Project E46 M3: Part 4 – Improved handling, acceleration, braking and looks

Wheels, tires and anti-roll bars installed (and tested!)

by Pablo Mazlumian

In Part 3, we upped the power ante to a menacing 323whp, which is impressive considering the 3.2-liter displacement (that’s just 198 cubic inches for you Detroit muscle heads).  In addition, we achieved 100whp per liter, a rare feat by cars sporting over 3 liters.

Today, we raised the performance in handling, acceleration and braking with just one modification—a good set of tires.  We even prove it numerically.  The lateral G-meter was also pushed with a set of UUC anti-roll bars.  We'll reveal the results, but first let’s discuss where the rubber meets the road.  Enter Michelin.

As the parent company of BF Goodrich, Michelin and BFG created a tire designed not only to annihilate some of their competition, but also to be legal in racing classes that require D.O.T. legal tires with a UTQG (Uniform Tire Quality Grade) of at least 200.

The BFG G-Force Rival entered into a new category of tires called “Extreme Summer Performance” when it was released in April, and I can confirm that this tire is phenomenal.  In fact, I was lucky enough to experience the company’s Rival press launch back in February at the NOLA Motorsports park, and that’s where I was sold—but more on that event later.

Before choosing a tire or wheel you should know what size brakes you'll end up with.  Since we chose a 14-in big brake kit (coming up in Part 5), it meant we’d be able to still use 18-in wheels, which is desirable for anyone trying to keep rolling weight down as well as not degrading the ride quality with lower profile tires.  It also meant we could use the BFG Rival tire because there simply are no 19-in sizes currently available as of yet.

In our quest for quality 18-in wheels we pursued D-Force Wheels.  While D-Force offers a line of forged, monoblock construction wheels made to order, they also sell “Flow Form” wheels that were designed to be of good strength, low weight and affordable.  To accommodate our new 245-mm wide Rivals up front and 275-mm in the rear, we ordered a set of matte black D-Force LTW 5 wheels, respectively in 18x9 and 18x9.5 sizes. 

Pictured here is the LTW 5 18x9.5 rear, weighing in at just 18.9-lb.  Notice the mass that is taken out from around each spoke.  Although narrower, the front 18x9 wheel weighed in at 19.5-lb due to the extra mass needed to provide the correct offset, but thankfully that extra mass is in the center of the wheel. By comparison, a stock E46 M3 18x9-in rear wheel weighs in at 26.8 lb, while the 19x9.5 found on the rear of an 04-06 E46 M3 is a hefty 29.3 lb!

If I had chosen silver wheels I would have considered going with 19-in simply for the aesthetic appeal, but with black I felt the extra weight and added stiffness would outweigh the improvement in looks.  Still, these 18-in wheels have transformed the look of our car.

If black wheels aren’t your thing, D-force also offers these wheels in silver and anthracite.  In fact, my previous E36 M3 sported 17x8-in D-Force LTW 5s in anthracite (which fit 13-in brakes with no spacers, and weighed only 16-lb!).  Although I do miss that car, it’s nice to know the current local owner is enjoying it thoroughly.  In fact, I see the car from time to time getting serviced at Modified by KC, where I seem to frequent on a weekly basis with my car projects.

D-Force also carries a BMW honeycomb-style wheel called the Em Power (can you tell they’re into BMWs?), and all D-Force wheels can be ordered through a couple of our project suppliers, UUC Motorwerks and Bavarian Autosport.

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Monday, November 11, 2013 8:02 AM
A buddy of mine was at the same tire test at NOLA. Good stuff. It's pretty amazing the G numbers the car is pulling as is. Can't wait to see it with some more handling goodies installed!
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 7:34 AM
How much of a factor is the extra tire width contributing to the G-force numbers you collected? There's no doubt the confidence and wear of the BFG tires is great, I'm just trying to be as empirical as possible. To gain .1 of a G in handling is quite impressive, then you gained another .1 with the sway bars. I'm sure as the chassis and suspension stiffens more, the tires will come into play more.
Pablo Mazlumian
Pablo Mazlumianlink
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 7:49 AM
@spdracerut: indeed, and that was gutsy for BFG to have us drive the Rival first (before learning each of the courses) and then experiencing the competition. Usually tire gigs do it the other way around, and by the time you drive the 'good' tire you're also more comfortable with the track. In this case it wasn't so.

@jeffball610: "how much" would be hard to quantify, but I am pretty sure the gain in width does not contribute to the majority of the improvement. I say this after having tested the tire at NOLA with factory sizes on all cars we tested. One part I didn't mention in the article is the last leg, which included Mazda Miatas on a skidpad. This time, however, we tested against BFG's own G-Force Sport Comp 2, which was an awesome tire a few years ago and better than the tires I previously had on this car.
Anyway, I averaged 1.05 with the Comp2's, 1.15 with the Rival and 1.23 with the R1 race rubber, meaning it was closer to an R-compound than to a high-performance summer tire.
With the swaybars I gained 0.03, by the way. And you are correct, the car is now at a point where it can use more suspension to maximize these tires.
Anonymous User
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Tuesday, March 31, 2015 10:30 PM
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