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Manufactured by: UUC Motorwerks Website:www.uucmotorwerks.com Application: E46 M3 and M5 - Direct Replacement
Note: Since I wrote the review below of the UUC SSK I have installed the AutoSolutions Ultimate short shift kit in my car. While my opinion regarding the comparison of the RE and UUC shifters has not changed I now believe that the AutoSolutions is the BEST SSK for the M3 bar none and it is the SSK now in my car. I've also had the opportunity to drive a car with the B&M which I feel is on par with UUC but not in the same league as AutoSolutions. For a full review of what I feel is the best SSK on the market: AutoSolutions Ultimate SSK Review.
BMW is typically very good at getting most things right when it comes to creating a true driver's car. One may nit pick at the E46 M3 but in the end it is a pretty damn nice car (as it should be for the price). Most controls are exceptionally well engineered and executed. The shifter unfortunately is not one of them.
Most people who have ever driven a Miata or a S2000 instantly fall in love with the "snick - snick" feel of their shifters. Honda seems to be better at getting shifter feel "right" than any other company on earth. The shifters in these cars are simply a joy to work - quick, short, smooth and well weighted. The M3 shifter feels like it should be in a semi by comparison. It may not be as bad as all that (for instance my girlfriend's Mustang GT shifter falls into the "sin against god" category) but it can surely be improved.
Many companies make Short Shift Kits (SSK) for BMW applications. The M3 shifter is specific to the M3 and M5 applications. After a lot of research and the opportunity to drive a few cars with different SSK's installed I settled on the UUC Motorwerks version. This has been my best single mod so far.
If you are not familiar with how an SSK works play with the demo below for details. This applies to basically all SSK's out there.
People have taken different approaches to the design of SSK kits. Most do one or both of the following: Lengthening the lower section of the shifter (below the ball) or shortening the upper section (above the ball) or both. UUC does both. Some companies simply trim the stock shift lever to shorten the top section to shorten the throw. This seems like a rather cheesy approach. Also, trimming the upper section weakens the stock lever and creates a shorter interface between the inner section of the shift lever and the outer shell which is mounted on a rubber isolator. UUC does not reuse the stock lever. Their shifter is manufactured from stainless steel and the execution is flawless. The UUC shifter differs in that it has a height adjustment option. The upper section of the shifter can be moved up or down a little less than an inch. Top most setting corresponds with stock lever height. The adjustment is easy to make but requires opening up the center console (but not the removal of the shifter). Contrary to common belief, the UUC shifter has rubber isolation and is not all steel. There is a rubber isolator between the upper section of the shift lever and the main shift rod. This is hidden by the height adjustment bolt at the bottom of the upper section. I would not recommend taking it apart to double check as it is a royal pain in the ass to get the height adjustment bolt back in.
If you are going to spend money on the SSK, you might as well also buy the bearing upgrade (which is a rip-off - $25 for a pair of $0.50 cartridge bearings). The bearing kit is alleged to reduce effort by 7% (UUC numbers) and should provide a consistent feel for the life of the shifter unlike the delron bushing which is likely to wear with time.
Ok, enough of that - how does it work? In a word great! The UUC SSK shortens the throw by 25-35% (this will depend on the height you set the lever too) and does so while retaining a smooth shifter feel and without much additional effort. As an aside, all SSK's WILL increase the effort required to complete a shift - this is simple physics. If you reduce the length of the lever you will increase speed and effort - remember your class on simple machines (levers and fulcrums) from junior high school?
The kit is a bit more notchy than stock (again go back to your basic physics again). Shifts with the UUC kit are far more positive and much faster. The shifter feels more "solid" than stock as well. Does it get you to that magical S2000/Miata feel? Well, no, but it does make things much better. The transmission itself sets limitations as to how good thing can get - but this is a serious improvement. Also, in comparison to an M with the AutoSolutions kit I drove ("basic" version, my understanding is that the "complete" is very, very good), the UUC kits is far better - smoother, lighter, more solid (and cheaper as well). Rogue Engineering SSK also seems to have a strong following - I have had the opportunity to install and test the Rogue SSK. You can see my conclusions here. I prefer the UUC kit to RE's. Driving an M3 with the stock shifter after UUC is like driving a truck. Adding a weighted knob also helps smooth things out quite a bit (I added a UUC Rob Knob III - about 2.5 times heavier than stock).
There have been some complaints regarding additional noise after installing the UUC SSK. Some of this is true. I think that the metal to metal interface when using the cartridge bearing kit probably contributes to this. When I first installed my kit I honestly thought that something was very wrong. The shifter felt great but the noise was nasty. After talking to Rob at UUC I checked the height adjustment bolt and found it to be a little loose. Tightening the height adjustment bolt got rid of about 90% of the noise - much to my delight. I also got some noise from the stock shift knob. The upper section of the knob seems to resonate a bit. After replacing the stock knob with the RKIII that was solved as well. After all is said and done, there is a little bit more noise BUT you actually have to listen for it to notice. The only time I can tell a difference from stock is at low speeds with the windows up and the radio off - and then I'm not sure if its not in my head.
Overall, I am very happy with the kit and UUC's quality and support. I would highly recommend this to any 6 speed owner. I would also recommend going with the RKIII at the same time - the RKIII has a much better shape than the stock shift knob and smoothes things out that additional little bit. This is one great mod!