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uber CS
05-26-2008, 05:30 PM
I know this is a big thing with BMW's. I'm not sure I understand exactly what it means though? I know every time I've driven a Bimmer I've felt this tightness in steering, could someone explain exactly what this means or what one should expect to be feeling? Sometimes I end up thinking I'm suppose to feel every grain of asphalt in the road....

BmW745On19's
05-26-2008, 05:41 PM
It should require a little more effort to turn the wheel, nothing strenuous, but something that feels heavier. Like if you drive a benz, you can turn the wheel with one finger, but it takes a whole hand with a BMW.

Also feel relates to how you can "feel" the road. Like when you hit a bump, you can feel the wheel vibrate a tad, or if you're driving in grooves in the road, the wheel vibrates or moves a little. It's like extra-sensory perception, you can feel what the car is doing.

It's just something you have to have experience with. Go drive a big Benz S-Class and then an M3. You'll notice the difference immediately. :thumbup:

iamthewalrus
05-26-2008, 05:47 PM
OK, there are two ways to read this question. The first talks about the weight or amount of effort required to turn the wheel. This depends on whether you have the speed-sensitive power-steering option and how old a BMW you're driving.
The second approach to this question is much more interesting and more nuanced: I had a 2006 BMW 330Ci convertible, the last of the old E46 generation. Previously I had only driven Audis with Quattro all-wheel drive. The thing I noticed immediately and loved about the 330Cic was the steering feedback. When going around a tight turn, on bumpy or smooth roads, the steering wheel was communicated back to me exactly how much grip each tire had. It's hard to to describe other than saying: if the front wheels were to lose traction in a tight turn and the car start to "push", it would never be a surprise. The steering communicated exactly how much grip you had and if you're paying attention you can drive the car much closer to its limits.
I sold the 330 convertible because it was impractical for my needs, and bought an X3. The X3 being all-wheel drive and heavier simply doesn't have the same degree of steering feel. :(

I hope that helps!

-James
Seattle, WA

uber CS
05-26-2008, 06:06 PM
Well, if it helps put a clearer picture together; I drove a 135i (NO A.S.) coupe and I noticed depending upon speed you got different weighting, especially as speed increased and you turned the wheel. It never felt burdensome like it took an arm and leg to move the steering wheel. Overall though the steering was quite light compared to an E46 M3 I drove well over a year ago or more that felt more heavy and almost void of any real contact patch, or maybe that was just the agonizing sensation from SMGII??? Also, when the E90 3er's first launched I remember taking one out and I did a hard U-turn and could literally feel one of the wheels scrubbing the asphalt for grip, never felt anything quite like it since. It seems to me how much feel you get not only depends upon the steering setup but also speed variation and varying forces the wheels are encountering as you drive.

BmW745On19's
05-26-2008, 06:11 PM
Well, if it helps put a clearer picture together; I drove a 135i (NO A.S.) coupe and I noticed depending upon speed you got different weighting, especially as speed increased and you turned the wheel. It never felt burdensome like it took an arm and leg to move the steering wheel. Overall though the steering was quite light compared to an E46 M3 I drove well over a year ago or more that felt more heavy and almost void of any real contact patch, or maybe that was just the agonizing sensation from SMGII??? Also, when the E90 3er's first launched I remember taking one out and I did a hard U-turn and could literally feel one of the wheels scrubbing the asphalt for grip, never felt anything quite like it since. It seems to me how much feel you get not only depends upon the steering setup but also speed variation and varying forces the wheels are encountering as you drive.

When you drove the E90, you experienced understeer. Probably because you took the corner too fast, the tires are crappy runflats, they were under/overinflated, or a combination of those three.

Feel is also a factor of how good the tires are. Crappy tires give little feedback.

That E46 M3 must have had crappy tires, or you don't know what you're feeling.

That 135i isn't as aggressively set up as the M3. Try a 135i with and without a sport pack.

cozia83
05-26-2008, 06:40 PM
It should require a little more effort to turn the wheel, nothing strenuous, but something that feels heavier. Like if you drive a benz, you can turn the wheel with one finger, but it takes a whole hand with a BMW.

Also feel relates to how you can "feel" the road. Like when you hit a bump, you can feel the wheel vibrate a tad, or if you're driving in grooves in the road, the wheel vibrates or moves a little. It's like extra-sensory perception, you can feel what the car is doing.

It's just something you have to have experience with. Go drive a big Benz S-Class and then an M3. You'll notice the difference immediately. :thumbup:
+1. I also felt the vibration of the horn in my right foot when I honked. :thumbup:

From a performance standpoint, the perfect steering feel should tell you when you're reaching the limit of the tires' grip by becoming looser. This is the feedback that you need to hold the car right at the limit without going beyond it.

bmrboy2008
05-31-2008, 08:24 AM
I previously owned a 2005 525i with active steering and I loved the tight responsive steering. My 2008 535i does not have active steering and I regret it. In fact, I thought there was something wrong with my new car because the steering felt so loose. I thought maybe I had an alignment problem. However, I tried to improve the steering by increasing the air pressure on both my front factory 18" RFT's to about 37 psi and the steering does feel somewhat tighter now. Can anyone share some thoughts on having active steering vs. not having it, and how we "non active steering" BMR owners can tighten up our steering? This has been a real issue for me. Thanks.

akhbhaat
05-31-2008, 09:23 AM
Steering feel is exactly what it sounds to be: tactile feedback through the wheel. Note that weight alone does not give you "steering feel" (though it does contribute).

For example, if you lose traction at the front axle, there should be a noticeable change in steering response and vibration - it should get very light and smooth (vibration/shudder should largely disappear, etc). Or, as the tires approach their adhesion limits, you should feel a slight shudder as the tires work to grab. If you're driving across gravel or a rough surface, or you hit something with one or both of the front wheels, that sensation should transmit through the wheel. In my car, I can actually notice a subtle difference between difference road surface materials through the steering wheel. The end result is that you can "feel" what the front tires are doing.

A simply way of describing good steering feel is this: if you can feel it through the chassis/suspension, you should also feel it through the wheel.

Weighting itself isn't "steering feel," though heavier steering weight is generally necessary to enhance/amplify the effects of steering feel. Much of the feedback mentioned above will be "drowned out" with heavily boosted/assisted steering. I've driven plenty of cars with relatively heavy steering that provide very little feedback (e.g. my brother's Acura CL).

The problem with the newest BMW models is this: they still retain a good deal of steering weight (with some noticeable exceptions), but the rack is numb...isolated. They simply don't transmit the aforementioned sensations to your hands (at least not as effectively as the older cars). Unfortunately, a lot of people mistake weight for actual steering feel and seem to think that the newest cars are no worse than their predecessors.

EdCT
05-31-2008, 10:28 AM
I disagree slightly with some of what's written here, especially wrt weight.

A lot of people do equate "heavy" with better steering feel, I'm not one of them, nor are some race drivers.

I like my steering to be light, but fast with as few turns lock to lock as possible and a good tactile feedback - a sense of what's going on under the front wheels.

Completing that picture is a feel for what's under the rear wheels - that sensation usually occurs under your butt.

I enjoy lots of tactile feedback in my ZHP 'vert, but the Cayman S has a bit more of it.

Ed

e36m34life
05-31-2008, 11:03 AM
E36's are notorious for the steering feedback they provide, that is one of the big reason why I continue to own E36 after E36 and don't upgrade. The steering is heavy, very tight and precise, and most importantly, I can almost read the type of road I am driving on just by feeling the steering wheel, it's an incredible feeling because you then become one with the car and you can really test the limits safely.

My brother owns a 2005 Mercedes Benz E320, and I everytime I drive it, I get nautious at how overly cushoined the car is. I mean the steering is dead numb, when changing from road to road you can surely hear the difference, but the steering is always numb and very light, combined with a boat size of a car, I HATE it.

I think the last generation of Bimmers that had great steering feel was the E46 and below, but anything after the E46 seems too numb for me.

kunal_D
05-31-2008, 11:14 AM
Yup, seems to me that some true bimmer traditions died with the e46, thats why i dont think I can ever give up mine.