The BMW M3 has been a favorite of ours at european car since its first iteration way back in 1986. Currently on the fourth generation of the M3, BMW has offered three versions to choose from this time around, the E90 (4-door), E92 (2-door) and E93 (2-door convertible). All have certainly raised the bar in terms of power, handling, safety, comfort and styling. The current M3 is truly an amazing package straight from the dealership floor.

Going back in time and looking through the table of M3 Specifications, one can clearly see the increasing progression of wheelbase, length and width dimensions, and therefore increasing weight for each successive generation of M3. Fortunately, power has also increased, and it has done so at a rate greater than weight, thus the power to weight ratio is one of the only attributes that has actually decreased; that’s a good thing for gearheads.

The current M3 sports a 4.0-liter V8 that pumps out a scintillating 414 bhp at its 8300-rpm redline. This modern powerplant has a block that is built at the same light-alloy foundry that constructed the company’s Formula 1 blocks, which undoubtedly helped matters, as the complete V8 engine weighs 33 pounds less than the infamous S54 inline-six it replaced. In addition, features like double VANOS variable camshaft management and eight electronically controlled individual throttle butterflies contribute to its highly commendable 103.5 bhp/liter power output, and of course, its exotic motorsport inspired soundtrack.

As we know though, the M3 is not just about power, it is highly capable in the handling department, too. BMW’s engineers have ensured that even with the fourth generation’s increase in mass and dimensions that the characteristic “essence of M” has not been lost. The only caveat, due to the broad appeal of the M3 as brand, is that one has to press a couple of buttons to physically program the car for the true enthusiast. BMW is happy to sell one to anyone who wants one and deliver it with the “soft and subdued” default settings for the engine control map, suspension and DSC management; such is the price of success. However, I will admit that this does have some real-world advantages (such as making it easier to convince your spouse that you should be allowed to buy one).

As I commented above, the current M3 is quite an amazing package and it has been touted to be perhaps the world’s best all-round production car. But no matter how good any production car is, there is always something that can be done to make it even better. Which leads me to introduce our new project car. We’re beginning with a fresh Alpine White 2011 BMW M3 E90, a perfectly pure family man’s sports sedan. Rob Leech, the owner of the subject car is no stranger to performance modifications, as he is the proprietor of Tunerworks Performance in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, so perhaps Rob has a bit of a leg up on most of us here, for the project at hand.

It is interesting to note that at last count Rob has owned over 50 different cars since passing his driver’s test many moons ago. One can easily read between the lines here and surmise that he gets bored fairly frequently when it comes to his rides. However, Rob is known for his strong tendency towards cars with German origins—his fascination for forced induction and his special “affliction” to 3 Series BMWs (see sidebar “Politically Incorrect” for one of his more understated, yet outrageous creations). This time around though, with a young family to haul around town, he will take a more refined approach; but that doesn’t mean that his new M3 will be lacking in all-out performance. This thing will be fast, very fast.

In the next installment, we’ll get right to the task at hand with both full brake and suspension upgrades in one giant leap.

2011 BMW M3 E90

Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive

4.0-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve

Six-speed manual

McPherson struts (f), five-link (r), antiroll bars

Two-piston calipers (f), single-piston calipers (r), ventilated and cross-drilled rotors

Length/Width/Height (in): 180.3/71.5/57.0
Wheelbase: 108.7 in.
Curb Weight: 3,725 lb

MSRP: $56,275 (base price)

Peak Power: 414 hp @ 8300 rpm
Peak Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
0-62 mph: 4.5 sec.
Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)

M3 Specifications

Gen-1 M3
ModelE30 1986-91
Body style2-door coupe
2-door convertible
Engine2.3L I4
Power (U.S.)192 bhp
Transmission5-speed manual
Wheelbase101.1 in (2,568 mm)
Length171.1 in (4,346 mm)
Width66.1 in (1,679 mm)
Height53.9 in (1,369 mm)
Curb weight2,865lb (1,300 kg)
Power/weight14.9 lbs/bhp

Gen-2 M3
ModelE36 1992-99
Body style2-door coupe
2-door convertible
4-door sedan
Engine3.2L I6
Power (U.S.)240 bhp
Transmission5-speed manual
5-speed auto
Wheelbase106.3 in (2,700mm)
Length174.5 in (4,432 mm)
Width67.3 in (1,709 mm)
Height52.6 in (1,336 mm)
Curb weight3,219 lb (1,460 kg)
Power/weight13.4 lbs/bhp

Gen-3 M3
ModelE46 2001-05
Body style2-door coupe
2-door convertible
Engine3.2L I6
Power (U.S.)333 bhp
Transmission6-speed manual
6-speed SMG
Wheelbase107.5 in (2,731 mm)
Length176.9 in (4,493 mm)
Width70.1 in (1,781 mm)
Height 54.0 in (1,372 mm)
Curb weight3,415 lb (1,549 kg)
Power/weight10.3 lbs/bhp

Gen-4 M3
ModelE90/92/93 2007-
Body style2-door coupe
2-door convertible
4-door sedan
Engine4.0L V8
Power (U.S.)414 bhp
Transmission6-speed manual
6-speed M-DCT
Wheelbase108.7 in (2,761 mm)
Length181.8 in (4,618 mm)
Width71.7 in (1,821 mm)
Height54.2 in (1,377 mm)
Curb weight3,704 lb (1,680 kg)
Power/weight8.95 lbs/bhp

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By Doug Neilson
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