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      11-09-2019, 07:46 AM   #1
ChiBimmer
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My daily in good weather is a Honda S2000 but in bad weather or for occasional teenage daughter hauling a second car is needed. My base Mini Cooper handles well but I want something faster and with more creature comforts. As winter approaches in suburban Chicago, the days grow shorter and mountains of salt prepare to cover the roads, the S2000 will go into storage and be replaced with a case of the SADs. Seasonal Affectation Disorder is most commonly attributed to lack of sunlight, though in my case I suspect the cause is VTEC deficiency. I digress.

Seriously I need a four seat sports cars to go along with my Honda. I've driven 5 E9x and they check so many boxes. I don't need to tell you—the S65 with it power, revs and sound. They're fast, comfortable and seat 5 in the case of the sedan. They corner great. They're cheap now. And yet every time I drive one I come away thinking the steering is a little numb. Not numb like a Mustang but lacking that initial turn in that I get from, say, my S2000, BRZ, Z4M or lancer Evo. The last I choose to include here to show a sedan is capable of good steering feel. The E9x has a quicker rack (which I like) than the E46 but the older car seems more eager to turn. The size of the car probably has something to do with it but at 5/10 I prefer the steering in my wife's Cayenne. I drove my dad's F-Type after my last E90 test drive. The F-Type is about the same weight and i think it's a little numb but I preferred its steering to the E90. I've driven recently a Camaro SS and an SS 1LE and I thought the steering feel was great in those—I knew those things would be fast but I didn't expect them to feel so good. (Shifter feel was great too. Chevy beat every expectation I had.)

The E9xs I've driven have been in good condition. Two were about 50k miles. The last one was on Michelin PS4s. Another was on good coil overs, either Ohlins of KWv3s and on an even racier tire... and my notes say that the car felt numb.

What do you think? Is the numbness in my head? If I'm not wrong are there modifications to improve steering feel?

[edit: I've probably spent an hour and a half in E9x M3s which is not a lot. I've driven some nice sports cars but I'm no expert. Car feel is subjective and what feels good to me may not to another person. The people in this forum have driven lots of great cars and know their stuff too.]
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      11-09-2019, 08:22 AM   #2
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Did the car with coil overs have camber plates? Lower control arm bushings can also impact the feel. You don't seem to be complaining the feedback from the rack. The feel of the rack can be made 'heavier' by engaging the MDM or M button.

As you are in Chicago, you may want to consult with some of the tuning shops in the area. IND Distribution is in the area and I'm sure there are others.

This thread had a bunch of different shops mentioned.

Who does Rod Bearings in the Milwaukee/Chicago Area? https://www.m3post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1423388
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      11-09-2019, 08:26 AM   #3
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It is somewhat of a personal thing but I disagree. Iíve owned a Boxster and my E90 is very close to it.
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      11-09-2019, 08:47 AM   #4
ChiBimmer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drrust View Post
Did the car with coil overs have camber plates? Lower control arm bushings can also impact the feel. You don't seem to be complaining the feedback from the rack. The feel of the rack can be made 'heavier' by engaging the MDM or M button.

As you are in Chicago, you may want to consult with some of the tuning shops in the area. IND Distribution is in the area and I'm sure there are others.

This thread had a bunch of different shops mentioned.

Who does Rod Bearings in the Milwaukee/Chicago Area? https://www.m3post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1423388
Quote:
Originally Posted by serranot View Post
It is somewhat of a personal thing but I disagree. I've owned a Boxster and my E90 is very close to it.
The car with the coil overs had a lot of mods and probably did include camber plates but I'm not positive. I've played with M button a bit and didn't feel much difference in steering but I didn't spend a lot time with it.

To the former Boxster owner, that's high praise!
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      11-09-2019, 09:47 AM   #5
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A track alignment on a totally stock E90 suspension set-up will change the handling and turn in a lot. The car will get its rear end out quicker as well. Just adjust the camber etc to max settings. Tires will wear quicker but so what. They come neutral from the factory.
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      11-09-2019, 11:29 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiBimmer View Post
...Seriously I need a four seat sports cars to go along with my Honda. I've driven 5 E9x and they check so many boxes. I don't need to tell you—the S65 with it power, revs and sound. They're fast, comfortable and seat 5 in the case of the sedan. They corner great. They're cheap now. And yet every time I drive one I come away thinking the steering is a little numb. Not numb like a Mustang but lacking that initial turn in that I get from, say, my S2000, BRZ, Z4M or lancer Evo...
Honda S2000 and Mini Cooper are very LIGHT (and extremely fun) cars that make for a tough comparison for many cars. You just can't beat the light weight, and hence steering feel, of these light cars. I understand where you're coming from.

With respect to steering response, as someone already mentioned, an alignment with more front camber and less front toe-in will completely address the problem of lazy/slow turn-in of stock car. WRT to steering feel (subjective), yes the steering does feel "insulated" for example versus my Turbo, but this is not excessively so, and it's also tough/unfair comparison against a sports car with rear engine. I wouldn't necessarily say that it's worse as I actually prefer M3 feel while cruising on freeway.

Because you own S2000/Mini-Cooper, I do not believe you'll be happy with this M3 in its stock form. It feels too ponderous and too heavy, a reflection of its 3600 weight and too soft stock springs. The great news however is with after-market coilover, I think the car will be transformed to be one of the greatest cars you'll ever drive (mostly because of the fantastic response of the sweet V8). My M3 with Ohlins now feels very light and agile with fantastic turn in response - it's a total transformation (see more disc. in thread in my sig). Most importantly the M3 is now fully competitive with my Turbo in fun factor.
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Last edited by cannga; 11-09-2019 at 11:47 AM..
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      11-09-2019, 11:32 AM   #7
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A lot of people get the Alpine tune, in which the steering stiffness can be adjusted.
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      11-09-2019, 11:37 AM   #8
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A solid monoball and H&R front swaybar (50% stiffer then OEM) or Hotchkis (70% stiffer) can improve the feel inexpensively. pull the pins and get as much eom -camber.
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      11-09-2019, 12:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhyary View Post
A solid monoball and H&R front swaybar (50% stiffer then OEM) or Hotchkis (70% stiffer) can improve the feel inexpensively. pull the pins and get as much eom -camber.
Precisely my reason for posting.

OP—what mileage on the vehicles your are test driving? Have the front thrust arms been replaced in any? I ask I only recently moved to monoball inserts on my E92, which hasn't yet crested 15k miles, in response to adding wider tires up front. The OE rubber bushings are great for the intended purpose, dual-role comfort/sport, however they wear and soften noticeably. To address you can look into GAS monoball bushings, similar/same as the Dinan pieces I opted for but at lesser price!! I'm very, very happy with the results.
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      11-09-2019, 04:12 PM   #10
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S2000 is a great little sports car (owned one about 10 years ago) but the steering feel wasn't one of its strengths IMO. It's probably the weight/size difference that you are feeling.
Having said that, my e92 ZCP definitely has more steering feel than my non-ZCP e90.
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      11-10-2019, 12:48 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiBimmer View Post
The car with the coil overs had a lot of mods and probably did include camber plates but I'm not positive. I've played with M button a bit and didn't feel much difference in steering but I didn't spend a lot time with it.

To the former Boxster owner, that's high praise!
If after you put the car in M mode and you did not feel any noticeable difference in steering weight, i would say the steering is not set up in Sport mode when M mode is activated. Its a pretty noticeable difference. There is no button for this, must be set up via idrive M menu.

I say this from experience, as i just recently had to have another key fob created for my car. Coincidently, my idrive spinner stopped working :-(. Well, the M mode and several other settings are kept in the fob. I put the car in M mode with the new fob and the steering remained light as default. The feeling was amplified as the suspension and throttle were set to max, but the steering felt really numb to what i was used to when pushing the magic button. Looking forward to getting my new idrive in there!!

Last edited by sirploppy; 11-10-2019 at 01:17 AM..
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      11-10-2019, 01:12 AM   #12
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Itíll never steer like an S2000, but camber plates, a front sway, monoball FTABs, Servotronic tuning, and proper tires/alignment can go a long ways.

Last edited by wyatth; 11-10-2019 at 01:21 AM..
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      11-10-2019, 02:52 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiBimmer View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by drrust View Post
Did the car with coil overs have camber plates? Lower control arm bushings can also impact the feel. You don't seem to be complaining the feedback from the rack. The feel of the rack can be made 'heavier' by engaging the MDM or M button.

As you are in Chicago, you may want to consult with some of the tuning shops in the area. IND Distribution is in the area and I'm sure there are others.

This thread had a bunch of different shops mentioned.

Who does Rod Bearings in the Milwaukee/Chicago Area? https://www.m3post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1423388
Quote:
Originally Posted by serranot View Post
It is somewhat of a personal thing but I disagree. I've owned a Boxster and my E90 is very close to it.
The car with the coil overs had a lot of mods and probably did include camber plates but I'm not positive. I've played with M button a bit and didn't feel much difference in steering but I didn't spend a lot time with it.

To the former Boxster owner, that's high praise!
I grew up around Miatas and S2000s and this car will never be that.

BUT a few simple low cost mods like control arm bushings, etc... make a huge difference.

Also, take note of the tires and wheel setup. A car with the right tires and wheel spacers, etc... can feel much different from a car with lesser tires and in need of a proper kinematic alignment.

If you don't feel a night & day difference (thats being dramatic, but you get it) when you press the M Button - you definitely need to adjust the settings.
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      11-10-2019, 06:21 PM   #14
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Thanks to everyone who replied. It's all very thoughtful. Driving and E46 yesterday I was sold on that car. But If refreshing bushings, a thicker sway bar, camber plates and more aggressive alignment will be make a big difference then I'm inclined to give an E90 M3 a try. I know it will never feel as nimble as an S2000 but if it could equal a crappy high mileage stock E46 then I'd be happy.

A few people commented on steering feel and what that means. An S2000 doesn't have much communication of the road through it's electric rack but it does have perfect weight and the steering ratio is quick. In someway it's a more connected experience than the E90. Stock vs stock I'd argue the E46 is more connected too. I'm not expert but having recently driven two E90s in great condition vs an E46 in poor condition I feel pretty confident about saying there is something a little numb in an E90.

I think the E90 is worth the risk. In everything but steering feel it's just a better car vs an E46. It's also—holding condition equal—the cheaper car. I'm going to do a separate post about this. If you want an E46 M3 that isn't best to hell expect it pay a lot more than an E90.
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      11-10-2019, 06:56 PM   #15
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I would take an E90 over E46 for DD. Yes, the steering isn't the best on the E90 but it makes up for it in other ways. I've had 2 of each, best steering was 05 E46 ZCP. The slower steering on the E90 fits the character of the car.

If you want the best steering w 4 doors go drive a Giulia Quadrifoglio. You'll love it. One of the main reasons I bought one

Good luck.
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      11-10-2019, 07:10 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Damage Inc View Post
I would take an E90 over E46 for DD. Yes, the steering isn't the best on the E90 but it makes up for it in other ways. I've had 2 of each, best steering was 05 E46 ZCP. The slower steering on the E90 fits the character of the car.

If you want the best steering w 4 doors go drive a Giulia Quadrifoglio. You'll love it. One of the main reasons I bought one

Good luck.
I think of myself as a bit hardcore but a couple days in my dad's F-type showed me that comfort is ok and doesn't make me a bad person.

The Giulia looks incredible. Sadly outside my price range for now. Enjoy it!
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      11-11-2019, 02:24 AM   #17
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If it helps for more perspective, i have owned an 06 s2000, 98 M Roadster, and 03 Evo, we have great taste!

The M3 in Sports steering mode reminds me of the s2000, but with the inevitable 600+ pounds to deal with. You'll never get the turn in, but i think road feel is right up there.

The Evo, as I read one reviewer comment, was like grabbing one tie rod in each hand. Lightning fast and could tell the denomination of any coins i ran over.

I would let go of any comparisons to the m3 and s2k steering wise. The m3 steering will never be as good. But take an e9x m3 and compare it to a similar newer car with an electric rack... hell yes the M3 is better.
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      11-11-2019, 07:41 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sirploppy View Post
If it helps for more perspective, i have owned an 06 s2000, 98 M Roadster, and 03 Evo, we have great taste!

The M3 in Sports steering mode reminds me of the s2000, but with the inevitable 600+ pounds to deal with. You'll never get the turn in, but i think road feel is right up there.

The Evo, as I read one reviewer comment, was like grabbing one tie rod in each hand. Lightning fast and could tell the denomination of any coins i ran over.

I would let go of any comparisons to the m3 and s2k steering wise. The m3 steering will never be as good. But take an e9x m3 and compare it to a similar newer car with an electric rack... hell yes the M3 is better.
Awesome cars! We do have similar taste. It's great to see people who appreciate cars from both Europe and Japan.

The Camaro SS has good feel and better inputs all around than the E9x. That's an example of a great modern car. I agree most of the rest feel detached.

I'd say my primary comparison is to the E46 M3. I drove a great condition E90 on Friday and a poor condition E46 on Saturday. I found former to be just a little numb. If I could make the E9x feel as good as the E46 with sway bars, camber, alignment etc. I'd be delighted. Other than feel the E90 is better in just about everything else.
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      11-11-2019, 10:48 AM   #19
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It’ll be closer, but the 46 still has better turn in. My E46, for steering improvements, only had camber plates. That car was a little more communicative and playful overall.

Last edited by wyatth; 11-11-2019 at 12:32 PM..
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      11-11-2019, 11:51 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sirploppy View Post
The Evo, as I read one reviewer comment, was like grabbing one tie rod in each hand. Lightning fast and could tell the denomination of any coins i ran over.
LOL great description - wow that good? Now you make me curious. Wonder if the more modern Japanese hot rods like 2019 WRX could accomplish such praise, or have they become more numb also as part of "modernization"?

The car with best steering ever for me was the Lotus-based Tesla roadster. Talk about grabbing one tie rod in each hand .

For me, the thing about E90 is not that the steering/turn-in response isn't fast enough (that could be corrected with aggressive toe/camber alignment), but that you don't feel road surface feedbacks as much as older cars, as if someone has inserted too much rubber/PU insulation somewhere along the line. But then as mentioned above, I actually prefer this feel sometimes over my Turbo because that serves the purpose of a sports sedan (which the E90 will go down as one of the greatest ever - that sweet V8 that you must experience once in your life :-)).
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Last edited by cannga; 11-11-2019 at 11:58 AM..
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      11-11-2019, 12:37 PM   #21
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^ I agree. We are talking about it like it's a bad thing, but I think it really comes down to what you use the car for and what you want out of it. For me, I was ready to swap the E46 for the E90 because of all that feedback. It was a hoot, totally sensational, but a "bit much" for most driving. It wasn't all that stiff and NVH was not more than stock, there was just so much being communicated through the car that you feel exhausted after a few hours of driving it. The E9x offers its own sensations and outstanding performance, while being a little more comfortable. At this point in my life, I wanted to shift that balance a little to the comfort side (would be great to have both!). I am happy with the plates, sway bar, tires, and alignment, and do not plan on adding monoball FTABs at this time.
With an S2K in the garage, I think the E9x is the better choice. Conversely, if someone has a Lexus DD and wants to add a fun weekend car, I may be more inclined to recommend the E46.
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      11-11-2019, 12:50 PM   #22
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if you find a way for the e90 steering to have the feel and feedback of the e46 LET EVERYONE KNOW.
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