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      04-14-2012, 11:13 AM   #1
dom_cmh
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Power Steering Amazingness?

I'm new to my M3 but one of the things I noticed last week when I had a 328i loaner from the dealer while my car was in for service was the 328i had much more resistance when turning the wheel than the M3 does. With my M3 I could use my pinky finger to turn at low speeds or a stop but the 328i was almost difficult even at low speeds.

I'm curious as to why this is? Obviously our suspension is entirely different but this felt more like just having a better power steering pump or something.

(side note, I can never get over how bad the throttle response is on an automatic 328i. I'm not talking about in comparison to an M3, it just sucks in general. You mash on the gas and it literally thinks about it for a second or two before responding. Almost dangerously at times)
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      04-14-2012, 11:21 AM   #2
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A lot of people think the M3's steering is over-assisted, actually.

I like the 'heavier' steering on my 335i on the roads, but on the track, the M3 is definitely better IMHO. You can 'flick' that car - makes it feel much lighter than its true weight.

Acceleration in an auto 328i is definitely a world apart. The delay I would sometimes get during the 328i test drive was the reason I went to a 335i. The autotrannies are different on the two (GM-sourced for the 328i and ZF-sourced for the 335i, if you're talking E90 generation), but I'm not sure if it's due to that or because of the programming.
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      04-14-2012, 11:23 AM   #3
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I can't comment about the steering but when I had a loaner 328 in the past the response was horrible in D but was pretty good in DS or manual mode. It was quite night and day. My wife who will only drive anything in D thought it was slow, so much so that she will not even look at a 328i for her next car and is insistent on a 335i. Like I said, in DS or manual I thought it had decent power and response.
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      04-14-2012, 11:31 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nick3753 View Post
I can't comment about the steering but when I had a loaner 328 in the past the response was horrible in D but was pretty good in DS or manual mode. It was quite night and day. My wife who will only drive anything in D thought it was slow, so much so that she will not even look at a 328i for her next car and is insistent on a 335i. Like I said, in DS or manual I thought it had decent power and response.
Yes, DS in the 328i was much better.

I can guarantee your wife will love the 335i. And DS in the 335i is twice the fun.
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      04-14-2012, 11:36 AM   #5
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      04-14-2012, 11:38 AM   #6
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Some of the early complaints in reviews of the e9x M3 were focused on the "lightness" of the steering. This was forgiven because of how "communicative" the steering is.

After driving loaners and other BMWs, I have adjusted to really loving the steering feel of the M3. If you want a little more resistance, just tune your M button's steering option.
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      04-14-2012, 11:45 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sean05 View Post
Try driving a merc ... My d*** can turn it without any effort...
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      04-14-2012, 11:48 AM   #8
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I'm in a new F30 328 turbo loaner car right now, and it's super quick (feels more torquey than M3) and the steering is Cadillac light! Really nice!
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      04-15-2012, 08:22 AM   #9
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I have a 328 touring and an M3. The M3 steering in regular mode is much lighter, that is because it has servotronic so it tends to be more heavily boosted unless it is in MDM mode.
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      04-15-2012, 10:00 AM   #10
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It's true that the M3 steering in normal mode is very light, which I actually enjoy while just driving in the city or the highway, but when I'm on the track or driving on these great Texas back roads, it's always on Sport (M Drive required, of course). If there were only one permanent setting I could have, I'd choose Sport; it'd be a little heavy for normal driving, but I would HATE to be on a track in Normal mode.

I think the reason the normal steering is so light is part of BMW's attempt to make this M3 a more reasonable daily driver than its predecessors. Another example: an M3 6MT's clutch is FAR lighter than any previous M3 or even the E9x 335i. Not sure if that was a conscious design choice or just the result of the clutch components they chose, but it's hugely obvious.
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      04-15-2012, 10:00 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dom_cmh View Post
I'm curious as to why this is?
Because the M3 has Servotronic steering while the E90 3 series does not. This means that the M3 can vary the amount of assistance depending on conditions - for example low speeds vs. high speeds. So you get the best of both worlds - easy maneuverability at low speed; and heavier, more resitant behavior for better stability at high speeds.
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      04-15-2012, 10:08 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mkoesel View Post
Because the M3 has Servotronic steering while the E90 3 series does not. This means that the M3 can vary the amount of assistance depending on conditions - for example low speeds vs. high speeds. So you get the best of both worlds - easy maneuverability at low speed; and heavier, more resitant behavior for better stability at high speeds.
Incorrect. Even the the base 3 Series has speed-sensitive assist levels, it's listed right on BMW's site for the E92: http://www.bmwusa.com/standard/conte...s/default.aspx, "Engine-speed-sensitive, variable-assist power steering" (though I always thought it was based on road speed, not engine speed -- interesting). What it doesn't have is two different configurable modes like the M3.
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      04-15-2012, 11:05 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jphughan View Post
Incorrect. Even the the base 3 Series has speed-sensitive assist levels, it's listed right on BMW's site for the E92: http://www.bmwusa.com/standard/conte...s/default.aspx, "Engine-speed-sensitive, variable-assist power steering" (though I always thought it was based on road speed, not engine speed -- interesting).
All I can say is if it doesn't say Servotronic, then it isn't.

Notice the new X1 (e90-based) has a Servotronic option. Standard X1's do not have it. And then E90 3 series never did.

Now, it may very well be that the 3 still has variable assistance of some type. But as the OP notices, and anyone who has compared to an M3 can attest, it is not the same thing, and is not nearly as effective. My old 335i had very heavy steering at low speeds.

That said, people will debate the overall effectiveness of the M3 implementation of Servotronic, complaining of too much lightness even at speed. The Sport setting obviously helps that. I became accustomed to the standard setting long ago vs. the steering feel of the 3 Series I used to have and actually ended up preferring it even though it definitely feels lighter.

Quote:
What it doesn't have is two different configurable modes like the M3.
It isn't just a matter of not having two modes. The 3 series just doesn't have the ability to offer the low speed ease of steering that the M3 does.
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      04-15-2012, 11:09 AM   #14
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So there are actual settings for the steering wheel feel, or it just adjusts when you put it in M mode?
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      04-15-2012, 11:13 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atown88 View Post
So there are actual settings for the steering wheel feel, or it just adjusts when you put it in M mode?
For cars equiped with MDrive, there are two steering settings, yes. Either of them can be configured to be active when the M Button is pressed. Cars with no MDrive have just one Servotronic setting (the Normal setting as opposed to the Sport setting). Cars with MDrive and without the M Button pressed will have that same Normal setting active.
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Last edited by mkoesel; 04-15-2012 at 12:39 PM.
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      04-15-2012, 11:16 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mkoesel View Post
For cars equiped with MDrive, there are two steering settings, yes. Either of them can be configured to be active when the M Button is pressed. Cars with no MDrive have just one Servotronic setting (the Normal setting as opposed to the Sport setting). Cars without MDrive and without the M Button pressed will have that same Normal setting active.
Thanks!
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      04-15-2012, 11:23 AM   #17
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i hate the low-speed overassisted steering feel of the M3. that and the vague brake feel are the only complaints i've had so far.

extremely happy with everything else, though
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      04-15-2012, 11:51 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jphughan View Post
Even the the base 3 Series has speed-sensitive assist levels, it's listed right on BMW's site for the E92: http://www.bmwusa.com/standard/conte...s/default.aspx, "Engine-speed-sensitive, variable-assist power steering" (though I always thought it was based on road speed, not engine speed -- interesting).
I was curious about this since you brough it up. Here's BMW's explanation:

http://www.bmw.com/com/en/insights/t...rvotronic.html

"The Servotronic control unit adjusts the amount of steering assistance to suit the speed of the vehicle. An electromagnetic valve accurately controls the amount of force applied by the steering hydraulics, enabling outstandingly precise steering that suits your current driving situation. Conventional power steering systems, by contrast, regulate the power steering in relation to the engine's RPM."

So there's our answer - it explains your note about engine speed vs. vehicle speed.
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      04-15-2012, 12:15 PM   #19
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I think the reason the normal steering is so light is part of BMW's attempt to make this M3 a more reasonable daily driver than its predecessors.
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      04-15-2012, 01:52 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mkoesel View Post
I was curious about this since you brough it up. Here's BMW's explanation:

http://www.bmw.com/com/en/insights/t...rvotronic.html

"The Servotronic control unit adjusts the amount of steering assistance to suit the speed of the vehicle. An electromagnetic valve accurately controls the amount of force applied by the steering hydraulics, enabling outstandingly precise steering that suits your current driving situation. Conventional power steering systems, by contrast, regulate the power steering in relation to the engine's RPM."

So there's our answer - it explains your note about engine speed vs. vehicle speed.
Nice find!! I guess that makes sense, and now that I think about it more, I suspect normal power steering systems vary their assist by engine speed just because of the sheer mechanics of hydraulic power steering setups.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie430 View Post
I think the reason the normal steering is so light is part of BMW's attempt to make this M3 a more reasonable daily driver than its predecessors.
Yep, I mentioned that a while above, same with the super light clutch.
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      04-15-2012, 02:15 PM   #21
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Great responses guys. Thanks for the details and explanations. I'm going out to mess around with the M button settings now and in particular the steering setting.
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      04-15-2012, 02:43 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie430 View Post
I think the reason the normal steering is so light is part of BMW's attempt to make this M3 a more reasonable daily driver than its predecessors.
I think there is truth in your post, but that reasoning on the part of BMW kind of irritates me. do we really need pinky finger steering to accept the M3 as a daily driver? when the price we pay is a complete lack of steering feel and feedback at lower speeds?!

when I took the wheel of my car in the dealer lot for my first test drive, I remember thinking, wow this is going to suck because of this steering. thank god it tightened up nicely at highway speeds
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