BMW frequently describes its cars as “the ultimate driving machine.” But no matter how good a car is, there are always those looking for a little extra juice. Some are racers, some are just enthusiastic owners. And all turn to the vigorous aftermarket that’s developed around the German auto industry. A market that knows a winner when it sees one.
And if you’re German tuner AC Schnitzer, you’ve been winning since 1966, at hill climbs, Formula races, and the rough and tumble of today’s British touring car championship.
That experience, has resulted in a line of specialized BMW components, that range from mild to wild.
At the wild end is Schnitzer’s demonstrator car, a maxed-out BMW 318ti hatchback. Packing more aftermarket add-ons than bodies on Baywatch, this tiny super-Bimmer shows just how far you can go with a catalog and a credit card. Plastic surgery is extensive, including a full selection of spoilers, skirts, and even mirrors.
While the slightly overdone interior yields more extra wood than some club basements. More useful features include a special short-travel shifter assembly, with a racy aluminum knob and a set of lightweight aluminum pedals.
But it’s less visible components that allow the company’s extensive racing experience to shine through.
Flip the hood, and you won’t find the 318’s familiar 1.9-liter four. Instead, there’s a bored-and-stroked 3.0-liter inline-six from last year’s 325, and it makes 241 horsepower and 228 pound/feet of torque.
Drivetrain modifications include new ignition mapping and camshafts, and limited-slip differential. As well as extensive alterations to the transmission. Carbon fiber valve and intake covers add some extra pizazz. While a free-breathing exhaust adds some extra rumble.
Chassis changes are equally thorough, and range from new struts, shocks and springs to lightweight aluminum strut tower braces, both front and rear, to ultra-low profile Pirelli P-Zero tires, on 18-inch alloy wheels.
The outcome of all this fiddling is an impressive driving experience.
The engine is strong, with maximum punch expectedly in the mid-range and top end. But bottom end was still sufficient for a 0-to-60 time of 6.0 seconds flat. And a quarter mile time of 13.7 seconds at 97 miles per hour.
The short travel shifter felt crisp and precise, for maximum use of that power. Though the revised gearbox ratios were a bit short in second and a bit too tall in third for smoothly conquering tighter corners. But the chassis compensates by delivered thrilling, go-kart-like handling in these corners at Pocono International Raceway, yet provided a reasonably comfortable ride on the street, too.
And if you think all this performance in a lowly 318 looks too good to be true, you’re right. To actually build a car like this would cost, hold onto your hats, $48,750. And that’s on top of the 318’s $21,960 base price, for a total of $70,710!
But if you’re not quite as nonchalant about money as a Saudi oil baron, you need not despair. The good folks at AC Schnitzer’s U.S. importer, the Claus Ettensberger Corporation, will be glad to help you match a more realistic selection of Schnitzer components to your particular needs and pocketbook.
So if your BMW needs a little something extra, for either street or track, you could turn to an established winner for help. And make your “ultimate driving machine” a winner, no matter where you drive.
Engine: 3.0-Liter Inline-six
Torque: 228 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 6.0 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 13.7 Seconds @ 97 MPH