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Driving The Active Autowerke's BMW M3 - ET Editor's Letter

Can Enough, Ever Be Enough?

Aug 1, 2009
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I think I must be coming down with something. It's probably swine flu. But the other day I found myself asking whether the car I was driving really needed the extra power. I know! What am I saying? I've embarrassed myself. I apologize.

But since I've brought it up, I might as well continue with the notion. You see, I was driving Active Autowerke's supercharged M3 featured in this issue. It had been "detuned" to 602hp but was still blindingly fast. It could suck the skin off a sausage, as we'd say.

The thing about the stock E90 M3 is that it's not exactly a three-legged donkey. It has 414hp from a V8 that revs to 8400rpm. I had the chance to drive it around Laguna Seca (you'd have hated it...) and it was one of the few road cars I've driven on a track that felt like a real racecar.

When you add Active's centrifugal blower, it builds power with revs. The faster you go, the faster it spins, the faster you go. It produces an incredible feeling of limitless power. Just add wings and it would fly.

Without much effort, Active has already seen 650hp from its conversion, and 700 is almost certainly around the corner. But does anybody really need that much horsepower? After all, the original E30 M3 had little more than 200hp and is still regarded as among the best of the breed.

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If we're honest, the most fun you'll have in a car is when you don't have much power and you can drive it to the limit relatively safely. Early Minis, Mk1 and Mk2 GTIs, etc spring to mind. You could find the limit on these cars on a kart track. But finding the limit in the E90 M3 requires Laguna Seca, and even then it felt ridiculously composed. The limits of adhesion and braking are now so high, few of us can explore it safely.

Having said all that, the answer is "no". Enough is never enough. You can always go faster, always have more fun. You don't even have to use it often, just knowing it's there is usually sufficient.

Not everybody needs 600hp. Just like not everybody needs 19" wheels. It's the ability to choose, to tailor a car to your own needs and budget that makes this hobby so much fun.

For me, it's all about the chassis. Upgrade the suspension, wheels 'n tires and brakes first. Get the most out of the car, exploit the engine to its fullest. Afterwards I'll look at mild power mods before maybe going all-out. That way I get to know the car, appreciate each subtle mod and grow with it. By the end I should have the car exactly as I want it and appreciate everything that was done.

So while a 1000hp widebody M3 or a 700hp GTI VR6 turbo with a full stereo might sound absurd to some people, if you enjoy it and can afford it, then go for it!

In addition to the pair of supercharged M3s in this issue, you'll also find a couple of 500whp VR6Ts and the fastest FWD VW in North America. We've also announced our selection for the upcoming Castrol Top Car Challenge, which takes place in the summer. You can see which car will present European tuning against the imports and domestics from our sister magazines. Pride is at stake and second place is unthinkable. Not that we want to add any pressure...Greg Emmerson,



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