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Pushing the Envelope 34 BMWcar

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Evolve’s E60 M5 demonstrator is proof that with enough time, skill and development, even the most prestigious of performance saloons can be improved Words: Joel Newman Photography: Dan Pullen


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volve Automotive has established a worldwide reputation for consistently developing software and hardware packages to improve the driving experience of a number of BMW’s naturally aspirated and turbocharged high-performance models and M cars. One of the most recent Evolve packages to catch our eye centered on the firm’s developments for its demo E60 M5, which uses perhaps the first and last naturally aspirated V10 engine we will ever see from the Munich stable. The V10, in common with all naturally aspirated powerplants, is notoriously difficult to eke more power from but with a selection of light yet effective modifications Evolve has managed to induce some 70 more horses and 40lb ft of additional torque from it. Not only has Evolve enhanced the baseline performance figures, it has also dramatically altered and improved the feel and experience when sat behind the wheel. So much so that when offered some seat time we felt it only right to take the vehicle along to Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground where, pitted against a Porsche 997 GT2, timing specialist Race Technology would help us test its real world performance accurately. Then we would gauge precisely how different the Evolve model felt in comparison to the stock vehicle over of series of straight line and handling tests. Initially, then, perhaps the first thing you will notice from the images is how standard this car looks. As a matter of course Evolve doesn’t alter the styling of the BMWs it tunes. In fact, pleasingly, Imran Arshad, co-owner of the company is keen to point out the firm has, to this point, actively stayed away from this side of the BMW tuning market, believing only in performance enhancement. It is therefore under the bonnet and within the chassis where all the progress has taken place, so let’s explore the changes that have been made before we put pedal to metal and experience them first-hand… The first major change to the M5’s S85 powerplant


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comes in the shape of its Alpha N and ECU Stage 3 remap package that deletes the car’s Air Mass or Mass Air Flow sensor entirely. Alpha N is a term often bounded about on forums but it will come as a surprise to many to learn that Alpha N is actually an inbuilt safety feature on all modern BMWs, a sort of limp home engine mode the car’s ECU will switch to if it encounters an issue with the on-board MAF sensor. It is not a tuner development, however it is a function that can be used by tuners alongside modified ECU software, to release more power. The main reason a MAF exists at all is for emissions regulations. All BMWs need to pass emissions tests in a variety of operating and servicing conditions. Evolve specify that even with heavily contaminated oil and an air filter that is almost blocked the car must be able to deliver the quoted performance, and as such adapts its software to cope with these worst-case scenario conditions. However, the MAF is not essential because the factory ECU is fitted with a barometric pressure sensor and receives inputs from a multitude of inputs, (throttle position, lambda, intake air and coolant) to correctly calculate expected airflow and control fuelling. So why can’t an E60 M5 owner just unplug their MAF sensor and run Alpha N? Well, in essence they could, only performance would drop off massively. If you or I did remove the MAF the car would immediately switch into a reduced power mode, over-fuel and bring on the engine warning light, offering poor drivability. Evolve therefore has adapted the ECU programme to take into account the lack of MAF reading by altering ignition advance, VANOS profile and fueling. Through these changes more power is released and in theory the car should respond with improved low-end drivability, realise additional power and offer more instantaneous response from the engine. Evolve’s Alpha N package therefore does require the owner to maintain a level of service in keeping with BMW’s guidance. Regular oil changes and filter

cleaning will mean the car will still pass emission tests, and it is also essential that the lambda sensors are working correctly (this is essential even without Evolve’s AlphaN upgrade). However, even without this package, this type of routine maintenance should be carried out on all BMWs anyway. The next development this Evolve E60 M5 has been privy too revolves around some rather beautiful ‘Medusa’ Evolve 5-1 tubular exhaust manifolds. In factory form BMW’s manifold design is angular in places where it reaches the merge collector, with a sharp drop and a reduction or crush of the radius of each pipe, a design that is not ideal if you are looking for optimal airflow. As such, over 5000rpm performance will be significantly affected for the worse. Again not what you are looking for when you are in command of a screaming V10. Evolve’s redesigned tubular manifolds removes the primary CAT built into the factory headers, and thus frees up engine bay space, allowing for lengthened, straighter tubes that have a perfect radius throughout and a larger inner diameter for improved and heightened airflow, as well as a genuine 5-1 merge collector. An exhaust manifold design of this type will improve the airflow and the scavenging effect from the merge collectors as well as reducing back pressure and combustion temperatures. BMW’s standard ECU will struggle to hit the ignition targets set by BMW with the stock headers and cats. But, with an improved combustion process the level of knock will be drastically reduced and the ECU will subsequently push much closer to the set ignition targets, and release anywhere from 30-50hp in doing so from 5000rpm all the way to the 8250 rev limit. Continuing the subtle transformation out back, expelling the burnt exhaust fumes and sounding absolutely stunning, is the Evolve E-Tronic exhaust which allows owners to manipulate a valve that unlike many competitor products, achieves the same power output whether the valve is open (offering a more aggressive note) or closed (offering a near OEM

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EVOLVE E60 M5 sound level). The system with secondary CATs, midsilencers and a rear exhaust offers two entirely different paths for the exhaust gasses to exit, a further unique feature specific to Evolve. While Evolve are keen to point out power gains are insignificant with the majority of exhaust systems including its own, it can prove with its ongoing dyno testing that performance remains the same with either exhaust route, and that the sound coming from the car is a true delight, and in keeping with the M5’s performance credentials. Finally, chassis-wise, the Evolve M5 has been treated to a set of H&R lowering springs, while retaining the factory dampers and therefore EDC adjustability. The proof, however, is in the pudding and with the technical enhancement out of the way it is time to see, in the real world, what 570hp and 420lb ft actually means in comparison to the stock vehicle. Out of the blocks we decided not to use launch control. This is Evolve’s beloved demo and I simply couldn’t face handing it back with a damaged clutch! Pretty much every impressive sprint figure you read about in a magazine has been set using a press car, and as such there is generally little regard or mechanical sympathy shown. When you know the car’s owner personally that changes things, and if you have ever used a launch control system in any vehicle you will know repeat runs are simply tempting fate! Nevertheless, without any form of electronically guided launch system and with the traction control turned off, we managed to repeatedly achieve 4.8 seconds to 60mph, but that’s when things started to get really interesting. Road and Track magazine record the vehicle at 10.0 seconds to 100mph, while in the same test its says it achieved (using launch control) a 4.1 second 0-60mph time. We managed to record the 100mph sprint in 9.42 seconds without launch control. Impressive when you are shifting nearly two tons from standstill without electronic aids, and even more so when you consider I was driving! We went onto achieve a quarter-mile sprint time of

The exhaut manifolds look like a work of art and help create more power and more sound. It’s particularly noticable above 5000rpm where the engine loves to scream


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“The car is urgent in its response and from 6000rpm savage in its delivery”

12.5 seconds at 121mph while 150mph was dispatched in under 20 seconds at 19.90secs – so far we haven’t found anyone (or any magazine) that has achieved a figure like that; the best we found was set by Car and Driver at 20.7secs to 150mph, again using launch control. On the day we also managed to set a European (and perhaps world?) record too for a naturally aspirated E60 M5, managing to run a standing mile in 30.7 seconds at 178mph. To put that into perspective that was comparable with the 997 GT2 Porsche we brought along as a benchmark, a car that weighed 500kg less! We also went onto hit 190mph on the two-mile straight (only 4mph behind the GT2) and there was more to come, only my nerve gave up and I hit the brakes on each run about 100 meters shy of the braking point; I’m sure this vehicle had a couple more mph to give though. Round the corners the H&R springs reduce the ride height and firm things up so handling is sharper, but let’s face it, the M5 is a big old thing, and cornering, while absolutely fine on the road is not its forte on track, at least not when you are chasing a GT2 down, that’s for sure. Be in no doubt that without a drastic overhaul of the chassis caution is required when on

the limit and understeer is ever present, unless you absolutely fling it in, and all precision, at least in my hands, goes out the window. But let’s face it, performance numbers never tell the whole story. In fact, they very rarely tell you very much at all because it’s not often you find yourself on an empty two-mile stretch, and if you did, after approximately 5.5 seconds from standstill in this car you’d be breaking the law anyway! What I can tell you is that this Evolve M5 feels more alive and reactive to your responses. Below 4000rpm the standard vehicle can feel a little sluggish to get into its stride, especially at part throttle. The Evolve car is urgent in its response and from 6000rpm savage in its delivery, the gauge rising faster, the sound of the E-Tronic exhaust egging you on with its operatic howl. More to the point it’s the enhancement of in-gear acceleration you will notice, the car gathering speed and using the additional torque, which feels like a lot more than an additional 40lb ft thanks to the liner delivery courtesy of the new, bespoke engine map. If you’ve experienced the M5, despite its fabulous performance and stonking engine as standard, you might have noticed a sense of disconnection, a feeling that sometimes you are merely inputting

various electronic signals that the vehicle then responds too, the fly-by-wire effect so to speak. Evolve’s Stage 3 engine management adds a dash of old-school cable throttle feel to the mix, that sense of connectivity and the feeling that every input from you, however minute, translates into an instant reaction. As a result it’s more thrilling to drive, more involving and more precise. It certainly feels more like an M car, too, and if you’re purchasing an M car surely that sense of urgency is what your after, otherwise you’d be driving a E60 550i… or you should be. This Evolve package is tasteful and effective. It feels well developed thanks to the hundred of hours of internal development and testing and it drives better than the standard E60 M5 by some margin. If you have grown used to your M5, dream of more power, or simply want your car to be as good as it can be then this may be the package for you. It will breathe new life into your E60 M5 and give the V10 the legs and lungs it deserves l

CONTACT: Evolve Automotive Tel: 0871 231 1001 Web:

Race Technology GPS-verified performance data EVOLVE E60 M5: QUICKSILVER 997 GT2:

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0-60MPH 4.8 seconds 4.6 seconds

0-100MPH 9.4 seconds 9.1 seconds

0-150MPH 19.9 seconds 19.4 seconds

QUARTER-MILE 12.5 seconds @ 120mph 12.3 seconds @ 121mph

TOP SPEED 190mph 194mph

Pushing the Envelope: Evolve E60 M5  

Evolve's E60 M5 demonstrator is proof that with enough time, skill and development, even the most prestigious of performance saloons can be...

Pushing the Envelope: Evolve E60 M5  

Evolve's E60 M5 demonstrator is proof that with enough time, skill and development, even the most prestigious of performance saloons can be...