Here in the states it’s common place for any BMW owner to turn to the one and only Dinan Engineering for all their tuning needs. But what if I told you there was a better, more German option out there? Welcome to Manhart Performance.
Manhart is based in Germany, just like the BMW’s they modify. And while you can buy a slew of their products over the web or through a dealer here in the states, the real magic happens with their in-house built models. Manhart has built a reputation for their engine transplants, something that is typically frowned upon by purists. And while I’m usually the first to start picking apart such a build, when it comes to Manhart I just can’t seem to find anything to complain about. It’s not necessarily because of the brand, but more because the fit and finish are so good it’s almost impossible to tell that it’s not what BMW intended. To drive my point home let’s discuss a couple what I believe are their best builds.
#3 MANHART MH3 T V10
The MH3-T V10 is one of the M3s BMW missed out on actually bringing to production. The MH3-T started life as an ordinary E92 3-series wagon but has been transformed into much more than that. BMW has been willing to make an M3 in several different forms including a coupe, sedan, and even a convertible model. But they have never ventured into the deep waters of a monster wagon. So Manhart did it for them.
This newly minted ‘M’ replica isn’t just a 3-series wagon with the S65 V8 crudely stuffed inside. Manhart went the extra mile and selected the famed S85 V10 from the M5 as the driving force for the MH3-T. They also kept the M5’s SMG III sequential gearbox. The installation is so good it looks like a package that BMW forgot to tell us about. And the thought of a V10 powered wagon that produces 560hp is almost more than I can take. The overall aesthetics are understated and beautiful. Manhart did a great job of not going over the top, the way any wagon should look. They added the front and rear bumpers from the E92 M3, as well as the M3 bulging hood.
Manhart didn’t leave all the glory up to BMW alone, they sprinkled in a handful of their own parts as well. They used their own coilovers, fitted 380x32mm Porsche 6-piston brakes, and a gorgeous set of Breyton 20-inch wheels. Manhart also used their own tuning software for both the V10 and the SMG transmission. They also used their own stainless steel downpipes and full titanium exhaust. This has given the 5-liter V10 a nice bump in power without going excessively crazy. The M wagon will now do 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, which is a little over half a second faster than that of the standard M3. Yet even if it were just a little slower it would all be worthwhile for that sweet V10 exhaust note.
#2 MANHART MH3 V8 RS Biturbo
While the M3 styled wagon was cool, this M3 is red hot. Utilizing the same generation M3, Manhart has taken this build much, much further. The 4.0-liter V8 has been again swapped but this time for a similar mill from the BMW X6M. The new 4.4-liter V8 runs a biturbo system, which makes about 140-horsepower more than that of the already fast M3. Manhart wasn’t satisfied with those numbers though, insisting on boosting the power with modified turbos and their own DME control unit. Then end result is a staggering 750hp and 700ft-lbs of torque. 330hp jump over stock is a sign that the gents at Manhart might actually be out of their minds. The MH3 RS also features the X6M transmission that puts the power down through the E60 M5 rear differential.
Body wise not much is stock. Manhart makes it a priority to match each and every part on their vehicles, so the standard sheet-metal wouldn’t do. Now the MH3 RS has a full carbon fiber widebody, carbon hood and carbon trunk lid. Even the roof is carbon on this M3, aiding in a light yet stiff chassis. The suspension is Manhart’s fully adjustable coilover set, and the brakes have been upgraded to their in-house units as well. The only thing I don’t care for on the exterior is the inclusion of the 20-inch wheels. They look good, but on a car that is all about performance it could benefit from something a little smaller.
The interior is just as stunning as the rest of the car, with the most notable addition being the paint matched full roll cage. The seats are full carbon buckets that Manhart laid up themselves, a welcome replacement in a world full of Recaro seats. The steering wheel is a BMW performance piece which is one of the nicest on the market. The interior is inviting, reminding you it’s a track car but civilized enough for daily usage.
If that weren’t enough it’s also a performer. The biturbo engine helps the RS sprint to 60 in just 3.2 seconds, with a claimed top speed of 217mph. The decision to choose Lamborghini Orange as the color may be off-putting for some, but there is no arguing this MH3 RS earned its right to be flashy.
#1 MANHART MH2 630
The Manhart MH2 630 is without a doubt one of the baddest M2’s on the planet, if not all BMW’s. The only problem is that besides the body there isn’t much of the M2 left. In place of the already fabulous N55 inline six is an ultra modified S55 from the M4. A curious case of engine swaps, especially when you consider that they are both 3-liter biturbo inline six’s. Buuut- one is definitely more potent than the other. In stock trim it would only be a difference of about 100horsepower. And thanks to Manhart’s black magic the gain is now a massive 250hp.
The massive horsepower gains all come from Manhart’s own tuning, paired with their full bolt on package. This means a full carbon intake, steel exhaust, and carbon mufflers. The power is delivered through the M4 DCT gearbox, allowing wicked quick shifting, making this M2 even faster. The MH2 rides on a set of Manhart’s 3-way adjustable coilovers. Helping the M2 stick to the asphalt is a set of Manhart concave ONE wheels. This gives the little M2 insanely wide 285 rear tires, which are still roastable with the 700ft-lbs of torque the S55 is spitting out. The 255 front tires paired with an all new set of ceramic brakes allows the MH2 to stop almost as fast as it accelerates, a much-needed improvement over stock.
Inside the cockpit the MH2 630 blends performance with style like no other. It is shroud in Manhart leather-alcantara as far as the eye can see, a beautiful mix of black and gold. The leather-alcantara wrapped steering wheel is an absolute gem, featuring gold stitching and Manhart’s center logo. Interestingly, Manhart didn’t use their own seats on the MH2, instead electing to use Recaro Sportster CS Sportseats. I can’t complain though, they match perfectly.
The exterior is like everything else on this build, modified for performance. That means almost every panel is built from carbon fiber. With the addition of the hood vents and rear wing the MH2 no longer looks like the cute and cuddly M2, instead it now looks more like a DTM car. If that wasn’t loud enough, the paint Manhart picked certainly is. I mean, it’s sooo gold. Which maybe you’re into that, and it’s definitely loud. But I would love to see the 630 in black just like their MH2 400.
Now the kicker is that you may not be able to do the custom engine swaps that make these cars so cool, but you can order a lot of the same parts from Manhart for your very own BMW. If you have to choose between Dinan and Manhart, I think the answer is pretty obvious.