With a BMW, it doesn't take much to bring out its best. And this E92 3-Series Coupe puts the notion of 'just a little bit' well and truly on the map.
It used to be, in the dark ages of car tuning, there weren't enough parts available to capture everybody's attention. Disturbingly, this statement only makes any sense to an audience with good taste. But fortunately most BMW enthusiasts know that mildly enhancing your car can have an equally good, if not greater, effect than throwing as many parts at it as possible.
But that's what makes BMW tuners special, or so we'd like to think. And if you're reading this feature then you know precisely what we mean.
The attractive 2009 320d pictured might not strike the uninitiated as modified at all. In fact, at most it appears to only look like an upgraded showroom model. Yet the 22 year-old heating technician, Brecht Swinnen from Belgium, was attracted by 'simple perfection' and that's what drove him to create this masterpiece.
Having tooled around in a Ford Focus 1.9 diesel for a while, the 90hp daily driver was the perfect 'first car' for Brecht. Getting him from A-to-B with the reliability of a pedantic old man returning soup to the deli, it instilled the love of oil-burning propulsion.
The affordability of diesel was well suited to the many miles he covered, but Brecht eventually decided to travel in a little more style. "I bought the BMW brand new just over a year ago; it was one of the best moments of my life!" said an emphatic Brecht. "I'm still not sorry I bought it because I love the car. I'm crazy about it and couldn't do without it."
This is clearly a guy who's single and obsessed with his car but we can't blame him.
After all, he's no different from most of us.
With a gorgeous coupe lines, it's perhaps no wonder Brecht had visual mods on his mind first. And as his first modified car, he wanted nothing more than to take it to shows, and strict engine tuning regulations in Belgium make it very difficult to increase the horsepower.
"Got any engine mods?" we asked. "Nope, sorry!" replied the young Belgian, content with his 2.0-liter diesel and its 177hp that put his Ford to shame. He also has a five-speed manual transmission to keep it in the sweet spot. The only addition he has to keep him company on road is a Skytune dual tailpipe exhaust that makes it sound a little sportier.
So why did he chose the 320d? Brecht claims he "loved the design," yet thought it would be better if "it were lying on the ground". In layman's terms, he intended to lower it.
Drop 'n roll
Stance is the major strength of this Bimmer but finding the right rims was no easy task. Technically, it's more of a dark art. "It was very difficult to find the right set of rims because I'd never bought a set before," Brecht explained. "I tossed up between black or gold with a chrome lip and finally bought this set of replica Hamann wheels. Yes, there was a set of HRE wheels I really wanted but unfortunately they were just too expensive."
The rims that finally got the nod were 19x8.5" front and 19x9.5" rear J-Z Web wheels with Hamann center caps, wrapped in staggered Dunlop Sportmaxx rubber.
Equally important as the right set of wheels is the correct suspension components and Brecht entrusted the task to Kean Suspensions, which took ten days to install a complete AccuAir system. The electronically controlled air bags work in harmony with KW Variant 2 dampers to provide a decent ride with show-stopping good looks. It's all mounted in the trunk, with two air tanks on display, while the dual compressors, e-Level management and solenoids are hidden under the floor.
Low and mean is a great start but Brecht was finished. To contrast the Alpine White paintwork he opted for some carbon fiber pieces, starting with those BMW M Performance front splitters. However, these were made for the E92 M3, so the car also has the M3 front bumper, carefully altered to fit the 320d.
It also has the BMW M Performance carbon mirror caps from the M3, craftily fitted to his regular mirrors as if they always belonged there.
All the work was done by Kustom Kreations in about seven weeks, painting the rear diffuser gloss black to compliment the front. The bodywork specialists also shaved the driver's door lock and de-badged the trunk to complete the subtle alterations.
Inside, Brecht again opted for BMW M Performance carbon trim and had the outer panels of the seats upholstered in alcantara.
Although the E92 boasts a high-end BMW "Professional" audio system with USB and iPhone connectivity, Brecht added Carver speakers throughout and two Carver subs along with a Carver amp. This was all designed to enhance the car's long-distance cruising ability since Brecht covered more than 30,000 miles in the first year alone.
"Future mods might include engine software, a new set of wheels and BMW M Performance seats. I don't know yet... a BMW M3 engine would be nice as well," he pondered.
So as we said at the beginning: simple is better, less is more. And Brecht Swinnen's 320d proves that a few well-chosen mods can go a very long way.
2009 BMW 320d
Owner: Brecht Swinnen
Occupation: Heating technician
2.0L four-cylinder turbo-diesel with Skytune dual exhaust
stock with matte black calipers
AccuAir air suspension with KW Variant 2 dampers, e-Level management, two air tanks mounted in trunk with two compressors and solenoids under the floor
Wheels & Tires:
19x8.5" f, 19x9.5" r J-Z Web wheels, 225/35 R19 f, 255/30 R19 r Dunlop Sportmaxx tires
BMW M3 front bumper kit with BMW M Performance carbon fiber lips and mirrors, custom carbon rear diffuser, shaved drivers side lock, de-badged, chrome grille slats, tinted windows
BMW M Performance carbon fiber trim and shift knob, alcantara upholstery, Carver interior speakers, two subwoofers and amplifier in trunk with air equipment
Kean Suspension, Kustom Kreations, Skytune