KONTAK PERKASA FUTURES – BMW. Timing can be everything—or in the case of the Dinan S3 BMW M235i, a fortuitous opportunity for a boutique tuner to beat a big manufacturer to the punch. Case in point: Though a successor to the late, great 1M Coupe seemed like a logical next step for BMW, the M235i remained the top dog 2 Series until the new M2 showed up. Well before the Bimmer peeps released their hot-rodded M2 into the wild, the folks at Morgan Hill, California-based Dinan pulled together a series of à la carte upgrades to the M235i, prefacing the factory-sanctioned ride by eight months.

Want to go indie with Dinan’s S3? You can put up to $8,071 toward engine alterations that include a carbon-fiber cold air intake ($599), twin-core intercooler ($925), enlarged turbo ($1,499), free-flow stainless steel exhaust ($1,799), and Stage 4 Performance Tuner hardware ($3,249). In full spec, the hardware boosts the M235i’s output from 320 horsepower to 445 and from 330 lb-ft to 455 lb-ft. Suspension work is lighter on the checkbook: Budget $129 for bumpstops, $299 for high-performance springs, $499 for a lower control-arm monoball kit that replaces rubber bushings with ball joints and machined aluminum housings, and $799 per set of tubular sway bars. Figure $12,227 for all the go-fast bits, including 19-inch BBS wheels and miscellany such as floormats and aluminum pedals.

Raw yaw

BMW. Pushing 80 more horses and 112 additional lb-ft than the factory M2, Dinan’s steed feels gutsy, punchy, and single-mindedly quick when you pin the floor-mounted accelerator. You wouldn’t guess it by the staid interior—our tester started life as a lightly optioned M235i (which starts at $43,100), trimmed in especially dark, Spartan finishings compared to the sportily accented (but still restrained) M2. However, beneath the undomed hood lies a surly rogue of a powerplant. Dinan’s upgraded 3.0-liter inline-six has an effortless air about it when puttering around town, producing robust torque throughout the powerband. But dip into the revs and the tail squats when summoned, squishing the rear Michelin Pilot Super Sports as it freight-trains ahead. When coaxed under more permissive traction control settings, the surge of acceleration squats and yaws the rear out slightly, a deliciously unpolished sensation you’d be hard pressed to experience in an off-the-rack BMW. That subtle edge of ferocity feels like the BMW’s donor car has been injected with steroids: the power is smooth and linear, and the factory-sanctioned torque curve is amped up evenly across the rev range. Unlike the M2, Dinan’s setup is mated to an automatic eight-speed ZF gearbox; the M2 gets the dual-clutch seven-speed.

On smooth pavement the Dinan S3 responds sharply, corners flat, and pulls loads of grip from the Michelins. But when the going gets bumpy, the S3 feels competent but not quite as adaptable as the stock BMW. It seems the jostling is due to the revised spring setup, which drops the front end by a half-inch and the rear by an inch and creates a noticeably lower stance and center of gravity. Our tester came equipped with electronic shocks that facilitated immediate, no-fuss direction changes on well-paved surfaces. But bumpier roads led to a bit of fore/aft bobbing that became more controlled in the stiffer Sport + setting; in the more aggressive mode, the M235i behaved more naturally, producing a firmer ride but sticking more tenaciously to Earth. The likeliest cause of the discrepancy is the retention of the factory shocks, a fact we later confirmed with Dinan technical director Casper van der Schoot, who says the stiffness of the springs is limited by the shocks.

Another curiosity inherited from the donor car is the variable-rate steering setup, which feels a tad dead on-center; van der Schoot says that though Dinan’s camber plate and sway bar work to counteract BMW’s natural tendency for understeer, Dinan’s inability to change steering assist levels left the out-of-the-box steering settings unchanged. Regardless, the S3 offers gratifying handling in Sport + mode, though we suspect that fine-tuning the shocks would have made the S3 a better all-rounder for real-world road conditions.

Final analysis: Market or aftermarket?

The argument for going aftermarket can sway either way. On one hand, Dinan’s products offer exceptional peace of mind for a non-factory offering. Dinan matches BMW’s four-year/50,000-mile warranty, its cars are smog-approved for all 50 states, and they boast American engineering on a foundation with years of development work. But a factory M badge will also, inarguably, yield greater resale value than an aftermarket solution while delivering more cohesive vehicle dynamics. However, the Dinan, which starts as a $44,150 M235i, can be selectively equipped and fall short of the M2’s $52,695 sticker while producing more power. (For the record, our fully decked-out Dinan tester rang in at $58,077; your damage may vary.) Again, the issue of timing takes center stage: Though the S3 was a nifty stopgap until the M2 came along, the M2, though less powerful, begs the question of whether it makes more sense to hunt down a lightly used M235i to soup up or spring for the factory-sorted hot rod.

Dinan, in keeping with its mission to continue transmogrifying the latest, greatest machines from Munich, is already working on an über M2 that, according to van der Schoot, will approach M3 or M4 dynamics. “We have high hopes,” he says, hinting that the new package could feature a full coilover setup with electronic shocks that delivers a more extreme alternative to the stock M2— to which we say, vive la différence.

Source : automobilemag.com