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    MEAN STREETS

    Less is often more and this subtly-modified E92 M3 proves that point, with some mean styling touches and 480hp.

    Liquid Performance has a classic approach to modifying: big power, subtly contained in a factory-fresh suit. This E92 M3 proves the formula – you can go in hard without getting extreme… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Henry Phull.

    There’s a classic Hollywood anecdote about Robert De Niro, concerning a bee and an argument. It goes like this: after Martin Scorsese had finished working on Mean Streets in 1973, he took the film to Cannes. A whole entourage came along, and one evening they were dining at Le Moulin de Mougins, a restaurant way up in the hills above the town. De Niro was there along with his girlfriend of the time; he had a reputation for picking feisty, aggressive girlfriends – girls he could argue with. During dinner the table was buzzed by a colossal bee, which bothered the group so much that they called over a waiter, who took it down with a flick of his tea-towel. It landed in De Niro’s girlfriend’s water glass.

    She kicked up a fuss, he yelled at her, he told her to take a hike, and she did. It was a ten mile walk back to Cannes; De Niro insisted that everyone leisurely finish their meals before they made their way back, and they picked her up in a cab on the way – bedraggled, infuriated, but also grateful. He bought her a bottle of perfume the following morning, and order was restored.

    Now, the De Niro of the mid-1970s was very different to the De Niro of today. Back then you’d expect to see the angry young man cruising around in a yellow NYC cab with blood and, er, other fluids on the back seat. But not today (yeah, we’re blurring the lines between fiction and reality, it’s called breaking the fourth wall, just go with it). Today, De Niro is an altogether more suave character – edgy, sure, but also classic.

    Refined. Whereas in his youth he was so socially awkward he used to refuse to talk at auditions and fell asleep on the sofa at parties, today he’s more at home in his own skin. No yellow cabs for him now. In 2016, Bobby is more of an E92 M3 kinda guy.

    Specifically, we reckon, the sort of E92 M3 you’d find peeping through the garage doors at Liquid Performance in Southampton. Not quite the postcode you’d expect to find him in, granted, but let’s persevere. We’ll let one of the company’s bosses, Ross Ponsford-Jones, explain the rationale: “We’ve gone for a functional OEMupgrade look,” he says, matter-of-factly. “The vehicle was modified to try and retain comfort and luxury as well as performance – such as having the M Performance bucket seats, for example – but also having a unique look to make it stand out as different from the average E92 M3.” Which wraps the idea neatly into a little nutshell, really – boisterous, yet measured; mainstream, but offbeat. A De Niro M3 for the post- Hollywood Netflix generation.

    What did the guys at Liquid do, then, to achieve this impressive feat? Well, they concentrated on the basics. By focusing on the details, they’ve achieved something that you might almost be able to call stealthy, were it not for the inherent outrageousness of the E92 in stock form. They’ve pinched ideas here and there from the BMW upgrades catalogue, while also keeping an eye on the more obscure iterations of the model as it butted heads with contemporary sports cars and junior supercars – not least the fabled M3 GTS.

    If you’re going to do this sort of thing, you really do need to do it properly, which is why Ross’s team sought the best possible donor available. Makes sense really, doesn’t it? It’s what De Niro would demand. He’s a forthright sort of guy. The car they landed upon was resplendent in Frozen silver paint; indeed, the little heard-of Frozen silver Edition was a car designed for M3 enthusiasts who liked to tick option boxes but were worried they might get carried away (um, possibly), being in effect a version that cost £4000 more than the stock M3 but provided £9000-worth of extras. Aside from the unique paint colour, there were all kinds of other goodies to enjoy.

    “The spec includes the Competition Pack,” Ross explains, “which brings lowered suspension and three-stage Electronic Damper Control along with revised DSC+ settings. There’s also adaptive headlights, Comfort Access, electric folding mirrors, sliding armrest, and PDC front and rear.”

    Obviously some of these features are more exciting than others, but even a hairychested sports car like this is never going to be driven at ten-tenths 100% of the time. Sometimes you need to have somewhere to rest your elbow. Sometimes you do approach the locked car with your hands full. Spec matters.

    However, this isn’t What Car, we’re not here to discuss OEM spec lists. Liquid used this generous state of trim as a base upon which to lavish some extra unique accoutrements: “We’ve programmed in a few custom codes,” grins Ross knowledgably.

    “The mirrors fold automatically when the car’s locked, the auto wiper return position’s reset, the DVD operates in motion, the ignition gong’s removed…” Again, not the sort of mods that would set a teenager’s heart a-flutter when viewed in isolation, but it’s all part of the bigger picture.

    But let’s stop being sensible for a moment. People who buy M3s don’t do so solely for the gadgetry potential, they do it for the mischief. The luxury element is merely a happy bonus. So what does one do with a fire-snorting V8 that’s already packing the thick end of 420hp and is, in a convoluted sense, basically the F1-derived S85 V10 with a couple of cylinders lopped off (kinda)? If you’re Liquid Performance, you do what you’ve already been doing with the rest of the car: hack into the scrolling Matrix ones-and-zeroes, throw in some new code, and modify the thing from within its very core. Or, more specifically, you get DMS Automotive to do it for you.

    “We went for a custom Stage 2 remap,” says Ross. “It’s now putting out 480hp, making it one of the fastest ever naturally aspirated E92s DMS has tuned.” Aha! We knew this wasn’t just going to be a case of retrofitting gizmos from the options list. Phrases like ‘fastest ever’ are very much at the heartland of what we stand for.

    Furthermore, since we’re talking ‘fastest ever’, there are few tweaks and tricks in evidence here from the aforementioned M3 GTS, that bonkers £100k+ E92 that was basically a race car with number plates. Here we see the staggered 19” Competition alloys that you’d otherwise find on the mythical orange screwball, but behind the scenes there’s also lurking the DCT gearbox software from the GTS, offering more aggression – something in-keeping with the ramped-up horsepower levels. And if you’re working on your ‘go’, you need to give some thought to your ‘woah’, which is why we see a sneaky set of yellow Brembo calipers sidling in from stage left, sleeves rolled up and ready to dive headfirst into a spiralling whirlpool of thrust retardation.

    Naturally, like a fired up De Niro in a crisply-tailored dinner suit, the focus must constantly swing back and forth between the precipice of full-blown aggression and the creamy mellowness of suaveté, and Ross feels that the M3’s seats are a strong marker of this. “We enabled the heating elements inside the M Performance seats, which represented a huge amount of complexity,” he says, casually dusting off the difficulties like specks from a cuff. “Even the local BMW franchised dealers couldn’t figure out how to do it…” An infinitesimal smile curls at the corner of his lips as he says this. He knows the capabilities of his team, he’s rightly proud of their achievements. Ditto the approach to the aesthetics, with which Liquid deviated from the official BMW parts to instead augment the Frozen silver with a sprinkling of goodies from the European Autosource catalogue; grilles, vents, mirror caps, just enough to ensure a level of neatness that never strays into the realm of the gaudy.


    With all of this thoroughness and attention to detail coursing through the build, Liquid Performance’s take on the E92 platform very much represents the sort of car that could feasibly have sat within BMW’s own brochure, somewhere between the stock model and the GTS. It’s a naturally aspirated heavy-hitter that’s optioned up to the hilt, and if Robert De Niro were ever to find himself ambling through Southampton with his peepers peeled and chequebook to hand, you can imagine that his switch would be well and truly flicked. But he’s probably a PBMW subscriber anyway, isn’t he? Hey, Bobby – can you see yourself in this?

    Imagine those vast chasms of horsepower resonating with a sharp bark through that titanium Akrapovic exhaust. It certainly beats arguing about bees in restaurants…

    Matt black and carbon exterior elements add a sense of menace.
    It’s now putting out 480hp, making it one of the fastest ever NA E92s #DMS has tuned.
    The vehicle was modified to retain luxury as well as performance.
    Carbon galore inside, along with those #BMW-M-Performance seats, which have had their heating elements enabled.

    DATA FILE #BMW / #Liquid-Performance / #BMW-E92 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E92 / #BMW-M3-Liquid-Performance / #BMW-M3-Liquid-Performance-E92 / #M-DCT / #BMW-GTS-DCT / #BMW-M3-M-DCT-E92 / #BMW-M3-M-DCT



    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre #V8 / #S65B40 / #S65 / #BMW-S65 , #DMS-Automotive custom Stage 2 remap, Pipercross race filter, #Akrapovic full titanium exhaust system with carbon tips, seven-speed M DCT gearbox, BMW GTS DCT gearbox software. 480hp

    CHASSIS 9x19” (front) and 10x19” (rear) #BMW-Competition-GTS wheels with 245/35 (front) and 265/35 (rear) Continental SportContact 5 tyres, #Brembo-GT-BBK with 6-pot yellow calipers, #BMW-Competition pack (including lower suspension and EDC)

    EXTERIOR European Autosource matte black side grilles, front grilles and bonnet vents, BMW M Performance carbon fibre mirror caps and carbon fibre boot lip spoiler, H3 Lux angel eyes, Xenon headlights, privacy glass

    INTERIOR Heated #BMW-M-Performance seats and carbon fibre interior trim including centre console, custom Alcantara steering wheel with M stitching and black leather rally marker, custom Alcantara handbrake gaiter, BMW Competition sill plates
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