If wanting more power from your M3 is the problem, then that's a problem many of us would like to have. While no slouch at 414 hp, it is, nonetheless, something an owner can get used to. Fortunately for them, there are plenty of power parts that can take an M3 to that coveted, if cliché, "other level." While we have yet to see anyone turbocharge the M3's 4.0-liter V8, plenty of tuners have developed supercharger kits, one of them being ESS Tuning.
We featured a car with an ESS kit in a story about Vorsteiner's body mods for the E90 ("Apt Pupils," March 2010) but didn't have the opportunity to do a full writeup on the kit until now.
ESS started in Norway in 1995 with a small group of engineers and, according to their marketing literature, has since become the world's largest manufacturer of supercharger kits for BMWs. Their range is extensive, from the 1 Series to the Z4, with many older-generation models accounted for. The reason why they haven't had much coverage in the States is because they were so focused on engineering, it left them little time for marketing.
But that's changing now that they have a full-time marketing manager to get the word out. They've also benefited from viral, word-of-mouth marketing via forum chatter and videos of their cars outrunning seemingly faster competition on a Swedish airport runway.
The two M3s here take slightly different approaches to solving their power dilemmas. ESS offers E9x M3 owners five levels of power, from 535 to 625 hp, with the non-intercooled version at 535 hp and intercooled versions going from 550 to 625 hp, with boost levels, pulley sizes, injector sizes, ECU tuning and octane requirements being the differences between them. The black coupe here is fitted with their VT2-575 kit, good for, you guessed it, 575 hp, while the Brilliant White sedan runs a VT2-600 kit. All kits for the E9x M3s and other late-model vehicles are based around a Vortech V3Si supercharger.
Although the difference between the two is only one pound of boost (5.5 vs. 6.5 psi) and 25 hp, they have different characteristics. This is mostly attributed to the sedan's use of a Dinan 3.62 rear differential, which gives it explosive quickness off the block, so much so that it requires some modulation to keep from spinning the tires. The trade-off from the shorter differential is a reduced top speed. ESS Tuning's director of marketing, Roman Zepeda, says the less-powerful, longer-geared black coupe will start reeling in the sedan at around 150 mph and eventually pass it. Dinan's literature says a slightly taller, 20-inch wheel/tire combo, like the setup the sedan is using, will slightly offset the shorter gearing.
The white sedan also uses two Dinan exhaust components. For track use, the owner swaps in Dinan's Racing Middle Exhaust and free-flow cat-back system. For daily driving, he uses a pair of high-flow cats and the aforementioned cat-back system.
As mentioned earlier, the car is Usain Bolt-like out of the hole, enough to snap my head back the first time I stepped into it. Power is delivered in one long, steeply rising, relentless surge that never wants to stop. Unlike some supercharger systems, both versions of this ESS kit never felt as though they ran out of air when approaching redline. It wouldn't be surprising to see them pull right through redline without fuss. As both cars were equipped with DCT transmissions, they also benefit from ESS' software massaging. The result is quicker, more positive engagement through the gears.