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Written 11-19-2002

5 out of 5

The ESS TUNING VT 108-72U supercharger kit is specifically designed for the American 330i and is rated to produce about 325HP SAE. However, ESS does make kits for numerous other BMW models from E36s to X5s, both US and European. The kit contains of all the parts needed to completely install the supercharger including all brackets, bolts, spacers, washers, hoses, wiring, and even zipties. Reprogramming of the DME (Engine Control Unit) is done in Norway and exhibits new air/fuel maps, ignition timing maps, throttle sensitivity, and emissions controls. It also raises the rev-limiter by 500 RPM and removes the top-speed limiter. They plan to offer the DME reprogramming at their Florida location very soon to keep the DME's from leaving the United States (US Customs charges you for the trips). This ESS kit utilizes a Vortech V-2 SQ Centrifugal Supercharger available in either standard or polished finishes. The intake and discharge tubing are normally painted gloss black, but can be painted to match the vehicle's color for an additional price.

Interested in how a supercharger works? Read ALL ABOUT BOOST.

N-1978 Aremark

After a long wait, I finally received my ESS supercharger kit in early October of this year. The parts came neatly packaged and wrapped in bubble sheets. The supercharger itself came in it's own box within the package. I laid all of the parts out on the floor to get an idea of what was what. The craftmanship on the custom parts was fantastic. My intake and discharge tubing did not arrive with the kit due to being painted body colored. They turned out so good, I swear it is better than the paint on the car.

I chose to get the DME out of the car and sent to ESS as soon as possible. I used FedEx and sent it Overnight International. It cost me about $65. I also had to pay about $55 to UPS for customs tax on the kit itself. The DME took two days to get to ESS, one day for reprogramming, and 4 days to return. A week round-trip. During this week is when I installed the kit.

The installation manual weighs in at 13 pages with 56 color pictures. Still, the instructions leave a lot to be desired and I told ESS I would gladly "upgrade" them with more information and more photos so they could give them out to the public if they decide to. I think they were written with a mechanic in mind and not so much a person who tinkers in the garage. I was able to figure out what they meant, but I did need the assistance of my Bentley manuals and my automotive knowledge. I will likely reformat the DIY into a Adobe Acrobat format and release it to ESS to distribute.

The installation procedure went smooth, but some backtracking to pictures and various steps was necessary. Every part fit the first time, with the exception of an oil breather hose which I needed to extend. The DIY I wrote shows all of the steps needed to complete the installation. Once done, it is a beautiful thing to look at.

The moment of truth came when I had the car towed to BMW to have the new DME aligned to the security system (a necessary step). ESS used to pull the VIN/security info off the DMEs and move it to the new programming. Since the 3-series models, even identical twins, can carry different releases of software, ESS designed new programming (v1.03) that is compatible with every type. In the process, however, this wipes the DME of individual chassis and VIN information. My BMW dealership used their MoDiC unit to align the new DME to the existing security information in the car. We turned the ignition key, and VROOOM!

It started immediately and purred like a kitten.

UPDATE (3-8-2004): After speaking recently with ESS, they have returned to encoding the security overlay into their newest DME programming, so the part about having your EWS (alarm) system realigned no longer applies. They are well into version 1.09+ now and these systems will not need towing. They should start right up on the spot after completion.

The sound from the supercharger is like a small whistle at idle, but off idle it is negligible. I noticed that I was getting a little bit of engine oil seeping from the supply line onto the supercharger, but I was told in advance this could happen and some Teflon tape fixed it right up.

The next 100 miles were torture. I could feel the difference immediately. I knew there was a monster waiting to be uncaged from under the hood, dying to be set free. I drive that night and break the 100 mile break-in mark, but the real fun happened the next day...

Driving along, I passed my friend in his 2-month old 2002 E46 M3 6-speed. I caught up with him and he wanted to run. OK, what better way to see how it works. Lined up, counted to 3, and dropped the gas. First gear whips by, second doesn't last much longer and I am ahead of him. The way the power is delivered grows smoothly as boost is built. Into third, he is even with me. To fourth, he creeps about a car ahead... and stayed there. I didn't outrun him, but the sheer fact that I could keep up with him at all was a testament to this system. All that, and I had an extra 200lbs of passenger in my car, while he was alone in his M3.

After speaking with ESS about my M3 meeting, they said, "Just gets faster". And it does. Over the next couple of weeks, you can feel that the system is adapting and putting out more and more. I can dump it in 2nd gear at 4,000 RPM and light all 510mm of my rear tires right up. It takes some getting used to how to feather the throttle smartly in turns, but it is well worth the response. This car is a riot to drive now. The boost is predictable and available when you need it. Freeway driving and passing is fun, fun, fun. The mountains upstate are no problem, I can accelerate uphill in 5th with the A/C on.

I then took the car to get some dyno numbers. I know everyone wants to see how it does. I was disappointed. Something wasn't right. My best run only put 240HP to the wheels. There is no way I kept up with an M3 with only 240RWHP. I start investigating. It turns out I was running lean since the intake hose on the supercharger had come loose. It had to have happened in the previous few days. We reattached and tightened it and, after a 30 minute cooldown, ran it again. It instantly ran with a flat air/fuel (between 12.5 and 13.5) and produced another 20HP. The DME was now readapting again.

I ran out of time to let the adapting continue. I was getting ready to head to Vegas. I drove the car all week to get the DME all straightened out after possibly running lean all that time.

I have since opened it up... and pegged the speedometer needle. Now, since the speedometer only goes to 155 (and BMWs are known for inaccurate speedometers), I used GPS to get my speed. I was accelerating through 165MPH before letting off. This is no slouch!

I plan on running it on the dyno again soon. The "missing" 40HP will be there next time and I will post the results.

Overall, this has to be the best thing I have ever done to my car. It ranks right up there with the PSS9 Coilovers. The guy who runs my dynos tunes racing Porsches for a living and was overwhelmed by how good the car ran and ESS's fuel/ignition maps. It may not beat *every* car on the road, but it's plenty enough for 99% of them and most of all, me.

I HIGHLY recommend this system!


  © MarvelPhx