Saturday, June 20, 2015

335 Build & Modification Road Map

I decided I would approach my `mod` bug with some level of structure compared to my last car, and thought I would share my roadmap. I have a series of upgrades and modifications over the coming 6 months, some of which have already been completed. The philosophy around the build will be to approach the project as an "OEM +". OEM + is my philosophy of making improvements that look to improve the car without drastically altering the vehicle; and really creating the car the way it should have shipped from factory by sharpening it in several key areas by 10-15%.

My plan for the car falls into the following three main categories: Performance, Suspension/Dynamics, Appearance.

Note: the list of modifications & parts are not listed in any particular order

1) Performance

  • Intercooler: Cooler air = more power, and lower operating temperatures. A larger FMIC is a quick drop in, taking no more than 1 hour of work and will help to keep engine temperatures down and will really shine when working in combination with a tune. 
  • Mid pipes/Exhaust: A simple way to open up some flow for these cars is to replace the secondary catalysts with a mid-pipe or installing an exhaust system that replaces the entire exhaust system from the downpipes back. Simple axle-back systems are purely for looks/sound but a full down-pipe back system have shown 10 hp / 10tq to the wheels with faster spool times. An additional benefit would be 20lb + weight reduction.
  • Drop in air filter [Installed] : The stock intake box is already a decently designed 'cold-air' intake. Replacing the stock restrictive filter with a higher flowing one is a simple replacement/maintenance item. Don't expect a big bump in performance over a fresh paper filter, although I did notice 0.2 - 0.4 mpg improvement combined over the same driving conditions.

2) Suspension/Dynamics

  • E92 coupe rear brace - Bolt-on OEM upgrade for sedans that were factory on all coupes. Easy, inexpensive chassis rigidity upgrade without damaging ride quality.
  • M3 bushings - Simple drop in, OEM fitment which will tighten up the rear-end
  • M3 rear control arms [Installed] - Significant improvement in the rear end and highly worthwhile modification with no downsides. 5 lb unsprung weight reduction. (see review for more details)
  • Springs/shocks/strut conversion to sport package (dropping the ride height 10mm) - better turn in and reduction of deflection mid turn. No significant decrease in ride quality especially when paired with a removal of run flat tires and light weight suspension components. 
  • Stainless steel brake lines -  Simple, cost effective, improves pedal feel improving ability to modulate pedal and to initiate bite on brakes
  • High performance tires [Installed] - Easily the most important thing to do on this list, especially when you switch from run flats to conventional tires. This should be the priority for any enthusiast.  
  • Cowling delete/modification - approximate weight reduction of 10lbs
  • Light weight rotors - lifted straight off the z4 35is, 2 lb reduction in weight per corner, will not rust and better heat dissipation qualities [Installed]
  • Brass calliper bushings - improve directness and feel in braking, more even rotor wear and improvement in the ability to modulate brake pedal with an improvement in initial 'bite' into the rotor
  • ECS lower trailing arms - Bolt on light weight aluminum trailing arms. Significantly stiffer than factory with a slight drop in un-sprung mass (2 lb). Not a critical component but a good way to round out a suspension upgrade.

3) Appearance

I personally believe the m-sport package is the perfect look for this car and that really means that I don't have much planned as far as appearance modifications planned. The major plan will be to mount my license plate using the front tow hook and removing the center mounted bracket. This will make for a more aggressive look and help improve airflow over the intercooler and radiator.

Additionally I plan on removing the sidemarkers and replacing them with painted markers.

The final and perhaps major visual improvement will be to do a full 4 stage detail on the car which will really help restore the exterior after its 100k km life and refresh the look of the car and get it ready for events over the coming year.


The 335 is a fantastic performance sedan, the modifications planned in the three areas with a particular focus on dynamics will serve to take the vehicle to the next level without destroying is character or impeding the ability for it to serve as a daily driver. Carving corners and putting power down is easily one of the highlights of the car along with the phenomenal drivetrain. Enhancing the dynamics will be incredibly satisfying alone and will also serve as a strong foundation for a 'power' build later. Completing the suspension/dynamics will give a better understanding of how much more horsepower the chassis can handle, and realistically "it is so hard to make more power on the n54" is not something any enthusiast has ever said.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Matt Farah from the Smoking Tire Reviews a tuned 335i ...

The Smoking Tire's point man, Matt Farah, has been online making great videos for years. He has recently started inviting residents of California to volunteer their cars for a canyon test drive. Matt recently reviewed a modified a 335 coupe, and was thoroughly impressed by the car. What I found particularily great was the fact that there were no negative points that he found from the car other than the sound from the stock exhaust. I think what's really telling is his reviews of other cars, and when you compare the 335 to those it really seems that it comes out at as one of the top 'dailies' of his list...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Z4 35is Front Rotor Review

The time came in the fall of 2014 to do a full brake service and I was looking for ways to improve my braking performance without going to a full BBK setup given most of my driving is backroads or autocross. I have to say I never found the brakes to be weak or underpowered for my driving style. At the same time I have a couple of issues with the stock setup, one of which being the appearance of the overall setup. The rotor's hats are made of metal and therefore corrode, giving a pretty nasty appearance and can easily take away from an otherwise very clean and tidy exterior.

BMW Z4 35 is front rotor (note: aluminum hat)

I found through looking at OEM parts online that the Z4 35is has the same 348mm diameter equipped front rotors as the 335 only they have a full aluminum hat vs. the steel 335 ones. The main advantages of these over the stock rotors are:

1) Weight savings of 2lbs per corner

2) Rust free

3) Semi - floating disc has better heat dissipation properties

Ultimately given the additional $100(per pair) over stock OEM rotors I jumped all over them and have to say I am completely satisfied. The quality is typical OEM BMW and they look great under the rims even after 5,000 km. I can't say that I specifically noticed the reduction in un-sprung mass but when combined with the removal of the runflat tires the car feels more nimble and is another step towards my 100lb weight reduction goal (without removing any critical systems or affecting comfort and function).

Z4 35is rotors installed


For the marginal increase in cost this is a must have for anyone looking to lighten up their un-sprung mass, improving brake function through cooling and improving the aesthetics

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Top 10 BMWs to Own

The dream car garage is a timeless topic; it has and will forever be a very personal thing, and I thought I should put my list out there. I always thought if I had the choice of having one or two super cars or a half dozen high performance mainstream cars the latter would be my choice. The beauty would be experiencing different cars and appreciating their individuality, and driving dynamic and engaging cars that you need to put work into to get the most out of.

1) E46 M3

This is an iconic car that is recognized internationally as a performance benchmark among its peers. A nimble, driver focused car with a gem of an engine. A low mileage good condition example can be had for less than $25,000 (CAD). There are a lot of good upgrade options by using BMW competition pack and CSL parts.

2) E30 M3

Pure iconic classic - need I say more. I fear once you have one you may never sell it.

3) E39 M5

Arguably one of the best sedans BMW has ever made. Smaller than an F30 3 series it is very nimble with tons of feedback to the driver, with a design that somehow doesn't feel dated and a robust interior that in most cases has held up very well.  

4) E9x 335 & 335is

When this car was released in 2007 it completely revolutionized the German compact car class. No other car on the market had the same power, smoothness, and dynamics of a 335. Known for their ease of tuning, turn one into a dedicated track car, street sleeper or just keep it as an awesome daily driver.

5) E9x M3

A future classic, and the last of the naturally aspirated M3 cars. It's modern enough but can still be had with a 6-speed, no idrive, and a carbon fiber roof.

6) X5 4.8is

Truly a monster of a vehicle, and really represents a good upgrade over the 4.6is - doing 0-60 in 6.0s flat, and with a stock exhaust that sounds like thunder, I could not imagine a better naturally aspirated v8 suv. Down side - these SUVs tend to need a suspension refresh especially with higher mileage vehicles (I know through personal experience with my friends' X5 4.6is)

7) Z4M

With the engine from the E46 M3 and the most unique body in recent BMW history, what is there not to love (even though some people call it the clown shoe - at least its a fast shoe).

8) E82 135 & 1M

Shares the same drive train, suspension as the 335 while weighing approximately 200lbs less. Small, nimble, powerful and focused, a perfect drivers car that could be turned into a powerful performance street or track setup that could easily best an m3 in a straight line. The 1M is essentially a factory tuned 135i with a ton of m3 bits installed and is the best example of a pure driving machine in the past 5 years.

9) E39 540i m-sport (sedan & wagon)

To me the E39 represents the pinnacle of BMW sedan perfection, 4 doors, the same size as a modern 3 series, excellent driving dynamics and a sweet 4.4 which in later revisions was good for 291 hp and 340 ft/tq. The m-sport package really makes the car look sharp and purposeful and is no doubt the one to have. Of special interest is the 540i m-sport wagon, it was the sportiest and fastest wagon that BMW made in the E39 generation and is no doubt a rare and special car. This would undoubtedly be my wagon of choice for its power plant, looks and dynamics.

10) Alpina B7

If I was in Europe I would say the Alpina B3 not the B7 but unfortunately the only Alpina brought over to this side of the pond was the B7. Every once and awhile even the most hardcore track fan would love to cruise the streets in a big powerful sleeper sedan. Nothing really beats the refinement, design and details of an Alpina. I think the blend of body, styling, and performance is the perfect upgrade over a 750i. It also doesn't hurt that it hits 60 faster then most sports cars.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

BMW E90 window chatter/creaking solved

Anyone that owns an E90 generation BMW knows that after 60,000 km a creaking sound in cold weather is very common coming from the windows in the veichle, especially present when taking low speed turns or going over road imperfections. Having spent a significant amount of time trying to fix the issue I can proudly report having found a solution that takes care of the problem entirely.

The concept of lubricating seals on any car isn't something that is particularly emphasized in maintenance guides so there seems to be a lot of misinformation online about the topic. First things first, only silicone free appropriate lubricants should be used otherwise you run the risk of drying out and damaging your seals and weather stripping, have fun replacing those....

The best alternative to the BMW lubricant from the dealership is Rubber Care from a company called Kleen Flo. They make excellent lubricants and solvents which I have had great success with in the past.

The primary areas that need to be lubricated are the external seals that are easily dried out by the weather and chemicals used to clean your car. Ideally prior to applying the lubricant rinse the car off and make sure to clear any dirt, dust and debris off the seals. Apply the lubricant directly to the seals (try to avoid over-spray) and then even spread it over the weather stripping with a rag. Leave it on for 1-2 minutes and remove any excess with a clean rag. Additionally the same process can be applied to all rubber seals: sunroof, trunk, hood, interior window seals etc.

I recommend doing this at the very least before the winter (when the seals shrink due to temperature and are most likely to cause creaking). I personally apply it 4 times a year, at the beginning of every season when I detail my car. I found that all window creaking was completely eliminated and overall the ease of opening and closing the windows was much improved.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Burger Motorsports N54 Oil Catch Can Review

Those who know and appreciate the N54 platform also know it suffers from a significant oil blow through problem. Oil leaks passed the turbos and into intake system of the car, coating the inter cooler, charge pipe and ultimately the intake valves. This leads to heavy carbon deposits forming on the intake valves, reducing performance and leading to rough idle. Physical maintenance must be done every 100,000 km or less in the form of medium blasting the valves. To reduce the oil clogging in the system, the valve cleaning service interval, and to a lesser extent, improving the octane level a catch can should be installed. After researching the products available on the market and realizing many were generic catch cans that were simply retrofitted to work on the 335 I settled on the Burger Motorsports (BMS) OCC as it was designed from the ground up for the n54/n55 engines.

An example of fouled 335 N54 intake values at ~ 98,000 km


The installation itself is relatively straightforward however you will need a few things to make the process smoother.

A heat gun will make it much easier to heat the ends of the rubber hoses to get them on the PCV valve nipples (see red circle around end of hose that needs to be heated with heat gun). From personal experience it is practically impossible to get them on without one or even with a hairdryer. Also if the hoses still do not fit even with a heat gun, email Terry at BMS as you might have an improper fitting hose. I had a hose that wasn't fitting properly and Terry shipped me one for free; BMS customer service is stellar.

Pictures Installed

The catch can sits under the cowl for a super stealth look.


It is hard to say to say exactly what percentage of the oil in the intake system the OCC is catching however it does seem to be collecting oil from the system. Below is a picture of the amount of oil that was removed from the catch can after 4,000 km of driving. Its easy to see that after 40,000 km a significant amount of oil would be prevented from entering the system. Do I expect it to be a 100% solution to the problem, absolutely not, but it is definitely doing its job and reducing the fouling that occurs.
More than a mod this is almost something that should have come on the vehicle from the factory, and is something that every enthusiast should have on their car. It in no way compromises the performance of the car, in fact helping its longevity and reducing the performance degradation.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Runflat delete and Bridgestone RE760 Review

I've been complaining about the factory runflats on the 335i since the day I drove it off the lot; although I bought the car second hand the dealership put a brand new set of Bridgestone Potenza runflat tires (the same the car shipped with). I found the ride very harsh and jarring mostly because the tires have no give whatsoever and the factory xi suspension is relatively soft, meaning the suspension gets overly activated, making for a 'jolty' ride. On the other hand a rock solid sidewall allows for immediate steering input that can really be appreciated on the track or a flat piece of highway.

Finally this summer I had enough, I ordered a set of Bridgestone RE 760's after comparing them to the Continental Extreme DW 94Y XL and Michelin Pilot Super Sport 94Y I came to the conclusion that the Continental's sidewall was far too soft both from physically inspecting floor models and that the Michelin were far too expensive for any performance gain over the 760s. Please find the link that I used to do some of my primary research.


I had only two concerns moving away from runflats 1) no spare tire or room for a spare tire kit 2) reduced sidewall rigidity and hence worse turn in and responsiveness. Realistically you just need to get comfortable with the fact that neither of these issues will be fully addressed, but there are significant gains to be made in other areas.


Ride Quality

After having put 2,000km on the clock with the RE 760s I have to say I am nothing short of impressed. They have totally improved the character of the car for the better and are a great investment, a large part of that comes from the better ride and that isn't unique to the Bridgestone's. The ride is noticeably more balanced and not overly busy; hitting a small pothole no longer rattles every panel in the car (I can't help but think switching to conventional tires would prolong the life of the suspension and bushings).


Traction both in dry and wet conditions is incredible, it has now become impossible to break the rear end free even with ESP and DSC both fully off, compared to the runflats that could be broken free with traction control off in both dry and wet conditions. The tires are a perfect match for the car as they are not ultra-sticky tires that over power the factory suspension setup which could be very problematic and destroy the natural feel of the car. The car hooks up much better off the line with no tire squeal and puts down power much better on even surfaces without the feeling that the rear end is hopping or skipping over uneven surfaces during flat-out acceleration.

Rotational Mass

I am not going to lie - I thought switching from runflats to conventional tires the drop in rotating mass would be significant enough to be noticeable, the reality is I couldn't feel a difference even if I wanted to. The truth is the difference per tire on the 225's is approximately 3lbs. Now I am sure the performance overall of the car has been impacted to some extent by a 8lbs reduction in rotating mass but I haven't been able to notice any difference.


If you are looking for your first major upgrade to your E90 or need to replace your worn runflats I wouldn't even think twice about getting RE 760s or conventional tires more generally. They will completely change the performance, ride and comfort of the car - the best money you could spend on your car.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Cars & Coffee Toronto - August 2014

The Cars & Coffee in August was a fantastic event there was a great turnout and is always great to see familiar faces and cars. There was a great turnout of mid-level performance cars which is the segment I always find the most interesting given the blend of accessibility, performance and modifications available. I cannot emphasize how great these events are; there is a c63 507 that has been a staple at the event and I have gained a significant appreciation for the car and its capability and the fact that it could make a great, albeit expensive, build car given the fact it can take SLS engine components.

This meet provided a great opportunity to see an e90 m3 that caught my eye last year at Bimmer Cruise 2013. A stunning le mans blue coupe that has received very tasteful, purposeful and focused upgrades. Personally I love that the owner kept it naturally aspirated - maintaining the character of the car. I think its the harder path compared to just dropping in a supercharger and making 500+ whp. I hope I have an opportunity to see the car in action on the track with the new mods. Seeing the work he did on suspension, brakes and exhaust really gave me some inspiration for what the next steps on my car will be (more to come on that ....). Enjoy the pictures from the event!