The M3 is scary at speed. If there’s one thing you want above 140mph it’s stability, confidence and road feel. What Drew’s M3 provides is how you’d imagine a blindfolded lap dance to be; exciting and smile-inducing, until you really start to wonder exactly what’s going on.

The front tires feel as if they’re levitating, and minor steering adjustments do nothing to correct your approach. Sometimes it wanders near the edge of the road but the only thing that gets you back on course is to let off the throttle. But this is a hard command to communicate between brain and foot when you’re enjoying the speed so much. It accelerates from 120-150mph with the urgency of an Evora S from 20-40. It… is… awesome.

Unfortunately, Arizona’s ludicrously hot desert afternoon isn’t all butterflies and rainbows. Remember we said this high horsepower modified car had no problems? Well, they did finally arrive, but it had nothing to do with what ESS fitted.

There’s a reason manufacturers do hot weather testing, because intense heat has a knack of destroying everything, and if a car does well in crazy heat, it’ll do fine anywhere.

After almost passing out from dehydration and too much sun exposure for a fair-skinned New Yorker, I stopped shooting to sprint up the road and get the AC pumping again. Approaching a gentle curve around 100mph, the power steering failed, making me really appreciate power steering in general.

Popping the hood, I saw the accessory belt dangling off the pulley, and the drive belt beginning to fray and entangle itself around scorching coolant tubes. But, hey, who needs AC and power steering in this weather?

Luckily for me, Dustin Newkirk from ESS Tuning volunteered to return the stricken stage 3 car back to the shop without AC, while I had a chilly stage 1 ESS supercharged M3 waiting for me to drive back.

Stage 1 ESS M3

Director of Sales for ESS Tuning, Roman Zepeda, has chosen to live in Arizona, in the heat I won’t stop complaining about, and has a jet-black M3 for his daily driver. “I love the performance and balance of the car,” he told us. “Plus the fact it can be used as a practical daily driver.”

Starting with the chassis, Roman tossed a set of KW Street Coilovers on the M3, giving it a forgiving but planted ride. For such an aggressive stance, it absorbs road imperfections like a Town Car, but with absolutely no body roll. He gave HRE the task of outfitting his ride with some aggressive P43SC wheels, which were as concave as physically possible.

While boost and horsepower are two of Roman’s favorite things, he chose to keep the car civilized with a healthy punch over the factory numbers. The stage 1 ESS VT1 kit makes 535hp, which is no slouch. In fact, it seems crazy that 535hp is the first stage for any forced-induction kit, but nobody’s complaining.

While the stage 3 car is completely bananas, stage 1 gets up and goes in a deceiving manner because Roman opted to keep the factory exhaust. So the V8 rumble is there, but it’s by no means invasive. There’s no road noise inside the cabin either, so everything happens without making a fuss.

Even better; this is a complete package. Slowing from triple-digit speeds is effortless with the AP Racing big-brake kit – a huge reassurance after Drew’s stage 3. So with its performance and balance, this is definitely how all M3s should be.

By Alex Bernstein
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