2012 marked the start of the latest generation 3-Series with not only an entirely new chassis but also a departure from the old inline six engines. The 2012 BMW 328i was now powered by a turbo four cylinder engine called the N20. Journalists praised the new F30’s turbo engine but loathed the handling – claiming the Ultimate Driving Machine had lost it’s way. But I’m not here to argue this or that or to be a BMW apologist. No, I’m here to tell you about the first mods to my 2012 BMW 328i.
Volk LE37 Wheels
The F30 BMW 3-series doesn’t have that Break Neck Factor I talked about in my First Mods to the 2015 Subaru WRX article. But with the sports package or M Sport package, this non-M car does look pretty good. And though I didn’t intend to purchase a set of wheels for the car, that’s just what happened. My buddy Joe (not his real name) posted up a set of 18×8.5″ Volk LE37 wheels that came on a BMW E36 he recently acquired and for reasons unknown, he was looking to get rid of them. Not just four wheels, but five. And for a steal.
I couldn’t help myself. Soon they were in the cargo area of a press vehicle headed home with me. It just so happened I also had a set of like-new sticky Dunlop tires laying around from a 2015 Subaru WRX STI that were a perfect fit for the 8.5″ wide Volks.
At this point, I wasn’t sure what I wanted from the car. But I knew I wanted to address the shortcomings of the F30 and reducing wheel mass wasn’t a bad place to start. Installed on the car, it was an instant improvement in road feel. Steering seemed noticeably lighter, and gone was most of the harshness over road imperfections. I attribute the latter to the removal of run flat tires.
Looks-wise, the Volk LE37’s didn’t look that great on the car. If I wasn’t a function first type of guy, I’d have removed them. As of today, I’m torn. The F30 is a larger car and 18’s do look a tad small. The TE/LE wheel design with the spokes that curve in before the lip doesn’t help either. Do I swap them out for 19’s or swap them for a more aggressive offset 18″ wheel and do the necessary suspension mods to make them fit? Place your bets in the comments below.
Custom Magnaflow Exhaust
One of the many reasons I opted for a manual transmission car was for the enjoyment of rev matching. Sadly, the sound deadening in the F30 is so good and the exhaust muffled so well that I couldn’t hear the engine! Combine that with the various driving modes (Eco/Comfort/Sport) that all had their own throttle mapping and it suddenly rev-matching is nearly impossible! There was only one cure for this ailment and that was to install a louder exhaust.
The BMW tax is alive and well. Budget near $1,000 if you plan on purchasing an off the shelf catback exhaust for this car. Instead, I went to a local exhaust fabricator on the other side of town and had a custom axleback made using a straight through Magnaflow muffler and some really nice Magnaflow tips. Total out the door was $500, installed.
There’s a nice bark at start-up but is still relatively quiet, surprisingly. Noise, I mean sound, has increased and I can now hear the engine enough to rev match smoothly. Heavy acceleration yields a loud whooshing noise more than exhaust note. It’s not quite what I expected and not sure how I feel about it. It doesn’t sound at all like a Mitsubishi Evo or turbo’d Honda.
Since the install, the question I get asked most is about drone. There is none. No drone at any RPM under any load. Overall I’m very pleased but may eventually have the exhaust modified for something louder. If I had an M Sport 328i with the dynamic handling package, exhaust would be one of my first mods.
Dinan Performance Springs
Opting for a spring and shock combination was very much a budget minded decision. Of course Eibach and H&R offered springs for the F30 but I was sold on Dinan for several reasons.
1. Dinan offered the only fixed rate springs on the market. Most springs are progressive meaning it’s easiest to compress the first inch than the remaining. Fixed rate is just that. Most track oriented coil over setups come with fixed rate springs.
2. Dinan claimed their springs worked well with factory dampers and is covered under BMW’s warranty.
3. Dinan springs offered a mild drop with a semi-raked stance. Perfect.
Everything I read had indicated that Dinan was the only company offering truly performance oriented springs and that’s exactly what I wanted. At $300, springs are definitely one of the best first mods for the F30.
AP Racing 6 Piston Big Brake Kit
I had just roasted my stock brakes at an SCCA Track Night in America event at New Jersey Motorsports Park and was looking into a brake upgrade. BMW had their M Sport brake kit at a reasonable price and there were other options floating around.
As luck would have it, Michael Spinelli invited me up to New York to film a brake test episode for /Drive where I would leave with the big brake kit they installed. Uhhh….yes please! So now you know how I scored those. A HUUUUGGGEE THANK YOU to Mike Spinelli and the /Drive team for having me. Shout out to AutoAnything.com for supplying the brake kit and to the Broken Motorsports crew for their hard labor. Catch the /Drive episode below!
The AP Racing brakes are phenomenal. There’s no way I’m going to cook these on any track and they are very much street friendly so long as you don’t mind brake dust from the included Ferodo DS2500 pads! Seriously, I haven’t seen the true color of my wheels for like 3 months.
Bilstein B8 Shocks
The rear dampers have been a complaint with the F30 since day one. I’d compare the factory dampers to plopping down in to a very worn couch. There’s no rebound. Swap in a set of Bilstein B8 Shock Absorbers for just over $200 for the pair and the rear end is springs to life. Gone is the sponge of a rear end. It’s a much firmer ride. The rear of the car now feels in sync with steering inputs. It’s what the car should have felt like when it left the factory! This may be the best bang for the buck any F30 3-series owner can do and is easily on the list of best first mods.
I wrote up an entire how-to on the Bilstein shock install and it applies for all rear shock installs on the F30. You can read that here – Bilstein Shocks Installed on BMW F30.
UUC Evo3 Short Throw Shifter
The short throw shifter is the last modification of 2015. But it’s not for everyone. It has totally eliminated the slop from the factory shifter. Changing gears now has a bolt-action feel. There is an audible click-click when upshifting from second to third. For the joy of driving with three pedals, get rid of the sloppy factory shifter and replace it with one of these!