BMW M3: TUNED icon to the top of the world!
Jealous doesn't even begin describe it. While I headed down south driving the facelifted version of a compact SUV that wouldn’t warrant a second glance from an enthusiast, some of my colleagues pulled rank, called in favours and sweet-talked their way onto an epic adventure that surely would’ve got any petrolhead hard – the Modball Run. Supercars in Ladakh. Nearly two weeks of chilling and driving amongst some of the harshest, not to mention the beautiful vistas that Ladakh has to offer, with a convoy of exotic machinery roaring past. Not to mention the potential Instagram content that you could bag and flex for the next few weeks at least. Not gonna lie, when the team met up at the airport to catch our respective flights departing to our different destinations, I tried my best to keep a stoic face, hiding the sheer envy I felt. But at the back of my mind, I still held an air of smugness, because I knew that none of these happenings would have occurred without the presence of Kabir Sheikh’s beautiful BMW M3 that you see here.
Kabir’s love affair with BMWs began back in 2011 when he got himself a 330i, and after experiencing the glorious in-line six, he simply couldn’t drive another car after it. Being the passionate enthusiast that he is, held true to his word, using the 330i until it was unfortunately totalled in 2018, and he did not buy another car after that! While a BMW-sized hole remained in his garage and his heart, Kabir’s attention turned towards an E90 M3 that he had his eye on for years. His friend Manish had bought this Alpine White example off its first owner, and since then, Kabir has spent his fair share of time behind the ’wheel of it. “I literally wanted that car!” he adds excitedly. And as luck would have it, Manish decided to let go of the M3 in 2020 and it made its way to Kabir’s garage, who wasted no time in souping-up his dream ride.
Under the bonnet lies the S65 4-litre V8 – the only nat-asp V8 BMW ever made, and it received additional fettling from GT Tunerz in order to make it even more throaty. It runs a Stage 2 AlpineMSS Vmax ECU tune which bumps up the stock power by nearly 40 bhp to 450bhp. There’s also a GTS CT tune which quickens the DCT’s shift times, but apart from that, the internals don’t see a large number of changes. “You can’t do much, except the intake and the exhaust,” explains Kabir when talking about the nat-asp V8’s modifying capabilities. “And I’ve kept the stock intake because I’m travelling!” he adds. Kabir may be understating the travelling part by a bit. He drives this M3 frequently from Delhi to Kashmir, and he recently took it to Zoji La, during the recce run for the Modball Run! His car also features an Akrapovic titanium exhaust system and he casually drops into our conversation that the system is very subtle, as getting it to sound any louder in Kashmir of all places is definitely asking for a target to be painted on your pack, to put it mildly.
It still feels manic to drive however, make no mistake. There’s a noticeable bump in the way that the M3 delivers power, in the typical naturally-aspirated ‘whoosh’ that continues on towards the redline at 8500rpm. Turbos simply cannot match that. And when you’re done fooling around, pottle around at 1000- 2000rpm and you can drive the M3 around town very easily without being intimidated. “When I went up to Zoji La, I was climbing in fifth gear!” says Kabir. While it might be frequenting to places where each view is worthy of a wallpaper, this BMW M3 continues to be a timeless design icon from the Chris Bangle era. Kabir has swapped the bonnet and the boot for carbonfiber equivalents (paying homage to his similarly done-up 330i) and the wheels are now 19-inch forged units from Vossen which look absolutely sublime wrapped up in the Pirelli P ZEROs! Automarc worked on all the aesthetic parts of the build, adding finishing touches in the form of a rear diffuser and front splitter which really amps up the aggression on the M3’s otherwise subtle design.
On paper this may seem like a relatively sober build, as there are wilder ways to go all-out with your car when it comes to the tuning side of things. But this M3 enables a different kind of thrill-seeking altogether, getting to far flung locales in double-quick time, while ensuring that its occupants are in for the drive of a lifetime. I can only imagine what a joy it must’ve been, thundering behind the ’wheel through the desolate and beautiful roads present in the unforgiving North. And while the boys covering the Modball Run may have me flushing with envy once they get back to HQ, I can take solace in the fact that it was this car that opened up the doorway to the petrolhead playgrounds in the sky, and it looked like a stunner while it did it.