Most of you are probably familiar with Hartge, one of the most famous BMW-tuners in the world. The roots of Hartge goes all the way back to 1971. The founder, Herbert Hartge, was a successful racingdriver between 1969 and 1983 and has used his racing experience to enhance the performance of BMW road vehicles. During the years, Hartge has built a lot of interesting BMWīs. For example, the H35-24 which was a E30 M3 equipped with a tuned M5-engine, the E36 3-series compact with a 5-litre V8-engine and the H1 which is a 1-series equipped with a tuned V8 from the E39 M5. As you may understand by now, one of Hartges specialities is to install large engines into small cars. A very nice recipe indeed, for all of us who enjoy performance. So, when we got the call from Hartge saying that their latest beast was finished, we immediately booked a date for a test-drive.
We left Stockholm around 13:00 on a wednesday. Our destination was Saarlouis, a nice town close to Beckingen where Hartge is located. Itīs a long drive from Stockholm to Saarlouis, around 1700 kilometres. But the sun was shining, we had a great car for the trip, a 2003 M5, and we were two drivers so the distance wasnīt a problem.
Fillīer up! Here we are in the south of Sweden, actually our first stop for fuel. In Sweden the speed limit on the motorways is 110 km/h (sometimes 90 km/h) and the swedish police top priority is speeding, so we took it pretty easy during our drive through Sweden. If you drive more than 140 km/h on the motorways and get caught by the police, they will take your license and keep it for a while. Since we like to keep our licenses to ourselves, we cruised around 140 km/h and came away really impressed by the fuel-consumption of the M5 with an average of 10,8 l/100 km.
Finally we left Sweden behind! Here we are driving on the bridge between Sweden and Denmark, "Öresundsbron". This is a pretty impressive bridge with a total length of 7845 metres. Since we have a friend who is working in Copenhagen at the moment, we thought it would be good idea to meet up with him. So, after some car-talking we hit the road again. The drive through Denmark is often pretty boring, and this time was no exception. There are two alternatives when driving to Germany, either you take the ferry between Rödby - Puttgarten, or you can drive all the way via "the Great Belt". We choose the later alternative because it would probably go faster if we drove pretty quick and we wouldnīt have to worry about missing the ferry.
Even though the drive through Denmark is pretty boring, the beautiful sunset made it a litte bit nicer.
Almost at home! The M5 is having itīs first drink in Germany and getting ready for some serious high-speed driving. Since this is a "Aral" fuel-station, we chose to fill the M5 up with their counterpart to Shellīs V-Power, called Ultimate 100. Even if the difference in performance isnīt noticeable with this fuel compared to standard-fuels, it feels good to give the car the best fuel available.
We had no fun races at all on the way down to Saarlouis, but we still had some road-kills. The insects were no match for the M5!
Driving in Germany at night can be very effective. This time we were lucky; almost no traffic, three lanes and no speed-limit. We could cruise at the speed-limiter for several minutes without having to slow down. Note that this picture doensīt show the car at the speed-limiter. The limiter kicks in at around 270 km/h on the speedo at sixth gear.
After driving for over 12 hours, it felt good to be pretty close to our destination. Since we would like to get to Hartge as soon as possible in the morning, we were anxious to come to the hotel and at least get a few hours sleep. This was our last stop on the way down, and we came away impressed once again by the capabilities of the E39 M5. Itīs a very good long-distance cruiser!
What a beautiful day! After 4 hours sleep we arrived to Hartgeīs premises at around 09:00. We were greeted by Mr. Jörg Wey. As always, he was very professional and nice. We sat down, had a coke and talked about...well, you guessed right: cars! Even though itīs nice talking about cars, itīs much more fun driving them (not all of them though). Especially cars like the Hartge H50!
Jörg showed us the way to the garage where the H50 stood and waited for us. After seeing it IRL for the first time, we couldnīt wait to get behind the wheel. It just looks so aggressive. And, as we soon noticed, it doesnīt just look aggressive...
Some of Hartgeīs buildings are covered with a couple of their legendary cars. In the background here, you can see the previous generation H50, based on the E46 and equipped with the 5-litre V8 engine from the E39 M5 (and Z8). Hartge built a total of around 20 of those cars, including one Touring. Look here for M5boardīs test-drive of the E46 H50!
With the new H50, Hartge has ditched the stealthy looks of itīs predecessor. The new one looks like no other 3-series. Letīs take a look at the details which make it look so special:
For starters, the modified front fenders make it stand out. They are slashed and looks like they have air-vents, but itīs actually just for show. They also have Z4-style turn-signals.
The bonnet is raised to make room for the engine, and also has a lot of air-vents to keep the engine cool. This is the first H50 built, and the bonnet on this car is a little bit higher than it will be on the production-cars. Thatīs a good thing, because this one is a little bit too high. Not only because it will look better with a lower bonnet, but also because this one is always visible in the lower part of the windscreen, which can be a little annoying.
The rear-spoiler is rather discreet though, and fits the lines of the 3-series nicely. A 5.0-emblem isnīt exactly what you expect to find on a 3-series.
From behind, itīs the exhaust-pipes that really give the car away. The exhaust-system is specially designed for the H50 and it makes the car sound amazing. The M5 and M6 does sound a little boring at idle, which isnīt the case with the H50. Itīs loud and sounds aggressive even at idle, just as it should.
Hartge choose to put the exhaust-pipes close together to make the H50 look unique, and not like an M-car.
A nice detail!
The exterior-mirrors has carbon-fibre look, just like the Porsche 996 GT3 RS has.
Letīs not forget about the beautiful Hartge wheels. These wheels has been very popular since they came out, and itīs easy to understand why. The man who designed these, is the same person who designed the different styling features of the H50. So itīs no suprise that they fit the car perfectely. These wheels are called CLASSIC 2 and the wheel / tire combination consists of 9 x 20 offset 40 at the front and 10 x 20 offset 40 at the back fitted with 245/30 ZR20 and 285/25 ZR20 tires respectively.
The massive brakes are clearly visible behind the wheels. At front Hartge has fitted 380 x 34 mm discs with 8-piston callipers, and at rear 348 x 28 mm discs with 4-piston callipers.
The H50 is also equipped with a deeper front-spoiler lip than your standard 3-series and sits a full 30 mm lower than a 330i. All these changes, together with the bi-colour paint-work, gives the H50 real presence. Hartge also gave the interior some nice touches. Letīs have a look:
It is equipped with the standard BMW sport-seats, which are really comfortable and has decent side-support. To give the interior a sportier touch, Hartge has installed carbon interior trim for the dash board, the gear lever panelling, the door handles and the decorative strips front and rear. Hartge has also fitted their own steering-wheel, based on the standard steering-wheel, but with a smaller, thicker rim with carbon inserts. It also features a flat bottom, which reminds us of the Audi RS4. Other changes include new floor mats, aluminium pedals and foot rest and a leather-aluminium handbrake cover. These things are available for any E90-owner to buy, but the H50 also has some features not available for any other 3-series.
Just a close-up of the leather-aluminium handbrake cover. Feels and looks nice!
These instruments will not be available for any other 3-series. Just like in the M5/M6, the speedo goes to 330 km/h and the rev-counter to 9000 rpm. Another thing familiar from the M5/M6 are the steering-wheel paddles.
Here is another unique feature for the H50. The bar to the left shows which mode the SMG is in (S5 in this picture), the 6 means that itīs in sixth gear and it also shows the oil-temperature or the engine-temperature and if the car is in P400-mode or full power-mode. It looks a litte bit 80īs but works well.
Enough of the small details, letīs talk business. This car started life as a 330i, but then a nice M5 came along and donated itīs drivetrain; the 5-litre V10-engine, the 7-speed SMG gearbox and the limited slip differential. Actually, the fitting of the drivetrain didnīt cause that much problems. The real problem was to get all the electronics to work. Hartge told us that they were really surprised that two cars, built by the same manufacturer in the same year could be so different. After a lot of work, this has been the most time consuming part in building this car, Hartge managed to make the car work as it should.
Back to the engine. With 507 bhp, the M5 engine is powerful enough for most of us. But Hartge doesnīt think itīs powerful enough for a 3-series saloon, so they decided to do some work to it. They have fitted sharper camshafts and reprogrammed the software. Together with the specially developed headers and exhaust system, these changes results in maximum power of 550 bhp at 7750 rpm. Maximum torque is unchanged at 520 NM at 6100 rpm.
Here is the reason for the new bonnet...
But how is it to drive? The following picture gives you a good idea!
Itīs fast! And just like with the M5 and M6, not the easiest car to keep the speed limits with...
We drove the car for two days on different kinds of roads: On Autobahns, winding country-roads and in the city. Itīs on the winding country-road where the car really shines. It definately feels smaller and more agile than an M5, and much more alive. Just like it should then, considering that the car is smaller and lighter. Hartge has fitted adjustable sports suspension which works fine on these winding roads. Itīs a little bit harsh, but not as harsh as you would imagine considering the extremely low-profile tires, but feels composed and controllable. The car grips fine when pushed in the corners but with all that power, itīs no problem to do controlled drifts. Since we drove on public roads we couldnīt explore the limit of the car, so we canīt tell you how it behaves when pushed really really hard.
Compared to the M5, it feels faster and more powerful. This feeling is maybe increased by the sound. It sounds a LOT! When pushed the sound is amazing, and really contributes to the sporty driving experience. When cruising along gently, the sound is probably a little bit too much for some people and could get tiresome. It also attracts a lot of attention.
The H50 didnīt just attract a lot of attention thanks to itīs sound. The car itself was good at that, especially among other BMW drivers. Some drivers turned their car around when they saw us and then followed us to take pictures of the H50.
20 cylinders and 1057 bhp!
For autobahn-driving, the M5 is better. Itīs more refined and more relaxing to drive. But the H50 is reasonably comfortable and can handle long distances too. The high-speed stability is fine. We drove around 300 km/h a couple of times which was no problem, but the M5 feels a little bit better at these speeds. They do have one problem in common though, the range!
A 6-series came by to keep us company. Note the classic E24 6-series in the background!
The scenery in these parts of Germany is very beautiful. Itīs in the centre of Europe, very close to Luxembourg and France.
Ready for take-off!?
If you like cars and are in Germany, where is the place to go? Nürburgring of course. Not only is the drive there very nice, but itīs also a very fun place to spend time. Always great cars and great people with a common interest. This time the Scuderia Hanseat was ongoing, which is by many considered to be the best driving course at the Nürburgring. We came during their lunch-break, and when we passed the restaurant where some of the participants were eating, they heard the H50 and came out to get a look of it. So we got nice company for lunch, and the same goes for the H50.
Porsche 911 Carrera S, Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale, Lamborghini Gallardo, BMW M3, Hartge H50...
At the other side of Nürburg, the H50 gets company by two Ferrari Testarossas. The one next to the H50, is a 512 TR which was produced between 1991-1993. The other one is the very rare F512M. It was only produced in 1994 and a total of 501 cars were built. Performance-wise, the H50 would eat both of them alive.
The new BMW M Ring-Taxi? Unfortunately not. BMW still uses M5īs as ring-taxis and itīs a great experience. Click here to read more about them.
The Hartge H50 at Brünnchen. Brünnchen is one of the best spots for spectators to watch cars and their drivers taking on the ring. Maybe the best part with the Nürburgring: amazing new cars, such as the H50, mixed with great classics, as the 70īs Porsche 911 RS tearing up the track in the picture. Something for everyone!
After two days of driving the H50, getting back into the E39 M5 was actually pretty pleasant because we had a 400 km drive ahead of us and the E39 M5 almost felt like a luxury-cruiser in comparsion. Our destination was Köln.
Köln is a nice city, with great night-life, and is famous for itīs cathedral which was built between 1248 and 1880. Thatīs a building-time of 632 years which can be considered ineffective by todayīs standard...The two towers are 157 metres high, which made the Köln Cathedral the highest building in the world for a couple of years.
Our Hotel in Köln was very nice, and was so proud of their cathedral that they tried to resemble the towers with the pillows. The pillows felt almost as high!
Almost at home.
During the long drive home, we discussed the H50 a lot and agreed that it was great car. For a four-door saloon, the driving experience really is something else. Raw, aggressive, fast and a lot of fun. And itīs still reasonably comfortable for four people. But, at over EUR 162000, itīs also very expensive and a lot of nice cars are available for that kind of money. Then again, Hartge doesnīt build the H50 in believe that it will become a huge sales success so the price isnīt that important. We are just very happy that they DO build it, and hopefully they will continue their tradition with these kind of cars for a long time, because they are fun. Thatīs the important thing for us car-enthusiasts!
Awesome review and story. Thanks for taking the time to post it. That car sounds like a beast. I love the feel of the stock 3 series sedan and can only imagine it with the v10 from the m5. That trip sounded awesome, and that m5 you drove down in in is beautiful.