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Written 5/10/2005

5 out of 5

My original intention on this second Project Car was to go fully naturally aspirated and clear 400hp. It is very feasible, but after getting the suppliers lined up, the custom parts designed, and the schedule of completion figured out, it was not cost effective and would be another year in the making. We are talking doubling the cost of the car just in the engine alone.

I was contacted by ESS Tuning last winter regarding their new ASA-based supercharger system and started doing some homework. A-S-A GmBh is based in Germany and builds supercharger compressors and intercooler end caps. They supply this hardware to companies who then finish kits for various vehicle applications. Infinitas, for one, is owned by the same people as A-S-A and puts out BMW kits using the ASA compressor. They are decent systems, but they could definitely use some improvements. Technik Engineering in California has made some much needed upgrades to the Infinitas kit and has had good success so far.

ESS Tuning in Norway started from scratch and built an ASA system with better materials, craftsmanship, and exceedingly superior engine programming than ever before. For example, they build their tubing from 304 stainless steel stock which is then mandrel bent in-house according to 3D CAD layouts they have for each engine bay. This allows for precise design and placement of the system components to maximize efficiency and ease of installation. There is no need to grind anything to fit the supercharger bracket and no drilling of the oil pan in necessary as is needed on other kits. It is truely bolt-on and does not require professsional installation. I did it my garage at home in about 8 hours. The engine DME (Digital Motor Electronics) software is completely re-written to take full advantage of the new injectors, airflow, and even the ZHP cams/6-speed/MS45 if you have the Performance Package option. Once the software is written, it is fine-tuned by engineers who actually took part in creating the original BMW stock software in our BMWs. They make sure everything is within the limits of the engine and running to the best possible ability to make the most power and remain reliable for the long run. This means a system free from Check Engine lamps, stalls, hiccups, or sluggish responsiveness.

ESS fully tests each supercharger system harder than we will ever drive it. This includes almost a hundred hours on their new DynoJet (most of the time at wide open throttle) and countless trips to tracks around Europe including the famous Nürburgring in Germany. My first Project Car is still going strong with over 40,000 boosted miles and it is now aftercooled!

ESS offers the 8psi intercooled TX-2 system for $7175 and makes an estimated 345 flywheel hp. They also offer a 7psi non-intercooled TX-1 system for $6120 and makes an estimated 310 flywheel hp. ZHP Performance Package cars will make 10hp more per kit. In reality, the gain is more since the ZHP cams are superb for forced induction.

Norway 1798
011-47-694-8555 Phone from the US

I decided this was the way to go based on the success of my earlier Vortech-based system and received the ESS ASA kit on the 2nd Friday before Bimmerfest. I had it installed by Saturday afternoon. The DME must still be shipped back to Norway to be reprogrammed, but that is about to change. ESS is opening a US location this fall 2005 in southern California. At that point, watch out, they will dominate the market with their products and even more so with what they have set to release in the future. They are an amazingly intelligent group of people with ties into Germany and BMW and it shows.

The install was pretty straight-forward. The instructions leave a bit to be desired, but they are better than they used to be. I think they are written more for a automotive technician than the Do-It-Yourself person. Of course, I created a DIY!

You no longer have to re-align the security system when the DME returns. ESS pulls the key overlay out during DME reprogramming and re-inserts it. This allows you to start the car up right after putting the DME back in. And start up it did!

I had no leaks, no lights, no stumbling, nothing. It ran great, idled great, and drove great right off the bat. It was exceptionally hard to be easy on it for the 100-200 miles of break-in. Once I passed that mark, I started to get on it. The first time I rapped it out and shifted to 3rd, I lost power and the car made a funny sound. It turns out I hadn't put the throttle body hose on tight enough. I re-attached it and it hasn't come off since.

I drove to Bimmerfest and back which is about 1,200 miles. Not a problem. I was still being nice to it for the trip, but once I got back to Phoenix, I have been driving the hell out of it! I got next to a buddy of mine in his E46 M3 while hitting a freeway on-ramp. I pulled on him so hard that I had about 6 car lengths on him by the time I merged onto the freeway! This upset him so much that he started calling around the very next day looking to supercharge his M3. I think he has boost envy...

The car is more sensitive that the first Project Car. It takes less throttle to make it do more. I think this is a combination of the faster MS45 DME processors and the 3.38 LSD/LTW flywheel/Stage 3 Clutch combo. Driving like a wuss is simply impossible! I drive on the freeway in 6th gear all day long with plenty of power to pass when needed at any time without downshifting. The power delivery is smooth and silky, but comes on a lot sooner than the previous VT kit. You start feeling it at 2,500rpm compared to waiting for 4,000rpm for the VT kit. As you approach redline, it is thrilling how fast it accelerates! I geared the car to hit 60mph in second gear and according to ESS, it should pull 4.7s in 0 to 60. With the new differential and LSD, I am thinking 4.4-4.5s is not impossible at all. I will be testing with the new g-Tech meter and let everyone know what my results are.

Overall, once again, ESS has created a beautiful work of art that works perfectly. I have to admit that my car was a garage queen before (I only had 8,400 miles on it after 14 months of ownership) and now I want to drive it everyday! I definitely give this system a 5 out of 5 rating and would tell anyone who asks to grab one and install it ASAP!

UPDATE (7-1-2005): We ran the car and got the DynoJet equivalent of 295hp and 275ft/lbs at the wheels. All with a 12.5:1 AFR flat. NICE! Still no problems at all, runs superb even in the Arizona heat.

UPDATE (5-1-2006): Took the car up to Bimmerfest 2006 and all is good. It was a fantastic show, we were in the ESS booth with a couple of supercharged show cars. Only thing I have done to the car is change the oil. Everything is perfect.

See the Installation page HERE.


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