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Written 12/30/2006

5 out of 5

I heard over 2 years ago that ESS Tuning in Norway was working on a positive displacement (PD) supercharger system for the E46. Since then, I have researched as much as I could about these types of superchargers. There are two basic PD types (Roots and Twin Screw), but the Twin Screws are far more efficient. Twin Screws provide high boost at low rpms while maintaining very good thermal and adiabatic efficiences due to their internal compression design unlike "Roots" blowers which only compress air in the manifold. See my ALL ABOUT BOOST page for more information about the different supercharger types.

When the announcement was later made that ESS was going to use a custom 1.6L Lysholm Twin Screw compressor, I was very excited. And for good reason. So, I pressed ESS for as much information about the R&D that I could manage. Here is what I got:

The Lysholm Twin Screw compressor is built by Lysholm SE in Sweden. Opcon is the parent company of Lysholm and also owns the companies that make the Autorotor Twin Screw sister unit and Laminova cooling cores. ESS chose the Lysholm over the similiar Autorotor unit based on the fact that the Lyhsolm is designed, built, and tested as an OEM-quality rated unit. The Lysholm compressor has been used very successfully by various automotive manufacturers in production vehicles such as the Ford GT, Mercedes SLR (under license), Koeniggsegg CC8S & CCR, Mazda Millenia S, Mercruiser SCi 750/850 and 1050HP V8 marine engine packages, and others. The Autorotor, while also a good twin screw compressor that shares most of its design with the Lysholm, is designed as a less expensive aftermarket unit. And, to ESS, durability, longevity, and reliability come before price.

ESS Tuning took the Lysholm and began CAD designing a custom intake manifold that would provide balanced airflow, low pressure loss, incorporate the ultra-efficient Laminova cooling cores into its interior, and all the while actually support the entire weight of the Lysholm itself without any need for other support or snout brackets. The result is a dual-layer high strength aluminum alloy one-piece manifold. It is definitely a work of art. It is too bad we don't get to see all of the inner workings as I am sure it is quite impressive (the unit comes from ESS pre-assembled). The manifold is casted using a special 6-mold lost sand technique in one of the only two OEM qualified foundries in the world that has the ability to do it right. This "intermanifold" is created right alongside factory OEM Porsche, Audi, Volvo, Getrag and ZF parts and is actually the most complicated casting they have ever encountered.

The ESS Twin Screw supercharger kits come in many flavors. Stage 1 runs lower boost and is not intercooled (however, the chambers are there to install intercooling at a later time). Stage 2 runs 8psi and includes the Laminova intercooling system. Laminova cores are long cylindrical alumnium tubes with thin radial fins circling the exterior. These allow hot intake air to be passed over the fins while cool water is pumped through the centers of the cores. Water/air cools 4x better than air/air and can cool even when the vehicle is not in motion. ESS uses 3 x 500mm Laminova cores in the Stage 2 kit. The same cores and manifold are capable of operating even the very high-powered Stage 3 (TS3) system.

All software tuning is done in the DME. I have never had a check engine light, stutter, stall, or other driving problem. ESS started with MS45, MS45.1, and MS43 for the 330i, 330i ZHP, and Z4 3.0. The next step is MS42 for the 323/328 and MS43 for 325. Then, other kits will be available for MS41 and older vehicles such as the entire E36 lineup including S50 and S52 M3. I have even heard a rumor that a big TS is coming for the V8s like the 540, 740, X5, etc. What fun that would be!

The install took about 12 hours considering I stopped frequently and took pictures and notes for my TWIN SCREW INSTALL DIY. I figure it would have taken about 8-9 hours without the stoppages. Most notably about the install was actually looking inside the engine intake ports and seeing the valves themselves. You know you are getting personal with your car when you stare into its heart! Regardless, the install went along fine even without an installation manual.

Due to the fact that the cooling is all done inside the manifold, the install is actually easier than my TX-2 ASA Centrifugal kit was. There is no air tubing to run all over the place with multiple joints that must be aligned and clamped just right to seal in the boost and keep vacuum leaks out. As a matter of fact, there is little to no place to have vacuum or boost leaks with the TS by the very design of the ESS intermanifold. Just to be sure, ESS pressure tests each pre-assembled manifold/compressor unit to 25psi before it is shipped to the customer.

Overall, at every step, you can see the quality of the kit. From the manifold itself to the new power steering tank, there are nice touches everywhere you look. I was impressed most by the reaction of people seeing the completed install. Most are shocked by how OEM it looks and some serious car nuts couldn't even recognize that it is actually supercharged at all. Very stealthy. Check out my DIY if you want to see how it all goes into place.

First thing that came to mind: it is deceptively fast. My older centrifugals would drive just like stock until about 2500-3500rpm, then slowly become stronger towards redline thanks to the fact that the centrifugals build boost directly with RPMs reaching maximum boost *only* at redline. My ESS Twin Screw makes full boost almost all of the time, so it just pulls full hard and takes that same hard pull that all the way to rev limit. In the under 1/2 mile between exits on the freeway, I accelerated from 65mph to over 125mph in SIXTH gear. I was literally shocked, as were my two passengers. It is a totally different animal from the ASA and Vortech centrifugals I've owned and will require some welcome adjustments to my driving style to maximize its abilities.

Smooth and responsive. The two other words that pop into mind when it comes to driving it. When you are driving around town and using typical moderate throttle, it drives like stock but...snappier. The throttle response is amazing. It is always ready to go all out which is pure fun in my book. And to me, drivability rules all other factors. I don't care if a FI system supposedly makes all the power in the world...if it drives like a monster, a lamb, or some Frankenstein combo of both, I'll pass.

There is no "on-off" power delivery as some people have thought. It is quite easy to control the boost by simply varying your foot on the pedal. With my boost gauge, I have noticed that the boost indicated is directly proportionate to how hard I am accelerating. If I push the gas and grandma go, it makes little to no boost, say under 2psi if any. I goose it a bit more and see maybe 5psi. I floor it and see full boost instantly. Not only does this give smooth power delivery, but it lowers stress on the engine and saves gas to accomplish the same goal. To give you an example in regards to fuel economy, on a recent rural "floorboard testing" trip of about 300 miles, I used the same amount of gas as my friend's stock '98 E36 M3.

The noise of a Lysholm is unique and unlike any centrifugal I've owned. At idle you can't hear it. As you accelerate, you can hear a faint cry. At wide open, my exhaust is louder than the Lysholm ever is. I have never considered it instrusive or irritating. I actually like it. My old Vortech V2SQ was a noisy SOB and the ASA TM-12 was quiet at idle, but made a crazy "sucking" sound at WOT (not bad, just a comparative statement). However, neither centrifugal came close to this Twin Screw in performance in any way. I would never go back to a centrifugal now, ASA or Vortech.

A few other things I like about the ESS Twin Screw: You retain your stock MAF and location. You use your factory airbox, filter, and location, but any CAI that mounts to the factory MAF location should work no problem. You do not insert any resistors, clamps, diodes, or even cut the factory wiring harness at all. It will run fine even if you loose all coolant in the Laminova circuit (trust me, I ran the first week with little to no intercooler coolant, oops!). I have never been able to get my oil temperature above 210 degrees even when getting on it hard for a long time. To compare, a new E90 335i sedan I drove for a day recently runs oil at 235 degrees almost all the time, even cruising. The ESS Twin Screw runs very cool.

Lastly, I find myself NOT having to stay in higher rpms to have fun. With both my centrifugal kits (Vortech and ASA), I would drive around above 3k all the time because I knew boost was available up there. With the ESS Twin Screw, full boost is practically always on tap so there is no need to stay in high rpms anymore. Not only does this save gas, but RPM is a bigger threat to an engine than is the boost created by the TS. You can still run it to redline, but you will find that you don't need it to be faster.

While I haven't dynoed the car yet (soon), I can already tell it is very quick. I can outrun my old TX-2 kit that we installed into another 2004 ZHP Sedan. I believe I am hurting myself with my short final drive gears though. I went to a 3.38 Limited Slip final drive to allow me to get into boost faster with the ASA centrifugal. Now, with the Twin Screw, I can take advantage of the time spent in the massive torque curve lower in the RPM band. I plan to keep my LSD and have Koala Motorsport swap the gears back to 3.07. As strange as it seems to me that going to taller gears would actually make me go faster, ESS, Koala Motorsport, and Performance Gearing all concur: "Transmissions only exist to keep you in your powerband." So, taller gears will save me gas, lower my highway cruising speed and road noise, and allow me to stay in the torque longer and actually be noticably faster with the Twin Screw. I will make the swap in the coming weeks and update the results here.

I will post my own independant dyno results here as soon as I have them (tentatively Jan 2007).

My kit was $7495 USD as part of the E46fanatics intro pricing. The price is very closely matched to existing centrifugals, yet you get so much more. ESS fully tests each supercharger system harder than we will ever drive it. This includes almost a hundred hours on their new DynoJet (most of the time at wide open throttle) and countless trips to tracks around Europe including the famous Nürburgring in Germany.

Normally on my ZHP:
ESS offers the 8psi intercooled TS2 system for $7995 USD.
And the non-intercooled 6.5psi TS1 system is $5995 USD.

Due to changes in software versions and vehicle specifications, the most up-to-date power and torque output numbers for specific vehicles should be researched at their website listed below.

Norway 1798
011-47-694-8555 Phone from the US

11777 Sorrento Valley Road
San Diego, CA 92121
(858) 314-2954

See the Installation page HERE.


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