All our customer projects have a set of objectives, and often a theme, and this one is no exception. This customer wanted a stunning, show quality car, that also had some more GO to it to complement its looks. We would often then select from a wide diversity of our quality suppliers, but this time, the customer wanted to go mostly the OEM route. BMW is one of the few car manufacturers that has decided to get into the aftermarket performance parts market. They delved into the market in about 2008, and have been expanding their offerings each year. The BMW E9x 335i came out in 2007, and was a perfect target for BMW to develop and expand their BMW Performance product offerings. They now have products that tick most of the normal upgrade boxes: (1) engine performance, (2) wheels, (3) exterior body enhancements (4) exhaust (5) interior enhancements. Our customer would take advantage of almost all of these from BMW Performance in this project, plus add those additional elements to truly make this project complete.
You think the interior on a BMW is nice to begin with, but BMW Performance offers some nice upgrade options. The customer elected to have the full Carbon Fiber (CF) interior trim set added. This is a very high quality CF kit, not one that you need to worry about the clear coat fading or cracking over time, or the original quality not matching the original OEM look and fit. Fit is perfect, the look is stunning, and the kit includes the front dash, the door trim elements, and the complete center console (front and rear sections).
BMW Performance has gone one step farther than just doing the interior trim. They have created several different performance steering wheels. You can get just a standard steering wheel w alcantara cover, or a different shaped steering wheel w alcantara covering, or even one with built-in shift lights and data display. Our customer wanted the full effect, and selected the BMW steering wheel w alcantara and data display. The steering wheel also offers the option to have the center element of the steering wheel (normally thought of as the multi-function area) also covered in alcantara. Again, the fit is perfect, the electronics are all “plug and play”, you maintain the airbag feature, and the feel is something you cherish every time you drive the car. (NOTE – you’ll see in the images below, we had completed the steering wheel install after the interior trim, but before the center console section, which was done later).
If we are going to do the interior, then, as a complete project, we need to upgrade the exterior as well. BMW Performance parts are available for the exterior as well, including the front spoiler / splitter, front grills, rear trunk lip spoiler, and rear diffuser. To these, we added some more elements: front body colored side markers, matching front BMW hood emblem in all black.
One piece that is just REALLY cool, and simple, but adds that full BMW OEM touch is the door light. This is the light in the base of the door, that when the door is open, displays and lights up the ground, to help you see at night and make getting in and out of the car easier. But, rather than just have a standard LED light, you can now have the BMW Roundel emblem display on the ground….how cool is that??
The car is a later model E92…or called the E92 LCI version, so the car came with the newer LED rear tail lights.
Therefore, we needed to add the upgraded (aftermarket) LED angel eyes to match the lighting look of the car.
Engine Bay – Trim
This element is not about performance, this is about WHAM! The “oh my gosh” type of upgrade, that truly makes the project unique and amazing. There are lots of intakes for the BMW N55 engine. Most look like they do something, but don’t really help. Some represent themselves as “cold air intakes” (CAI), but actually are worse than stock. The original BMW engine intake comes w air scopes positioned right above the radiator, to help direct that forced, cold air into the intake system. So, if you instead implement an air intake that is only exposed air filters in the engine bay, and you know that the BMW Turbo engine puts out a lot of heat..how is that supposed to help. So, we wanted a truly functional cold air intake, but also one that would look the part of the rest of the car. Conversely, if you ask most BMW owners what the nicest looking intake system on the market is, they will say Gruppe M. Most don’t want to pay the price tag for the Gruppe M system, but this project cried out for just that. The system is functional, is a true cold air system, and just is STUNNING in its looks. To make this even more functional, we added a set of RPi front intake scoops. A turbo engine gets hungry for air, we needed to feed the beast that lies within.
Staying with the BMW Performance parts catalog approach, the easy first step was to select the BMW Performance Power Kit. The kit includes updated engine management software and some additional cooling elements to properly maintain the cool of the engine. The good news about this type of approach, is that you maintain the BMW warranty, and for California customers, you get the of so needed “CARB” sticker for state compliance. If you go the BMW Power Kit approach, you do get a good jump in power, but not as much as some of the aftermarket tunes. So, we wanted the best of both worlds, so decided to add those natural other elements to help the engine perform better within the parameters of the new BMW tune….lets keep the turbo charge cool –> meaning, lets add a bigger and better intercooler, and, lets help the turbo’s spin, spool, and not struggle to exhail –> downpipes. We choose the ER (Evolution RaceWerks) intercooler. There are several facets / features to concern yourself with when selecting an intercooler…and its not just which one is the biggest, or the deepest. The specific factors are those that have the best drop in incoming vs outgoing “delta T” values (biggest drop in air charge temperature drop), and which ones at the same time, have the lowest “delta P” values. Lowest drop in pressure from entry to exit. On the “delta P” values, you need to think about more than just the measure across the radiator or heat exchanger section….where many IC’s get poorly implemented is in the end tanks and the flow into and out of the heat exchanger. For every change in flow direction, there is a loss in velocity and pressure….and a crude rule of thumb in CFD (computational fluid dynamics), is every 90 degree change in flow direction is a loss of 12% efficiency (we can put the CFD equation here if desired)….and another factor is the length of the pipe run. You will hear many manufacturers of how deep their IC is….that is not a critical element. We can even get into the design of the actual tubes within the IC and their effectiveness for heat transfer…..but, too much talk here about the engineering. The net….we like the ER IC and have used it in many cars w great results.
The next part is the downpipe. The OEM downpipe has CA legal catalytic convertors, so, flow thru the “cats” is not great. Also, BMW made the OEM pipes to be easy to install and easy to manufacture….the parameter of it being the best flowing pipe was not as high on their objective list. Our priority is a better flowing pipe….so, size, shape, and the cell count in the “cat” were critical. We have run “catless” pipes, but that was outside the parameters of this project, as we hope to be able to still pass CA smog requirements. The best down pipe in our view is the AR Design pipe. Not only is the quality, design tops, and fitment / clearance is great, but they think through the complete kit, including the upgraded exhaust gaskets.
Evolution RaceWerks Front Mount Intercooler (FMIC)
BMW N54 Single Turbo AR Design “Down Pipe” – compared to the stock BMW version
There are many ways to go w suspension. Almost all of them create new benefits, but often w a matching set of trade offs when it comes to street cars. If this were a pure track car, then the decisions become more guided by budget than product selection, but when we are dealing with a daily driven street car, too often the decision is made more in the direction of performance, but, with the car hardly ever able to exercise that feature, the draw back is not worth the price. BMW, when they designed the car made the car for the mass public, many of whom could care less about driving performance, really. But, at the same time, BMW realized that a segment of their customer base did indeed desire a higher level of driving experience, so they created the BMW Performance Suspension Kit. That is what we implemented for this car, a new set of sport springs (front and rear), a new set of performance struts / shocks, that are valved to match the upgraded spring rate of the new springs, and a stiffer anti-roll bar to keep the car flatter under cornering loads.
In driving, the kit achieves the objective…better, crisper handling, a slightly lower more aggressive stance, yet a ride that can still take the beating from our wonderful freeways and roads without breaking your back or the car.
If you ever talk to a car owner who has been down the upgrade path, you will often here them talk of the slippery slope….well, that’s exactly what we have here.? This customer wanted to start w the BMW Performance Suspension upgrade…and we did (see all the notes and pics above).? However, once installed and driven, that moved the focus from the first set of objectives to a new set…as the upgrades unearthed a set of issues.? As you firm up the suspension, the highlights often move to the next set of elements that are too soft….in this case, it was all the suspension and sub-frame bushings.? The front sub-frame is fine, but the rear has been an issue for both the BMW E82 135i chassis, and the BMW E9x 335i chassis.? Early on, the only option was to move to the BMW E9x M3 sub-frame bushings, as they were readily available, and fit, and were stiffer (higher durameter).? The good news is that time has moved on, and many others have the same need, and the market responded.? For this project, as again, this is not a track car, we choose the Powerflex polyurethane rear sub-frame bushings.? They come in two firmness options, street (YELLOW) or track (BLACK). Consistent w the objectives for this customer, we selected YELLOW.? But, there are more than just the sub-frame bushings if you are trying to get the squirm and mushiness out of the car. There are all the actual suspension bushings.? Again, there are now many options, but consistent w this project, we selected the BMW E93 suspension pieces where they added a benefit…the front lower control arm (not only stiffer bushings, but also just slightly longer, and as a result, you get a tad more negative camber due to the length of the arm vs the stock arm), the front tension / thrust arm, the rear upper dog bones (guide links), and the rear toe link.
Here is a look at the new suspension pieces to be installed on the car:
– BMW E9x M3 front tension / thrust arms (stiffer bushings)
– BMW E9x M3 front lower control arms (stiffer bushings, slightly longer in length = more negative camber)
– BMW E9x M3 rear upper dog bones or guide links (stiffer bushings)
– BMW E9x M3 front and rear sway bars (larger, stiffer, and stiffer sway bar bushings)
– BMW E9x M3 front strut brace
– DINAN rear adjustable toe links (adjustable, stiffer / solid bushings)
You can always identify the M3 parts as they are all stamped w the famous “M” logo…these are the rear upper dog bones (guide links, as part of the 5-link rear suspension)
For the rear toe link, we not only wanted to firm up the bushings, but we wanted to add more range of adjustment….and now, DINAN has a perfect set of adjustable rear toe links.
The piece that probably more people know about than any other is the rear sub-frame bushings.? The stock E82 or E9x 3series rear sub-frame bushings are too soft, and allow the whole rear end of the car to move around when put under load.? The good news is all of these cars use the same sub-frame….so the better BMW E9x M3 bushings would fit right in.? But, getting the old stock BMW bushings out and the new M3 bushings in is a huge PAIN….as the new rear bushings can only be pressed in from the top, which means you need to drop the rear sub-frame a long ways to provide the access needed, and then you need special tools as well.? The aftermarket has been smart to come along and offer alternatives…and their bushings are available in a variety of stiffness…allowing the customer to select exactly what they need, including for full race customers, solid bushings.? We use Powerflex is so many of our customer applications, and for good reason….they are well designed, they have a LIFETIME warranty, and they offer durameter stiffness options.? Here, we selected the “YELLOW” versions for this project.
BRracing – creating EXCITMENT