- Post is under moderationM4CEMENT AGENT
The M4 is an extremely capable machine but there’s plenty more potential to be unlocked, and that’s exactly what Thorney Motorsport has been busy doing. Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Matt Richardson.
Thorney Motorsport M4
As far as all-rounders go, the M3 and M4 are really hard to beat. BMW’s move from glorious, high-revving NA V8 to less exciting twin-turbo straight-six was, we suppose, inevitable in terms of the way the motoring world is headed, but while it may not deliver the same sort of spinetingling soundtrack as the S65 V8 did, you really can’t knock the S55. It’s got masses of easily accessible torque, it’s got a big-hitting top end and, driven gently, you can nudge 30mpg, plus the affordable tuning potential is on another planet compared with the S65.
It’s wrapped up in a car that’s, relatively speaking, pretty lightweight – lighter than the E9x M3 – but not short on luxury and creature comforts. As an all-round performance machine it’s nigh-on unbeatable. Of course, that’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement, and Thorney Motorsport has been really getting under the skin of the M4 to make it the best it can be.
Now most of us, upon the purchase of a new car, will likely go for a drop, sort out some new wheels and look at getting more power out of it, because that’s just what you do. We’d be happy with that but Thorney Motorsport takes a different, far more measured approach because it’s not modding a car for fun, it’s developing parts that it will sell and it wants to make sure that the car they combine to create is a fullyfledged, finely-honed performance machine.
The M4, you’d think, would be the perfect candidate for a series of improvements to bring out its best, but Thorney has had a somewhat thorny relationship with its M4 and, while many owners are delighted with their cars, we’ve heard of a surprising amount who, after the initial delight of their M3s and M4s had worn off, realised they weren’t happy and were looking at swapping to an E9x M3 instead. So what gives?
“We do a lot of Vauxhall tuning alongside our #BMW work,” explains owner John Thorne, “and I had customers who’d switched from their Astra VXRs to M4s complaining about the handling and traction, saying the car was hard work and they weren’t enjoying it. One guy sold his within a month and a half of buying it. I told them they needed to learn to drive but then we bought our one and I realised there was a problem. In a straight line, it’s fine, but in corners the traction control is forever cutting in and the rear feels loose. Driven hard on the road, it’s a not a good handling car.” That’s surprising to hear but then again, how many of us really push our cars that hard and how many of us have the motorsport experience to be able to analyse exactly what a car’s doing? The handling, therefore, became John’s focus with his tuning programme for the M4 and his desire to tame the M4 and turn it into the car he knows it could be brings to mind one man’s obsession with a certain white whale, but where that made for a great novel this will make for a great driver’s car.
“We went for the geometry first, but there’s not much adjustment and it made no difference, so we went for the springs next. Initially we tried Eibachs, which we found too soft, and we tried Teins which were far too hard, so then we tried H&R’s higher springs, which made no difference, and then went for its lowest offering, which we’re running on the car now. They give a 40mm drop and have really made a difference to how the car feels; previously, the car just couldn’t put the power down in Sport or Sport Plus and in Comfort it was too soft, but now on the Sport setting there’s a lot more grip and it feels more stable through the corners. Though it’s certainly not perfect,” he says, but it’s a cost effective upgrade which makes the car much better.
“I drove a Competition pack car and while it offers more outright grip it’s no better in corners than the standard car; the additional grip is welcome, though, so we’re going to fit a set of Toyo R888s,” explains John. “We’re going to go wider at the back, 285 or maybe even 295, but we’re going to stick with the stock front tyre width as there’s no understeer, just no rear grip.
“We’re working directly with Bilstein to develop dampers for the car, but they have to retain the adjustability of the EDC – the same as its E9x M3 damper, in fact, a plug and play solution. I’ve told Bilstein how the car needs to handle, that the slow speed damper compression needs to be softer and that the rebound is currently too stiff.
Bilstein’s damper curve is much softer on low speed stuff, which is good. We get sent a new set of dampers to test, we make notes of the changes we’d like and then Bilstein sends another set and we see what’s been changed and we carry on like this until we’re both satisfied. The right Bilsteins could transform this car and it would be a Porsche-beater, but we’re not there just yet.
We’re close, though,” he smiles. “That’s our target for each car: to be able to beat Porsches on track. In a straight line, the M4 is quicker than a 911 GT3 RS, but not in the corners, at least no just yet…”
While the handling may be a bone of contention, the perfect setup is not far off and in the meantime Thorney has found a good solution to tame the M4’s wayward handling habits, one that not only doesn’t cost the earth but also actively encourages you to go for an aggressive drop.
One area where the M4 is certainly not lacking is performance and it’s also an area where getting the best out of the car requires a lot less effort. It’s surprising how much of a difference the little things make. “The first thing we did was to run the car for three tanks of fuel using 95 octane unleaded then dyno’d it and then we ran it for three tanks of super and dyno’d it again. On regular unleaded the car was 25hp down on the stated power output of 431hp at the top end, so it’s worth only running it on super.
“The next step was to develop our own remap. It took 96 dyno runs before we were completely happy with the mapping; the remap is our Stage 1 upgrade, which takes power up to 490hp. Stage 2 adds the exhaust, as fitted to this car. It’s a full system, mandrel bent, with 3” piping throughout and also includes 200 cell and 62g cats. This adds another 40hp on top of the remap for a running total of 530hp. Stage 3 will be an oil cooler and bigger chargecooler setup which we’re working on now.” For the moment, though, 530hp is plenty to be getting on with.
“We’ve also added braided lines to the brakes and while we’re working with Pagid to develop a pad for the car, on the road they’re fine and don’t really need to be upgraded. If you want the best brakes possible for track use then I’d recommend ticking the carbon ceramic brake kit box when you’re ordering the car,” he says. And, while the M4 is not a car that’s lacking in the looks department, John has also worked on the car’s styling, adding an M Performance front lip to fill out the front bumper and a Thorney Motorsport carbon rear wing based on the GT4 racer’s spoiler.
It would have been rude to come all the way up to Thorney’s Silverstone HQ and not take the M4 out for a spin and John is keen for me to have a go, especially after I’d just driven Thorney’s track-built E92 M3, and it’s not a hardship to agree to go for a play in his 530hp machine. The first thing you notice is the noise; the M4 isn’t a quiet car and now there’s even more volume to the soundtrack. It still can’t hold a candle to the S65 V8 but if you like your performance cars to sound aggressive the Thorney exhaust system doesn’t disappoint.
The next thing you notice is the power or, rather, the torque. There’s just so much of it; punch the throttle hard at anything above tickover and your head is forced into the headrest, it’s that brutal. In fact, brutal really does do a very good job of describing the power delivery of this car, it’s instant and you get so much of it that it’s all you can do but hang on for dear life. Driving this car makes you feel that there’s no need for any more performance. Any more would be silly, which might sound weird coming from a modified BMW magazine but it just feels so utterly relentless that there’s no situation this car could not deal with.
And that’s before we even get onto the power; 90% of the driving experience is being battered by that brutal onslaught of torque, which propels the car to stupid speeds on even the lightest of throttle applications but when the road allows you the chance to open this M4 up the power is absurd. The delivery is relentless, completely un-turbo-like, and the power keeps on coming all the way to the redline, at which point you must decide whether or not you want to snatch the next gear and go again, or back off and breathe, because the M4’s been accelerating so hard that you’ve forgotten about your basic functions.
In terms of the chassis, the ride is still firm and the traction control seems busy most of the time meaning you really want to find the smoothest, flattest Tarmac before exploring the upper echelons of this M4’s performance envelope. It certainly feels like a more stable beast through the corners, though, and gives you enough confidence to be able to enjoy pushing the car. For the cost of set of springs, if you’re serious about exploiting all of the performance your M4 has to offer, it’s a no-brainer.
Thorney Motorsport’s modified M4 is a ferocious, furious machine which delivers an intense driving experience and feels as fast as you’d ever need or want a car to feel. But while there’s more performance work to come from Thorney along with the aforementioned ongoing quest for the perfect suspension setup that will unlock this car’s full potential, John’s plans go far beyond that: “In the short term I might change the wheels and I want better seats.
I’m not impressed with the standard ones and I’m looking at #HRX race buckets but the ultimate goal is to take this car to the level of the M4 GTS, but better.” That’s exactly what the goal was with the company’s E92 M3 and, judging by our experience with that.
Exhaust system looks the part, with quad carbon tips, and delivers real performance gains.
Exterior has been enhanced with GT4-style spoiler.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Thorney-Motorsport / #BMW-F82 / #BMW-M4 / #BMW-M4-F82 / #BMW-M4-Thorney-Motorsport / #BMW-M4-Thorney-Motorsport-F82 / #Thorney-Motorsport-F82 / #Thorney-Motorsport-M4 / #BMW-M4-Tuned / #2016 / #BMW-4-Series / #BMW-4-Series-F82 / #BMW-4-Series-M4 / #BMW-4-Series-M4-F82
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six #S55B30 / #BMW-S55 / #S55 , custom #TMS-remap , high-flow air filters, 3” bore mandrel bent custom full exhaust system with twin silencers, 200 cell 62g cats and quad carbon fibre exhaust tip trims, seven-sped #M-DCT gearbox
CHASSIS 9x19” (front) and 10x19” (rear) Style 437M wheels with 15mm spacers and 255/40 (front) and 275/40 (rear) tyres, #H&R 40mm lowering springs, custom geometry setup, braided brake lines
EXTERIOR M Performance front splitter and air intakes, #TMS #GT4-style carbon fibre rear wing, #TMS-M-Sport livery
INTERIOR All StockStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationBe it road or track, Thorney Motorsport’s well-sorted and utterly furious E92 M3 will crush all-comers and all corners. Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Matt Richardson.
THORNEY E92 M3 Ferocious 455hp track beast.
TARMAC TERRORIST Track-honed E92 M3
Never pass up the opportunity to drive an E9x M3. Of course, we can’t imagine you would because when you’re presented with the keys to arguably one of BMW’s finest-ever M creations, you’d have to be silly not to. And in the case of Thorney Motorsport’s M3 it wasn’t a suggestion but rather an insistence that I see what the car is capable of and it would be downright rude to refuse such a generous offer. I return a little while later, slightly weak at the knees and feeling like I need a cigarette after the experience I just had. I don’t even smoke…
Thorney Motorsport has been around for 16 years and eponymous owner John Thorne has been involved in the BMW game for as long as anyone can remember. The company did briefly take a hiatus to go racing and add fettling Vauxhalls to the its many talents before returning to its roots a few years ago and taking up the #BMW tuning mantle once more. Its certainly been busy since then as, aside from working on countless customer cars, it has produced a number of awesome demonstrators including a monstrous X5 M, F82 M4 that you’ll be able to read about in a future issue and the car we’re about to get under the skin of today, this magnificent E92 M3.
This is Thorney’s second E92 M3 and represents the final stage of the company’s tried and tested development programme. When a new car is welcomed into the Thorney fold it first spends some time being driven so John and the team are able to really get to know it before stage one can begin. This is the road car development phase which can take up to two years, with numerous modifications and combinations of components being tested, refined and developed in-house in order to get the car and the modifications up to Thorney’s standards. The company’s previous car had undergone the fast road development process before it was sold and when John acquired this 2008 M3 it was specifically to develop and build it up into a track car.
“There’s a big difference between a racing car and a track car,” he explains, “this specific car needs to be comfortable, road legal with an MoT and fun on the road but also track-focused, so it’s a more challenging build. Our principle is to take the best bits of the standard car and make them better, and make the bad bits less bad.”
The end product is a car that, while still trackbiased, you can comfortably drive on the road. It excels in both disciplines. “The whole car,” John continues, “has been inspired by the E92 M3 GTS but we’ve made it better.” That might seem like a bold statement, but having the GTS as a template meant that the Thorney team knew what it needed to do to surpass the BMW-built track special and that’s exactly what it’s done.
Obviously, if you’re building a track car it’s got to have plenty of power, and the M3 certainly isn’t short on that front. On a high compression, naturally aspirated engine you’re always going to struggle to get big gains but, where the GTS had an engine capacity increase up to 4.4-litres to make 450hp, the Thorney M3 makes a dynoproven 455hp from the stock displacement. It also develops 40lb ft more torque than stock with 360lb ft on tap, a significant gain and Thorney has worked to overcome the S65’s lack of low-end torque. The secret to its success is a custom, larger capacity carbon fibre intake plenum, a custom map designed for low-end gains and a Thorney 3” bore exhaust, designed in-house, which John says is perfect for the rev-hungry V8, with one set of silencers and repeaters, enough to pass all track noise tests with minimal exhaust flow restriction, finished off with carbon tips.
“When it comes to building a track car the three most important areas are handling, brakes and seats,” explains John and as a result of that everything on board this M3 has been fitted to make it stop harder and handle better. Nothing fitted to this car is a frivolity and nothing has been left to chance, these mods have been carried out because they work. The wheels are Team Dynamics Pro Race 1.2s: “Bulletproof,” says John, “very light and very strong. We run 18s as the E9x handles much better on smaller wheels and it’s the same size that the GT4 uses. We generally prefer to run a square setup but the car is currently on 10s and 11s front and rear with Toyo R888 RR tyres.” That wide rubber means monster grip and traction but that’s not all, it’s backed up by a race-proven aerodynamic package. “The front splitter and adjustable rear wing are both from the GT4; we found that these consistently work well and are genuine motorsport parts. The only difference here is that the GT4 spoiler uses thinner steel upright and this version has thicker alloy ones.”
When it came to suspension, there was only one option as far as John was concerned: “We always work with Bilstein. It’s the most consistent, the best on warranty, it offers excellent support and the R&D process is open enough to listen to suggestions and work with us. We developed the Bilstein Club Sport kit in conjunction with Bilstein, and the one fitted to this car was the first kit in the UK. What sets it apart is that it’s been tuned for UK roads and circuits, which are smoother than the ’Ring, so we can run a stiffer setup, and the dampers are matched to H&R springs.
“For the brakes,” he continues, “we went for Performance Friction discs, bells and pads with our own in-house braided hoses with race fluid. This setup performs very well. It’s 85% of a big brake kit for a third of the cost, with everything coming to £1800 fitted. So far we’ve not found anyone who can out-brake us on track with a BBK.”
While the interior has been lightened to a degree, it’s not the bare, barren, stripped-out environment you might be expecting. “We have stripped some weight out; the rear seats have been removed and the area has been custom-trimmed but it’s not been stripped and gutted because while it is a fun car that’s been designed for the track it can still go on the road so we wanted to retain a degree of comfort. In a track car, harnesses will save your life and decent seats mean you won’t be holding on for dear life when you’re cornering. We went with Cobra for both of these, with an Ultralite motorsport seat for the driver and a Nogaro sport seat for the passenger. We had to re-engineer the whole seats to make them fit and designed our own mounts. We also fitted our own design of half cage, which was inspired by the GTS, but where the GTS cage weighs 70kg, ours is custommade from T45 steel and weighs just 21kg.”
It’s an insanely comprehensive build and while we don’t have a track to hand, I still can’t wait to see how this build feels out on the road. The serious-looking Cobra Ultralite driver’s seat is a little snug for a slightly broader-hipped lady such as myself but hey, at least it means I won’t be going anywhere through the corners. Mercifully there are no harnesses to faff about with for the road either, and the view from where I’m sitting is ordinary, with the stock M3 steering wheel and gear knob having been retained.
The V8 fires with a brrraap and settles into that familiar, busy idle, but with the volume turned up a few notches. It’s loud, and sounds lush, but even with this minimally silenced track arrangement it’s not obnoxious. These first few minutes of normality do lull you into a false sense of security, though, because the minute I get out onto the road and go for the throttle, all hell breaks loose. The Thorney M3 feels apocalyptically fast and while the on-paper figures might not seem all that impressive, it’s the combination of that huge gain in torque and low-end response along with the improved top-end breathing that makes it so much faster. The mid-range performance is now utterly explosive and, where you’d normally find yourself wringing the V8 out all the way to the redline to eke out every last drop of performance, I actually find myself short shifting well before the redline a couple of times as the newfound response and sheer punch of the engine lower down the rev range means that you can make indecently rapid progress without even having to try. Wind the engine all the way out, though, and the relentless acceleration is astonishing. The S65 is doing its exponential power delivery party trick but now there’s a whole lot more fireworks involved and the top end is, frankly, just a little obscene.
The brakes are phenomenal and I can’t imagine a BBK delivering significantly better braking performance than this setup does, the pedal remaining firm and the brakes biting hard corner after corner. But, more impressive than any of that, is the way this M3 changes direction and the way it rides. John said that on a track with warm tyres this car would not understeer, but out on the road and pushing hard it absolutely refuses to let go from either end. Turn-in is instant, there’s no pause as the chassis catches up with your steering input. It responds immediately to every single adjustment you make and its cornering performance and ability are mesmerising. I’m instantly grateful for the snug-fitting seat as it makes such a difference to how hard you can push. The ride is also sublime, with the 18s soaking up the worst of the road surface through those generously-sized sidewalls, while the suspension keeps the car so incredibly planted it’s breathtaking. It feels like it’s physically attached to the road surface and is so incredibly controlled over every dip and undulation. I’ve driven a lot of different E9x M3s on a lot of different roads but this might just be one of the best driving experiences I’ve ever had and having to stop and hand back the keys was genuinely upsetting.
Considering just how much equipment this car boasts the price is possibly the most impressive thing about it; John says that to do everything on this car would cost about £12,000 – that’s the lightweight cage, the full exhaust system, the Bilstein Clubsports, the seats, everything. Cherry pick only what you really want and you could come away with a very capable track car that’s still happy on the road for less than that and, with E9x M3 prices continuing to fall, if you’re serious about track driving then it would be a tempting prospect.
It’s relatively easy to make the E9x M3 go faster, stop harder or handle better but to elevate an already capable car to another level of ability and to make such huge improvements across the board, to hone every aspect of the car’s character to the Nth degree, is impressive and exactly what Thorney has achieved.
“So far we’ve not found anyone who can out-break us on track with a BBK”
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Thorney-Motorsport / #BMW-E92 / #BMW-M3 / #Team-Dynamics / #BMW-M3-E92 / #BMW-M3-Team-Dynamics / #BMW-M3-Team-Dynamics-E92 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E92 / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E92
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre #V8 / #S65B40 / #S65 / #BMW-S65 / , #TMS carbon induction kit, TMS stage three ECU custom map, TMS 3” custom built mandrel bent full exhaust system, FIA race cats, carbon fibre quad tail trims. Six-speed manual gearbox
CHASSIS 10x18” (front) and 11x18” (rear) #Team-Dynamics-Pro-Race-1.2 wheels with 265/35 (front) and 295/30 (rear) Toyo R888 RR tyres, #Bilstein Clubsport kit with #H&R springs, #Performance-Friction discs and bells (front), Performance Friction PF11 pads (front and rear), TMS braided brake lines (front and rear)
EXTERIOR BMW GT4 rear wing, BMW GT4 front splitter
INTERIOR TMS GTS custom built bolt-in rear cage, TMS front race seats, TMS five-point harness, rear seats removed and interior retrimmed
“Our principle is to take the best bits of the standard car and make them better”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationTHORNEY MOTORSPORT’S #BMW-F82 / #BMW-M4 / #BMW-M4-F82 / #BMW-M4-Thorney-Motorsport / #BMW-M4-Thorney-Motorsport-F82 / #Thorney-Motorsport / #BMW /
Here at #Thorney-Motorsport we love exhausts. There is simply no easier or better way to unlock power from any car than fitting a high quality, high flow exhaust. It is in effect free power. With most tuning the process involves extracting more from the car; the car is working harder. But with exhausts the opposite is the case. Here you are allowing the engine to breath easier and the result is more power. To make a comparison with a runner, it’s like giving them bigger lungs so they can process more fuel (air) and convert it into kinetic energy.
Whilst the concept of moving air from A to B is simple enough the way to do it is a lot more complicated. In the days before emissions controls and noise limits it was a question of making the bore size (diameter of the pipe) and the length correct and off you went but now there is a myriad obstructions in the way, some of which are physical and some legal. However, the overriding idea that moving air faster equals more power is generally correct.
If we look at the stock #M4 system the ability to improve breathing is manifest. For a start the system itself is just over 2.5” bore, which is pretty narrow for a 450hp+ motor. Then the car has four catalytic converters – two small ones, known as pre-cats, that come straight off the turbos and then a set of secondary or main cats underneath the car. There is also a series of resonators followed by a rear silencer with quad pipes out of the back. It’s big, it’s well made but it’s restrictive and sounds dull.
It’s worth noting that here at Thorney-Motorsport we custom build exhausts in-house. There’s nothing wrong with off-the-shelf aftermarket exhausts (except where they claim to be made in the UK but are fabricated in China where the quality of steel and skills required sometimes are just not there) but for us a full custom build is the pinnacle of an exhaust upgrade as we can design and fabricate anything you like. It also means we control the process entirely and so we can guarantee UK-sourced stainless steel, genuine Type-304 clamps and quality tips. As it’s all welded literally right in front of you we can also offer a lifetime warranty. The exhaust will outlive the car.
With 400hp+ as standard the most obvious change we decided on was to increase the bore size to three inches. Anything less will simply not flow enough air. The second decision was what to do with the cats. Now I could write a whole feature on catalytic converters. In short they are bits of pipe with a honeycomb of cells inside all coated with a variety of materials which react with bad exhaust gases to make slightly less bad gases. However, many people wrongly think this process works in the same way that an air filter does, but that’s simply not the case. An air filter works by passing the air through as quickly as possible whereas a cat needs to have the airflow in the pipe for long enough to convert the gases to an acceptable level. If the gases pass through too quickly for the cat to do its job it will set off an engine management light and fail an MoT. If the gases pass through the cat too slowly you’ll lose power. The secret is to pass the exhausts through as fast as possible but still allow the required chemical reaction to take place. It’s not called a converter for nothing.
Typically the tuning industry likes to simplify things for marketing so everyone just looks at the number of cells in a cat. Generally speaking the lower the number of cells (per square inch) the faster the airflow and the better the power gains. However, if the cat has a too poor a quality coating on its cells you will end up with the same issue: an engine management light and MoT failure. So the number of cells and quality of their coating are crucial; one without the other is a meaningless measurement as the two are dependant on each other.
The quality of coating will make a huge difference to the cost and quality of the cat. A 200-cell cat with a 14-gram coating will not pass an MoT but it’s still a ‘sports cat’ and costs about £20 from China. A 200-cell performance cat with a 40-gram coating will give the same airflow as any 200-cell cat but will pass an MoT and not trigger the engine management light. However, they cost £200, so you need to make sure what you’re getting. We only ever use 60-gram cats – the highest readily available – so there are no engine management light issues, no emissions issues and you get maximum power.
Of course, we could negate the whole emissions process from the ECU simply by telling the exhaust’s oxygen sensors to ignore the gases. This would have the effect of the engine never knowing there was an issue with emissions (so the management light wouldn’t come on); however, in the event of an issue such as the car’s fuelling not being correct you would lose that input – so it’s not a great idea.
That said, we can remove two of the cats from the M4 completely. The pre-cats are only there for manufacturer EU regulations; as an owner you don’t need them and the MoT doesn’t measure them, so we can swap these out for straight through pipes. This is great news as they sit right after the turbos which means they have the greatest effect on reducing airflow. We do need the second set of cats, though, so we swap these out for 200-cell, 60-gram performance cats to ensure the maximum airflow possible. This means we have to extend the oxygen sensors from the OEM position but they still work as usual.
Connecting all this up we use three-inch bore, Type-304 stainless steel pipe which is mandrel bent and TIG welded. It’s time-consuming but ensures the best quality weld, and mandrel bent pipe means the internal diameter is unaffected by bends (pressure bending means the internal diameter narrows at the bend).
The issue with turbocharged cars is that the effect of the turbo is to dampen the engine noise. On tickover they sound great but the moment the turbos spin up you lose all the sound. However, you do need to be careful of drone – that annoying back of the skull sound that can really grate at any rpm. To deal with this we came up with a customdesigned absorption-only rear silencer, i.e the sound is deadened via absorption rather than deflection which means a delicate exhaust note but all of the power.
The final sound is lovely deep, crisp note on start up. It’s not too loud on a cold start and has a tremendous growl and snarl at higher rpm. At motorway speeds there is no boom and it has a nice background rumble that reminds you that you’re sitting in a 500hp car. It makes the car feel a lot more like a V8 rather than a blown six-cylinder.
All this work (20 hours of labour) does have its just rewards, of course: nearly 20hp gain and a whopping 80lb of torque in the low to mid-range is a dramatic increase, especially when those gains are on a standard remap car; further gains would be expected from Stage 2 mapped cars. More importantly, this is a power gain from unlocking the potential of the car by allowing it to breath better rather than making it work harder (as a remap does) so it’s win/win in terms of car husbandry and increasing performance. It’s why we like exhausts so much – there’s no downside and again the beauty of a custom build is if you want a different-looking tip then we can do that and make the system unique for your car.
CONTACT Thorney Motorsport www.thorney.ms 01280 850102
Exhaust custom built in-house using mandrel bent 3” T304 stainless steel piping with 200-cell 60g cats.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationBreaking the Mould / #Vauxhall / #Opel / #2015
Nope, we haven’t made a typo, this really is a VXR-R… find out why in the feature.
HOT RIDE: ASTRA VXR
WORDS JARKLE PHOTOGRAPHY CHRIS WALLBANK
AN ASTRA VXR WITH AIR RIDE, 20IN VOSSENS AND A HEALTHY 321BHP...
It took Vauxhall a long time to make their mind up regarding their range-topping brand. While the boys in Essex decided that ‘RS’ should be their undisputed halo range in the ‘60s, Luton took rather longer and straight up dithered. Between the ‘70s and the early part of the 21st century we were treated to HSs, HSRs, SRis, GSis, Turbos and finally, the VXR. This indecision undoubtedly enabled Ford to steal a march on Vauxhall, and it’s only relatively recently that the latter’s VXR range has begun to approach the levels of appreciation enjoyed by other comparable brands. Still, the VXR brand has delivered some seriously cool cars over the last decade and a bit, everything from bonkers re-badged Holdens to stupidly powerful family vans (take a bow Zafira VXR), and it just keeps on delivering.
Top of the tree has to be the latest Astra J VXR, a car that bristles with tech, looks fantastic, re-defines what a performance front-wheel drive Vauxhall can do, and can go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Focus RS. Then we have the example here, a car bought brand new by Bryn Williams in 2014.
“I’m known for driving my cars pretty hard and for going through a fair few gearboxes,” Bryn explains with a grin. “My last car was a Corsa SRi that I slowly converted to full VXR spec and I destroyed a fair few M32 gearboxes on that, so I wanted a car with a warranty.”
Various Corsas were weighed up and rejected before Bryn finally settled on the all new VXR, put his deposit down, jumped in the car and drove direct to Thorney Sport to well and truly void said warranty. What started out with a discussion about the pros and cons of Stage 1 tuning ended with Bryn driving off in an Astra boasting one of the firm’s Stage 3 VXR-R packages. While this doesn’t involve any alteration of the internals or turbo, it does see the Astra given a stage 3 remap, induction work and free-flowing exhaust system, all of which left Bryn with a handy 307bhp, a figure that jumped to 321bhp once the box-fresh A20NFT had loosened up a bit (just over 60 miles had clicked over on the odometer at the time of the VXR-R conversion). “I’d be lying if I said I noticed a massive improvement in performance after all that work, mainly as I’d driven the car fairly conservatively up until then, but in the months since it’s really come alive,” Bryn explains. “350bhp is on the cards for next year, possibly more if I opt to fi t a larger turbo...”
The VXR-R package came with a whole host of badges, stickers and wheel options, though this latter aspect of the kit posed something of a conundrum; the wheels offered were performance based (Team Dynamics Pro Race being the most popular), and while there’s no doubt that these are fi ne, lightweight alloys in their own right, they aren’t exactly a rare sight on bright blue Astra VXRs. In the end Bryn bit the bullet and fitted some Team Dynamics (though they weren’t Pro Race 1.2s) and ran them for several months, only deciding that they needed to go when he took the fairly drastic step of fitting an air suspension kit to the car.
“That wasn’t a decision I took lightly but I can honestly say it’s been one of the best modifications on the car, and one that’s made it a whole lot more usable.”
First, a bit of background. A set of posh Bilsteins found their way under the arches within weeks of Bryn’s name appearing on the V5, all wound down about as far they could go with the ‘helper’ springs removed. The resulting ride was, perhaps unsurprisingly, crashy and deeply uncomfortable. Throw in the fact that he kept gouging his splitter on all but the most pathetic of speed bumps and it becomes all too clear why Bryn eventually went all out and had Plush Automotive fit an air kit with twin 400cc compressors, Air Lift Performance struts and HPDT rear bags. Bryn admits that yes, he did have some concerns about compromising the poise and handling of his VXR, but the air kit has so far proved much better than the previously mentioned Bilsteins. “The only real issue associated with the kit was that it meant I had to change wheels,” he recalls. “Yeah the Team Dynamics were nice and very lightweight but they weren’t exactly a ‘show wheel’ and I thought they looked out of place on such a low car.”
So what did he opt for? In the end Bryn took advice from his friend, a man with something of a thing for high-end wheels and someone who took him to Auto Werks, a local firm specialising in posh alloys in all manner of fitments. The Astra’s PCD isn’t exactly god’s gift to fitting fancy wheels but there were options and Bryn finally plumped for the rims that grace the car here, stunning 20in Vossen CVTs with their faces ceramic polished. Not only do these wheels stand out from the more commonly seen Team Dynamics, 3SDMs and Rotiforms, they also fitted perfectly right out of the box and with no need for arch work.
This is one of those cars that really shouldn’t look as good as it undoubtedly does, and if you’d asked us beforehand whether fitting air suspension to an Astra J VXR was a good thing we’d probably have replied in the negative. Yet it does, and then some. Part of that’s down to the fact that seeing such a new car on its belly is a novel thing, though the extensive programme of smoothing, shaving and deleting that Bryn’s put the car through also plays a part. Flushing the boot was one of the more challenging aspects here, mainly because on the latest VXR the Vauxhall badge actually serves as the release mechanism so deleting it involved fitting a boot popper at the same time. Both front and rear bumpers were given the same treatment, while any chrome trims were relegated to the bin and replaced with perfect paint. It’s all very subtle and won’t be spotted unless you’re a fully paid up VXR perv, but then perhaps that’s the best indication of smoothing done well.
This has been a fast paced build, with the car taking shape over the course of a year or so, but he’s already working on a custom centreexit exhaust, some other exterior details and, when the package is available, more power. Fair play!
Smoothing the badge (and boot release) was hassle but the results speak for themselves.
TECH SPEC: #Vauxhall-Astra-VXR / #Vauxhall-Astra / #Vauxhall / #Opel-Astra / #Vauxhall-Astra-Mk6 / #Vauxhall-Astra-VXR-Mk6 / #Opel-Astra-J / #Vauxhall-Astra-VXR-R
TUNING 2.0 #A20NFT with Throney Motorsport Stage 3 #VXR-R package and Stage 3 remap, #Thorney-Motorsport panel filter, Pace front mount intercooler, Piper sports cat, #Flow-Dynamics cat back exhaust system, #Forge front lower brace.
STYLING Astra J VXR in #Arden-Blue , smoothed front and rear bumpers, smoothed boot with boot pop relocated, dechromed, colour coded roof rails, smoked rear lights, tinter windows, black sun strip.
CHASSIS Air Lift suspension setup comprising #AccuAir #AccuAir-E-Level management, twin 400cc compressors, performance #AirLift front struts, #HDPT rear bags, 4 gallon seamless tank, I-level, #Bilstein rear shocks, 20in #Vossen CVT with ceramic polished faces, 235/30x20 Nankang NS-2, #Brembo four pots, Hel braided hoses.
INTERIOR Full leather #VXR interior with blue stitching and custom blue seat belts, one off boot build with x2 compressors, x1 tank and colour changing LED lighting.
THANKS Richard, John at Thorney Motorsport, Dave at Auto Werx, Luke at Plush Automotive, Si at Still Static, Dan at Flow Dynamics, Mo Miah at Specialist Tint ltd, Stuart at Ultra Finish, Slammed UK and Sump Scrapers.
“Stunning Vossen CVTs with their faces ceramic polished”
Blue belts are an awesome detail Plush Automotive install is a quality affair as always Vossens will get more popular in 2016.
First Vauxhall: A Grasshopper Green 1400 Sri.
Worst part of the build: Probably the bit that’s ongoing – trying to sort the centre exit exhaust!
Best part of the build: Dropping it down right after fitting the air suspension.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationTHORNEY MOTORSPORT’S #BMW / #BMW-F82 M4 / #BMW-M4-F82-Thorney-Motorsport / #Thorney-Motorsport / #BMW-M4-Thorney-Motorsport / #BMW-M4-F82 / #BMW-M4 / #2015 /
Okay, so we’ve done some minor handling upgrades, we’ve done some minor visual upgrades but when it comes to tuning cars for a lot of people there is only one word worth thinking about: power. Now everyone wants to know what sort of power increases we can get with the M4 but before I get to that I think its worth explaining what it is we do to generate more power from these cars and also the ways in which it can be done.
A car’s power comes from the ECU, the computer that controls everything from ignition timing, boost, fuelling, airflow etc and as with all computers they run on a program that dictates these parameters. So when we remap a car what we are doing is reprogramming some of these areas to generate different outcomes. The art is knowing what to do and also what not to do – that comes from experience and also from testing, testing and more testing.
Its for this reason that Thorney-Motorsport is rarely the first to release power upgrades on new models. For a start we won’t develop something on a car that we don’t actually own; we prefer to take our time and work on our own cars to develop and test the product so when we do release it it’s better than anyone else’s and it’s a process that works very well.
When the M4 was first released within weeks there was a plethora of ‘tuning boxes’ released all adding power to the car. Now the reason for this is that initially the tuning industry (worldwide) wasn’t able to crack the encryption so the simplest solution was to ignore it and add a separate ECU in line to the system to adjust the ECU output rather than change it. Now generally we are not fans of tuning boxes, for the most part all they do is take the signal from the car’s ECU and change it (boost, usually) to give you more power but the car itself knows nothing so if there is an issue, it will carry on assuming that it’s running stock boost which isn’t great. In the short term some of these can work well but we tend to use them only as a last resort; our preferred aim is always to remap the ECU itself.
Now remapping (reprogramming) the ECU is relatively straightforward. To get down to the nitty gritty of it, it’s an excel spreadsheet where you can change numbers to change characteristics of the car’s power delivery. A lot of ‘mappers’ will expound the idea that it’s magic, that they possess some kind of demonic power to program where others do not but the fact of the matter is that the process is quite straightforward. The devil is in knowing what to do and what not to do, and that only comes from experience. It’s like any software; do you want the Beta version or one that has been tried and tested on multiple platforms so you know it does what it says it will do? That’s why we have only just released our own M4 maps; our extensive testing procedures take time!
So, enough of the boring stuff, what can we do? Well, it’s a turbocharged car so the answer is, a lot. An awful lot. A Stage 1 ECU remap (stock car, no other mechanical changes) will gain you over 60hp over standard, bringing the M4 power up to 490hp with a torque increase of nearly 100lb ft from 3000-5000rpm. In short, the car is now a rocket! We’ve had some power runs over 520hp on the standard exhaust but have limited it to under 500hp to keep things cooler. A lot of the development has been creating a map that allows this power to be delivered. A sudden injection of power is going to make the car undriveable so we’ve spent a lot of time making sure the power delivery is smooth and controllable as well as limiting the torque in lower rpms to protect the DSG gearbox, so it now feels faster all of the time but no less violent (it’s actually smoother in that regard). We’ve also spent a lot of time keeping the heat under control. The chargecooler works hard enough as it is, so running more power means we need to be especially careful in keeping heat under control, which we do with clever use of fuelling and ignition timing so the car runs no hotter on the road than standard. To ensure this we have kept the power relatively low. We can gain more with changes to cooling and the exhaust… but that comes later!
The net result is a genuine 500hp monster that will even beat our 600hp X5M down the drag strip which, considering the X5M is AWD not rear-wheel drive, is impressive. The more we do to this car the better it gets.
CONTACT Thorney Motorsport / www.thorney.ms / 01280 850102Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.