In my previous post about my beloved E46 M3’s unfortunate demise, I mentioned I had purchased the new M4 to replace it. This is more of a story leading up to the purchase and my journey through the first six-ish months I’ve owned the car.
Current E90 and my old E46.
I hadn’t planned on getting into the F8x chassis so soon if at all, but with the track season upon me and my E46 out of commission I didn’t want to waste any time. I also have an E90 M3 but at the time it was my wife’s primary DD and kid hauler.
I was shopping around and stopped by one of the local BMW dealers where they had a few of the new cars in stock but didn’t see any with the crucial third pedal, so my thoughts went to custom ordering one. I knew I wanted a manual since a) the DCT is amazing and makes the car a rocket ship, but makes it far too video-gamey for me and b) the transmission, sourced from the previous 1-series M Coupe, is a huge improvement over the 6-speed in the E9x generation M3. The test drives I had done solidified my choice.
I had plans of selling the E90M eventually to find an E92M track car candidate so the new F80 M3 with a 6-speed was the base of my build sheet. Unfortunately I was at an awkward time in production when the factory wasn’t taking any new orders before the model year change and I wouldn’t have been able to get a build slot for another four months. More sads.
Strangely there was a lone M4 sitting hidden in the showroom, away from most traffic, that turned out to be the perfect spec. Mineral White (not my first choice of color, but it’s growing on me), Carbon cloth/leather, six-speed manual (crucial), EDC, 19” wheels in black and whatever else comes standard. Surprisingly it had been sitting for so long that a discount from BMW had been applied to get the thing to move. After some discussion with my wife, I decided to go for the in stock car.
I took delivery and immediately tackled the task of completing the break-in mileage. Any excuse to drive somewhere, I’d take one of my kiddos and we’d be off. After three weeks I FINALLY hit the 1200 mile mark and brought the car in for the first service (oil change and transmission flush). The car was great to drive, but the ho-hum part of commuting didn’t do it any justice. It drives like a BMW. Compliant, nice gadgets, ready to go fast, ready to consistently STOP fast (a new thing for M-cars). More than enough car for street use. Unfortunately for me after the break-in service life happened and I didn’t get to drive the car for almost two months over the summer.
August rolled around and things finally settled down so I could start planning my automotive therapy, track time. The first Touristenfahrten day at the Nurburgring I could make was near the end of the month so I made a promise to myself not to change anything on the car. I wanted to experience it completely stock on the track like I had done with my cars previously.
The day finally came and the anticipation had been killing me! I was so excited to finally get this new toy to the place where it belonged.
Maybe I had hyped the capabilities to myself too much because after just two laps around the Nordschliefe, I had to stop. Not because of any mechanical problems with the car but because I just couldn’t believe what a letdown it was. Let me explain:
1. The Electronic Power steering (EPS) had taken all feel out of the car. I could turn the wheel and point the car around but with zero feedback it was too much like a video game steering wheel. Even with the manual transmission I was disconnected.
2. Electronic-Damper Control (EDC) is fantastic technology, but I just couldn’t find the setting to make me comfortable driving the car on the edge. There was too much bounce at high speeds and in cornering not to mention a lot more roll than the E90 with EDC produced. I experienced more understeer than anticipated and would try to power out but ran into the next problem below.
3. M-dynamic Mode (MDM) was far too inhibitive, the car has a ton more torque than the previous gens and I’ve been altering my driving style to deal with this but the system reels the car in too soon IMO and cuts power like crazy. I’d usually go full off on traction control but I wasn’t ready to do that yet because of the other issues listed above.
4. The only positive was the brakes!! Finally an M-car with a decent set of stock stoppers, they took up the slack when other systems cut in or the suspension was less than confidence inspiring.
After this initial trip I was pretty bummed. So much that I considered selling the car to focus on the E90M and SMG E46M that I had picked up. I took to the next step, focus on the M4’s looks. Solution: lowering the 4x4 mode.
I decided early on that I wanted to keep the EDC system before I went to full coil overs. They are great for the street, where the car spends the majority of its time. So this left some sort of spring kit as an alternative. I considered the H&R and Eibach offerings but decided to go with the KW Height Adjustable spring kit so I can fine tune the drop for summer and raise the car up slightly for the winter months. I ordered it, my trusty mechanic had the system installed in no time and I set to the task of testing.
Verdict: HOLY SMOKES THIS IS WHAT THE CAR SHOULD HAVE BEEN.
I honestly think BMW had a back door deal with KW to develop the kit, because with just this simple modification the car is now the way I had envisioned in my mind. Steering “feel” with the EPS was greatly improved, bounciness at high speed was eliminated, uneasiness in the corners was squashed, MDM even kept its silly trap shut for the most part. Track times dropped more and any novice in a GT3 and even built E92M track cars saw me trying to get by. The confidence was back and so was the love with this new breed of M-car
As winter comes, I only have around 6k miles on the car. I plan to drive it year round so some winter rubber and raising of the suspension is in order. Like my previous post, I’m on the hunt for the perfect E46 again. But this new beast is holding my attention until I find it.