I remember seeing concept photos of the E46 M3 CSL in magazines nearly a decade ago. Upon first glance of the engine bay, I told myself, “I will have a carbon fiber airbox one day…”
Fast forward many years later, I finally started looking into ways of getting that gorgeous carbon fiber weave in my own engine bay. Honestly, I never found a single tuning company that either built an airbox to the standard I was aiming for or even a reliable tuner to do such conversion. This was when I stumbled upon a tuning company from the UK, that has now become a strong powerhouse in the BMW tuning industry, Evolve Automotive. Upon endless amounts of research, I found out that this small group of tuners were way ahead of the game of what others were achieving here in the States when it came to natural aspirated S54B32 tuning. Pulling out a consistent 15+whp from just a tune?! I was rather skeptical to say the least. This gave me the urgency to start contacting their clients to get their first hand feedback. After hearing solely astounding reviews on their work, I committed to having them tune my car in whatever setup I end up gathering.
My goal was to simply hit ~315whp and ~240wtq SAE on a DynoJet, all the while keeping my stock section 2 and muffler. I wanted to have a nice streetable, smooth, and quiet host of modifications. Personally, I prefer to stay under the radar and not attract attention. Many shops have told me that these requirements will limit my potential for power, but I was rather persistent on sticking to my strict guidelines.
Now that I found the tuner I felt most comfortable with, I began my journey in finding the right carbon fiber airbox. I knew I could have gone the quicker route and just ordered a new OE CSL Airbox, but I’ll be honest, even I had a hard time justifying it’s price at the time. After sifting through so many different replicas, analyzing photos, videos, and data, I was having a rather difficult time deciding on one. The most important factors to me were how the trumpets were designed, internal bracing, quality of carbon fiber, and easy of implementation for cold air feed ducting.
Coincidentally Evolve Automotive decided to release their own in a group buy for their UK clients. With the great success of their UK group buy, they extended the opportunity to all over the world. After confirming that I would be on the list, all I had to do was play the waiting game. Now to highlight some of the unique features of the Evolve CF Airbox.
Notice the full carbon fiber construction
All the way from the throttle body inputs…
To the internal trumpets and bracing.
Perfectly straight 2x2 carbon fiber weaves like the OE CSL.
Despite the contours of the airbox design, the carbon fiber weave is so consistent.
Even when piecing different sheets of carbon fiber, the weaves match up nearly perfect.
Unlike some other carbon fiber airboxes, Evolve made sure that both the airbox and snorkel have same direction in weave. They went the extra step and also tried to make them line up the best they could.
Utilizing a high quality ITG filter built to Evolve’s spec.
Take note of the IAT Sensor location at the end of the snorkel. Optimized for proper IAT readings.
A clean glossy finish.
Looks very OE right in the engine bay.
Unreal. After watching countless E46 M3 CSL videos, I never once expected the driving experience to be this enhanced. The most unique feature obviously is the roaring air induction noise. Under heavy load at any point in the RPM, the noise is simply astonishing. Immediately after installing the car, I had to go full throttle onto the highway. Along with the S54B32 yelling, I could not help but just start hysterically laughing simply out of pure auditory bliss. Right away, I immediately forgot how many digits were ahead of the decimal point on my final invoice from Evolve Automotive. Sometimes it is rather comical when I induce some light-to-moderate throttle and instantly pedestrians walking immediately turn their heads in shock. To say the least, the induction noise is addicting. At any opportune time, I try to let it sing in it's full voice.
With this also being a modification for power, I was curious to see if I would notice any difference between this and the stock airbox. Despite other tuners and race shops telling me not to expect any added power from any carbon fiber airbox, I can honestly say that I feel the car pulling harder to redline and definitely “breathing” more efficiently on the top end. The car simply just feels less tired and much more urgency to surge forward. After thousands of miles put on this airbox, I can honestly say that my car has never been quicker. I knew right away that this was a great complement to my Supersprint V1 Stepped Headers. As many people proclaim, for a naturally aspirated setup to work properly, it has to be a harmonious working of all your modifications.
Ultimately, it is the Evolve Automotive AlphaN Tune that truly makes this modification all the worthwhile. Sal at Evolve Automotive, their head DME Calibration Specialist, has worked true magic into my MSS54 DME. With his great experience and endless amounts of knowledge, Sal has helped me fully integrate this radical airbox seamlessly with the rest of my car. The car drives smoother than stock. One of the great benefits of a properly tuned AlphaN is throttle reaction. Evolve Automtive has been praised for having a very nice and predictable throttle control characteristic in their tune. Converting my car to a MAF-less AlphaN setup took that advantage to the next left. Rev-matching and partial-to-full throttle transition just feels purely connected. No delay, no hesitancy, just proper predictable response. I have driven this car in the wide range of 8ºF to 112ºF, not once has the car ever hesitated or felt bogged down. Regardless of weather condition, the car has performed 100% reliable without hesitation.
Now the fun portion, how the power and delivery is of the airbox and tune in conjunction. In the simplest words, it is ferocious and unending. As I mentioned, my car has never felt so quick before. The harder I drive the car and the more I build up through the power band, I feel it just pulls harder and harder. Closing in on the 8200RPM redline and shift lights fully flashing, I shift into the next gear with another seamless surge of unending power. Being very familiar with how my car was stock and previously tuned with the same headers and stock airbox, this specific culmination of parts and tuning is the strongest setup to ever grace my car. Words cannot express how much joy there is driving a car that has been enhanced with so much more power and punch.
In the end, I have absolutely zero regrets on purchasing the Evolve CF Airbox and AlphaN Tune. People often times question it’s value and high cost. In my personal opinion and goals with the car, it was much more worth while spending several thousand dollars on just this carbon fiber airbox, than spending the same amount on an aftermarket section two and muffler, getting poor fitting aero pieces, or buying an endless list of accessories. Other notable benefits of this airbox are the ten pounds in weight savings at the crucial front end, along with a simple MAF-delete, negating one more thing that could fail on the car.
Going back to the philosophy of retaining the soul and personality of the S54B32, I am so pleased to say that nothing is compromised. As I dreamed, every portion of the driving experience is simply improved.
Many people know how much I enjoy data analysis and collection. Through out the many years, I have been learning first hand how challenging dynos can be. In the end, a dyno graph only tells such a small part of the story. My original goals were ~315whp and ~240wtq with my short list of power modifications. I am so pleased to say that on the DynoJet, I was able to surpass that with ~320+whp and ~245+wtq.
Dynoing this setup proved to be quite the challenge with the limitations in equipment we had to work with. What my friends and I found out was that we simply do not have enough air blowing through the front of my car to reciprocate what is happening on the streets at normal road speeds. I made attempts at building different forms of ducting, but ultimately, I ended up coming full circle to what Evolve Automotive recommended. Fortunately, I have a great group of friends with very intuitive minds and we are in the works of fabricating a very nice setup to reduce as much hot air going into the airbox as possible.
Despite some of the challenges we faced on the dyno, I am so happy to say that Evolve Automotive has helped me produce a consistent, reliable, and conservatively measured 321wtq and 246wtq. Now I say conservatively because after discussing with experts in the industry, independent of Evolve Automotive, they assured me that on the street, chances are I may be making a tiny bit more power because the dyno fans are not reciprocating real life conditions. Regardless, with my three modifications (Airbox, Tune, Headers), I am so impressed by the power it puts down. Quickly adding +40whp is definitely no easy feat on an already high-compression and high-strung motor!
It must also be noted that the specific tune on my car right now is only conservatively refined. There are a few other members who have further enhanced tunes that were remotely tuned by Sal. In my case, I decided to keep things a little more simple. One reason being is that I have such limited time on the dyno a day and it's not always easy to collect all the data I want. On top of that, the dyno shop is over a hour away. But the more fun excuse, I want to save Sal's time and dyno funds for other projects......
- 2002 BMW E46 M3 6MT
- Evolve CF Airbox . Evolve AlphaN . Supersprint V1 Stepped Headers . Supersprint V1 SPipe
- DynoJet 248x at Dean's Performance, St. Charles, IL
SAE with Conditions
So what's next...
I feel like I am only half way there. As we all know, pulling power out of the S54B32 in it's natural form is not easy, nor cheap. With the many miles I have put on this setup and countless dyno session and data analysis, I am finding ways to constantly raise the bar. Maybe one day, I will find that section 2 and muffler that meet my very strict requirements. Or maybe I'll throw in a pair of cams with the help of some friends. Who knows, maybe there's a stroker motor in it's lifetime...only time will tell
I hope you enjoyed my long story. If you have any questions or concerns, I am always open to discuss! So please share your thoughts and hopefully this thread turns into an educational tool, a form of entertainment, and just a fun place to discuss opinions.