We spend a lot of time scouring the world for compelling feature car material. So in some cases we might become too distracted with goings-on across the ocean and miss some of the relevant happenings occurring right here under our noses. In this case, it's at an outfit called EAS, which happens to be located nearly literally in our own backyard.
European Auto Source, EAS, has been doing business out of Southern California for five years, three of those in neighboring Santa Ana (about 10 miles or so from the ec offices). Its specialty is BMW tuning, most recently the 135i and E90-series M3. EAS is a development partner with various other aftermarket outlets, some of which we'll examine shortly, as well as sole distributor of Macht Schnell BMW performance products. The main focus is what the company calls "OEM plus" upgrades, a term we've used in the magazine before. That is, upgrades that are either available directly from the European market, generally special options or equipment that don't normally make the transition to the American market, or aftermarket performance upgrades, like the Macht Schnell brand, that emphasize function over form-or shall we say, function over "bling."
These two vehicles in particular showcase a good portion of what EAS has been up to lately.
EAS E92 M3
supercharged And Ready To Rock
Like the E46 before it, the E90-series M3 has slowly begun to inundate the European scene, and let's face it, a lot of them look uninspiringly similar and are beginning to blend together. The EAS E92 remains distinctive for a couple of reasons. First is the color, the one-year-only Sparkling Graphite Metallic. This was replaced after 2008 by Space Gray, and unlike that color, which is really a true neutral gray, it has a bit of purple and blue mixed in to lend the overall appearance a sort of hue-shifting quality. Obviously this isn't the only car BMW sold wearing this paint, but it's rare enough to trick some people into thinking it's a custom treatment. And it still turns heads.
Strangely enough, the other notable feature is the car's relative absence of cosmetic modifications. Outside of maybe wheels, the trunklid is the only truly overt aesthetic mod made to the outside of this car. It's a piece drawn from the Ericsson line of aerodynamics from the Japanese high-end body treatment company Amuse. EAS staff admit the piece offers no weights savings, and they're not normally given to replacing parts strictly for appearance's sake. But we feel the lid complements the edgy lines of the E92 more effectively than the popular and vastly more ubiquitous "CSL-style" lids derived from the heyday of the E46.
Other more subtle exterior mods include "BlackOut" treated kidney grilles and fender gills, along with AngeliBright headlamp upgrades, which are themselves functional as they reportedly double the O.E. lamp haloes' brightness.
Aesthetic mods inside the cabin are just as sparse and subtly placed, chiefly the matte-finish 1x1 "checkerboard" carbon weave applied to the door panel and dash inserts, the steering wheel, and the center console.
Speaking of the steering wheel, it's a direct replacement unit from BMW Performance. Ergonomically shaped, it features a few electronic doo-dads like shift lights, oil and water temperature readings, and a lap timer. EAS has also placed its own signature gauge housing in the factory ashtray location, complete with Stri instrumentation reading boost, water and oil temperatures.
Boost? you'll be wondering. Boost indeed-the most recent addition to the EAS E92 is a VF Engineering Stage 1 supercharger system. This is fed by Macht Schnell scoops positioned stealthily behind the kidney grilles to direct air into the VFE induction system. The exhaust tract has been uncorked with a Macht Schnell X-pipe and high-flow catalyst setup, terminating in Remus mufflers and polished, logo-branded tips. The whole is made to work in harmony with custom GIAC software.
The chassis has been dropped over a set of matte-black VMR VB3 alloys, 19-inch's worth front and rear, using KW Variant 3 coilovers. The Variant 3s include fore and aft EDC code "isolators" to preclude factory electronic damping system fault codes, and although this negates the EDC's three-way adjustability, the coilovers themselves retain individual height adjustment and 14-way compression damping (though you'd have to physically get up underneath the car to make your adjustments).
On-road grip is maintained by Yokohama Advan AD08 rubber, measuring 265mm wide in front and 295mm in the rear.
Behind the mesh-style VMR wheels, the factory brakes have been swapped for race-bred AP Racing hardware: Six-piston calipers and 368mm slotted rotors in front, four-piston calipers and 356mm rotors in back. While Brembo seems to get all the press in the States, AP is big in Europe and a major supplier to top-gun competition series like F1, DTM, WRC, and LMS. These are hands down the coolest brakes we've seen on a new M3.
Electronic mods include the Mods4Cars remoteKEY module, a trick piece of circuit-work that allows operation of the power windows and sunroof using the key module, as well as the power folding mirrors. There's also a Macht Schnell TPMS emulator, which facilitates quick wheel/tire swaps without throwing the tire pressure sensors into a frenzy. The sole audio modification is a mObridge iPod integration kit, which expands on the somewhat lame OEM integration, expanding playlist capabilities with a larger data processor and providing charging capability for the iPod unit (not present with the O.E. setup).
A Braille "No Weight" lightweight race battery powers the system, sunk into the trunk inside the well where a spare tire might live. It is secured by a heavy-duty Macht Schnell anodized billet battery enclosure. While the tiny Braille wouldn't really hold up to frequent periods of inactivity, this setup is useful for the sometime track-day enthusiast looking for every bit of weight savings; the battery brace/battery combination saves some 40 pounds over the OEM power source.
2008 BMW M3
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
4.0-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve. VFE Stage 1 supercharger system, Macht Schnell intake scoops, Macht Schnell X-pipe with high-flow catalysts, Remus mufflers, GIAC software
Six-speed manual, Rogue short shift kit
KW Variant 3 coilovers
AP Racing six-piston calipers with 368mm rotors (f), AP Racing four-piston calipers with 356mm rotors (r), stainless lines, Macht Schnell Line Lock kit
Wheels & Tires
VMR VB3, 9.5x19 (f), 10x19 (r)
Yokohama Advan AD08, 265/30 (f), 295/30 (r)
BlackOut kidney grilles and fender gills, Angelibright headlamps, Ericsson trunk lid
BMW Performance steering wheel, Recaro Pole Position sport seats, Macht Schnell Floormount brackets, Macht Schnell gauge panel with Stri instrumentation, EAS matte-finish carbon trim, Macht Schnell battery bracket with Braille B2317 "No Weight" battery (r)
Peak Power: 610 hp
Peak Torque: 430 lb-ft
Drive it to the track, drive it back home
At the international 135i Coupe launch two years ago, the BMW 1 Series was nothing new to Europe. It had already been sold there going on three years in hatchback form. People over here though went batshit-crazy, partly due to sneaky advertising that touted the Coupe's advent as the "2002's second coming."
In our opinion, not so much; the new-generation 1 Series was marginally lighter and less expensive than a comparable 3 Series, and an out-of-the-box track-day weapon it was not. But there was little doubt it had great potential with a bit of post-factory tweaking, especially considering this launch marked the first time the 300-hp, sequential-turbo straight six would be implanted in a 1 Series platform, here or there.
This, then, might be the car American purists were dreaming of, EAS's version of the 135i.
GIAC Stage 2 software pushes boost to a max potential of 17 psi (stock is 7). To keep the engine running cool under such duress, the intake tract has been fitted with a Macht Schnell Dual Cone Intake, or DCI, fed by Macht Schnell intake scoops similar to those on the EAS M3. The augmented intake charge is expedited by a Macht Schnell intake charge pipe (providing a purported 50-percent flow increase over the cramped and kinked stock unit). Excess boost is expelled into the atmosphere using heavy duty Forge diverter valves, while the induction system is chilled further using a Snow Performance Stage 2 methanol injection kit with a progressive controller that ups the cooling effect as boost increases. Spray begins at 4 psi and moves quickly to maximum output at 7. An Evolution Racewerks Competition Series front-mount intercooler core is placed up front and low in the bumper to complete the forced induction efficiency mods.
On the engine's far side, Macht Schnell stainless downpipes evacuate the spent combustion gases. These units currently lack catalysts and are for the time being recommended for off-road (track) use only, although EAS says that pipes fitted with high-flow cats are currently being considered for development.
The exterior and interior are as understated as those of the M3. The former features BlackOut kidneys in front and smoked LED side markers. KW V3 coilovers drop the body over VMR VB3s, pretty much identical to the rollers on the E92. And as on the M3, these too are wrapped with Yokohama Advan AD08 rubber.
On the inside, the 135 is also fitted with a BMW sport wheel, Recaro Pole Position bucket seats trimmed in leather and Alcantara and attached to the floorboard with Macht Schnell floor mounts. The seatbelt interface is also fitted with a Macht Schnell Occupancy Sensor Emulator (as does the M3) to delete the annoying "please buckle your seatbelt" alerts. The back seat has been deleted entirely to save more weight and for future race harness provisions.
Electronics mods include the aforementioned Mods4Cars remoteKEY module, Macht Schnell TPMS emulator, mObridge iPod integration, and the MS battery enclosure/Braille battery sunk in the bottom of the trunk.
2008 BMW 135i
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
3.0-liter I6, dohc, 24-valve, turbocharged and intercooled. Macht Schnell intake scoops, Macht Schnell Dual Cone Intake, Snow Performance Stage 2 methanol injection kit, Evolution Racewerks Competition Series front-mount intercooler, Macht Schnell Intake Charge Pipe with Forge diverter valves, Macht Schnell stainless steel downpipes
KW Variant 3 coilovers
Wheels and Tires
VMR VB3, 8.5x18 (f), 9.5x18 (r)
Yokohama Advan AD08, 225/45 (f), 245/40 (r)
BlackOut kidney grilles, smoked LED side markers
BMW Performance steering wheel, Recaro Pole Position sport seats, Macht Schnell floormount brackets, Macht Schnell battery enclosure with Braille B2317 "No Weight" battery (r)
Peak Power: 432 hp
Peak Torque: 453 lb-ft
*GIAC data, measured at wheels