What you see on these pages is a classic battle of the old school vs. the new. In the blue corner we've got the reigning champ, the awesome E46 M3 and its high-revving 3.2-liter engine, paragon of in-line six-cylinder performance. But wait, there's more. Nik Saran of VF Engineering outfitted the car with an intercooled supercharger system enlarging the M3's generous power curve.
In the red corner, we have the new 335i, the first factory turbocharged BMW has produced in more than 30 years and bearing the latest in BMW technology, including new Precision Injection and double VANOS. And there's two-count 'em-two turbos beneath the hood, smallish units with reactive temperaments.
Although you could argue the E46 M3 is relatively dated, it could also be said that the car (and its brilliant engine) was ahead of its time. It only takes a few miles behind the wheel of an M3 to realize its brilliance. What ensues is an engaging, visceral thrill ride, one hell of a hard act to follow. Almost.
Whereas the M3 is raw and visceral, the 335i is serene and quietly confident. The big difference is the 335i doesn't seem like it's even trying. Does the term 'powerfully relaxed' make sense? Probably not, but that's the impression I got from the new BMW turbo.
VF Engineering M3If you're looking for a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool sports car, look no further than the VFE M3. Saran and company have done a fabulous job designing the supercharger system to work with the high-strung S40 engine. Running a modest 5.5 psi of boost, the Vortech supercharger exhales into a proprietary VFE intake manifold/plenum, an aluminum affair that replaces the factory's high-tech plastic unit and its assorted guts. VFE uses a charge-cooler (air-to-water) system, leaving the engine more resistant to heat soak, an absolute necessity for consistent boosted performance.
VFE has gone to great lengths ensuring its system is both robust and factory correct; basically, everything is overbuilt. The bracketry is wrought from heavy aircraft-quality aluminum and the piping is fabricated from the same crinkle-coated polypropylene BMW uses.
Clamps, fittings, idler pullies, oil lines and belts are also culled from BMW's parts bin. With the exception of the blower itself (gleaming chrome), the entire VFE kit appears to have been there since birth.
This M3 also wears a full set of Alcon brakes from our friends at Stasis Engineering. The front units are six-piston monoblock calipers with 14.4-inch two-piece rotors; the rears, four-piston monoblock calipers and 13-inch two-piece rotors. The Alcons are immensely powerful and benefit from being designed specifically for this application. In other words, this is not a one-size-fits-all, big-brake glamour kit. The Alcons are the real deal and their effectiveness is undisputed. Running gear is ultra-lightweight Volk Racing TE37 Limited Edition (18.5 pounds each). Their 19-inch diameter is offset with a diamond-cut lip and a unique inwardly angled configuration. The suspension underpinnings have been modified to include H&R RSS coilovers, a decidedly sporty set-up for aggressive street or moderate track use.