I hated to do it because it went against my competitive instincts, but I stuck my hand out the window to motion the red, turbocharged E46 M3 past me on the left after the long-ish back straight on the Streets of Willow. I was holding him up because the Hoosier race tires still weren’t up to temp on that crisp winter day up in the high desert, and the car was sliding around too much. After tailing him for a lap at a gap of five to six car lengths, I felt the tires starting to come into their own, which meant it was time to try to redeem myself.
The M6 I was driving was fortified with ESS Tuning’s new supercharger system, so new that the kit hadn’t been officially released at that point. The ESS engineers spent two years developing the system, with a lot of cold-weather testing in Scandinavia and countless hours of hard running on the Nürburgring and the autobahn. For the final stages, more tests were carried out at their Arizona test facilities to make sure it would run properly in hot weather as well. The two-year, unlimited-mileage warranty shows they have faith in it.
With the tires warmed up, I started to find spots where I would gain on the M3; a little bit through the fast esses and then some more on the two fast straights. Where I was losing time was coming out of the slow, Second-gear corners. The supercharger’s immediate onslaught of torque would spin the tires as if they were wrapped with bacon and the M3 would stretch its lead. Finding that fine line just before the tires started to spin called for judicious throttle inputs, and when I got it right, I could sense that I was clawing back the distance lost, inch by inch.
I had seen the red M3 in the parking lot earlier in the day and noticed it packed a Horsepower Freaks (HPF) turbocharger system. Some of their systems can crank out as much as 789 hp on pump gas. Their baseline, Stage 1 kits are rated at 518 hp. So as I tried to reel him in, I figured he probably had the advantage in terms of power-to-weight and the M6 had the advantage over him in the grip department what with the M6 on R-compound Hoosiers and the M3 using the widest street tires that the owner could stuff in the wheelwells.
Seeing the gap close gave me the confidence to push even harder; a little later on the brakes here or full throttle through the uphill blind kink on the back straight or letting the nose slide out just a little at the end of the fast, downhill, Third-gear left-hander. The M6 was more than willing, although the stock brakes and pads were its weakest link. I had expected it to feel fat and out of shape on the track but its composure surprised me. You could tell it was a heavyweight, but it moved around the ring like a middleweight. Eibach Pro springs were the only suspension changes and you could feel them being worked but not overwhelmed. The R6 Hoosiers (265/30-19 (f) and 295/30-19 (r)) relayed plenty of info through the steering wheel, with the front tires giving up first and power oversteer practically any time you wanted it—and sometimes when you didn’t.
The power was good at almost any point in the rev range. Sill present was the lack of low-end torque the S85 engine has taken criticism for, but on the track where you’re playing with the serious half of the rev range, the ESS supercharger noticeably fattens up the mid-range, making that surge towards the engine’s ridiculous 8250-rpm redline come that much quicker with the smoothness, force and propulsion of a jet turbine. The delivery is seamless and the only telltale sign that the engine is not stock is the muffled whistling sound from the spooling blower.
The ESS kit is based around a Vortech V3Si supercharger; a cast-aluminum manifold; high-flow Bosch Motorsport fuel injectors; a cast, high-temperature plastic intake for the supercharger; a reprogrammed ECU with new settings for the VANOS and throttle sensor and the assorted brackets, belts and hoses. Their VT-1 kit, which the M6 was running, is rated at 625 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque compared to 500 hp and 380 lb-ft stock. Maximum boost is 5.5 psi. Their VT-2 kit includes an intercooler, a smaller pulley and an ECU tune to accommodate the upgrades for a 25-hp bump to 650 hp at 7 psi.
The way I reeled in the M3 over the course of four or five laps made me think that maybe there wasn’t a power-to-weight advantage because now I can read when the registration on his license plate expires. Maybe his tires are starting to overheat or his brakes were cooked or maybe there’s more than one reason I’m on his tail and actually holding back in some sections. Whatever the reason, I’ll take it. On the same section I let him by a few laps ago, he stuck out his hand and told me to pass him on the left.
Off the track and on the street the ESS supercharger exhibited the same seamless delivery of power, with quick, effortless blasts up to 130 and tons more pull beyond that. There were, however, times when I had to drop down an extra gear to make real progress. The fact is it’s still a 3,900-pound car and that 455 lb-ft of torque isn’t around at 2000 or 3000 rpm. ESS also offers a reprogram of the SMG’s brain for crisper, faster shifts so getting the car to scoot just takes a nudge on the paddle.
Aesthetically, the car features Vorsteiner’s carbon front lip and rear diffuser, from which the exhaust tips of an RPI full cat-back exhaust protrude. The grille has been matted black and the side grilles have a subtle matte bronze finish to match the center spokes of the HRE 794RS wheels (9.5x20 (f), 11x20 (r)). Those wheels are bound by Pirelli P-Zero Corsas measuring 265/30 front and 295/30 rear. The headlight covers have been tinted to finish off its sinister presence.
2007 BMW M6
5.0-liter V10, dohc, 40-valve. ESS Tuning VT-1 supercharger, RPI full cat-back exhaust
SMG III, seven-speed semi-automatic with ESS Tuning software
Eibach ProKit springs
Wheels and Tires
HRE 794RS (9.5x20 (f), 11x20 (r) (street)
Pirelli P-Zero Corsa 265/30 (f), 295/30 (r) (street)
Stock M6 9.5x19 (track)
Hoosier R6 265/30 (f), 295/30 (r) (track)
Peak Power: 625 hp
Peak Torque: 455 lb-ft