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The Tire Rack - Performance Specialists

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Manufactured By: AutoSolutions
Website: www.autosolutions.net
Application: E46 M3

I think that I've become the masochistic gluten for short shift kit installation and reviews. So after a ton of guys suggested that I try the AutoSolutions Ultimate kit and write up what I thought of it in comparison to the Rogue and UUC kits I have installed as well as the B&M kit I helped install and spent some time driving I decided to bite the bullet. The fact that I traded my 01 for an 04 did not hurt my curiosity on the subject so without much ado I called Ronald at AutoSolutions and got a kit in the mail to me.

A word about AutoSolutions and its owner - Ronald: You will rarely run into a guy who likes what he does any more than Ronald appears to. This is serious science for a guy who's been playing around with shifters for BMW's longer than some of the people reading this have been alive. Ronald is as much of a masterpiece as the shifter that he makes. He is a shear pleasure to chat with, incredibly knowledgeable and more than willing to take the time to discuss your needs and how he can address them with either off the shelf products or custom spec kits built to your exact requirements.

There are 3 kits available for the E46 M3 from AutoSolutions. The Basic Kit which is simply a lever replacement: I drove one and really was not fond of this version. The Complete Kit which is the lever and the selector rod which I have never tried and the Ultimate Kit with includes the lever, selector rod, coupler and carrier. This review is for the Ultimate Kit and honestly if you're going to bother do it right and go with this version.

First impressions: This kit is not cheap at $389 but as soon as you open the box you will see that its money well spent. The quality of the workmanship is exceptional (especially considering that you will never see any of the pieces once installed). The carrier is a work of art, machined from billet aluminum and redesigned to correct the alignment of the new linkage this piece really stands out from those made by other manufacturers. The selector rod and coupler are likewise flawlessly machined. The lever does not disappoint either - everything is top notch! The kit also included everything you will need to install other than some grease.

The install: This is my only complaint about the kit - it is a bloody bear to install. To install this kit on your own you need to really want to do it. This is not for the feint of heart. The install took me around 4 hours and some others I know have taken as much as 7 hours to put this puppy in, even with a helper and required tools. Realistic fee for a shop to do this is probably in the 3 to 4 hour range.

So on to impressions: My car has the following mods that effect shifter feel/performance: Royal Purple Syncromax transmission fluid and Rogue Engineering transmission mounts (both mods I highly recommend). As soon as I connected everything during the install I knew I was in for something different from my previous installs - this thing felt solid as a rock. Since everything in front of the transmission is basically replaced there is essentially NO play whatsoever in the shifter. I contemplated putting my UUC RKIII knob on but decided against it simply because I did not want to lower the knob any further than the kit already did (the UUC RKIII is around ½ to ¾" shorter than the OE knob) with the shortened lever. I also did not really feel the need to add extra weight to the kit. The knob height with the OE knob was a little (maybe ½") lower than my old UUC SSK with the RKIII. It took me a little bit to get used to this but I do not find it to be problematic either way.

The first time you row the gears with this kit it will put a smile on your face - the throws are very short - far shorter than UUC or RE and much much shorter than stock. The shifter feels like a switch snapping into gates rather than like a lever that you row from place to place. You KNOW when you're in gear and when you're out. The shifter is a little stiff at first but breaks in over the first 500 miles or so of driving. All gears are easy to get to and second is still notchy like it is with the OE shifter and with every other SSK I've ever tried. But the overriding theme is how solid everything feels - its almost beyond belief that all the slop of the OE shifter and every other SSK I've tried is gone. Mind you its still not a Miata like but since Miata's have far less linkage than we do getting to that kind of feel is simply unrealistic anyway.

The shift effort is obviously increased above stock - no way to defeat physics. BUT the interesting thing is that it is not increased "proportionally" to the reduction in shift throw. I can only attribute this to the fact that the carrier is reengineered and works in conjunction with exquisitely machined lever, coupler and selector rod to correctly align the linkage. I think the shift effort is lower than the RE Octane kit with WSR while still having shorter throws than the RE and being far more solid in overall feel. Shift effort is a little higher than UUC but again the throws are far shorter and far far more solid. While both the UUC and RE are good kits and far better than stock the AS is in a whole different league - its that much better.

Running through the gears is a shear joy - those of us smart enough not to have bought an automatic (SMG) will be simply impressed by how well this car can shift with the AutoSolutions Ultimate kit. If it sounds like I'm gushing, its because I am - this thing is really that good.

So is the AutoSolutions Ultimate short shift kit really the ultimate shifter for the E46 M3? Well, in my less than humble opinion on the subject it very much is. Other SSK's are good and having had RE and UUC in my car before I can't really say anything bad about them other then the fact that this one is far better. I had kept my old UUC SSK when I traded the 01 in with full intention of putting it in the 04 - the first time I knew I switched a gear with the AS Ultimate kit I knew it the UUC was never going to see life in this car. It now resides in my business partner's 04 M3 keeping him happy while routinely bugging me to DIY the AS ultimate in his car as well.

Hope this has been at least somewhat helpful…

OE, UUC and AS Levers

OE and AS Carriers

OE and AS Selector Rods

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