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
KW Variant 3 coilovers
Brembo GT assemblies, six-piston calipers (f), four-piston calipers (r)
Wheels and Tires
Vorsteiner V-306, 9.5x20 (f), 10.5x20 (r); driver side
Vorsteiner V-305, 9.5x20 (f), 10.5x20 (r); passenger side
Michelin Pilot Sport PS2, 245/30 (f), 295/25 (r)
Vorsteiner GTS3 carbon bumper with one-piece race spoiler, Vorsteiner VRS LCI carbon boot lid, Vorsteiner VRS Type II rear diffuser
BMW Performance steering wheel and carbon trim, Vorsteiner floor and trunk mats
Peak Power: 600 hp @ 5300 rpm
Peak Torque: 400 lb-ft @ 2300 rpm
0-62 mph: 4.0 sec.
Top Speed: 180 mph
Flanking Larry Castor's stunning BMW M3 was yet another, this one an E92. Although lacking the supercharged development of its four-door sibling, it was nonetheless another striking example of tuner art. Its body panels have been augmented with Vorsteiner's new line of ultra-lightweight aerodynamics, including the front and rear bumpers, hood and trunk lid, and lower front spoiler and rear diffuser.
A few years ago Vorsteiner was pretty good at the aerodynamic styling game. Today they seem hell-bent on getting better, a lot better. Many of these parts are of genuine autoclave manufacture, rendering them impossibly light, yet very strong. So good is the quality, in fact, that Vorsteiner has been working directly with BMW dealers who install the components much like factory pieces. For decades, European dealers have been doing the same thing with select tuners.
Vorsteiner has recently introduced several new wheel designs, including the V-102 forged monoblocks present on this car. Although the jury was split on their aesthetics, the V-102s looked sensational at speed, like the multi-blade prop of a WWII warbird.
Vorsteiner had also equipped this M3 with GIAC software and a VTS titanium exhaust. The VTS system actually "grows" as it heats up, extending a good inch from its original length. The rich baritone it produces tells the world of its V8 intentions.
KW V3 coilovers lower the chassis about 0.75-inches and provide a substantially firmer ride than the stock. Sizable Stoptech binders inhabit each corner and provide both an improved pedal feel and terrific modulation.
Although the new V8-powered M3 has been referred to as a "baby M5," we don't quite see it that way. The car is very light on its feet and will carve canyons like a champ. The greatest difference with this car is the high degree of refinement, a fact not too difficult to accept.
2009 BMW M3
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
4.0-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve. GIAC software flash, Vorsteiner titanium exhaust
KW Variant 3 coilovers
Wheels And Tires
Vorsteiner V-102, 19-inch
Michelin Pilot Sport PS2, 245/35 (f), 285/30 (r)
Vorsteiner GTS3 carbon bumper with one-piece race spoiler, Vorsteiner GTS3 carbon diffuser, Vorsteiner GTS3 carbon hood with RPI air scoops, Vorsteiner VRS carbon boot lid, BMW Performance kidney grilles
Vorsteiner floor and trunk mats
Peak Power: 446 hp @ 8000 rpm
Peak Torque: 305 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
0-62 mph: 4.5 sec.
Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)