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M3 'Ring Champion

As you know we at VRPerformance always preach balanced performance. High horsepower or sticky tires by themselves do not make a great car. It's how all the bits work in concert that separates the merely fast cars from the really great performance cars. And when you think about upgrading your car, it's important that you think about balanced performance-- incremental change to the system instead of lopsided focus on one component or another. Do it right, and you can fetch a new Nürburgring record (video after jump).

Here's a properly modified, supercharged, BMW M3 CSL screaming around the 'Ring in an astonishing 7:22.8 That's faster than all "supercars" that have thus far recorded laps. And you'll note how balanced the car is as it goes around the track-- planted in the corners, smooth in the straights.

Engine tuned by ESS Tuning
Suspension by Schrmer Engineering
Bodywork by MrCarbon



Looking for sage advice. First, here is the question – Do I keep my 2005 e46 M3 (SMG) or do I sell it and find an e46 (manual)?
Details: I’m a novice at the track, but addicted and confident my future holds a lot of track days. I went to the driving school at Grattan last fall – the best way I can summarize my experience is – this was the most fun I had with my clothes on, ever! So here I sit this winter, my car put away thinking about what it next.
I leased this M3 in 2005 as a daily driver when I lived in a warmer climate. Since moving to Michigan, it’s become my “summer car” and as a result is very low mileage and in near perfect shape. The lease expires in April and I can buy the car (residual) for about 10K less than its worth. My choices (and there may be more) are as follows: (1) Keep this car, spend some money as needed (or not) to set it up as my “Track Car.” I don’t need it as a daily driver and am probably ready to move on to something a little more forgiving for my commute. (2) Turn it in or sell it and spend the money buying an e46 M3 with a manual transmission and turn it into my “Track Car.” Or (3) buy a “Track Car” someone else as already put the time and money into – e30 or e36 M3.
I’ve really enjoyed the SMG, but my fear is it may be limiting from a performance, experience or skill perspective. I love the power of the e46, the balance of the car, etc.
So let me restate the question – is it foolish to spend a lot of dough setting up an SMG car?


I actually think it's on the track that the SMG really shines and is not a limiting factor when it comes to performance at all. It's really a question of driving style and preference. I happen to like the old manual, so that's what I drive. I find satisfaction in executing the perfect heel-toe, blip the throttle down shift (but I must say, it is very rare that I do it perfectly!). But from an outright performance stand point, the SMG is better-- that's why most race cars are going with this type of tranny. BMW also thinks so, putting the SMG box in the old M3 CSL-- the highest performance M3 to date. If you like the SMG, I say keep it. In terms of performance modifications, the E46 M3 has many options, and the first I would look into after some good track quality brake pads is suspension. TCKline Racing has a wonderful coil-over suspension that absolutely transforms the M3 from good to very good on the track (without killing the day to day ride quality). H-Sport hollow tube adjustable sway bars is next. Bigger rubber on lighter weight wheels all around would be third on my list. If you're really getting into it now, bigger brakes from Brembo or Alcon come next. And then finally you could start messing with some more power from a better exhaust system from Supersprint, aFe intake, and custom ECU tuning to tie it all together. I could go on and on, such as race seats, harnesses, roll bar, better suspension bushings... that's the fun part with this hobby in general and with BMWs in particular-- the options are almost endless.