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F30 / F31 / F32 / F33 (2012 - current)
The sixth generation 3 series, chassis code F30. 2013 model year 328i and 335i sedans now in production. Read the F30 frequently asked question thread for all your basic question and dive into all the details in the ultimate F30 information thread.

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  #1  
Old 03-02-2012, 07:40 AM
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Exploring the 2012 F30 Suspension and Chassis in Detail and Comparing it with an E90

BMW F30 2012 3 series suspension in detail

BMW's trademark has always been their sporty handling and ride, especially on the 3 series. With the 6th generation F30 3 series just hitting dealership and in the hands of the early adopters everyone wants to know, has BMW retained it's class leading handling? In a word, YES! Drive the F30 3 series, either in the 2L 4 cylinder turbo 328i or the big brother 3L 6 cylinder turbo and right away you know BMW got it right. Put the car into sport mode and the steering tightens up, the suspension stiffens (with the Adaptive M suspension) and the throttle response quickens. The car has quick turn in, feels rock solid and provides great feedback to the driver.

To figure out what makes the all new 2012 F30 3 series drive the way it does we spent the day at Turner Motorsport's. With factory trained technicians, championship winning race engineers and street car master tuners on we had the skill and resources to break down the entire chassis and suspension on the F30. While at TMS our long term review 328i got a complete workout on the dyno and scales as well, read more about our day at TMS here.

Bimmerfest Long Term Review 328i at Turner Motorsport

2012 BMW 3 series suspension review

The F30 has many improvements over the outgoing E90 3 series, the interior and technology to name a few big ones. However, the suspension on paper is oddly similar to the outgoing E90 3 series. The E90 sedan has a double pivot joint strut front suspension, the F30 has a double pivot joint strut front suspension. The E90 has a 5 link rear suspension, so the does the F30. With all the improvements on the F30, was the suspension overlooked? The car doesn't drive like the suspension was an afterthought, so what changes did BMW make?

BMW F30 Front Suspension
The changes are subtle, perhaps correcting what BMW found to be minor flaws in the front control arms. A tweak here, a thicker arm there, a stiffer bushing over there.

2012 BMW F30 3 series lower front suspension link with E90 comparison

The differences between the E90 lower link and the F30 lower link suspension components are almost indistinguishable. The F30 link is slightly thicker and has a more dramatic bend on the outboard end. That is about it, the length looks dead on. In a pinch could you bolt this E90 link on the F30?

BMW F30 upper front suspension link with E90 comparison

The upper link on the F30 suspension is noticeably different from the E90. Both look like they were grown out of aluminum with their strange organic shapes but the F30 seems more refined. The F30 link is also 25% thicker and benefits from a solid inboard bushing. You can just make out the webbed openings on the inner E90 bushing in the picture. Despite the changes in shape and bushing design the length and ball joint angles are very similar.

The biggest change up front is the steel sub-frame. BMW used an aluminum sub-frame on the E90 to save weight. The front and rear sub frames are the largest single components on the car and probably the heaviest after the engine. Why BMW reverted to a steel sub-frame (E46 generation technology) when weight savings was such a priority on the F30 isn't clear to anyone. Crash protection, cheaper manufacture, something else?

BMW F30 Rear Suspension
2012 BMW 3 series rear suspension

The rear suspension of the F30 differs from the E90 considerably. Both are 5 link suspension with the same general geometry but BMW changed the way the links are manufactured. In another bizarre reversion to steel the F30 rear suspension is all steel, the E90 benefited from a lower aluminum arm. The other four links are made of stamped steal, like the E90 but the F30 links appear thinner but also more refined then the E90.

My Description

Besides the change to link construction the other big change is the addition of aerodynamic covers for the suspension. BMW spent a lot of time under the car smoothing out the airflow. The rear suspension was a big source of drag so they designed these covers. The covers aren't noticeable from above the car but are really cool looking.

E90 rear suspension reference image 1 E90 rear suspension reference image 2

Oil pan
F30 BMW 3 series plastic oil pan

The biggest shock from our under car tour of the 2012 BMW 328i was the oil pan, it's PLASTIC! I know plastic has come a long way and I don't want to sound like some cranky old timer but this worries me. The oil pan is tucked up behind the sub-frame so it shouldn't suffer any direct impact but something bouncing up into the pan from the road is a real possibility. There is an under tray (under tray pic)that provides some protection but it is a stiff felt like material that is at best 3/16" thick, nothing like the hard plastic under tray of the E90.

On the upside the oil plug appears to be a quarter turn locking style plug so stripped oil plugs should be a thing of the past. How well the plastic oil plug itself holds up is to be determined.

Power Steering Rack
BMW F30 variable steering rack

Next on the "oh WOW" list is the variable sport steering rack and it's massive electric motor. Variable steering is a $300 upgrade to the standard rack (both are electric) that changes the ratio of steering as needed. It means you don't have to throw the wheel over as many times for those tight parking lot turns (review coming). So far the steering has been great, but the placement of the rack under the car is not. The rack and the motor sit in front of the sub-frame and are going to be the first thing road debris hits. The motor has has and additional plastic cover but hitting something a speed has the very real possibility of taking out your steering rack. I wonder what it would be like to lose power steering at 60mph after hitting road debris. I have a feeling someone is going to produce a metal skip plate arrangement for the steering rack and oil pan very shortly.

Exhaust
BMW F30 3 series 3 inch exhaust

The stock exhaust is actually an impressive, 3" single pipe running from the turbo down pipe back to the rear muffler. There is one mid-pipe resonator and a few crimps for clearance but otherwise it is a clean run. There is a lot of room left for a larger pipe or a true 3" exhaust if tuners can find power with increased exhaust size. TMS also speculated that BMW left a lot of room for the F80 M3 dual exhaust. Leaving this much room for the exhaust means we should expect good things from the next generation M3 motor!

F30 BMW exhaust

Following the exhaust back to the rear muffler, it is huge! Almost as large as the E46 M3 exhaust, this explains why the 328i is so quite. BMW has ditched the vacuum actuated exhaust flap in favor of an electronic controlled one so there wont' be any 'golf T mod' for the F30. We have yet to try unplugging the flap motor to see what will happen, hopefully it will not set off the check engine light. There was some discussion about the life span of the actuator motor, guess we will have to wait and see.

Drive line and Rear Differential
The entire drive train of the F30 is very compact. About 25% smaller then the E90 especially the 6 speed transmission and differential. As long as the components are built well this should not effect longevity or performance and has a nice weight savings benefit.

F30 BMW rear diff swap

A big change that impacts enthusiasts is the rear differential and half-shaft arrangement. BMW has eliminated the bolt on half shafts and drive flanges for the half shafts. It appears the half shafts now spline directly into the differential. While this does save weight it means swapping the diff will be a bigger project. Swapping differentials will require dissembling the outer suspension to pull the half haft out of the diff before being able to drop it down. Hopefully BMW retains the same spline count on all differentials and half shafts so a differential swap does not also require a half shaft swap.

Shifter
BMW F30 328 335i short shifter

I'm impressive with the stock feel of the 328i shifter. The throws are long but less rubbery then the E90 and the transmission has a nice solid engagement feel. That being said a short shifter is on my wish list. With the reduction in size of the 6 speed there is plenty of room in the stock shifter location for a much longer pivot point and some sort of double sheer selector rod. Paging Rob at UUC

Rear Fenders
F30 BMW 3 series fenders rolled

Something that you might miss unless looking up into the rear wheel wells is the rear fender sheet metal is folded in tight to the outer skin. In previous generation 3 series to fit larger wheels and tires right to the edge of the car you would have to roll the inner fender lip flat to the outer skin. On the F30 the entire inner lip has been eliminated, I believe BMW did this to support offering factory 20" wheels as an upgrade option. Not only does it allow BMW to offer larger wheels and tires they can run more aggressive offsets pushing the wheels right to the edge.

Stay tuned for more information on our long term review 328i. We will continue to dive into the all the details that make up the BMW F30 3 series. Any specific things you want explored on our 2012 328i let us know.
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  #2  
Old 03-02-2012, 08:06 AM
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av98 av98 is offline
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Great details on the E90 vs F30 suspension and undercariage changes!

Does the adaptive suspension struts differ from the non-adaptive? EG: are there exta reserviors or any eletrical components seen other than the stock struts?
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Old 03-02-2012, 08:29 AM
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tim330i tim330i is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by av98 View Post
Great details on the E90 vs F30 suspension and undercariage changes!

Does the adaptive suspension struts differ from the non-adaptive? EG: are there exta reserviors or any eletrical components seen other than the stock struts?
Thanks!

The adaptive suspension has adjusters on each shock tube. You can see it stick out at a right angle to the shock body in this picture -

BMW 3 series Adaptive M Suspension package
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Old 03-02-2012, 09:23 AM
Schmooze Schmooze is offline
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Any idea about the rear sway and rear sub-frame bushings? They were horrid on the e9Xs. The sway bar was almost non-existent and the bushings were soft enough to use as pillows.
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Old 03-02-2012, 09:54 AM
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tim330i tim330i is online now
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Originally Posted by Schmooze View Post
Any idea about the rear sway and rear sub-frame bushings? They were horrid on the e9Xs. The sway bar was almost non-existent and the bushings were soft enough to use as pillows.
Rear sway bars is small and soft. Didn't look at the bushing but would guess they're soft as well.

Tim
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Old 03-02-2012, 11:02 AM
JoeFromPA JoeFromPA is offline
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Very surprised by the plastic oil pan, but not for the damage reasons.

An aluminum or steel oil pan gave off ALOT of heat, helping the oil cool faster and stay cool longer since it's where the majority of oil is at any given time.

Plastic oil pan is going to retain oil heat alot better.

Reason #367 to change your oil twice as often as BMW recommended intervals if you intend to keep your car beyond warranty.
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Old 03-02-2012, 11:14 AM
stampchez stampchez is offline
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I have noticed that oil temps seem to get to temperature faster than they did in my 1 series.
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Old 03-02-2012, 11:42 AM
samualcc samualcc is online now
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Excellent stuff guys! I have a couple of questions:

With the adaptive M suspension, how much MORE complex is it getting over the standard suspension. That is, when it comes time for suspension repair, how much more crazy is it going to be to fix/replace than the standard. I admit this might be a bit difficult to call. Is it really just limited to adjusting the shocks?

I am also curious if the standard steering also has a huge motor associated with it, or if that is inclusive of the variable steering option only.

Finally, it would be great if you guys plan to compare/contract variable vs standard steering rack. I am trying to quantify the advantages to the variable steering besides lower ratio in parking situations. Does it stiffen up to any greater to degree in sport mode, better feel, etc.
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Old 03-02-2012, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by samualcc View Post
Excellent stuff guys! I have a couple of questions:

With the adaptive M suspension, how much MORE complex is it getting over the standard suspension. That is, when it comes time for suspension repair, how much more crazy is it going to be to fix/replace than the standard. I admit this might be a bit difficult to call. Is it really just limited to adjusting the shocks?
Hard to say what is going to go wrong but the system is considerably more complicated. Off the top of my head -
  • The struts/shocks have valves to break/fail
  • The struts/shock have valve adjuster (motors - shown above) to break/fail
  • Each shock has an acceleration sensor to break/fail
  • Each wheel has a ride height sensor....to break/fail
  • Some sort of control system and wiring....to break or fail.

I haven't driven an F30 without the adaptive system so it can't say if I think it is worth the $900 or not. My guess is beside the long term issues it is worth it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by samualcc View Post
I am also curious if the standard steering also has a huge motor associated with it, or if that is inclusive of the variable steering option only.

Finally, it would be great if you guys plan to compare/contract variable vs standard steering rack. I am trying to quantify the advantages to the variable steering besides lower ratio in parking situations. Does it stiffen up to any greater to degree in sport mode, better feel, etc.
Both racks are BMW EPS (electronic power steering) systems so they will both have motors. Not sure if the standard rack is mounted in the same way, will try to get to the bottom of that soon. Haven't driven a standard rack F30, so no comparison to give yet.

Tim
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Old 03-02-2012, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by JoeFromPA View Post
Reason #367 to change your oil twice as often as BMW recommended intervals if you intend to keep your car beyond warranty.
Just curious, what's reason #1?
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Old 03-02-2012, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by tim330i View Post
Hard to say what is going to go wrong but the system is considerably more complicated. Off the top of my head -
  • The struts/shocks have valves to break/fail
  • The struts/shock have valve adjuster (motors - shown above) to break/fail
  • Each shock has an acceleration sensor to break/fail
  • Each wheel has a ride height sensor....to break/fail
  • Some sort of control system and wiring....to break or fail.

I haven't driven an F30 without the adaptive system so it can't say if I think it is worth the $900 or not. My guess is beside the long term issues it is worth it.




Both racks are BMW EPS (electronic power steering) systems so they will both have motors. Not sure if the standard rack is mounted in the same way, will try to get to the bottom of that soon. Haven't driven a standard rack F30, so no comparison to give yet.

Tim
It's worth it if you plan on using the different settings. I got the passive sport suspension becuase i normally drive fairly aggressively, so i would had no use for the more comfort oriented settings. tho i found the adaptive in sport to be slighlty stiffer/more firm than my passive suspension. I used the 900 towards HK sound system. Cant go wrong with either suspensons.
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Old 03-02-2012, 01:23 PM
samualcc samualcc is online now
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Thanks for the reply Tim. You guys are doing a great service to the community here!


Quote:
Originally Posted by justinnum1 View Post
It's worth it if you plan on using the different settings. I got the passive sport suspension becuase i normally drive fairly aggressively, so i would had no use for the more comfort oriented settings. tho i found the adaptive in sport to be slighlty stiffer/more firm than my passive suspension. I used the 900 towards HK sound system. Cant go wrong with either suspensons.
Can you comment on the steering? When you put your car in sport mode with the standard steering, do you feel it stiffen up in anyway, or provide more feedback?

I test drove a sport with the standard rack. I only had 20 minutes with the car. My impressions where that it did firm up in sport mode, but again it could just be my mind playing tricks.

Last edited by samualcc; 03-02-2012 at 01:26 PM.
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Old 03-02-2012, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by samualcc View Post
Thanks for the reply Tim. You guys are doing a great service to the community here!




Can you comment on the steering? When you put your car in sport mode with the standard steering, do you feel it stiffen up in anyway, or provide more feedback?

I test drove a sport with the standard rack. I only had 20 minutes with the car. My impressions where that it did firm up in sport mode, but again it could just be my mind playing tricks.
The steering does tighten up in sport with the standard rack. I have not driven the variable steering so I can't tell you if it's any better or worse.
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Old 03-02-2012, 02:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samualcc View Post
Thanks for the reply Tim. You guys are doing a great service to the community here!




Can you comment on the steering? When you put your car in sport mode with the standard steering, do you feel it stiffen up in anyway, or provide more feedback?

I test drove a sport with the standard rack. I only had 20 minutes with the car. My impressions where that it did firm up in sport mode, but again it could just be my mind playing tricks.
Yea, it deffenitly stiffens up, not as stiff as an e90(one of my 328s you can get a hernia turning the wheel lol) but it stiffens up nicley. i have sportline and in sport it is notciable stiffer than comnfort or eco, tho i kind of like how soft it is in comofrt.
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Old 03-02-2012, 07:48 PM
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Just curious, what's reason #1?
The very oil BMW recommends struggles to make it to the full interval in a modest driving environment, let alone a harsh one?

That their maintenance schedule on modern cars was developed, coincidentally, with their free maintenance program - and they literally doubled the oil change interval from one year to the next on the same cars/engines in order to fit a free maintenance program?
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Old 03-02-2012, 08:16 PM
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2006 330xi E90 121k miles, 15k to 18k oil change interval. avg speed is 49mph and 27mpg, still using original lifetime transmission oil. I would expect to hear a lot of engine and transmission failures by now since not everyone is changing oil at 7,500 miles...
original battery, water pump.
When I get the F30 I expect o use the same change interval for oil.
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Old 03-02-2012, 09:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeFromPA View Post
The very oil BMW recommends struggles to make it to the full interval in a modest driving environment, let alone a harsh one?

That their maintenance schedule on modern cars was developed, coincidentally, with their free maintenance program - and they literally doubled the oil change interval from one year to the next on the same cars/engines in order to fit a free maintenance program?
If this were a problem we'd hear a ton of stories about E46, E39, E60, E90 engine issues. Remove the HPFP issues and I'm not familiar with any other engine problems that have stemmed from most of the owners following BMW's maintenance schedule.

I sincerely doubt even 10% of BMW owners do a more rigorous oil change interval. Don't poll here as this is an enthusiast board...
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Old 03-04-2012, 08:29 PM
sabbas121 sabbas121 is offline
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very nice comparison. THUMBS UP
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Old 03-12-2012, 12:22 PM
MikeTerp MikeTerp is offline
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This is a very nice look at the F30 underneath. Although I have a hard time believing that BMW engineers would be so stupid as to put a plastic oil pan on the N20 if they felt it would compromise reliability, this is an interesting issue and one I hope we hear some comment on from BMW. Also, I would love to see something similar done to the A4, C Class and new ATS. What compromises/decisions did their engineers make to try to hold down weight? How do their "parts" compare to the F30?
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Old 03-12-2012, 01:58 PM
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Plastic oil pan?!?!
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Old 03-12-2012, 02:05 PM
MikeTerp MikeTerp is offline
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ljgmdad: plastic oil pan?!?!? Yes, did you read the article?
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  #22  
Old 03-29-2012, 01:00 AM
f30blacksapphir f30blacksapphir is offline
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Would like to know by your observation. Do you think the rear can fit for ET25 19 X 9.5 wheel?
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Old 03-29-2012, 06:50 AM
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tim330i tim330i is online now
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Originally Posted by f30blacksapphir View Post
Would like to know by your observation. Do you think the rear can fit for ET25 19 X 9.5 wheel?
There's no way. Is that the size/ET of the E92 M3 wheels? We tried a set of E92 M3 competition wheels on the car and they stick out an inch or more in the rear. It takes a high offset in the rear. We have VMR V718s on the car in 19x8.5 ET 35 front and 19x9.5 ET45 rear and the fit is perfect.

EDIT - The E92 M3 competition wheels are 19x10 ET25, and you can see how much they stick out in the attached pic.

Tim
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Old 03-30-2012, 12:37 AM
f30blacksapphir f30blacksapphir is offline
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Originally Posted by tim330i View Post
There's no way. Is that the size/ET of the E92 M3 wheels? We tried a set of E92 M3 competition wheels on the car and they stick out an inch or more in the rear. It takes a high offset in the rear. We have VMR V718s on the car in 19x8.5 ET 35 front and 19x9.5 ET45 rear and the fit is perfect.

EDIT - The E92 M3 competition wheels are 19x10 ET25, and you can see how much they stick out in the attached pic.

Tim
It is the current rim installing in my E90 335i, Is a set of BBS LM-R. As I want to keep it and put on the new F30. That's why I want to know is it possible. Will negative camber works? with 9.5" will it be marginal fit?
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Old 03-30-2012, 07:11 AM
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You sure that is the offset? I looked up 19x9.5 LM fitment on BBS's site and they suggest ET32. I don't see any way you're going to make at least 15mm of wheel/tire fit into the arches with negative camber.

Tim
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