I had my 2011 e93 M3 DCT tuned my Mike Benvo from BPMsport about a month ago. After lots of daily driving, some canyon drives, and a track session at Streets of Willow, I’ve finally decided to post my thoughts on ECU tuning for the M3.
The M3 stock is already an unbelievable car from the factory, making me question whether it even needs a tune. I had my father’s X6 N54 tuned, and the difference was night and day. I was skeptical about how much more power could be extracted from the naturally aspirated v8 with just a drop-in air filter, and if the gains would be worth it.
After discussing many of my questions with Mike, I decided to pull the trigger. Mike also let me know that if I am truly unsatisfied with the tune, he would give me a refund and tune it back to stock.
The tuning process went very smooth. Mike first updated the car’s stock software to the latest version before taking a read of the car for the tune. Mike gave me a firsthand look at the tuning process and did his best explaining the different maps and the modifications behind them. It’s really overwhelming just how much programming goes into these ECU’s.
The very first thing I noticed about the M3 as Mike got back from his test drive was a slight change in the exhaust note. I could instantly hear a difference in the exhaust note at idle. It had a slightly deeper tone, less raspy/metallic, and more of a “woosh” sound to it when revved in the lows. It still had a very menacing growl to it, especially once you punch the throttle in the mid to high rpms. I would compare it to the sound you get from NA Porsche, not the flat 6 sound, but the sound of the engine forcing out all the air as quickly as possible.
City Driving / Daily
I could definitely feel that the car had more torque throughout the whole range. I was especially pleased with the additional grunt in the 1500-3000 range. Coming from a 335i with the N54, I was used to the gobs of torque available to you as low as 1500rpm. The M3 on the other hand, stock, really needed to be close to 3k rpm to get the low end pickup going.
After the tune, the M3 now starts pulling real nicely at 2000k rpm. I now get that nice “torque feel” where your body gets pushed back in the seat. It pulls very smoothly and steadily to 3-3.5k rpm, my usually DD/city shift point. The car became much more drivable in 4th to 7th gear around the city. I’ve noticed I downshift less and drive the car in lower rev speeds thanks to the additional torque in the low end rpm range and I tend to drive it in the lower revs. The exhaust note also has a nice deep growly when I push it in the higher gears while going low speeds.
Now a little bit about the throttle response. One of my little gripes about the car, if I could even call it that, was that the stock M3’s throttle response was a little bit subdued or “comforted” for my taste in its regular mode. It was great in power mode but a bit too jumpy for daily driving / stop and go traffic. I think Mike got the throttle response spot on in the tune. The throttle response has a nice heavy feel which you carefully ease into it. The tune gives a great balance of throttle response and comfort. I don’t feel detached from the throttle as I did before in normal mode. It’s very smooth and direct, which makes it easier to drive of the line in 1st gear with DCT. The automated clutch grabs a bit quicker with the increased throttle response.
One of the features Mike recommended to get is disabling the cold start secondary air pumps. I feel as this feature is a must for any DCT owner. For anyone who hasn’t tried driving off in a DCT M3 on a cold start without giving it the time to warm up, it is very frustrating. The DCT will slip the clutch heavily and does not react to throttle inputs nicely. You press down on the gas, the engine revs, you feel a slight lurch from the car but it does not go anywhere. Add a bit more gas, and the car suddenly propels forward. It reminded me of my days learning to drive a 6speed manual for the first time.
For example, I was parallel parked on a hill between two cars one night. I was leaving my friend’s house and hopped into the M3 to get on my way. To keep the story short, I looked like a kid learning to drive stick. No matter how gently I applied the throttle, I would either have enough to keep the car stationary from rolling back, or it would suddenly lurch forward nearing hitting the front car’s bumper. Since I wasn’t in a hurry, I just scanned through the sat radio stations while the car warmed up.
After the tune, I’m glad to say I no longer have this issue. First, the car is a lot quieter on startup; great for me since I live in a townhouse with a communal garage. The throttle and clutch engagement now feel normal, as if the car was already warm. No more awkward jerking or clutch slipping. The engine still needs to warm up for optimal smoothness, but it’s a complete night and day difference from before. The only downside, if it you could even call it that, is that there is a bit of a gas smell during the first minute or two. Makes sense since the secondary air pumps are there only for emissions reasons.
A week after getting the tune, I went up to some canyon roads, specifically the Mulholland Snake section to test the tune out. After getting onto the open road, all I have to say is wow. Above 3k rpm the car begins to seriously pull. The engine feels very strong, smooth, and linear, all the way up to the increased red line of 8600rpm. The needle moves like a hot knife cutting through butter. I can’t explain in words just how smooth the feeling is. It really allows you to modulate the engine in the high revs with the smallest of inputs.
The engine response is perfectly paired with the throttle response. You get the feeling as if the throttle is an extension of your foot. I could make the slightest of throttle adjustments without offsetting the car balance. The car was buttery smooth all the way up to redline. Above 5k rpm, the car just pulls ferociously. As I mentioned before, the sound became a bit deeper and less metallic than stock. As you travel up to redline, the deep sound is still there but begins transitions into a powerful scream. I wouldn’t say it’s high pitched, as you still have a deep “woosh” and growl coming from the exhaust. The last 1k rpm go by so quick that I had to adjust my shift timing to not hit the limiter. In the upper revs, it literally feels like the rpm needle has no resistance, it just shoots up with such purpose.
At Streets of Willow, I could definitely feel an improvement in throttle and engine response. You get a very connected feel to the throttle and engine. Coming out of the “bowl” in Willow Springs, I was able to push on the throttle early and real gently, bringing the car wide for the downhill esses. Above 6k rpm, any rough throttle inputs would offset the car balance, so you want to be as gentle as possible. The linearity of the engine with the tune is perfect. It really allowed me to focus and work on putting the power down at the right moment coming out of turns.
The track session was also a great test for the reliability of the tune. That day, it was approximately 100 degrees outside, scorching to say the least. The track surface was even hotter, and after a few laps you could feel the tires melting in turns. Even after dropping PSI it was difficult to get good traction during the last few laps due to the heat. The engine oil temperature was just a tick under 300 at the end of each session (sessions lasted about 20-30min), but I never received any dash warnings and the car continued to deliver after each cool down. Meanwhile, my steering fluid overflowed in the engine bay, and my front tires were slightly melted. After letting the car cool down I hopped in and drove back to LA with no issues.
Overall I’m very satisfied with the tune. Since I spend most of the time daily / city driving, I really wanted to get as much out of the low end as possible. Mike certainly delivered in that regard. The throttle response and low end power now available makes daily driving a real pleasure. The smoothness and additional top end power is also great, especially since the e93 has a good 400lbs on the sedan/coupe.
The car was an absolute blast on the track and I highly recommend it to anyone who has not taken their M3 to the track before. It really allows you to feel the limits of the car, and how to control it when those limits are passed.
And of course, a pic of the ride. Thanks to kirvan599 for the photo work.
Trying to catch an e92 M3 at Streets of Willow. Car was driven in MDM S5. My second time at SoW but first time driving clockwise.