BMW X3 Tuning

"Tuning guide to the greatest BMW X3 modifications."

The X3 is a good project car to do. The key to X3 tuning is choosing the right mods you can waste loads of money if you do it wrong.

The X3 was originally designed by BMW in conjunction with Magna Steyr of Graz, Austria, and opened a new market for BMW.

Thankfully it was very well received and went on to be a great seller for BMW.

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  • First generation (E83; 2003–2010) Shared the 3 series platform. 2005 saw a facelift to the model 
  • Second generation (F25; 2011–2017) All models came with xDrive and there was an update in 2014 with facelift.
  • Third generation (G01; 2018–present) Shares much of the tech from the G30 5 series and was almost 60kg lighter than the previous model.

Handling/Suspension upgrades

Many X3 owners uprate the handling of their cars with suspension upgrades as a priority, this will certainly increase your enjoyment of the car.

Good suspension tweaks that usually improve handling for the X3 include a couple of degrees negative camber and 1-1.5 degrees of toe in or out on the front wheels. Toe in for stability, or Toe out to improve cornering. It would also pay to improve the brakes, by adding larger discs and or higher friction pads..

We would go to a maximum drop of 24mm - 38 mm on most models. You risk handling compromises if you go lower than this.

Upgrading your Bushes

What factors should you consider when setting up and selecting your bushes if your X3 is also used as a daily driver?

The suspension components of the X3 may be mounted to the car's chassis through bushes, which are rotatable rubber mounts. These rubber ones will start to fail over time.

New OEM rubber bushings may have a major impact on the performance of your vehicle especially in cases where the original rubber ones have perished or started to wear.

Because polyurethane bushes are stiffer, the ride may be less forgiving, but the bushes will last longer and maintain the car's handling over a longer time and keeps everything tighter.

They may also hasten the depreciation of other suspension parts due to the increased vibration and play.

A new set of poly bushes may be able to mitigate the excessive play that comes with rubber bushes.

Engine tuning mods.

Don't just look at the peak power figures, you need to see the whole torque curve when determining if a mod is right for you X3.

Enjoy your X3 to the full with our awesome modification pointers - do the right mods in the right order.

The best power gains come from turbo charged engines. The more power you start with the bigger the return on investment so engine swaps are good value mods if you want to max out the power gain for your investment.

These are the modified parts and performance upgrades which are usually fitted by our members, decide how far you want to go before you begin.

Getting the best performance modifications for your planned usage of the car is essential. Stage 3 competition upgrades just don't work well on the road difficult in stop start traffic.

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Best mods for your X3

  1. Upgrades to turbochargers and superchargers - Adding a turbocharger is the most efficient approach to increase your intakes air supply, allowing you to combust more fuel and make power gains. Although one of the most complex modifications you'll see massive gains.
  2. Head work - The goals of porting and flowing the head are to get air flowing into the engine while removing flow restrictions and turbulence.
  3. Braking Mods - Stopping your X3 should be near the top of your Mods list.
  4. X3 Suspension - Fitting a more sporty Suspension kit greatly enhances your X3 road holding and cornering. Poly Bushes and Coilovers are typically fitted to achieve this
  5. Intake Upgrades and Performance Exhausts - Please note that on their own these mods will NOT ADD TORQUE , but they permit you to enhance power after other upgrades by losing a restriction.
  6. Low mass flywheel - a lower weight flywheel will enhance the engines rev changes. Not always suitable for all X3 engines.
  7. Remaps - A Remapped X3 ECU ensures the most power in terms of your investment, replacement ECUs, and Tuning boxes are all alternatives.
  8. Fast road Camshafts are generally the biggest mechanical mod upgrade, but we strongly suggest they be setup by someone qualified to set them up properly and tracking one down can be a challenge but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft for you.

X3 Tuning Stages

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

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

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

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

The whole aim of our guides is to give a limited introduction of customizing modifications and point you in the right direction, our forum is best place to go if you need more detailed advice and tips on your customized car project, the best motorsport modifications and all aspects of modding cars. A fast road cam often proves to be 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 pushes up the power if done right. Ideally you'd add other mods and finish up with a remap. We'd also caution you not to go with a motor sport cam as this upsets the engines idling and general town driving characteristics.

When pushing up the power you will need to pay attention to the fuelling. More power needs more fuel.

Using higher octane petrol is another option if you find you are suffering from pinking or premature ignition on your BMW project after fitting other motorsport kits. Uprating the injectors is another beneficial modification and will deliver sufficient fuel.

Uprate the fuel pump to cope with the extra fuel requirements of your tuned X3s uprated injectors.

Intake and Exhaust Tuning.

Breathing mods are usually next up. Air induction kits will only help to increase performance if your cars air intake is struggling!

If you have heavily modified your engine and it's need for air INCREASES DRAMATICALLY then an induction kit is the answer and will help remove this restriction.

Induction kits can work well on turbo engines and larger engines (if supplied with a suitable cold air feed or air box), generally though we'd just recommend for X3 engines you should go with a sports panel air filter preferably made from cotton.

Sports exhausts generally help improve air flow through the engine but do not go too large or you could very well end up with a reduced flow rate. So generally speaking, keep to 1.5 to 2.5 inches as a rule of thumb.

Getting the head ported and polished will further help more air into each cylinder. This is definitely a job for a professional with a flow bench. In nearly all cases of X3 tuning your clutch will start to fail and this should be improved - read our guide on clutches for more information.

The best mods we recommend for your X3 are a tune/remap especially on a turbo, a fast road camshaft and sports exhaust, with a good air intakeTurbo engines are just pleading to be Reprogrammed. You will see impressive power gains on most modern turbocharged cars including diesels making a tune/remap one of the most cost effective and impressive modifications for your money.

We've also come across some owners experimenting with twincharged conversions and making some impressively high power hikes.

Despite the large cost involved adding forced induction to a NA (naturally aspirated) engine will give large power gains. Superchargers are generally easier to add than a turbo. Turbos give boost in exponential proportion to th engine speed and this can make mapping difficult.

The nice directly proportional boost and rpm characteristics of the supercharger make them more straightforward to map. Adding forced induction will usually require a lower compression ratio or water injection.

Alloy wheel upgrades.

Alloy wheels can help the brake cooling and are usually less heavy than steel ones. Further improvements can be made to your cars handling with the addition of directional tread pattern tire. Please note that although they can look cool on the X3 large alloys will actually decrease your performance. The larger you go the lower your acceleration will be - this to the change in your effective final drive ratio.

Due to this fact try to keep the overall rolling diameter of the wheel the OEM setup. In all cases without going over 19 inches.

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 X3 options in more detail with our X3 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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