Story and Photos by Zach Mayne
The original E30 M3 was a track ready machine before track days even became the rage that they are today. Light, nimble and responsive and with an emphasis on driver involvement, the ethos that that first M3 used to such great effect has evolved over the years, to the point where most of the more recent M3s are more high speed Gran Turismo than track car. Luckily, the DNA of the original Wunderkind is buried just below the flame-surfaced sheetmetal of models like the E92-gen M3. Sprinkle a few well-chosen speed parts onto the chassis and driveline and you have a car that is as happy on the daily commute as it is dissecting racetrack apexes on the weekend.
With its towering rear wing, fixed-back Recaros and a beefy roll bar in place of the deleted rear seats, it’s immediately apparent that the E92 M3 pictured here -originally built by Sonic Motorsports- is just such a machine. In fact, the license plate looks a little out of place fastened to the BMW’s bumper a few inches from a bright yellow tow hook and above a purposeful looking underbody diffuser peaking out from underneath the car.
In addition to OEM Performance Grill and blacked-out side spears, the 6-speed, 2008 Melbourne Red coupe was also fitted with a carbon fiber Competition front lip from Arkym and a Varis GT Euro wing. Hidden under the car is a Varis undertray that aids high-speed stability.
In stock form the E92 M3 is certainly a fast car, thanks to some 414-hp on tap from it's mighty V8. But it’s also heavy, which dulls the BMW’s performance. To address this shortcoming, Sonic installed a Stage 2 supercharger kit from Florida’s Active Autowerke. This uses an HKS centrifugal supercharger, bespoke intake manifold, larger injectors and an ECU reflash to the BMWs computer. There is also an optional trunk-mounted menthanol injection system that keeps heat soak to a minimum and ensures that max power is always available. On the dyno, the M3’s S62 V8 produced an impressive 514 rear-wheel-horsepower, so it was job done adding sufficient power.
StopTech brakes keep the M3’s deceleration in line with the added horsepower. The Trophy kit used here consists of 15-inch slotted front rotors and 6-piston monoblock calipers and rear 14-inch rotors clamped by 4-piston monoblock calipers. “We love the StopTech brakes,” says Wongkar. “The Trophy kit is probably one of the best brakes upgrade you can get for this car. The significant weight savings compared to OEM and the Brembo GT kit is what surprised us. The brakes feel great, bite hard and they never fade even after heavy use. They’re really hard to beat from price and quality point of view.”
Inside, the stock M3 seats were swapped for light Recaro Pole Position seats recovered in black leather and red stitching complimented with Schroth racing harnesses. The rear seats were removed to make way for an AE Performance roll-bar and even the trim panels were ditched in the quest for a track vibe. Autometer gauges that monitor the supercharger’s boost pressure, the air/fuel mixture and oil pressure of the S62 V8 were installed in a Macht Schnell gauge pod.
Once I’ve slid over the deep side bolsters of the Recaro and dropped into place, the driving position is just about ideal. The seats are lower than the ones in a stock M3, which when paired with the lowered suspension means the car genuinely has a lower center of gravity. Clicking the four-point Schroth harness on adds even more seriousness to whole experience. All that’s missing is a helmet and a track.
Firing up the M3’s big V8 produces a surprisingly mellow burble from the Acropovic exhaust that’s fitted to car. The supercharged engine burbles happily as I snick the shifter into first, release the light and easy to modulate clutch and slip into traffic. In a normal stop-and-go routine the M3 behaves exactly like a stock one. However, the stock feel flies out the window as soon as the gas pedal heads towards the floor. Acceleration is extremely strong from as low as 3,000-rpm. There is no sudden surge of power, but rather a freight train-like willingness as the scenery blurs and the M3 rockets forward.
At higher RPMs the exhaust note of the quick-revving motor transforms into a sharp-edged howl. The only tip-off that this car is supercharged occurs when the throttle is lifted for an upshift, causing the blow-off valves to expel excess pressure with a loud shpitt! Other than that though this motor behaves like an extremely powerfully naturally aspirated engine, with a smooth, linear power band. Despite it's size and weight, this is one quick car. The Rogue short shift kit and a weighted BMW shifter makes shifting up and down through the 6-speed quick and effortless.
The Nitron coilover suspension that Sonic installed leaves no doubt that this car is setup for the track. Over bumps and dips on the street, the suspension borders on brutal. Over a smooth section of road though, the incredible amount of available grip means that there is no way we can explore the limits of adhesion without driving flat out recklessly. The M3 sails back and forth through a series of high speed S-bends with confidence inspiring stability, the tires feeling like they are coated in hot glue.
On a narrow country road the M3 belies its size and shrinks around the driver as speeds increase. The coupe changes direction quickly through the light, responsive steering and handling remains overall neutral. Granted, if I carry too much speed on corner entry, the BMW’s nose pushes towards the outside of the corner with a little understeer. The car remains very controllable as I accelerate quickly out of turns, and even when the grip of the back tires is overcome by the engine’s supercharged horsepower, oversteer is easily dispatched with a whiff of opposite lock. About the only thing that gets in the way of maximum progress on poorly maintained public roads is the firm suspension, the tires occasionally losing grip and contact with the ground when serious bumps and dips are encountered.
On the stopping end of the things, the Stop Tech brakes are heroic in their stopping ability. A brush of the brake pedal has the car instantly slowing, while really leaning on them has me straining against the 4-point harness. Overall, this M3 is incredibly fast yet easy to drive. The fact that it’s been setup for track use adds an extremely appealing rawness to the equation. With prices for second hand E90 and E92-series M3s dropping fast, there will doubtless be many more enthusiasts taking a similar approach to modifying their own examples.