Suspension Secrets BMW F80 M3 Project Car – Part 1

It’s project time again here at Suspension Secrets and this time it’s a big ‘un.

This is our new project car: a BMW F80 M3 Competition equipped with a rarely-seen manual gearbox. The F8X series of BMW M cars are the most common cars brought to Suspension Secrets for setups, upgrades and tweaks.

The Suspension Secrets BMW F80 M3

We offer comprehensive installation and setup services for the F8X cars, ranging from a full fast road geometry alignment for completely factory-standard cars, all the way to full track-only builds.

Using our expertise with this chassis, we created our Suspension Tuning Guides for the F8X cars, and from this, our F8X Handling Packages designed to improve the handling of these cars in a variety of situations, from pure road use, all the way to full track use and anywhere in between.

We currently offer six handling packages for the F8X platform, and these are:

  1. Road Pack
  2. Fast Road Pack
  3. Intermediate Fast Road Pack
  4. Ultimate Fast Road Pack
  5. Clubsport Pack
  6. Full Track Pack

Whilst many of our customers will begin with handling package 1 or 2, before eventually upgrading to 3, 4 or 5, we’ll be looking to sequentially upgrade our F80 M3, starting with a fast road geometry alignment and then progressing from Handling Pack 1 all the way to Handling Pack 6 with a few nice non-suspension related extras on the way.

Over the course of this project, we’ll be improving our M3 and attacking race tracks across the UK to explore how each upgrade improves the car. We’ll also be heading to the Nürburgring in the future to put our M3 to the ultimate test.

Our F80 M3 Competition is completely stock apart from a pair of uprated Alcon front brake discs and braided brake lines. Soon after taking delivery of our M3, we decided to improve its appearance with the addition of  some styling parts. A big thank you to our friends at R44 Performance for supplying us with carbon fibre wing mirror covers, front bumper inserts, grilles and CS-style wing, all of which have helped give our very stealthy F80 some added aggression.

So with the car looking appropriately tough, we decided to head out onto the road to give it a thorough test drive. 

Test driving our Suspension Secrets BMW F80 M3 on the road.

The biggest takeaway from the test drive was the feeling of crashiness from the suspension. This crashiness is caused by two things: overly soft springs and overly stiff dampers. When driving over imperfections in the road, the car feels overly stiff as the spring is too soft to give adequate body control and the damper is too aggressive in managing the movement of the spring.

This is an issue that has become more and more common as car manufacturers have sought to give owners a greater sense of control over their car’s character through the use of electronic dampers and various chassis modes. Many performance cars are fitted with adjustable dampers with different modes such as ‘comfort’, ‘sport’ and ‘track’ or other variations of these modes. Each mode alters the damper characteristics, making the car feel different for the driver. This method places the job of controlling a vehicle’s body movement on the damper, whereas it should instead be the spring that controls body movement, and the damper instead regulates the movement of the spring.

After our road test, we took our M3 to a track day at Oulton Park. After just a few laps, we confirmed what we already know about the F80 M3’s weaknesses: it is too softly sprung, and the lack of body control from the springs leaves the chassis feeling wallowy and inaccurate. One photograph taken on the track day showed the front wheels buried deep in the wheel arches in one corner, demonstrating just how inadequate the standard springs are for track driving.

Suspension Secrets BMW F80 M3 demonstrating overly soft springs at track day at Oulton Park.

Following the Oulton Park track day, we then took the M3 to Donington Park. Donington Park, being a higher speed circuit than Oulton Park, revealed some more of the F80 M3’s weaknesses. The major issue at Donington was understeer. In higher speed corners, the front end washes wide and through medium-speed corners, if the throttle is applied too soon, the front washes out again at corner exit.

A quick inspection of our M3’s tyres revealed a lot about how the car was performing; the outer edges of both the front and rear tyres showed signs of increased and uneven tyre wear. There was considerably less tyre tread on the outer edge of the tyres compared to the inner edge: a tell-tale sign of there not being enough negative camber present in order to effectively use the entire contact patch of the tyre.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll give the car an underbody inspection and then we’ll apply our own highly-developed fast road geometry settings in order to get the most from our M3!

If you have any questions or wish to have your car’s handling improved then please get in touch using the contact form below!

Leave a Reply