BMW F80 M3 / F82 M4 Suspension Tuning Guide

The BMW F80 M3/F82 M4 is a very capable machine from the factory. It is equipped with a powerful, tuneable engine, and a good handling package. Despite this, there is still plenty to be improved upon in regards to the suspension system as a whole, regardless of whether the car is used only on the road, or if it is driven aggressively on circuit.

The standard spring and damper setup is often described as “crashy”, where it feels unnecessarily stiff over bumps in the road, which makes the car feel unpredictable. Whilst the M3/M4 are thought to be too firm on the road, they’re also considered too soft when cornering hard on circuit. This combination is unhelpful to drivers, and erodes their confidence to really drive their cars as hard as they would like to.

Therefore, we have developed a few different suspension packages that can benefit every M3/M4 owner regardless of how you use your BMW.  Our kits will help turn a car with a good chassis and power package into a cornering machine. We have separated each upgrade into six handling packages:

  1. Road
  2. Fast Road
  3. Fast Road and Light Track
  4. Half Road, Half Track
  5. Track
  6. Race-spec

We’ll explore each of the upgrade packs below, with a deep-dive into each, and what upgrades they include.

But first….

We consider a full geometry alignment absolutely essential to making your M3/M4 handle better, regardless of what pack you choose. A full geometry alignment is achievable with completely standard suspension components, and is the single most influential set-up change you can invest in. A proper alignment helps any installed upgrades fulfil their potential, and it will improve a car’s handling dramatically even if no other upgrades are installed. This important upgrade is included in each of the handling packs by default.

As standard, the M3/M4’s suspension geometry is relatively conservative, and this is for a number of reasons. Firstly, this is done by BMW to ensure their cars are compliant with certain laws and regulations with regards to tyre wear and safety. Secondly, BMW need the M3/M4 to give enough grip in the snow, ice and standing water, and to perform in all of the countries where they sell them and are ultimately set up to produce understeer.

Handling Pack 1 (Road) 

Includes:

  • Full Geometry Alignment
  • Installation of Lowering Springs

The focus of Handling Pack 1 is to install lowering springs to the car and to install a road-biased geometry for the suspension. Remember, the lowering springs should be installed before the geometry alignment, as the car will need re-aligning once the springs have been installed. We recommend getting both upgrades done at the same time.

The road-biased geometry will make your M3/M4 more intuitive and predictable. The weight of the car loading up the suspension during cornering will be much more linear through the steering, and turn-in response will be improved.

Lowering springs make the car sit slighty lower. This in turn lowers the centre of gravity, and they are also slightly stiffer springs to help with cornering. Stiffer springs help keep the chassis much flatter through corners by reducing body-roll, which gives the driver more confidence, and allows the car to carry more speed through the corners. In addition, these springs will not affect the usability of your M3/M4 on a daily basis.

After installing the springs, and having the mandatory full geometry alignment installed, your car will have:

  • Improved turn-in response
  • Less body roll through corners
  • Faster change of direction
  • Improved driver feel and feedback

Click the link below to buy Handling Pack 1:

Handling Pack 2 (Fast Road)

Includes:

  • Full Geometry Alignment (Pack 1)
  • Lowering Springs (Pack 1)
  • Camber Plates
  • Adjustable Front and Rear Drop Links

If your M3 / M4 is mainly used for fast road use, with the occasional track day then you will greatly benefit from installing a few extra upgrades. The main improvement Handling Pack 2 is focused on is increasing the negative camber at the front wheels.

The standard BMW suspension system does not offer front camber adjustment, so an aftermarket part is required to achieve the desired levels of negative camber. Our camber plates are entirely compatible with the standard springs and dampers, any installed lowering springs and many aftermarket coilovers.

During hard cornering, a car will roll onto the outer wheels, effectively tilting the chassis as it rolls through the corner. This tilting of the chassis, rolls the tyre onto the outside edge of the tyre. With the standard camber settings, only the outside edge of the tyre is in contact with the ground during hard cornering, this causes excessive tyre wear on the outer edge as well as understeer as the majority of the tyre and therefore grip, is no longer touching the tarmac.

With increased negative camber, set with the camber plates, the car rolls onto the tyre as opposed to off it. Now during cornering, the car rolls onto the tyre, which will now sit flat on the tarmac through the corner, maximising the contact patch and therefore grip. This reduces understeer substantially and reduces tyre wear, too.

Lowering springs or coilovers greatly improve the positive effects of added negative camber, as the stiffer spring allows the car’s chassis to roll onto the tyre even more, due to the body roll being reduced.

The final components of Handling Pack 2 are adjustable drop links at the front and rear of the car. As the car has now been lowered, these must be fitted as there is a risk that the anti-roll bar may begin to hit the chassis or other components. Our adjustable drop links reset the position of the anti-roll bar back to its factory position, whilst still maintaining the dynamic benefits of the lowered ride height.

The main benefits of Handling Pack 2 are:

  • Addition of negative camber which greatly improves cornering grip, and reduces understeer.
  • The added negative camber also reduces tyre wear on the outer edges of the front tyres.
  • Drop links set the anti roll bar back to OE position at the new lower ride height.

Click the link below to buy Handling Pack 2:

Handling Pack 3 (Fast Road, Light Track)

Includes:

  • Full Geometry Alignment (Pack 1)
  • Lowering Springs (Pack 1)
  • Camber Plates (Pack 2)
  • Adjustable Front and Rear Drop Links (Pack 2)
  • Adjustable Rear Toe Arms
  • Upgraded Front and Rear Anti-Roll Bars

If you use your M3/M4 occasionally on track days, then Handling Pack 3 is ideal for extracting the next level of performance from your car.

The first upgrade in Handling Pack 3 is the addition of adjustable rear toe arms. At this point we’ve reached the maxiumum level of adjustment offered by the factory-fit rear suspension adjustment bolts. This is when our adjustable rear toe arms must be installed, which allow the optimum rear toe settings to be applied.

Optimum toe settings provide more cornering grip and traction in a straight line, which makes them important to the overall performance of the car. When running more rear camber (required for track use) the standard toe adjustment bolt runs out of range. Therefore, our adjustable rear toe arms are required so that both rear camber and rear toe can be at their most optimum. A further benefit to the rear toe arms is that they replae standard rubber busings with rose jointed ends. This stops the rear toe arm from flexing through the corners, effectively altering toe settings depending on how much load the tyre is carrying.

The second upgrade is to upgrade the front and rear anti-roll bars. Thicker and stiffer anti-roll bars give added stiffness to your M3/M4 during cornering, which helps make use of all the available grip from the tyres. Uprated anti-roll bars also give you the opportunity to fine tune the mid-corner balance of the car. Both understeer and oversteer characteristics can be fine-tuned to make the car handle more in-line with your driving style, which will reduce lap times substantially.

Despite adding stiffness to the car’s chassis, anti-roll bars do not impact the ride comfort, making them a useful, but not overly compromising upgrade.

The main benefits of Handling Pack 3 are:

  • Increased cornering speed and traction, gained from the adjustable rear toe arms.
  • Increased cornering performance from uprated anti-roll bars.

Click the link below to buy Handling Pack 3:

Handling Pack 4 (Half Road/Half Track)

Includes:

  • Full Geometry Alignment (Pack 1)
  • Camber Plates (Pack 2)
  • Adjustable Front and Rear Drop Links (Pack 2)
  • Adjustable Rear Toe Arms (Pack 3)
  • Upgraded Front and Rear Anti-Roll Bars (Pack 3)
  • Solid Front Control Arm Bushings
  • Set of Coilovers

Up until this stage, we have made good use of lowering springs and the cornerings benefits they add. However, if we are to make the setup of an M3/M4 more focused, we must look to a more comprehensive solution: a good set of coilovers.

In terms of coilover suggestions – at this stage we recommend either Nitron R1s, Ohlins Road & Track, or TracTive’s ACE Kit as all offer good levels of adjustability and damping sophistication.

At this point, the previously upgraded lowering springs have given us a stiffer chassis and have lowered the car, which greatly helps when cornering; but now the original factory-fit BMW damper is the weak link in the package. A good set of coilovers have much more sophisticated pistons and valving inside of them, that offer vastly increased control over the damping forces of the suspension, which is very important as we begin to use the car on track more. With damping control available the cornering stiffness can be fine tuned and the stiffness of the front and rear axles can be tuned to alter the understeer/oversteer characteristics of the car.

Coilovers also offer ride height adjustment, meaning that the height of the car can be set to your preference and some rake can be introduced into the setup to improve the M3 / M4 handling substantially. Rake greatly increases an M3/M4’s handling characteristics, as it helps the front-end of the car turn in a much more reponsive manner. Rake also takes some weight from the rear of the car, which allows the rear to rotate on corner entry. A responsive and rotating rear end does not create oversteer, but it is a desireable characteristic especially when driving on circuit as it helps to point the front of the car towards the apex without causing understeer. .

The ride height adjustability of the coilovers also allows your M3/M4 to be corner-weighted. This means balancing and tuning the mass present at each tyre, to provide improved braking, acceleration and cornering. This is very useful when driving hard on track.

Please note – Some coilover sets are not supplied with camber plates. Our Handling Packs since Pack 2 have included our own custom-designed camber plates, and we have worked hard to try and make them as universally compatible with varying coilover kits as possible. Some coilover kits may still need their own camber plates which might have to be purchased seperately.

The second upgrade in Handling Pack 4 is the installation of solid control arm bushes on the front lower control arms. These solid arms prevent any unwanted flex within the bushes, which means that the grip generated by the tyre is transferred to the chassis much faster, and with greater clarity and response. As a result, direction changes are much quicker and more direct, making the car respond in time with driver inputs making the car feel far more intuitive.

The main benefits of Handling Pack 4 are:

  • Much greater control over the entire suspension setup with the installation of Coilovers.
  • Fine-tuning of certain suspension behaviours such as rake, and adjustable damping is now achievable.
  • More direct and responsive car behaviour thanks to solid bushings.

Click the link below to buy Handling Pack 4:

Handling Pack 5 (Track Use)

Includes:

  • Full Geometry Alignment and Corner Weighting (Pack 1)
  • Camber Plates (Pack 2)
  • Adjustable Front and Rear Drop Links (Pack 2)
  • Adjustable Rear Toe Arms (Pack 3)
  • Upgraded Front and Rear Anti-Roll Bars (Pack 3)
  • Solid Control Arm Bushings (Pack 4)
  • Set of 3-Way Adjustable Coilovers
  • Rear Camber Arms
  • Bump Steer Adjustable Tie Rod Ends 
  • Rear Traction Arms

Handling Pack 5 is designed to offer the upgrades which will allow you to transform your BMW M3/M4 from a road and track car, to a far more track-biased vehicle.

The first upgrade is to install a high-quality set of 3-way adjustable coilovers. We recommend either Nitron R3s, KW’s Clubsport 3-Way or TracTive’s R-ACE coilovers. All are very high quality and will be ideal for this application. 3-way adjustable dampers offer much finer control of the high and low speed damping. The added adjustability they offer means cornering damping can be fine-tuned, and the high-speed impact damping also be optimised entirely seperately. What this gives is a spring and damper setup that is being used to its maximum potential at all times over the course of a lap.

The second upgrade in Handling Pack 5 is to install our improved rear camber arms. Our rear camber arms help to increase negative camber at the rear axle of your M3/M4. The increased negative camber provides more cornering grip, leading to higher cornering speeds. The increased camber also allows you to accelerate earlier on the exit of corners, which will reduce lap times and increase driver enjoyment.

Any increases in negative camber across the front and rear axles can be tuned in compatibility with the 3-way adjustable dampers to really exploit the improvment in mechanical grip provided by both components.

The third upgrade included in Handling Pack 5 is the fitting of bump steer adjustable tie rod ends. By upgrading these we are able to really fine tune the handling of the car. We need to install these tie rod ends, as once the car has been lowered, the bump steer at the front wheels increases due to the new arc pattern on the tie rods.

With the installation and setup of bump steer tie rod ends, the bump steer can be removed or reduced heavily so that the front wheels are not altering their toe settings when encountering bumps and undulations in the track surface.

The final stage of Handling Pack 5 is to install adjustable rear traction arms.

Rear Traction Arms are essential for fine-tuning the kinematics of your BMW. They work under the compression of the rear wheels, primarily when the throttle is applied. Our traction arms control the amount of toe-in or toe-out that occurs.

Our adjustable arms can be fine-tuned to control the rotation of the hub under rear compressions. Their adjustability allows them to be tuned to help find and use the most amount of grip at the rear axle, depending on your driving style.

The main benefits of Handling Pack 5 are:

  • Comprehensive control over the springs and dampers of your M3/M4 with iincreased adjustability from the 3-way adjustable dampers.
  • Large reduction in bump steer.
  • Increased negative camber on the rear axle, which gives increased traction when cornering.
  • Improved rear end traction and subsequent acceleration.

Click the link below to buy Handling Pack 5:

Handling Pack 6 (Race-spec)

Includes:

  • Full Geometry Alignment and Corner Weighting (Pack 1)
  • Camber Plates (Pack 2)
  • Adjustable Front and Rear Drop Links (Pack 2)
  • Adjustable Rear Toe Arms (Pack 3)
  • Upgraded Front and Rear Anti-Roll Bars (Pack 3)
  • Solid Control Arm Bushings (Pack 4)
  • Set of 3-Way Adjustable Coilovers (Pack 5)
  • Rear Camber Arms (Pack 5)
  • Bump Steer Adjustable Tie Rod Ends (Pack 5)
  • Rear Traction Arms (Pack 5)
  • Off-Centre Caster Bushes
  • Big Brake Kit
  • Stickier Tyres
  • Solid Subframe Bushings

The upgrades in Handling Pack 6 are designed to create a race-spec setup. We apply the most focused and uncompromising settings to a car thats sole purpose is as a track car.

The 3-way adjustable coilovers will be put to good use, as we will be running a much stiffer spring rate than one that is used for less-focused track use.

The first installed upgrade of Handling Pack 6 are off-centre caster bushes. Caster is a key aspect of geometry that affects the front wheels. When caster is increased it provides a much more positive feel through the steering, and improves cornering performance substantially, particularly on a RWD chassis such as the BMW M3/M4’s. Increased camber is achieved by installing our off-centre camber bushes in the front control arm. These work in combination with any installed camber plates to alter the position of the front wheels to give the optimum amount of caster.

The second upgrade in Handling Pack 6 is to change any rear control arms that haven’t been replaced to adjustable arms, and to upgrade all subframe and suspension bushes. All bushes should be upgraded to solid bushes at this stage. Considered too harsh for use on the road, solid bushes throughout the suspension system will provide a harsher, louder ride, but the handing benefits on circuit are profound.

By removing the rubber or polyurethane bushes, any grip or direction changes occurring at the tyre are transferred directly into the chassis without any flex or play from any connecting bushes. This greatly reduces the time it takes for the car to respond to driver inputs, such as turning the steering wheel or applying the throttle. This makes the car change direction faster and becomes far more transparent to the driver, as any control inputs are followed by an immediate and intuitive reaction by the car.

An upgrade that you may also want to consider is to upgrade your tyre choice to a grippier compound or even start to run slick or semi-slick tyres. These tyres work brilliantly in combination with a very stiff spring rate, although static negative camber will have to be increased to best make use of the grip available.

One aspect that is often overlooked is upgrading the brake package. Upgrading to a big brake kit for the front and rear wheels will improve the stopping performance of the car substantially. This means that you can apply the brakes much later, slowing the car down at a much higher rate, which will reduce lap times substantially. Match this braking performance with the improved cornering performance, and the lap times will reduce rapidly. A good track-focused brake pad should be used, as they will switch on and become more effective as they get hotter, and won’t fade as you press on around the circuit for lap after lap. This lack of fade is very important to allow you to set repeatable, fast laps throughout the duration of a race or session.

The benefits of Handling Pack 6 are:

  • The completion, and tying together, of all the previous upgrades
  • To give your M3/M4 a real sense of responsiveness and transparecy throughout the whole chassis.
  • To push your uprated coilovers to their maximum, and to extract the most grip from them.
  • To make your car compatible with very high performance track-only tyres.
  • An entirely adjustable suspension setup, that can be comprehensively fine-tuned for any circuit you decide to drive.

Please see below for a rough guide to the pricing of Handling Pack 6:

  • Handling Pack 6 with Nitron R3s – £10,450.00 (excluding fitting), £12,350.00 (including fitting)
  • Handling Pack 6 with KW Clubsport 3-Ways – £10,850.00 (excluding fitting), £12,650.00 (including fitting)
  • Handling Pack 6 with TracTive R-ACEs – £10,999.00 (excluding fitting), £12,850.00 (including fitting)

Please Note – We recommend purchasing Handling Pack 5, and then enquiring with us to order the rest of the pieces, as there are many different types of tyres for different applications.

Follow the link below to buy Handling Pack 5, and then get in touch with us about upgrading to Handling Pack 6:

How To Get Your Handling Pack

If you would like to get in touch about any of our upgrade options, services or handling packages you can contact us via the Contact Page. All of our upgrade packages and components are available to view in our shop Here.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: