People, here you have the best E90 3 Series version with four doors that’s likely to happen during the model’s shelf life, which is sort of a pity to be so good so freakin’ early on. But, let’s find a way to cope with the goodness. The E92 M3 will struggle to impress me the way this remarkable Hartge just has.
A 3 Series 4.0-liter V8 with more than 400 bhp at high revs? How about a thoroughly transformed 330i with a 5.0-liter V10 gushing 542 SAE horses at screaming revs? (That’s 412 poncelets for all you 19th century French projective geometrists out there.) You want a piece o’ that?
Rico Suave takes over my inner child whenever I get to drive these Hartges at full tilt on the Saarland’s un-cluttered rural roads. This one, called the H50 V10, is now sky-high on my want-it-bad-should-I-win-a-lottery list.
First, the E90 3 Series’ whole damned family has been voted car of the year by more reputable and un-reputable sources than I care to go into. This is funny since the initial reception to the car at the launch drives near Valencia in Spain at the dawn of 2005 was very good but just slightly un-glowing. What I still have a hard time with is the Any Car design of the nose and tush. Great-driving cars don’t honestly always need to be perfect on the outside, but in BMW’s case, the E46 3 is like Peter Sellers walking on water at the end of Being There. Stand in front of the current M3, for instance, and you know what you’re looking at and you love it. Stand in front of this E90 body, and from a few angles, you need a reminder that it’s a BMW or that you should adore it unconditionally. I hope the full E92 M3 look does for the car what the new M5 did for the 5 Series. While we all wait anxiously for that, however, I arrived in Beckingen, Germany, loaded for bear.
Like I said, poke the Power button on the center console of the H50 V10 and you promptly get 542 bhp peaking at 7750 rpm. Torque maxes at 384 lb-ft at 6100 rpm just as on the original M5 or M6. Go ahead and think, “Yeah, big whoop.” But, in a 3 Series package, you will not have the wherewithal even to formulate such a witless thought. The E90 is the perfect size car for me-and for many others-and getting something greater than the M5 or M6 on a hotter, smaller chassis reeks of Manifest Destiny. The H50 curbs in at 3,686 pounds, while an M5 properly loaded is near 4,100 pounds, and the M6 coupe not much under 4,000 on public scales.
And despite what I may feel about the E90 family look, I can find only greatness in the new 3 Series chassis. Versus this E90 architecture, the E46 is frankly a bit of a boat. Hate me for saying it, go right ahead. But, it is true. Granted, an E46 “boat” outshines any similarly configured car currently produced, but this E90 sled is intensely solid stuff. That it can carry this S85 motor and other E60 bits with such aplomb speaks volumes. In fact, the upcoming E90 two-door with bi-turbo straight-six and then the next M3 with its V8 will be easy as pie on this chassis.
I was flicking, chucking, and pushing this H50 to infinity and beyond, and the balance in every sense can take your breath away. Want a donut? Just pull one after offing the DTC and making sure the little Power light is aglow. Smoke rings in an instant.
Beyond such shenanigans, everyday use is absolutely not out of the question. Just leave DTC on and Power off. The default setting for the seven-speed SMG III (pulled also from the E60) shift rhythm, however, is always at Level Five. For me, this is great since I do that anyway in either the M5 or M6. You can tell Hartge that you don’t want full-time Level Five as the default, sure, but that would, in turn, make you a wuss. Get real or leave.
For the V10 to fit in the engine bay, all four inner walls have been pushed outward a bit and the engine allowed to sit as far back in the compartment as physically possible. The headers are specially made for the V10 so as to let it sit low enough under the hood, as well. Nevertheless, look at that boss hood. I fell in love with that chunky thing the first time I saw it. And the ten air slats up top just kill me. This special hood uses the original 330i lid on the sides, but the bold center section is welded into place and the slats punched into it right in Hartge’s workshops. The next more mass-produced H50 will use the upcoming coupe body and, sadly, the power bulge will mostly go away. In addition, the hood and front fenders are now in steel but will be in fiberglass on the Hartge H50 coupe. Notice the air holes now behind the front wheels and the Z4 roundels with side indicator lights.
As the Mach III exhaust system stretches back under the car, the twin pipes, in Hartge tradition, have been pushed together so the four tips exit the rear close together. To achieve this, it was necessary to cut out the rear bay that holds the spare tire so the pipes could pass straight through.
So, back to the smoke circles, these treads are prototype Conti SportContact 3s with a 20-inch hole that are still in final tests. The 245/30 dimensions in front are great, but the rear at 295/25 just stabilizes this sucker as though on rails. These, together with fatter stabilizer bars fore and aft, PSS9 B16 multi-adjustable Bilstein dampers, and rigid Eibach springs, add to the invincibility factor. The prop shaft is a shortened one from an E60 M5, and driveshafts and surrounding structures are an amalgam of E60 M5, 330i, and E46 M3. Don’t need to gush anymore about how well this all behaves, do I?
Acceleration from zero to 60 mph takes only 4.3 seconds, and top speed is set free to 202 mph. Hartge has also upgraded the ECU for faster throttle response, so this package is tight as tight can be. The 15-inch drilled rotors in front sourced from Mercedes-Benz coupled with Brembo eight-piston floating calipers (will be fixed units on the coupe) make certain everything stops alarmingly soon.
Inside, the steering wheel is pulled from the E90 M5 and heavily modified to be more Hartge. Also, the dials will change to Hartge units, the tach reaching 9000 rpm and speedo 330 km/h (205 mph). An extra nice touch in the driver’s view is the third dashboard hump in the middle that shows crystal clear and digitally exactly where you’re at in the gearbox, which shift program you’re in, and the exact water or oil temperature. I have always bitched about not being able to rapidly see my gear number in high-pressure driving situations and this flat-out solves it.
And Hartge has done us all the honor of stripping away all of the bad BMW engine plastic masking, so that we can actually check the oil ourselves and not let the beautiful term “dipstick” vanish from our common parlance.
While this exact V10 setup is not yet available to Americans, all of the outstanding suspension, aero, exhaust, and wheel/tire wizardry can be fitted well to your existing E90.