-to-head racing from a roll, but it does highlight one of the M3’s shortcomings: torque, or rather the lack of it.
The S65 is an awesome engine, a mechanical masterpiece, but it’s a relatively small capacity V8 that’s been built to develop a large amount of power at high revs. When sister title BMW Car pitched the E90 M3 Saloon against the E39 M5 there was virtually nothing in it performance-wise, despite the M3’s weight advantage, and that’s because the M5’s additional 900cc of displacement endows it with more power and torque at every point in the rev range below 6000rpm, and it’s only in that last 2300rpm above that where the M3 makes its extra 20hp.
A stock 35i makes 306hp and 295lb ft of torque from its turbocharged straight-six, matching the M3 for torque but putting it 114hp down on the V8. Once modified to around the 400hp mark, however, a 35i will make around 400lb ft of torque and that means that when it comes to in-gear response, the 35i is going to be an absolute beast. In contrast, in an M3 you’ll have to make sure you’re in the right gear and at the right revs to get the most out of it. The best way to get a serious power boost from your M3 is to supercharge it. And while we’ve driven a number of ’charged E9x M3s over the years (and they’ve all been awesome), they’ve also all used centrifugal superchargers, which produce all their boost at the top of the rev range and don’t fully address the S65’s low-end torque deficit. And that, rather long explanation brings us to this car because beneath the bonnet of this particular E90 M3 sits something very special.
It resides in Perth and belongs to Thomas Thai, who juggles being a student with running his own clothing business (Alpha Legion) and he has, in a short space of time, rattled through some ridiculously modified machinery. He cut his teeth on an RX-7 Bathurst R edition, which ended up with 370whp. Then there was the HSV Maloo R8 (mental V8 pick-up truck) with a supercharger and 590whp, as well as a 2012 Subaru WRX STi Spec R with a spec list that reads like a Jap performance car fan’s dream build and which was making 360whp once Thomas had finished with it.
This young man is clearly no stranger to modifying and happy to play with serious power, though we can’t help but wonder why he moved away from the world of easily modified J-Tin and big power Yank V8- engined Aussie muscle in favour of a naturally aspirated BMW that is not best known for being eager to make big power without some serious work? “I have always been fascinated by BMWs but could never afford one,” explains Thomas. “I love their rich history in motorsport and the fact that they are a true driver’s car. This is my first BMW. I bought it as I wanted something I could daily drive as well as take to the track and still be competitive. I bought this particular car as I knew its previous owner and he had maintained it meticulously.”
Despite his history with modified cars Thomas had no plans to modify his newly acquired M3, bar upgrading the stereo but, as you clearly see, this resolution didn’t last long. It seems 420hp wasn’t enough for Thomas and, having previously owned a supercharged V8, we wager the thought of owning another ’charged V8 was an appealing one. Living in Australia meant that Thomas was located in the same country as a company called Harrop. While it may not be a household name on this side of the globe, Harrop has been involved in the automotive and motorsport worlds since the ’60s and is closely involved with Eaton – a company famous for its Roots-type superchargers. And that just happens to be what you’ll find under the bonnet of this M3, as Harrop has produced the world’s first positive displacement supercharger kit for the S65.
What makes positive displacement superchargers so good for an application like the S65 V8 is that they make full boost the moment you put your foot on the throttle. If you go full throttle at, say, 2000rpm, your positive displacement blower will deliver full boost there and then, and that means monstrous low-end torque spread across a wide rev-range.
Owners have likened the Harrop kit to having a six-litre V8 under the bonnet and when it comes to in-gear acceleration, overtaking punch, or drive out of corners, a positive displacement supercharger is unbeatable. At the very top end of the rev range and at very high speed a centrifugal supercharger will have the edge, but looking at dyno charts the Harrop kit makes more power and more torque below 6000-7000rpm than centrifugal kits. This means in the real world (and especially with an engine that’s light on torque), a positive displacement blower will transform your car. What’s especially impressive about the Harrop kit is how it looks. If it wasn’t for the company branding on the plenum chamber, you would need to take a long, hard look to notice that the air box isn’t stock or that there’s a supercharger pulley poking out from the side of the intake piping.
The Eaton R1740 supercharger uses two four-lobe rotors and sits between the banks of the engine’s Vee, with air being expelled upwards into the plenum, where it passes through one of two chargecoolers, which are located on either side of the supercharger, and then down into the cylinders. It’s an incredibly neat, compact setup with everything mounted on top of the engine for a very clean install and comes with everything required, such as an uprated fuel pump, bigger injectors and so on. The kit makes just over 500whp, so roughly somewhere in the region of 560hp+, but Thomas has added a few additional engine modifications with ACL bearings, ARP head studs, forged Mahle pistons, Dinan valvesprings and the engine internals were also polished while it was apart. The engine has also been treated to an upgraded oil cooler while the exhaust has been fitted with a set of custom crossover pipes running to a Corsa cat-back to deliver a proper V8 soundtrack.
To go along with the massive increase in power Thomas has upgraded the brakes with a set of Pagid Yellow pads, braided hoses and Motul racing brake fluid. He says the combination has made a huge difference to the braking performance, though a Harrop big brake kit is on the cards. On the suspension front, he’s fitted a set of H&R springs for a bit of a drop whilst allowing him to retain the factory EDC and the M3 looks menacing on its 19” Varrstoen ES6 wheels. “I did consider going for Rays TE37 SLs but they weren’t quite in the budget range at the time,” he explains, and anyway the Varrstoens certainly look the part, measuring 9.5 inches wide up front and 11 inches at the rear, which has allowed Thomas to wrap them in some seriously meaty rubber, with 245/30 and 275/30 Yokohama AD08Rs front and rear respectively delivering plenty of grip and traction. Beyond the wheels, the exterior styling changes have been kept very subtle with Thomas saying he was “aiming for a clean look that would draw attention to the car’s natural lines”. All the chrome trim has been sprayed black, there’s a subtle ducktail rear spoiler and a carbon fibre front lip plus a custom grille, while on the inside a set of custom BMW door lights have been fitted. If you could ever call an M3 a sleeper, this would be it.
While a lot of people would no doubt consider a supercharged M3 to be a weekend toy, even with well over 500hp this one’s duties as a daily demonstrate that, even when supercharged, the E9x M3 remains as practical and usable a proposition as it ever did. Supercharged M3s are awesome and Harrop’s positive displacement blower kit opens up a whole new dimension of performance.
DATA FILE #Eaton supercharged #BMW-E90 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E90 / #BMW-S65 / #S65 / #BMW-S65-Eaton-supercharged / #BMW-M3-Eaton-supercharged-E90 /
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre #V8 #S65B40 , ACL bearings, #ARP head studs, forged #Mahle pistons, polished engine internals, #Dinan valve springs, #Harrop-TVS1740 supercharger kit, Corsa cat-back system, custom crossover pipes, upgraded oil cooler, standard seven-speed #M-DCT gearbox
CHASSIS 9.5x19” ET25 (front) and 11x19” ET23 (rear) #Varrstoen-ES6 wheels with 245/30 (front) and 275/30 (rear) Yokohama AD08R tyres, #H&R springs with standard EDC, #Pagid-Yellow pads, braided hoses, #Motul racing brake fluid
EXTERIOR Custom kidney grille, carbon fibre front lip, blacked out trim, ducktail rear spoiler
INTERIOR Custom #BMW logo door lights
THANKS Bucciarelli BMW, GalvsportStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationEvolutionary 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 /
MAX POWER: 431hp @ 5500-7300rpm
MAX TORQUE: 406lb ft @ 1850-5500rpm
0-62MPH: 4.1 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155mph
ECONOMY ON TEST: 21.8mpg
PRICE (OTR): £59,090
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-M3-DCT-E90 / / #BMW-M3-E90
ENGINE: V8, naturally aspirated / #S65B40 / #S65 /
MAX POWER: 420hp @ 8300rpm
MAX TORQUE: 295lb ft @ 3900rpm
0-62MPH: 4.7 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155mph
ECONOMY ON TEST: 18mpg
PRICE (OTR): £51,805 (2010)
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