The car world is rife with acronyms, abbreviations and initials designed to separate models and trim levels. For BMW, SE stands for ‘Special Equipment’. Historically, these models have stepped away from their more powerful, bodykitted M or M Sport sisters by offering softer suspension, less ostentatious bodywork and armchairesque cruisability.
When you consider the list of additional equipment fitted to these type of cars – such as multifunction steering wheels, CD changers, Bluetooth phone preparation and even a sunroof or rear window blind, it’s clear to see that convenience and comfort are the main aims of the SE-model BMW.
As much as their laid-back, option-laden status justifies their place in the model range, SEs have rarely enjoyed the popularity of M Sports as modifying platforms. Look at most 1990s/2000s SEs and they look, well, a bit middle-management or old man-ish.
In fact, it’s thanks to these older German executives that even the dinky city hatchbacks of 2015 feature an array of gadgets that were high-cost options back in the day. Phone preparation used to be seen on top-flight E38 7-Series models, and now you can connect your phone wirelessly to this year’s crop of Clios, Adams and Corsas. Technology does trickle down, after all, and these understated BMWs wear their options list in a way which preserves their once-modern looks.
Motormessenger took Project Junior Executive out after an intensive detailing session to repair the paint damage caused by winter driving in readiness for summer. We met up with two members of ABZ-BMW; a local forum dedicated to tuning, maintaining and drifting Bavaria’s finest, to chat BMWs and shoot modified SEs on a spring evening.
With so many tastefully-modified BMs in the scene these days, details decide who stands out from the crowd. While none of these cars have modifications that could be called outlandish, the blend of OEM+ and Euro touches applied to the three SE chassis makes Beemer geeks notice when they roll by.
Things like James’s US-spec amber indicator set up, married to the so-very-Euro yellow headlight lenses make his twenty year-old 318i look spot-on. The 4-pot white saloon is fast becoming a rarity in this part of Scotland, as more and more E36s are claimed by Lochgelly to spend the remainder of their lives going slideways.
With a 6 cylinder engine and matching gearbox destined for the 318i, the future should be louder and faster for the dented Three.
Modified SEs jar in a brilliant way. Understated bodywork shorn of lip spoilers manages to look more purposeful with the addition of 18″ multispokes and a simple set of 10mm spacers.
Both the 120d and 320i are running shorter springs to bring them 40mm closer to the ground. Motormessenger’s E46 uses the Eibach Pro Kit, while H&Rs do the necessaries for the blue E82.
Gorgeous black CSL style wheels and a custom-skinned carbon rear spoiler highlight the curves of the 120d coupe, but don’t shout about it either. An aftermarket angel eye kit mirrors that fitted to the E46, but with a Bluetooth head unit in the dash and subwoofer in the boot, Brezney’s 120d fulfils the technology remit of our SEs to the maximum.
Rolling in convoy through the city centre and out onto the dual carriageway, Project Junior Executive glided along with a reassuring silky growl reminding you of the little six under the bonnet. Well, what else would you expect from an SE?