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BMW’s 335d has shaken up the car world and moved the goalposts. A performance oil-burning coupé was never meant to happen, but by heck does it work…


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Words: Joel Newman Photos: Jamie Lipman


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t’s hard to believe but four years have passed since BMW lifted the covers on its fifth generation 3 Series, the E90 Saloon. In 2005 speculators and enthusiasts alike winced at the rather square frame that took up the E46’s mantle, and boy did it have a job on its hands. A great performer it may have been, but a beauty? Well, it was more of a face only a mother could love. For BMW the pressure was on, and the worldwide BMW fraternity made no bones about it. The forthcoming E92 Coupé needed to be gob-smackingly beautiful, dynamically superior to the E46 and more technologically advanced with regards to amplified power and economy. It was make-or-break time for BMW and devotees worldwide were left praying that its designers had left the ugly-stick at home. Mercifully, Mr Bangle’s Coupé impressed from the outset. Potential buyers no longer had to squint, hold press photos at jaunty angles or attempt to justify its lines. With its sweeping silhouette, sleek and curvaceous profile and a meaty and purposeful rear end BMW had finally released a contemporary and effortlessly beautiful Three. Compared to the E90, the E92 certainly delivered in the aesthetic department. It’s a beautiful Coupé and we must salute dear Mr Bangle for this. Despite the constant criticism he has faced, his take on the E92 is ultimately highly successful and proof that he is wholly capable of envisaging cars petrolheads lust after (...as the 6 Series also proved). And the fact that it did not use any of the E90s body panels was further proof that BMW had taken this model very seriously indeed. There were two engines available when the E92 first hit the showrooms; the 325i and 335i. Despite the 325i earning praise for its relaxed and competent performance it was the 335i that stole the hearts of the motoring world. 306bhp made it sublimely quick, its clever use of twin-chargers took economy to an unprecedented 28mpg on the combined cycle and with almost dream-like seamless acceleration and nearly 300lb ft of torque it was flexible and useable. In many people’s opinion the 335i did everything right and, for the price tag and relatively insignificant performance differentiation, looked a far better buy than the forthcoming V8 engined M3. In fact the 335i was perfect in nearly everyway; it had the world at its feet and for rivals such as Mercedes and Audi it was time to go back to the drawing board. However, the arrival of BMW’s 335d shook things up even further. Looking identical to the 335i, its aesthetic identity was no longer capitalised by a set of dirty down-turned tail pipes. Performance figures were also groundbreaking. The uprated engine now produced an almighty 286bhp, compared to 272bhp found in the 535d – giving the twin turbocharged M57 lump the same power as the 3.0-litre E36 M3. And with 428lb ft, the 335d has nearly 50% more torque than the 335i and 15lb ft more torque than the Porsche 996 Turbo! Yet critics immediately began asking questions: How would it truley sound? Will its automatic gearbox take the driving pleasure away? Why would customers pay a premium over the outstanding 335i? All good and valuable questions you might think, until you drive the car that is. Just like the critics, Darren Weston was also sceptical about a dieselpowered performance 3 Series. While he could see that for business or long distance commuters a car like this made perfect sense, for a motoring enthusiast putting a diesel engine into a sporty BMW Coupé is akin to giving a rabbi a pig for Christmas, it just shouldn’t happen. Having recently owned a Porsche 997 C4S, an Aston Martin V8 and an Audi RS4 Darren knew the ingredients of a premium sports car better than anyone; so it is a testament to the car (and the man himself) that after a test-drive at his local dealership he exited the E92’s fabulous swathed cabin with preconceptions shattered. As Darren explains: “From the start I was in disbelief at this cars performance. On paper the 335d may be a slower car than the 335i but I can only imagine these figures would show up on a track. In the real world it is a far faster machine, catapulting you forward in every gear. Lots of bhp is one thing, but if you don’t have the torque on the road it is almost meaningless.” To be totally honest Darren was also turned-on by the lack of interest in the 335d from BMW enthusiasts worldwide. He had seen some owners improving the 335i, to a degree, but the 335d was totally untouched in the tuning scene. “Because the 335i and 335d are almost identical I knew I could utilise some of the freshly released bodystyling,” Darren says. “So using my contacts I made a few calls to determine the possibilities regarding increased performance. I wanted to begin a unique project, which would culminate with a car that was faster than an E92 M3, but also a car that combined practicality with prestigious good looks. I also wanted to make it dynamically

I


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The 335d is so advanced and drives so well I knew instantly that it would be the perfect car


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superior to the 335i. The 335d is so advanced and drives so well I knew instantly that it would be the perfect car to underpin my mission, and it would surprise a few people too.” So Darren went out and purchased himself a dazzling blue example. But then, after much thought and deliberation, he decided that in this hue the project would lack the no-nonsense impact he craved. As a successful commercial interior designer Darren was in a fortunate position, meaning he needn’t wait in the eBay cue for the right styling components at the best price. With a few quid in the bank he sold his first 335d and started the hunt for a motor with a more suitable colour scheme. “Visually I knew how I wanted the car to look, so instead of buying a standard car and taking it apart I decided to go straight to Autovogue in Staffordshire,” Darren recalls. “They are the exclusive dealers for Hamman in the UK. I’d fallen in love with Hamann’s kit for the car, so I explained to the owners Stuart and Rob exactly what I was after. I needed a Graphite grey 335d wearing the Hamann suit. I also wanted the car on 20” Kahn wheels and I asked if they could colour-code the centres for me too!” Nothing is too much trouble for the Autovogue lads and within just a few weeks a car was sourced, kitted and supplied, powdercoated Kahn 20-inchers and all. Now looks like this do not come cheap. At over £8000 the Hamann kit is an expensive indulgence in anyone’s book, but be in no doubt it suitably transforms the cars styling. However, Darren decided to go a step further and fit black grilles, a rear lip spoiler and a set of E92 M3 wing mirrors finished in matt black. With the new car now on the driveway Darren got on with the revisions, fulfilling ideas which had been knocking about long before he had even obtained the motor: “I fell in love with BMW’s Performance seats after I saw them in this very magazine. I spoke to both German and US dealerships but no one could get their hands on any for the E92. In the end I decided to make a courtesy call to my local Luton-based BMW specialist. With everything I had been told, it was a real stab in the dark but I was very surprised with the level of service I received. The man said he would have a hunt around and see what he could do. I wasn’t optimistic but the next day he called back. He had found the only E92-specific set on sale in the UK, and explained that they were mine if I wanted them.” Darren bit his arm off, and within a few days, and £1600 later, the BMW Performance seats were in, emblazed with a set of carbon badges that Darren attached himself. Really, if you’re in the market for new bum huggers and have a few quid then this is the way to go, they’re spectacular. As Darren was keen to surpass the M3 in both driveability and functionality he needed to make some serious changes. Impressed with the dampening control available from the factory in the new V8 flagship Darren went on the hunt for a comparable set-up. Evolve, a BMW tuning specialist eventually came across Bilstein’s B16 Ride Control suspension, developed for the spectacular Nissan GTR. Darren’s car was the first E92 to be fitted with the kit, which utilises switchable electronic dampers so drivers can easily adjust between Sport and Comfort mode from inside the cabin. Just like the M3 the suspension can be tailored toward cruising and town driving, soaking up the worst of the Britain’s pot-hole ridden roads. When it’s time Darren simply pushes a dash-mounted button and within a millisecond all four corners take on a new mantra. In Sport mode this new Bilstein setup firms up a treat, reducing body roll and improving traction, steering response and feel. Even with the 20” wheels the coupé changes direction with such poise and with such a lack of drama you wonder if the optional Electronic Damper Control fitted to the E92 M3 is worth the significant investment. It is unquestionably less effective and pronounced. The next step was the differential. Now this may be controversial, and I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this, but were does BMW get off selling a near £40,000 coupé, one that is quite rightly billed as an Ultimate Driving Machine without a limited slip differential? The fact that it does not even feature on the options list is as baffling to me as a game of American football. If you are putting more than 250bhp into a rear-wheel drive car, a car aimed at driving enthusiasts, then your customers will no doubt want to exploit that power. In England, a country with corners you need to go round, weather that you’re embarrassed to tell people about and roads that are as bumpy as a teenager’s face, a limited slip differential is an essential bit of kit – especially if you like to go sideways from time to time! Thank the lord then for Quaife, who now manufacture differentials


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DATA FILE

for every BMW you could care to mention. Take that BMW, you’ve missed a trick! ENGINE: 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel M57, Evolve remap, custom made Speed Religion cat-back quad exhaust system So Darren, like all proud parents, wanted the very best. As he explains: “The Quaife CHASSIS: 8.5x20” (front) and 10x20” (rear) Bilstein B16 Ride Control suspension. differential compliments the car so beautifully. BMW Performance big brake kit six-pot front and four-pot rear calipers and With all that torque it can be difficult to get the 365mm brake discs, Kahn black powder coated Graphite wheels wrapped in power down, especially when pulling off or out of a side road. With the 245/30 (front) and 285/20 (rear) Bridgestone FX452 tyres new diff you just plant your foot and you’re gone, no hesitation. It also EXTERIOR: Full Hamann body kit including front and rear bumpers and side means that when the back breaks loose it does so in a progressive way skirts, E92 M3 door mirrors resprayed matt black, black kidney grille, E92 M3 you can control, without having to constantly prepare yourself for a dose rear lip spoiler of opposite lock.” With the power constantly rising, new brakes were also required, INTERIOR: BMW performance seats, Bilstein ride controls, Laser Pro parking sensor and laser jammer completing the bespoke styling package. “I had seen the BMW Performance brake setup on the 1 Series and loved it, but I was sure it would be hugely ICE: Pioneer AVIC 3 sat nav, Bluetooth module, Diamond Audio three-way overpriced,” Darren laughs. “I paid £2500 for a big Brembo brake kit on my speaker system, HD Audio mid-range, HD Audio cross-overs, Alpine PDX last car, a 400bhp Golf R32, and that was just for the fronts – so I wasn’t sure 4150 amp, Alpine PDX-1.600 amp, two Diamond Audio 6.5 under seat subs, it would be worth the investment. Instead I called Speed Religion to enquire JL Audio 7W10 sub and I was totally blown away by its prices. The complete kit, including sixTHANKS: Evolve for fitting and supplying the Bilstein B16 ride control pot front calipers, discs and pads and a four-pot rear system came in at just suspension and the remap, Speed religion for Laser Pro laser jammer and £1200 fully-fitted!” well priced parts, Autovogue for the inspiration for this project, and, of We couldn’t believe it either but having checked out Speed Religion’s course, my other half Michelle for putting up with what I do! website (www.speedreligion.net) we can indeed confirm Darren’s story. In fact the entire front and rear kit is now available for just £1026.69. Having just handed over near enough £500 for a set of replacement front discs and pads for the M Coupé I’m currently feeling a little silly. Despite the brakes’ gorgeous looks they are also hugely effective thanks to the 365mm discs. Darren was so impressed by them that he also entrusted the firm to build him a cat-back exhaust system. With its quad pipes it fills the Hamann rear bumper acutely and really looks the part. However it’s the sound that impresses most. With a blindfold you’d be forgiven for thinking this was the rasp of a V10, making it even more of an accomplishment. With the chassis in order Darren was pleased as punch with his new toy and was by all accounts finished with his project. Well he was until he found Evolve, specialists in BMW mapping and custom software! Evolve quoted him terrific performance numbers which it guaranteed could be backed up with the results from its dyno. Darren explains: “I loved the genuine interest the Evolve guys had in helping customers. I mean this in the best possible way but these guys are anoraks, computer wizards and techno geniuses. And after I saw various dyno maps of previous customers’ cars I just had to see if Evolve could do what it claimed it could.” And did it? Well, of course! The most recent dyno chart revealed the car’s power had risen to a catastrophic 359bhp and 575lb ft of torque. That’s a proved 73bhp gain and 147lb ft of torque more than the standard car. These figures translate into a machine capable of hitting 60mph in just five seconds, and one that in the mid- to top-range, will wave sayonara to an E92 M3. With the 335d’s handling and grunt now punching well above its weight the car was complete. It just needed a bit of entertainment for those Comfort drives, so Darren went to town with the help of Bishop’s Stortford’s Audiofile. Inside there is now a host of Diamond and HD audio upgrades – from an entire speaker system to under-seat and boot JL Audio subs, Alpine amps and Pioneer sat nav laden screen. Clarity and quality of the output is top-notch. From every angle Darren’s 335d is an absolute winner. A performance weapon, a motorway cruiser and a genuine head turner. However, it’s when you realise that the smooth acceleration, awesome exhaust note and devastating overtaking potential are coming from a diesel engine, a diesel that returns 44mpg it makes it all the pertinent. It’s no M3 or 335i and that’s the point, it’s better! ● 16 PERFORMANCE BMW

D-Day Landing  

evolve tuned BMW 335d with Ride Control suspension

D-Day Landing  

evolve tuned BMW 335d with Ride Control suspension

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