Active Autowerke Loves A Good Underdog Story
YOU’VE PROBABLY seen an E9X 328i at some point in your life. In fact, you’ve probably already seen one or two, or 20 (if you happen to live down the street from your local university’s sorority row), today. This particular BMW model is so prevelant, it may not even register when one happens to pull up next to you at a stoplight. BMW’s most popular 3-series was built as a stepping stone to the more powerful 335i and M3, right? Something for your wife or girlfriend to drive to her weekly facial appointment. No on in their right mind would bother buying such a platform with the intent to modify it, it’s pointless, right?
ACTIVE AUTOWERKE respectfully disagrees. See, we’re an equal opportunity tuning shop. Everyone gets a shot, even the N52-powered E9X 328i. And the ho-hum cookie cutter narrative changes drastically when you pick up an extra 30 horsepower for around the cost of 10% of a 10% down payment on a new 335i.
Our math may be a bit off, but that’s what the dyno is for.
ACTIVE AUTOWERKE has been a supporter of the N52 community for over a year, offering a few bits and pieces to those of our fans who decided on the more traditional, naturally-aspirated inline 6 cylinder motor.
A variety of reasons contribute to the conclusion behind purchasing an N52-powered BMW. One of which that seems to be lost amid all the talk of horsepower, torque, and how big they supposedly make one’s…stick shift… is that the 328i still retains the same E9X chassis that houses the N54/N55 engines. Which is to say, it is still a very fun to drive, easy on the eyes, luxurious vehicle. Not everyone needs 500 horsepower to get their children to school. Many just want a sophisticated, reliable vehicle that won’t make them avoid the nice restaurant with the valet.
Then again, the damn thing could always use some more power.
WE RECENTLY revisted our latest N52 software tune, in the hopes there still may be some extra power hiding within the confines of the engine. No small task, according to one of our software engineers, Zak Nye:
“The trouble with tuning naturally aspirated cars nowadays is that the manufacturer has an army of engineers and tuners. Most modern cars do not come “de-tuned” like they may have back in the day. Years ago tuning was a lot more loose and inaccurate so there had to be some margin of error built in to the tuning. Now, ECUs are so fast and accurate because of the rapid development of smarter sensors and faster processors. Tuning can now be pushed to the ragged edge by the factory and still have plenty of safety margin due to the increase of the accuracy and speed of the computers.”
While diffucult, the task would not be impossible. Zak knows that the key to finind power in BMW’s N52 comes down to four things: Fueling, Ignition Timing, VANOS, and Valvetronic, if so equiped. Fueling was addressed by adjusting the air-fuel ratio to be a bit less rich at redline. Ignition timing had already been advanced in previous iterations of the tune, and was left as-is. The VANOS system, according to Zak, is “pretty much perfect from the factory,” but when different bolt-on modifications are added, there is the potential to gain more power through the cam timing mapping. This is partly why our software can still be fine-tuned depending on the amount of modifications done to a customer’s car.
Finally, the biggest benefit of modifying the Valvetronic system, is through increasing the effective lift of the intake valves, allowing for more air flow, and better response.
THE NEWEST version of our software tune is only one piece of the puzzle though. We wanted to get an accurate representation of what most of our customers will be driving, so our test car, a 2011 328i coupe, was also equipped with a K&N Drop-in air filter, and Active Autowerke’s Signature N52 Exhaust. Maximizing flow, minimizing backpressure, and shaving off 18 pounds from the rear of the vehicle allowed it to breathe a little easier, and come that much closer to reaching its full potential.
All told, with the three additions, all available through Active Autowerke for a little over $1,000.00 total, the black 328i you see before you turned the rollers to the tune of 192 horsepower, and 181 lb-ft of torque to the wheels on our in-house Mustang Dyno. This approximates crank horsepower a bit north of 260. To get a full perspective, a stock 328i normally puts down between 165-168 rwhp, and 170 lb-ft. on the same dyno. That’s a gain of 24 horsepower, AT THE REAR WHEELS. Now we’re beginning to approach a horsepower-per-dollar ratio closer to the turbocharged boys! More potential gains may be realized with extra bolt-ons, such as an intake manifold, or header.
Not bad for a car no one expected to ever be more than a fleet rental, right?