BMW M3 Tuning

"Thank you for reading my BMW M3 tuning guide."

We take a peek at M3 tuning and summarise the optimum modifications. BMW M3s provide a fun base for your project and with the right parts you can certainly increase your driving fun.

The M3 is a good car tuning project to do. We see many people wasting money on their M3 doing the wrong mods and then having to start over. Follow our tips to avoid making the common mistakes

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Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

M3 Handling/Suspension upgrades

Handling modifications are top of many to do lists for the M3.

Setting some negative camber on the fronts and a degree or two of toe in to improve stability or toe out for better cornering, will dramatically benefit your M3 in handling and cornering.

We would go to a maximum drop of 27mm - 30 mm on most models. You risk compromising your handling if you go lower than this. Doing this will increase the handling, notably reducing body roll.

H&R offer a kit that works well with the BMW EDC. There is also a very nice coilover setup from KW & they now offer a non coilover kit that allows ride height adjustment. The lowering kit from Vogtland is also worth investigating.

It makes sense to uprate the braking as well, the M3 is a heavy car, especially with a V8 sitting at the front. Go with larger disks, that are vented but bear in mind that brake pad selection is critical here. Race pads will not warm up on the roads, some cheap street use pads will overheat and glaze so get a mid performance high friction pad that works well when cool.

Our aim in engine tuning should be to increase peak power at the top end.

With our recommended mods you can transform your M3 into a fun car, beating larger cars on the track.

Smaller engines do not provide much of a return in terms of power so start with a bigger engine. Engine swaps are a good option if you have a small engine size.

Tyre choice is important and we don't usually recommend brands but there is a lot of feedback out there on M3 tyres so we rate the following tyres quite highly..

  • Michelin Pilot Super Sport Tires
  • Toyo Proxes T1 Sport Tires
  • Hankook Ventus V12 Evo2 Tires

Engine Tuning.

These are the motorsport kits are usually fitted by our members, decide how far you wish to go in your tuning project before you begin.

E30 generation (1986–1991)

BMW S14 four-cylinder engine, a high-revving DOHC

E36 generation (1992–1999)

S50 or (S52 engine US), 6 Speed gearbox, engine capacity raised to 3.2 -intake mods, fast road camshaft and supercharger kits make good power.

E46 generation (2000-2006)

S54 straight six engine was fitted and the Getrag 420G or newer SMG-II 6 speed auto gearbox. The e46 m3 supercharger kit seems to be one of the best mods on these.

E90/E92/E93 generation (2007–2013)

S65 engine put out 414 bhp at 8,300 rpm and in 2008 a dual clutch 7 speed Getrag M DCT was added as an option.

F80 generation (2014–2018) 

BMW S55 twin-turbo straight-six replaced the V8 but power was raised to 444bhp.

Getting the best sports upgrades for your planned usage of the car is essential. Stage 3 competition upgrades just don't work well on the road hard to control in slow traffic.

Please watch our video which covers the 5 principles of tuning your M3. Be sure to keep up with our latest YouTube content and subscribe.

For NA (naturally aspirated) engines please watch our video which covers the 5 principles of tuning your M3.

Best mods for your M3

  1. Internal engine mods - crank, pistons, conrods & compression ratio including balancing and blueprinting
  2. Fast road Camshafts are significant power adders, but should always be setup by someone qualified to set them up and some cams are hard to find but there is usually a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft .
  3. Air Induction and Sports Exhausts - Please be warned on their own these mods will NOT ADD HP for most setups, but they permit you to enhance power after other modifications by losing a restriction.
  4. Flywheel lightening - a lower mass flywheel will improve the engines rev changes. But not always beneficial for all M3 engines.
  5. Remaps - M3 engine tuning/remapping provides the most power compared to cost, replacement ECUs, and Tuning boxes are all alternatives.
  6. M3 Handling Mods (Suspension) - Replacing worn bushings and shocks radically improves your M3 handling Adjustable coilovers and better bushings are what is needed here.
  7. Upgrades to turbochargers and superchargers - Adding a turbocharger is the most efficient approach to improve intake air supply, allowing you to burn more fuel and make power gains. It is one of the most complex modifications but provides the best gains.
  8. Brake Mods - Stopping your M3 ought to be high on your agenda.

M3 Tuning Stages

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Panel air filter, Lighter flywheel, Sports exhaust, Engine Tunes/Remapping, Alloy wheels, Suspension upgrade (drop 30-40mm).

Typical stage 2 mods often include: Fast road cam, Power/Sport clutch, Ported and polished head, high flow fuel injector, fuel pump upgrades.

Typical stage 3 mods often include: Competition cam, Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), Engine balancing, Sports gearbox.

You really need to keep as much low end torque as you can and aim for a long power band rather than a narrow top end power spike.

The point of our hints is to give a starting base of modding performance parts and point you in the right direction, our forum is where you can ask for more detailed advice and tips on your tuning project, the best uprated parts and all aspects of modding cars.A fast road cam typically is one of the best NASP power modifications you can do with a single part fitted to your engine.

It improves the intake and exhaust flow and increases the power if done right. Ideally you'd add other mods and finish up with a remap.

A tune/remap will add around 10% more power on the V8 and easily 20% on the turbo engine. We'd also caution you not to go with a motor sports profile cam as this affects the engines idling and general town driving characteristics.

Don't forget to increase the fuelling when you are increasing the power - it makes the car more thirsty.

Using high octane fuel is another option if you find you are suffering from detonation or premature ignition on your BMW project after fitting other parts. To get sufficient fuel you may need to upgrade the injectors on your engine.

A fuel pump will only deliver a finite amount of fuel, so you may need to uprate this if your injectors are demanding more fuel.

M3 Intake and Exhaust Tuning.

The next area for modification is the intake and exhaust.

For most M3 engines TorqueCars would suggest you just go with a washable panel air filter made from cotton gauze. Some of the air intake boxes out there really do help with top end power, it seems as though the BMW airboxes are restrictive.

On heavily tuned engines and turbo vehicles an induction kit will help release the power providing you address the problem of supplying cold air.

Sports exhausts generally help improve air flow from the engine but avoid an exhaust that is too large or you might just stuff your flow rate and make things worse. So generally speaking, keep to a size of 1.5 to around 2.5 inches to maximise flow rates, and this should take into account the amount of air your engine is moving.

We really love the Akrapovic exhaust systems for the V8 engines, we also highly rate Dinan and Corsa exhausts.

Flowed (porting and polishing) the head will allow you to maximise your air/fuel charge. Leave this to a professional though with a proper flow bench and machine tools In nearly all cases of M3 tuning your clutch will start to suffer and this needs an upgrade - read our article on clutches for more information. The best mods that we recommend for your M3 are fast road camshaft, remap, induction and exhaust, suspension.

NA (naturally aspirated) engines do not achieve big power gains if you tune/remap them, unless you have done extensive modifications.

With turbocharged engines this is another story. A tuned/remapped turbo will give significant power gains and take full advantage of the strength of the block.

Despite the large cost involved adding forced induction to a NA (naturally aspirated) engine will give large power gains. It is usually simpler to bolt on a supercharger than it is to install a turbo. Turbos provide boost in increasing proportion to rising engine speed and this can make mapping difficult.

It is more straightforward to map a supercharger because the boost is proportional to engine speed on a linear curve. Decreasing the engines compression ratio will allow you to add forced induction, water injection may also help prevent detonation.

M3 Alloy Wheel Upgrades.

The benefits of alloys include reducing your unsprung weight and better brake cooling. Pay attention to your choice of tyres (tires) for your car, a good soft compound tire can really enhance your cars handling. Large M3 alloy wheels can decrease performance. If you get big alloy wheels you will be changing your final drive ratio.

Because of this try to keep the overall rolling diameter of the wheel your OEM settings. In all cases not going bigger than 18 inches. We know 19's look cool but they really affect the ride and handling.

If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your car please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss M3 options in more detail with our M3 owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased BMW tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

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