The Track Rat: ESS Supercharged BMW M3

Posted by: Shelton Kwan onJuly 30th, 2014

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Driving a heavily modified car the first time always scares me a little. Hell, even my own turbo M3 project was sketchy to drive at different phases of the build. One day the car would double its horsepower, and it would be weeks later before the brakes were upgraded to try and keep up. Even though this M3 has progressed through multiple stages of upgrades over the years, I must have hit the sweet spot. The performance envelope in every department has been improved to a degree that the balance of the package felt like it rolled off the factory floor.

From the factory, the E9X M3’s wouldn’t exactly blow your mind in a straight line, especially at our elevation. You really have to rev the crap out of the car to get moving at a decent pace. With the ESS supercharger, the entire torque curve is moved upwards. It’s not tire shredding torque, but it’s very easy to lay the power down progressively and smoothly. Give it a little more abuse, and it’ll be more than happy to lay a patch until the top of second gear on a hot day. Blasting out of a corner? The throttle is very easy to modulate to deliver the exact amount of power out of a curve with just a hint of oversteer.

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Of course, it’s often overlooked how much braking consistency a car requires, especially one of this pedigree. Sure, you might be able to stop from 200km/h within a safe distance, but how many times can you do it? With the car delivering so much more power than stock, the brakes will be tested hard, especially at the track. No problems here, the brakes can easily overcome the tire’s grip limits under deceleration at any speed. It’s nice being able to trigger ABS at high speeds, providing a reassuring feeling that there’s more than enough braking available, which builds up driver confidence.

One thing about the M3, though, is that they’ve always felt a little tame for me when it comes to handling. There’s light understeer as you approach the grip limits, and the front end is a little weak. In this M3, everything just works, and boy does it work well. Helped by the KW V3s, gobs of negative camber, and lots of tire front and rear, there’s more overall grip, there’s more turn-in, the front end bites hard into turns and on transitions (although I would have preferred a tighter steering ratio), and the rear end is securely planted. Of course, there is enough torque if you want to compete in a Formula D event, but that’s not really the point of this car. As you power out of the corner, the rear tires give up grip so smoothly and so progressively that I overcompensated on the countersteer for a bit of a jerky recovery. I’ve been way too used to driving cars that demand razor sharp response, while this M3 can be finessed into the coolest of slides with only one hand on the steering wheel, as Jason so expertly demonstrated behind the wheel.

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