Racing Dynamics tunes a 3 Series to annoy M3s
Few cars are more ripe for tuning than the BMW 3 Series-near 50-50 weight distribution, rear drive, strong brakes, linear steering and torquey, creamy-smooth engines. To improve upon said attributes isn't easy, but Racing Dynamics has been re-mastering BMWs since way back, and the company's latest project is based on the current E46. RD ended up creating a slick piece that slots in easily above a stock 330i and just (barely) below the M3.
A more aggressive engine management program is paired up with RD Sport camshafts, RD's Cold Air Intake and stainless-steel Sport Exhaust system, and the pulleys that power the water pump and other accessories were swapped for larger and lighter pieces. The company claims the changes deliver 278 bhp and 226 lb-ft of torque.
Racing Dynamics also replaced the stock five-speed with an M3 six-speed transmission, which also called for a shorter driveshaft, and the final drive ratio was changed by using a shorter, Euro-spec 3.36 differential for better acceleration.
Handling was tightened up with a set of Bilstein PSS9 coilovers and Racing Dynamics' front (27mm) and rear (24mm) adjustable anti-sway bars. Stuffed into the wheelwells are 8.5x19-in. RD2 wheels with Continental SportContact tires, size 235/35-19. PBR brake pads handle the friction.
The company has long been known for offering high-quality and distinctive exterior pieces, and for the E46 it designed a front bumper cap that blends in well with the car's original lines but also separates it from other 3ers. Side skirts and a rear bumper cover complete what the company calls its Tornado Aerodynamic Package. Other tasteful and subtle accoutrements include a rear lip spoiler, rear window spoiler, European taillights, black window trim and a blacked-out front grille.
The engine is never at a loss for torque, making it seem bigger than 3.0 liters; there's plenty of top-end power as well. The Cold Air Intake emits a snarl and then a growl as the revs build and the breathing gets heavier. Shifts are solid, short and well-defined.
The beauty of any well-sorted 3er is its handling, and this is where the Racing Dynamics setup makes a stock M3 feel out of shape. The balance still leans slightly toward understeer, but the front tires give up much later. Reaction and response to directional changes are quick without being darty. The car immediately sets up for the next corner with minimal roll and encourages you to work up to its limits. The Bilstein PSS9s can be considered perfect if you like a firm, well-controlled ride that's equally adept at soaking up bumps without sending the impact to your spine.
So, could this be considered a four-door M3? No, if you live by horsepower figures alone. The M3's 321 bhp would probably show its worth on long straights, but in the corners the Racing Dynamics car would be breathing down its neck, probably exiting the corner at a higher speed given it's lower ride height and reduced roll. It's give and take on both ends, and the issue could only be settled if we had them both on a road course. Regardless of how that race would end, this car tunes out the noise and tells you to, "Shut up and drive."