On Friday the 13th, Larry Castro was in a terrible accident, an event that totally destroyed his brand new E90 M3. While the superstitious might claim it was providence, Castro believes just the opposite.
"I was lucky," he says. "I probably would have been killed in a lesser car. The BMW did its job and saved my life."
When it came time for a replacement vehicle, Castro did not have to think very long. It would be another BMW. This one, though, would be special.
Working with the folks at Austin BMW in Texas, he ordered up another M3 and loaded it with every conceivable option (including sunroof delete). The Brilliant White paint is a rarity among 3 Series, as it is an expensive seven-step process typically saved for the 7 Series. The crew in Regensburg only paint one non-7 car per day in this hue, usually special orders like this M3.
Castro sent the Vorsteiner aerodynamic bits and Dinan parts to Austin BMW where his sales advisor, Matt Terranella, saw to their application. There's something to be said for having aftermarket parts applied at the dealer; factory-trained mechanics are not fond of installing less-than-perfect components. Apparently these pieces passed muster.
Castro took delivery and made a few more modifications, things like the BMW's Performance steering wheel and Alcantara interior touches by LeatherZ. By all accounts, he had created a damn fine car, an M3 without peer. Satisfied for all of a week, he began to look for more ways to extract even more performance, a quest that brought him to ESS Tuning in the Arizona desert.
Although based in the cold climes of Norway, ESS insists on subjecting its supercharger systems to extremes. Whether the frozen permafrost of Aremark or the scorching furnace of the Mojave Desert, each ESS system must behave as though it came from an OEM factory. That means functioning in extremes.
"I was extremely impressed with the level of development and testing ESS instills in its product," Castro says. "They put tens of thousands of miles on their development mules, pushing them beyond what even the most aggressive driver might do. They take a lot of time developing their systems and it shows. This car is an absolute blast. Once you hit 3000 rpm, hold on, because the car transforms into a beast. The power is delivered very smoothly and the DCT handles it all perfectly thanks to the custom ESS DCT software. It is night and day from the stock M3 and I don't know if I can ever go back now. I love the power, feel, sound, and can't stop smiling ear to ear."
From a cursory look, it appears ESS has done its homework. The supercharged M3 does indeed pull like mad, spinning the BMW's rear tires with abandon. Comprised of a Vortech V3Si blower, an ESS proprietary manifold, high-capacity liquid intercooler and ESS software, the remaining bits are of high, factory-like quality. We need to take a closer look at the ESS system in a future issue.
Castro's M3 wears unconventional running gear. One side is shod with Vorsteiner's three-piece V-305 wheels and the other its three-piece V-306 model. Though we typically do not advocate mixing wheels, we understand why Castro did it. Both sides have a decidedly singular look, especially with the big Brembo brakes thrown in the mix. One side has calipers treated with Lamborghini's Blu Cepheus, and the other Verde Ithica. Castro has essentially built two cars, depending on which side is viewed.
But guys like Castro are rarely satisfied for long. It's not that the performance isn't there (it's got gobs of the stuff), but more a question of the hobby itself. Cars, like the human brain, are not meant to be stationary. The fun is in forward motion. Plus, it beats the hell out of collecting stamps.
2009 BMW M3 "LCI" (E90)
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
4.0-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve. ESS Tuning Stage 2 supercharger, Dinan exhaust
Seven-speed DCT automated manual, ESS software