Getting old is inevitable, and it’s something we all have to face whether we like it or not. That’s quite a weird opening statement for three highly-tuned BMWs on Speedhunters, but stick with me because I promise it will make a bit more sense very soon.
Now, the most obvious indicator of age is that number which precedes us. But the real indicator of how old you actually feel, is the number of back-in-my-day moments that crash into your mind on a daily basis. And if you’re still a bit confused, let me share one with you.
My first car was an E30 BMW, and I must stress I didn’t buy it new. I’m old… but I’m not that old. As a BMW owner in the ’00s, I distinctly remember when the E36 chassis still seemed modern and the E46 some kind of spaceship.
I imagine it’s the same way E21 owners felt when the E30 first hit the scene, especially the later models with their ‘fancy’ plastic bumpers.
And yet before you know it, the E46 was also replaced with the E92. The fact you see so many of them as cheap track/drift cars today does feel a bit bizarre when I think back to how ‘halo’ they felt compared to the E30 I had. But hey, let’s not get into E30 values now for my own sanity…
Fast-forward to a few years back and we enter the F80 era. I’m a BMW nut through and through, so while the F80 series did enter what feels like a new chapter – especially with the M3/M4 now turbocharged – I didn’t really form much of an opinion on them.
But that’s also partly my fault; any BMW less than five years old is likely something I’m not going to own for the foreseeable future.
But then we get to the current G8x generation. Oh boy, there’s no risk of not forming an opinion on this one, is there? And I think I joined most people initially by having a guttural ‘it’s not for me’ reaction first time around.
The grille, yup we’ll talk about it quickly. I reckon you could fit five to six E30 kidney grilles inside one of these. Because back in my day, BMW kidney grilles were a design cue rather than a defining factor. And there we have it, several paragraphs in and I’m already harking back to ‘in my day’…
That was three years ago. And you know what? Maybe the joke was on us and BMW knew what they were doing the whole time. Because the grille – and the styling as a whole – has actually grown on me to the point it actually looks pretty cool now.
Even if you’re still not sold on the styling, BMW made sure the car’s out-of-the-box performance couldn’t be ignored. And hey, when you’re behind the wheel, the grille is not something you have to look at anyway.
Let’s get onto that powerplant. The S58 – a 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged straight-six – has been used in all the G8x platforms (3 Series and 4 Series), and while it may not have the sound of earlier M-cars, the way it delivers performance and sends it through an equally capable chassis is mind-bending.
Paired together you’ve got one of the best sports cars in modern motoring, and you’ve still got the option for a proper manual which is a rare commodity in 2023.
However, this is Speedhunters, and no matter how impressive a car is stock, we all buy into the fact that – with the right know-how and engineers on board – things can always get better. And if there’s one area the G8x platform has bettered even its predecessors, it’s how well it responds to tuning – something CSF Cooling was only too happy to explore.
Firstly, an uprated charge cooler/intake manifold allowing more boost and more power to be forced in while keeping those all-important intake temperatures down. Secondly, an upgraded heat exchanger and transmission cooler to ensure that, with more power being added, the cooling for both engine and transmission could be matched accordingly.
It’s no surprise then, to see that three of the most complete and powerful G8x builds on the US East Coast all run CSF upgrades in their quest for building the ultimate modern M-car. Let’s take a more detailed look at each one…
Fun fact: all-wheel-drive examples of BMW’s 3 Series have existed in North America since 1991 with the launch of the 325ix. Compared to the current xDrive platform, that original system was downright archaic even for its time, being particularly sensitive to both ride height and power changes.
That’s not something xDrive has to worry about. First introduced in 2003, this replaced the previous viscous coupling system with an electronically-actuated clutch pack and differential which has remained the basis ever since.
Why the talk of xDrive? Because the Precision Sports Industries M3 pictured here is the only all-wheel-drive example of these three modified M-cars.
Not that you could tell from the outside, with Vorsteiner FR-305 wheels finished in white gold (with a polished lip) completely changing the overall look against the Santorini Blue paint.
AST lowering springs allow the stock adaptive dampers to be retained, while a Vorsteiner carbon splitter and M Performance side skirts/diffuser bring the whole stance lower to the ground.
Carbon is slathered on all three BMWs here, both inside and out. Precision Sport Industries have also added a carbon wing blade and limited edition 1/30 Eventuri matte carbon intake alongside the Vorsteiner and M Performance parts.
Don’t be fooled by the unassuming engine bay. The CSF charge-air cooler manifold is perfectly integrated into the OEM fitment with no other modification necessary, and having it powder-coated in Santorini Blue is a neat touch which just integrates it further.
Out back, the carbon exhaust tips only tell half the story here. There’s Active Autowerke GESI catted down-pipes feeding into an Akrapovič mid pipe, before exiting out of the titanium Akrapovič slip-on exhaust.
If you weren’t sold on the G8x sound initially, this combination gives a deep yet brutal tone at all revs.
There’s been some wild paint options in recent years, but Santorini Blue has to be one of the best available. Everything about the Precision Sport Industries M3 just looks right; performance and four-door practicality is my kind of language.
Titan Motorsports is a name that needs no introduction on Speedhunters, but if you thought all they tuned were monster-power Supras, think again. Let’s not forget that the latest-generation Supra is fundamentally a BMW underneath – certainly its powertrain – so it only makes sense for this Florida-based tuner to branch out into BMWs.
Not one to do things by halves, Titan Motorsports started with possibly the best base imaginable – a 2023 M3 Competition painted in the ultra-limited 50th Jahre edition colour known as Fire Orange. Punchy, isn’t it? But with black details throughout it manages to look super aggressive too.
They’re not just black-painted details though… they’re carbon. From Vorsteiner, there’s a carbon grille, spoiler and diffuser. And from MHC, there’s carbon mirrors, side skirts and front air ducts. This combo feels quite reminiscent of the E92 M3 GTS.
For the handling, Titan turned to KW Suspensions for a Height Adjustable Spring Kit, allowing the ride height to be lowered accurately, while still retaining the original dampers. The stunning Fire Orange cars has been dialled to sit perfectly over the 20-inch Vorsteiner V-FF 107 wheels.
Just like the PSI M3, Titan’s G8x runs a colour-coded CSF charge-air cooler manifold, heat exchanger and ZF8 transmission cooler, and the super-limited Eventuri carbon intake for added performance, but with the addition of yet more Eventuri carbon with the full-sized engine cover. Titan Motorsports dared to cut this cover immediately upon delivery to show off the intake. This turned out great!
You might think this looks like a solid, complete build, but Titan assures us they’re only just getting started with their G8x development. With some tuners reporting horsepower into four-figures already, just how far can the S58 really go?
Not So Mellow Yellow
Autocraft’s BMW is undoubtedly the most visually changed G8x of these three, and that’s not just because it’s an M4 with two less doors compared to the M3. For a start there’s the colour, Sau Paulo Yellow.
I feel sorry for Darrien here, because it’s one of those colours that seems to shift between green and yellow depending on the time of day, but it goes a long way of highlighting all those curves, creases and flares the M4 leaves the factory with.
Here’s where it gets spicy though. While everyone else was busy photoshopping the G8x with F80-style grilles, ADRO had the clay model out redesigning their own version.
And, while it may not be the ‘classic’ kidney grille look people initially cried out for, it goes a long way of softening up the M3/M4 front end without simply predating it with an older-looking bumper instead.
Just like Titan’s G8x, ride height is taken care of by KW Suspensions, but this time with a coilover system and the wheel design taking inspiration from AC Schnitzer’s classic design in the form of custom 20s. It’s not the obvious choice, but it does give a nice retro nod to the past.
Under the bonnet is where Autocraft’s M4 packs the biggest punch. It might not look much different to the other two cars, but with the addition of E85 fuel it’s able to lay down over 1,000 wheel horsepower.
Why use E85? Simple, because it packs the highest octane (at the pump) which in turn makes it less prone to detonation/knocking, and that means more ignition and more boost. Oh… and a lot more fuel is required too, which is why the CSF intake manifold now incorporates 1,000cc port injectors.
While it may be possible to run that kind of power on a stock S58, to do it safely and with any kind of longevity meant cracking open the engine and dropping in a range of upgrades including VAC Motorsport pistons and rods along with titanium retainers and new valve springs. With the cylinder head off also, it was ported and polished for better flow.
This is all to support the Pure Turbos Stage 2+ upgrade in order to flow enough air to reach the four-figure horsepower. And don’t forget, all of that is going through just the rear wheels. Spicy.
Regardless of your thoughts on the G8x styling, the fact that this level of performance is already being unlocked – and with much more to come yet – is something worth celebrating in 2023. And while the G8x is far from cheap, give it another couple of years and we’ll soon see values creeping into more affordable levels.
Back in my day, the idea of having a 500hp BMW M3 sounded outrageous and surely would’ve had to feature some kind of engine swap. So the fact this current generation are able to double that – without even breaking a sweat – just goes to show the tuning world is still in safe hands, even if the internal combustion engine’s time is now limited.
Photography by Darrien Craven