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Evolve carbon airbox review

orchestral beauty


How can I best describe Evolve’s carbon airbox for the S54B32? More.


“-the best induction noise this side of a Porsche GT3.”

“-the best induction noise this side of a Porsche GT3.”

More noise, more power, and more drama. The S54 found in the E46 M3, late model Z3M, and Z4M is one of the all time greats. A naturally aspirated 3.2L inline 6 that screams to it’s 7,900 RPM redline while rewarding the driver with a linear power band and solid naturally aspirated power. Equipped with this airbox, the metallic howl that these engines have become known for becomes an unrelenting symphony of some of the best induction noise this side of a Porsche GT3. Plant your foot from around 3,000 RPM and you will find yourself thinking “Just a second more” until you’ve reached the tuned redline at a lofty 8,200 RPM. Intoxicating.

The S54 has always been a charismatic engine, a high strung inline 6 that needs to be wrung out to be truly appreciated to the fullest. This airbox takes the qualities that we love about the S54 and cranks them all to 11.

“-either money is no object or you’re just a little bit crazy.” (Wonderfully, beautifully crazy)

“-either money is no object or you’re just a little bit crazy.” (Wonderfully, beautifully crazy)

It would be irresponsible of me to avoid discussing the elephant in the room, cost. At $3,500 USD for the box and tune, either money is no object or you’re just a little bit crazy. I fall into the latter category. Let me be perfectly clear, this is not a value proposition or “bang for your buck” type of modification. This is an item for the naturally aspirated purists out there that want to get every last drop of performance out of their S54. If the Hp/Dollar factor even enters your mind, turn back now, this is not the part for you.

It should go without saying, but at this price point there is a certain expectation of quality. For your money, you’re getting the carbon intake/plenum, Evolve-R tuning cable for interfacing with your ECU, and all the necessary mounting hardware. Thankfully, Evolve’s high build quality is apparent everywhere. The stunning carbon work making up the airbox itself is thanks to motorsport development companies that are responsible for production of F1 body panels. Fitment is also perfect, no modification to the bay is required beyond relocating the oil dipstick. Just peaking inside the engine bay becomes an event and it’s sure to be a talking point at any car show.

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So, you have bit the bullet and ordered your airbox, installed it, and tuned your car. What can you expect when leaving the driveway for the first time? For me, it was the paranoia of hoping that the changes would be noticeable enough to warrant the cataclysmic hole in my wallet. Thankfully, I get to be the bearer of good news. The changes are considerable and immediately apparent. Right away, as I blipped the throttle slightly to take off down the street, I could hear a faint whistle of air from the engine bay. Ah, that’s new. So, I got myself to the nearest semi-straight section of road, eased up to 4,000 RPM in second gear and did what I’d been waiting to do since I pressed the “Buy” button a month ago, punched it.

Noticeable difference? Hell yes. The immediacy with which the power came on was spectacular. Speaking of power, there is a substantial increase, more than enough to feel and trust the claim of 25-30HP. The car feels more eager throughout the entire power band. Oh, and the noise. The noise is worth every. Single. Dollar.

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It’s the depth of the sound, the way that that it fills the cabin and the entire road around it. You hear this thing coming now from a long way off. The tone is extremely exotic in nature. Combine this with a well made exhaust of your choosing, and you end up with aural perfection.

Beyond power and noise, the airbox and tune work together to enhance the driving experience in other ways as well. The throttle feels far more linear than before. In fact, one of my few compaints with my Z4M was that the throttle, particularly in sport mode, seemed like an on-off switch and lacked finesse. Now, even with the sport button pressed, the throttle is easy to modulate and adjust.

It should also be noted that I have experienced no issues or quirks with the car in the 400 miles that I have put on the car since the installation. Evolve says that it is normal for a check engine light to temporarily appear while the ECU adapts to the new hardware/software but I didn’t experience it.

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The goal with my Z4M was, and will continue to be, to try and emulate the E46 M3 CSL. The E85/E86 platform was never given a model beyond the M. However, I believe it deserved to get the special treatment, so I’m attempting to do so myself. Frankly, if you want to get as close to the CSL experience as possible, particularly in the United States (where there aren’t any), you already know that you need this airbox.

The sound, look, and price are all monumental. You won’t produce earth shattering horsepower numbers or drop your quarter mile time three seconds, but you will have made your M3, Z4M, or Z3M even more rewarding to drive than before; and you will have done it in a way that BMW themselves did with the CSL. So, if you want to push your naturally aspirated S54 even further, come on over to the crazy side. We’ve got a great view and one helluva sound.