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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 3 Series / 4 Series > E90/E91/E92/E93 (2006 - 2013)

E90/E91/E92/E93 (2006 - 2013)
The E9X is the 4th evolution of the BMW 3 series including a highly tuned twin turbo 335i variant pushing out 300hp and 300 ft. lbs. of torque. BMW continues to show that it sets the bar for true driving performance! -- View the E9X Wiki

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  #1  
Old 07-24-2013, 06:51 PM
brace up brace up is offline
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Mein Auto: e90 335 M-Sport
Review: Alpina B3 6-Speed Automatic Transmission Tune for N55

Background
I don't really post on any forums, but I try to skim Bimmerfest and E90Post a couple times a week to make sure I'm not missing out on anything important #FOMO. I recently purchased a 2011 E90 335i with M-Sport package and have been missing manual transmission, even with all the traffic I sit in on a daily basis.

I recently read about the Alpina B3 automatic transmission tune for 335's and realized it was a very affordable and beneficial tune, with several local options for installation (Los Angeles, Southern California). I did some research on the tune, and even though I have the OBDII hardware to do the flash on my own remotely, I decided if I was going to do it, I might as well make sure I'm doing it right and get some other coding goodies done while I'm at it.

For me, the main concerns with the tune are below, along with resolutions:
1. Bricking the car (even though I'm pretty tech savvy). I reached out to Alex@Alpine (E90Post) on Sunday evening and he said he could do the tune for me Monday.
2. Compatibility with the N55 engine. I had first only read about the tune working for the N54, but after some Googling I found some more recent success stories with the N55 as well. There were issues with the paddle shifters not working, but Alex said this would be resolved with the coding he'd be doing. I had also read about the tach dropping to zero before correcting during gear changes, but Alex also said he had never run into that issue with the countless number of tunes he had performed. More on this later.

Installation
As mentioned above, I reached out to Alex at AlpineMSS.com about tuning the transmission. He had received good reviews from the research I had done, and within an hour of my initial email to him, we had exchanged enough emails and texts for me to agree to meet with him the following day to do the AT flash and also some coding.

His local rate was $60 for just the tune, and $100 for unlimited coding. Since my car has paddle shifters, in order for them to work I HAD to do coding. This was fine because I was planning to anyway.

It took less than 30 minutes to do everything. Here's the main things I got done:
1. Alpina B3 transmission flash
2. Paddle shifter coding

3. Moonroof closes when the car (while off and locked) senses rain
4. Close windows/mirrors using key fob
5. Open windows/mirrors using key fob
6. DVD in motion - this alone makes the entire tune worth it. The original DVD in motion software I was going to purchase was about $120 I believe.
7. Double flashing hazard lights (European style)
8. Doors unlock when key is pulled out of ignition
9. Uninterrupted window closing with open door
10. Fog lights remain on with high beams
11. Digital speed read out (mph)
12. Disabled seatbelt alert
13. Other trivial stuff I can't remember

Alpina B3 6AT Flash Review
Generally, the reviews I've read have been relatively vague other than the car "shifts smoother" or "changes gears faster." After a lot of digging, I read one poster complain that the shift points are way too early, and the car is in 6th gear by 45 mph. So I'm going to break it down a bit more:

In Drive, the digital display now always shows what gear you are in. This goes for DS as well even with autoshifting(now just reads as S1, S2, etc). I love this feature because I normally downshift to a stop and manually shift a lot anyway, but I wouldn't always know what gear I was in until I had shifted out of it.

Drive now shifts quicker than before, but its not lightning quick. If you were to make a comparison, the old Drive was "comfort" and the new one is in "sport" setting. It shifts much earlier than I would if I was driving stick (shifts occur at around 1,800 RPM), so it basically feels like the car is continuously upshifting gears from a stop until it hits 5th gear. 5th gear is held for a bit longer than 1-4, but you can still expect to be in 6th by 45-50 mph. The car now downshifts into 1st gear when it comes to a stop. The other complaint I have is my exhaust (modified golf tee mod/unplugged sensor) no longer burbles when I downshift from 3rd to 2nd when coming to a stop. This could be a combination of temperature and other things, but it definitely happens less frequently than before, and it's not as loud either. That being said, Drive overall is still an improvement over the old Drive. But if this was the only difference, I probably would've flashed back to stock.

Sport (DS) is where the real change is noticed. If Drive is "sport," the new DS is "race." When people say the shifts are fast, they're not kidding. Youtube "Alpine B3 transmission flash," there are several good videos. Downshifts happen so fast and are so smooth that I didn't even feel it when it went into S5 from D6 (moving the shift knob to the left). Giving the car a bit of throttle, the upshifts remind me of my friends 2013 S4 with DSG, but without the engine farts. But without gas/casual driving, the shifts feel clunky, and more reminiscent to an SMG transmission, based on what I've heard. I don't know how long the gears are held, but it was way longer than I would've liked for casual driving through LA.

The best part though is definitely the manual downshifts in DS. The car feels much quicker now just because when you downshift you don't lose any momentum. It seems instantaneous when you hit the paddle, and it's totally smooth during spirited driving. Again, during casual driving, the shift is still instant, but it feels like the torque unnaturally pushes the car forward a bit as it rev matches the gear. But for all intents and purposes, there's no reason to have the car in DS with this upgrade while stuck in traffic. And like Drive, DS also downshifts into 1st when stopped.

Conclusion/Final Notes
The Alpina B3 flash is definitely worth $60. All the coding I did, especially DVD in motion, is worth $100. And the fact that it can all be done remotely makes it even better since you don't have to pull the chip out and mail it, taking your car out of commission for a week. It's a huge improvement to the transmission in every single way, minus the new lack of burbles when I downshift. If the rapid upshifting into 6th seems like a dealbreaker, maybe consider resetting the transmission before writing it off completely.

Alex@Alpine was also great. Knowledgeable about the flash and coding, very responsive, and basically ensured me that tune was brick-proof since he was using some fancy hardware that would protect the TCU. I felt like his deal was very fair.

Finally, I want to come back to my initial concern about compatibility with the N55 engine and paddle shifters. There had been a few reports about the flash making the tachometer drop to zero before flying up to the correct speed when the transmission shifted. I actually had this problem originally. The car was fine in Drive and manual paddle shifts in Drive. The car was fine in DS with automatic shifts. But during manual shifts in DS, the tach would fly to zero then fly back up. I brought the car back to Alex the following day, and he updated the BMW software (not sure which, but I suspect it was TCU among other areas) then reflashed the TCU with the Alpina B3 tune. Everything has worked perfectly since.

*Full disclosure: I have zero relationship with Alex@Alpine and received zero benefits from writing this review. Just wanted to share my experience since there was very little information available about this tune from the research I had done
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  #2  
Old 07-24-2013, 09:10 PM
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3SJetblack 3SJetblack is offline
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Mein Auto: 2011 323i
Review: Alpina B3 6-Speed Automatic Transmission Tune for N55

Enjoyed your post. Well written and understandable. Being in California is obviously an advantage as there are more available experts to do this work.


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  #3  
Old 07-24-2013, 09:21 PM
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tturedraider tturedraider is offline
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Thanks for posting.
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  #4  
Old 07-25-2013, 12:26 PM
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KAP8 KAP8 is online now
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After reading your review, I read some others. Just placed my order and look forward to installing the flash!
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  #5  
Old 07-25-2013, 03:00 PM
brace up brace up is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KAP8 View Post
After reading your review, I read some others. Just placed my order and look forward to installing the flash!
good choice, itll be a blast with the dinan stg2. just make sure your paddles are covered and take advantage of the other coding options if you have the opportunity
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  #6  
Old 07-26-2013, 07:47 AM
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KAP8 KAP8 is online now
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Originally Posted by brace up View Post
good choice, itll be a blast with the dinan stg2. just make sure your paddles are covered and take advantage of the other coding options if you have the opportunity
I will. Alex is going to handle everything remotely!!
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  #7  
Old 09-28-2013, 04:59 PM
bdwelle bdwelle is offline
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Mein Auto: 2014 X1 xDrive35i
Newbie question here: is this mod compatible with my 2014 X1 xDrive35i? It seems that it could/should be, it's an N55 trans... Has anyone done this on an X1?
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  #8  
Old 09-28-2013, 05:16 PM
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CALWATERBOY CALWATERBOY is offline
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Mein Auto: 2009 E93 N54
Quote:
Originally Posted by brace up View Post
I recently read about the Alpina B3 automatic transmission tune for 335's and realized it was a very affordable and beneficial tune, with several local options for installation (Los Angeles, Southern California). I did some research on the tune, and even though I have the OBDII hardware to do the flash on my own remotely, I decided if I was going to do it, I might as well make sure I'm doing it right and get some other coding goodies done while I'm at it.

Running a tune?

I'm mildly annoyed with my Step in automatic mode....lazy....this looks good! Find if I want performance I have to shift manually, D and DS. If coasting in neutral, moving back into gear is an gentlemanly, relaxed affair.
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  #9  
Old 07-11-2014, 12:51 PM
lenwood lenwood is offline
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re alpina flash in x1 35i

have a 2013 x1 msport 35i did the alpina flash. cleaned up all the slop in the tranny, crisper shifts up and down,rev matching,better power delivery. do it! you wont regret this inexpensive mod
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  #10  
Old 07-11-2014, 01:53 PM
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Verts4Ever Verts4Ever is offline
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Mein Auto: 2011 E93 335i
Excellent review. Certain parts of it echo what I've read elsewhere: too quick on the upshifts in D mode for traffic driving; and a bit too much shift pressure and too high of shift points in DS mode for casual driving.

I know of at least two folks in E90Post who had their TCU returned to original programming for these reasons. However, the mod appears to be very good when coupled with an aggressive tune, which is of course its intended purpose for the Alpina B3.

Cheers.

Last edited by Verts4Ever; 07-11-2014 at 01:54 PM.
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  #11  
Old 10-16-2014, 11:45 AM
ShannonB ShannonB is offline
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Does this mod effect the BMW warranty????
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  #12  
Old 10-16-2014, 11:50 AM
fdriller9 fdriller9 is offline
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Technically, yes.

But the dealer will have to prove the flash caused a failure.
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  #13  
Old 11-08-2014, 05:17 PM
d0ublethink d0ublethink is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fdriller9 View Post
Technically, yes.

But the dealer will have to prove the flash caused a failure.
This is my concern as well. Has anyone confirmed this by having warranty work done with the mod? I feel like I read in the warranty book that it is void if the owner "installs none-bmw approved parts" or something.
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