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*Tested* AWE Quad Tip, or, How I Didn't Piss Off My Wife.


For those of you that know me, you know that I prefer to drive around older sports cars: I like the rattle, the smell, the twitchy handling of cars that won't save me if I make a stupid speed decision on a twisty road. So when Helix got an F30 development car (stay tuned for our upcoming intercooler), the plan was to have it be my wife's daily driver. She was due for a new car, and the 328i made sense for her needs: she's got a job that requires more decorum than that of the owner of a BMW tuning shop. She visits clients and occasionally drives them around. She can't show up to meetings with a bagged stance mobile stickered with slogans like 'DAPPER'. There's the problem, because I can't leave well enough alone, and had been sneaking mods onto the car that I hoped wouldn't ruin it for her. When AWE Tuning announced their entry into the BMW world, I knew I couldn't resist: relationship be damned, I was putting one of their hand-built exhausts on the car.

Why AWE? I have a long history with AWE--full disclosure: I once worked for them--and watched as they built a state-of-the-art manufacturing organization with quality and design that's second to none. I once took a field trip with all of our employees to see the exhaust-building operation at AWE. I had one employee that had just finished a one-year internship with RUF Porsche in Germany. His comment to me was "RUF is a good business, but those guys (AWE) have their game faces on". There may be more established names in European exhaust manufacturing, but in terms of quality, design, manufacturing and sound engineering, AWE has few peers.

That notwithstanding, I was a little bit nervous about the sound quality and volume on my wife's car. This is a 2 liter four-banger we're talking about. It's easy to make the BMW straight six sound sexy but a 4 cylinder motor could easily make a $50k car sound like a Del Sol with Cherry Bomb resonator. Over the years I had followed AWE's work on sound cancellation--what they call 180 Technology--which in theory seems great, and works in Bose headsets, but in a car? Well, I was about to find out. I placed my order and a few days later, this showed up:

Everything was systematically packaged and well-padded. 

Installation instructions are provided online, which is bittersweet, because like any man, I like to crumple up instructions and toss them in the trash without reading them. The only part of the installation which took any focus at all was cutting the opening for the extra exhaust tips. More on that later. If anybody has installed cheap, off-shore-manufactured exhausts on BMWs (and God forbid N54 downpipes), you'll know what a huge PITA a poor fitting exhaust system is. I can't count how many times we've had to get medieval on a 'direct bolt on' system. In fact in our shop, we have different installation rates for different brands of exhausts. This system was simply bolt it together, front to back. There was no bending of hangers or pry-bar persuading parts into submission. It clicked together like a Lego kit.

As I said earlier, the only part of the install that made me nervous was cutting the rear bumper cover. Cutting it wrong would be a very expensive mistake. We ordered the template that comes with the quad tip exhaust option (you can get a twin tip exhaust for the 328/428, but how fun is that?). The template was not just a printed-on-paper-and-you-cut-it-out job, it was a 3d printed plastic part that you bolt into place!. It has a thicker flange to guide your sharpie where you mark the bumper. This setup is good enough that I would encourage the DIYer to do this installation in their garage.

Finally, the moment of truth. With fingers crossed, fearing many a sleeping-on-the-couch nights, I fired her up. The sound was smooth, sporty, with none of the rasp you would expect from a 4 cylinder engine. The best part of the experience is the part-throttle acceleration. You hear the purposeful sound of the exhaust in a subtle but significant way. With the stock exhaust, you really couldn't hear the motor. The clattering of the injector solenoids under the hood were more noticeable than the exhaust. That combined with the well-dampened electric steering feel made for an antiseptic experience. It was a great car, just not fun enough for me. This one mod has made all the difference in the driving experience of the car. It's now fun to drive! We did a four-hour family trip last weekend to and from the Jersey shore. Highway cruising was without drone at any RPM.

So what did my not-a-car-guy wife think? She said that the car ran smoother. At first I didn't get what she meant, because an exhaust will not have that kind of effect on the engine management. In talking about it, I figured out that, because she could hear the exhaust, she could shift more smoothly than before (we don't mess around with automatic transmissions in our household). She enjoys the tasteful sound difference, and likes the look of the quad exhaust. Now if I could only get her to wash the car once in a while!

We've taken some videos of the car which I'll post soon. As you know, videos struggle to demonstrate the true sound of a car, from both outside and the driver's seat. If anybody is in the Philly area and considering and exhaust for their 28i, drop me a line and I'll arrange to have the car here for a demo.

Bottom line: this exhaust is pretty sweet, and no, I'm not on the couch tonight.

Helix Motorsports

Welcome to Helix13, your home for MINI Cooper and BMW service, maintenance, performance and lifestyle. We serve the enthusiast from our headquarters in Philadelphia, PA, with everything from routine maintenance, to major repairs, performance upgrades and dyno consulting. Whether you are looking to keep your daily driver in perfect condition, or you want to build a street/track monster, we provide the expertise to achieve your goals. We also design and produce a line of dynamomoeter-proven performance products with real-world power and porformance gains. To learn more, or set an appointment at our Philadelphia headquarters, don't hesitate to give us a call at 267-335-4337.

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