BMW E46 M3 Supercharger Guide

13th November, 2018 in E46 Tuning

Looking to maximize the potential of your S54 engine? We review the best kits on the market in this ultimate BMW E46 M3 supercharger guide.

e46 m3 supercharger guide


In a hurry? Here is our E46 M3 Supercharger summary

Runner-up Drifted Choice Premium Choice
vf engineering e46 m3 supercharger ess e46 m3 supercharger ttfs e46 m3 supercharger
VF Engineering BMW E46 M3 Supercharger ESS Tuning BMW E46 M3 Supercharger Tuning Tech FS (TTFS) E46 M3 Supercharger
From $5,995 From $5,795 From $6,825
Buy Now Buy Now Buy Now

In the spring of 1985, something huge was being kept under wraps in BMW’s M Division. What soon followed was one of the greatest ever drivers’ cars – the notorious E30 M3.

With the E30 M3 sales more impressive than BMW could have ever imagined for a highly-tuned sports car, they then released the E36 M3 to the market.

There’s no doubt that Europeans were pleased with their new 300hp modern-day masterpiece, even if it did lack the soul of its older brother. However, the same couldn’t be said for the US, as owners couldn’t help but feel a little shafted with their 240hp offering.

Looking for a sweet exhaust to compliment your supercharger? Our E46 M3 exhaust guide was written for you.

BMW clearly listened to the disappointment from their neighbors across the pond and righted their mistakes. When the E46 M3 was launched, both markets were given an equally incredible offering – a 343hp 3.2-liter six-pot engine which joyfully screamed its way to 7,900rpm.

If this incredible engine wrapped in a stunning body wasn’t enough, those with deeper pockets could opt for the race-orientated M3 CSL. With a 110kg of weight saving and the S54 tuned to 360hp, this daily-friendly stunner would throw you from 0-100kph in just 4.8 seconds.

With E30 prices through the roof, the E46 could well be heading the same way. The E30 has undoubtedly deserved its place in the history books, but the E46 was able to take the M Division to new heights and could well become a future classic.

The E46 M3 has stood the test of time, and is to this day one of the highest regarded cars available in its price range We’re going to show you how to turn your S54 into the ultimate beast whether you’re hitting the street, or the track!

Forced induction

There’s always a strong debate amongst owners as to which FI option is the better choice.

If you’re searching for huge power figures or intending to do straight line racing, a turbocharger may well suit your needs.

However, if you’re planning to have a usable power-band where you can plant your foot in the twisties without the fear of doing an unexpected 180, then a supercharger is most likely the choice for you.

Superchargers provide a far more consistent power delivery with zero lag, providing a satisfyingly broad and predictable torque curve. If you’re looking to stick with the power curve that BMW initially intended, but with a strong dose of steroids added, especially at the top end, the supercharger is the choice for you.

Please note that we highly recommend further research for any various additional modifications which are required to run these supercharger kits.

Let’s take a look at our E46 M3 supercharger kits

To read more about any of these products simply click on the supercharger name or photo.

VF Engineering BMW E46 M3 Supercharger

vf engineering e46 m3 supercharger

Our comment: VF Engineering are undoubtedly offering some of the best and most popular supercharger kit options on the market for BMW E46 M3 owners. Whether you’re looking for a basic daily-driven street upgrade, or looking for 240hp off-the-shelf gains, they have the perfect package for your needs.

Their base-model kit offers an impressive 90hp gain over the stock power at 4-4.5 PSI of boost. This is the perfect solution if you’re looking for a far more responsive S54 with more top-end power without any reliability issues.

However, if you’re looking to really maximize the potential on offer, you’ll want to take a look at their Stage 2 and Stage 3 kits.

Many delighted owners have run even their highest performing kits for many years with huge mileage and but nothing but praise.

Manufacturer description:VF-Engineering chose to supercharge the BMW E46 M3 to add to already superior throttle response and give wild mid-to-top end power (sport mode) with the centrifugal Vortech supercharger. Maintaining the original BMW quality, smoothness and reliability were the key factors in the VF design. VF have harnessed reliability of Vortech superchargers with their 10 years of supercharging experience and worldwide OEM supply contacts to create the ultimate supercharger system for the ultimate driver’s car.

The VF Engineering Street Sport kit for the 01-06 BMW E46 M3 is a non-intercooled, low boost setup that is suitable for enthusiasts looking to add a little extra passing power to their daily driver. Featuring a cast aluminum intake manifold and everything you need for a perfect installation, this kit runs at approximately 4.0 to 4.5 psi of boost pressure and develops an average of about 90hp on top of the factory advertised 333hp.

Features (VF420 model):

  • Custom tuned software
  • Vortech V3 SQ trim black supercharger
  • CNC machined 6061 aluminum bracket system
  • OEM BMW idler pullies
  • Stage 1 OEM High flow spray pattern matched fuel injectors
  • Custom molded polypropylene ducting
  • High flow overrun bypass valve system
  • Custom crank case ventilation system
  • 4-ply silicon couplers with OEM screw clamps
  • CNC oil fittings with high pressure OEM oil lines
  • Replacement OEM serpentine belt
  • K&N induction filter with cold air intake
  • Comprehensive installation CD-ROM
  • Precision Made in California, USA

ESS Tuning BMW E46 M3 Supercharger

ess e46 m3 supercharger

Our comment: Next up is ESS Tuning, undoubtedly VF Engineering’s strongest contender and another market-leading option. Once again, owners have been absolutely ecstatic with these kits after thousands of miles of reliable use.

Their base-model kit is actually cheaper than VF’s, and also features an impressive 132hp gain over stock at 6.5 PSI of boost.

If you’re after a kit with even more power, ESS are capable of squeezing over 775hp out of the S54! Check out their 525, 550 and 575 kits.

If you’re lucky enough to own a CSL, they also make a specific kit for your needs.

Manufacturer description:The non-intercooled S54 VT1-475 supercharger system produces 470hp SAE (475DIN) and 330lb-ft of torque at 6.5psi of boost. A 132hp gain over stock, eclipsing the output of a Mustang BOSS 302. Featuring the highly efficient and very reliable, self contained Vortech V3 supercharger unit in Si trim, the supercharger is capable of producing up to 775hp.

The VT1-475 comes with a specially developed cast aluminum intake manifold assembly with an integrated high capacity bypass valve designed not only for optimum flow, but for minimal weight to not disrupt the iconic chassis balance of the M3. The VT1-455 is a complete system with everything you need and is easily upgradeable as all the major hardware components are the same all the way up to our VT3-700.

Features (VT1-475 model):

  • Vortech V3 Si-trim internally lubricated supercharger unit
  • Cast aluminum ESS intake manifold
  • High capacity bypass-valve system
  • Powder-coated mandrel bent tubing
  • One belt driven w/self tension system. -Gen 3 improved, stronger CNC machined, hard anodized brackets
  • Improved 3 idler pulley belt loop design with greatly improved belt traction under extreme conditions
  • CNC hard anodized pulleys
  • Long life serpentine drive belt
  • High capacity, direct replacement Bosch fuel injectors
  • K&N cold air intake located inside front bumper
  • ESS E-Flash reprogramming and diagnostic interface
  • 2yr./unlimted mileage warranty
  • The VT1-475 requires the use of 91AKI/95RON and above fuel quality

Tuning Tech FS (TTFS)/Active Autowerke BMW E46 M3 Supercharger

ttfs e46 m3 supercharger

Our comment: TTFS have collaborated with another great tuning house, Active Autowerke to bring you one of the most sought after and affordable kits on the market.

It may be a little more expensive than the previous two offerings, but this one option is capable of exceeding over 500whp.

TTFS are known for their upgrade options and we have no doubt they’ll be happy to assist if you are planning for more power further down the line. Alternatively, you can jump right in with their Prime Elite choice.

TTFS work alongside both Active Autowerke and VF Engineering to ensure a huge range of variety and customization options.

Manufacturer description:In collaboration with Active Autowerke we used their hardware and R&D it to create the generation 2 Prima Plus supercharger kit that has gained a reputation as one of the finest and most affordable systems available for the E46 BMW M3. This kit is capable of exceeding 500whp.

The prima plus kit is a full bolt-on non-intercooled system that is completely reversible and does not require custom fabrication. For those who desire some extra horsepower we offer custom application.

Features (Prima Kit Plus):

  • Rotrex C38-92 Supercharger System
  • AA GEN 7 Intake Manifold
  • AA DOUBLE Blow-off Valve Set-up
  • Performance Green Filter & Filter Cover
  • High Capacity Fuel Injectors
  • Rotrex oil cooling system for maximum performance and reliability
  • All Hoses, Clamps, Etc. (pre-assembled)
  • Boost: 5.5-6 psi

RMS (Racemarque) BMW E46 M3 Supercharger

rms e46 m3 supercharger

Our comment: RMS bring several offerings to the market, with owners having achieved over 600hp from some of their higher tuned setups.

Unfortunately, RMS have earned themselves a rather disappointing reputation in the E46 M3 tuning world. For that reason, we would recommend checking out the alternative offerings in our guide unless RMS are able to specifically cater for your needs. Whilst their reputation isn’t great, there’s no doubt that there are many satisfied owners out there.

If you’re looking for something a little more than their base-level kit, you can check out their Stage 2 and Stage 3 offerings.

Manufacturer description:The many facets of the Stage 1 BMW E46 M3 Supercharger Kit are the result of years of research, testing and development. That’s what it takes to produce the fastest and most reliable BMW Supercharged Automobiles. Your BMW deserves the best and RMS has the goods.”

“RMS uses the Vortech V2 Sci trim supercharger on the E46 M3. This model blower is considered the new generation among superchargers. Highly advanced CAD modeled gears feature an optimized helical profile which allows for near-silent operation while providing superior performance.”

“Rotrex superchargers are renowned for their compact size, high adiabatic efficiency, low vibration, and quiet operation. Their unique traction drive technology is what makes all of this possible, which, unlike other superchargers, transmits power through frictional forces between its rolling elements. Each Rotrex unit features its own self-contained oiling system that remains independent of the engine. Its dual-action oil pump supplies traction fluid to the supercharger while the supplied cooler ensures proper fluid temperatures at all times.”


Our winner

Our winner is the ESS Tuning VT1-475 supercharger kit

To pick our winner from this choice of E46 M3 supercharger kits, we looked at a number of criteria; popularity, upgrade potential, customer service and also long-term reliability.

Based on these criteria we have chosen the ESS Tuning supercharger kit to be our winner.

ESS Tuning Supercharger kit

ess 1 e46 m3 supercharger

This was an extremely tough one to call, and it very much turns into a ‘Coke vs Pepsi’ argument with the two giants, ESS and VF.

We strongly recommend doing your own research to conclude which kit best suits your needs, as they are both undoubtedly fantastic and will suit your needs perfectly for many years to come.

Our main reasoning for opting for the ESS kit over VF is the price point and because we have heard great things about their customer service, which we feel is extremely important when buying such a niche product. Both are exceptional items which will undoubtedly serve you well!

Thank you for reading our E46 M3 supercharger guide

Your going to need to upgrade your suspension to handle all this extra power, our e46 coilover guide is written just for you.

If you enjoyed this article then please share it with the sharing buttons at the side and the bottom of your screen.

Photography credits

Written by The Drifted Team Follow us for more drifting content like this. Visit the author's website