Testimonial - B1 Sport Suspension and Quaife LSD - F20 M140i - Mr Wood
Just wanted to drop you a line to say thank you very much for the work that was carried out on Monday. The car is completely transformed. Even just between the journey down and back on the motorway it was clear that the car was very different. Back home on the bumpy country lanes that I commute every day it was a revelation. Beautifully supple yet with bags of control. And of course traction and grip that it seriously lacked before. One of the nicest improvements that is often overlooked is how much better it is under heavy braking on rough surfaces. Inspires much more confidence all round.
So again, thank you very much and hope the package does well for you.
Feel free to edit this down if it is too wordy or if you don’t want mention of other brands etc
When looking for a fun daily driver the M135i and M140i have always been a serious contender for me. But criticisms leveled by motoring journalists at the lack of traction, the compromised ride quality and the lack of dynamic polish have always prevented me from pressing the button on ordering one. I've test drove one each time I've come to order a new car over the past few years and my findings have always mirrored those of the magazines. A fantastic engine in a well built, compact package that is perfectly suited to my daily needs and commute through rural Cheshire lanes. But hampered by ham-fisted damping and spring rates that defy logic. That "pogo" motion down anything other than a billiard table smooth road enough to make any child or adult passenger instantly nauseous and a keen driver reluctant to push on for fear of being bounced into a ditch.
As the end of an incredibly cheap lease on a Golf R was coming to an end I was frantically trying to find something to replace it with. The R had been a fantastic car. I've not driven many cars that were so perfectly resolved for the road. The combination of sublime damping, 4 wheel drive traction and an engine that punched well beyond what should be expected from a 2ltr 4-pot made it one of the quickest point-to-point cars I've ever driven. Rain or shine its cross-country pace was always mind-bending. But a replacement Golf R was out of the question as the cheap finance deals had dried up. And as impressive as it had been at wringing every last bit out of its chassis, it could never be described as a "fun" car. The 4wd setup was always front-end biased and oversteer was not a word in its dynamic repertoire. You always stepped out of it thinking "How the hell does it do that?!?", rather than stepping out with a huge grin and sweaty palms.
So as the Golf lease was drawing to an end I was looking at the M140i, again, I test drove an M240i, again, and came to the same conclusion as previously. Not for me. Just too dynamically compromised.
And then a Tweet from Dan Prosser dropped into my timeline about the Birds fettled M235i he'd just driven. It was divine providence.
A quick message exchange with Dan, who had previously run a Golf R whilst at Evo magazine, confirmed that the work that Birds had carried out on the baby BMW was indeed as transformational as his tweet had eluded to. It was the B1/2 Dynamic package in particular that was of interest. The M140i engine already has more than enough grunt for daily duties. But the damper, spring and diff package looked to offer exactly what I was looking for from the car. More compliance. Softer spring rates. Better body and wheel control. More grip. More traction. But not at the expense of outright fun.
I ordered an M140i 5-door StepAuto later that day.
After a call and email exchange with Kevin the car was booked in for the work to be carried out at Birds 2 days after collection. No point messing about with these things. My philosophy is you might as well get the maximum enjoyment out of a car for as long as possible.
A couple of weeks later the car was collected from BMW Halliwell Jones in Wilmslow and 2 days later I was on the M6/M4 down to Birds for fitment of the B1 Dynamic Package. The package I went for was the Birds-spec Bilstein dampers, Birds-spec springs, Quaife Diff, front 20mm spacers and rear toe adjustment.
The ride down there was uneventful but just sealed the deal for me on the shortcomings of the standard suspension. Even on what looked like a smooth motorway the small vertical movements over even the slightest imperfection were annoying. And at times it felt like the suspension had worked itself into some kind of harmonic resonance as it bounced along. How a BMW chassis engineer could ever have signed this off is a mystery to me!
Needless to say I was happy to throw my keys across the counter on arrival at Birds and walk away, hoping that their changes would be telling enough to make me not doubt my decision to go with the BMW.
Well I needn't have worried. 6 hours later I was back on the road home and all was right with the world. Just driving off the forecourt at Birds HQ the difference was noticeable. Just the way the if handled the small drop off the curb and rode the first few potholes was enough to tell that this was a serious setup. Making my way through the villages on the way back to the M4 the quality of the damping shone through, and approaching the first large roundabout I quickly disabled the DSC to see if the diff made as much difference as it had on previous cars I'd fitted them to. The answer was a resounding yes. The rear hooked up beautifully on the exit, the rear just giving the faintest shimmy as the Michelin SuperSport's broke traction with lovely progression before blending seamlessly back into traction and firing me down the duel-carriageway.
The slog up the motorway was blissful. All those annoying vertical oscillations were gone. The car no longer clattering over the cats eyes. It was a rather surreal experience. That a chassis this good was lurking under that travesty of a factory suspension is criminal.
And that impression was before I got to my local roads. Roads I've been commuting for over 12 years in everything from E46 M3's to 996 GT3's and GT4's, Clio Cups, C63's and a whole number of other cars. And I was impressed, to say the least. The ride over the rutted sections that normally unsettle most cars was surreal. The way it shook of mid-corner undulations and maintained grip and traction on adverse camber bends simply breathtaking. The softer setup and the gentle attitude the car takes up in a turn helping the tyres key into the road, allowing application of power from that lovely straight 6 engine much earlier and much more aggressively than before. The diff locking smoothly when the inner wheel does eventually give up its grip, diverting the torque to the outer wheel to keep the car delivering forward momentum. And then subtly breaking away and sliding into a couple of degrees of slip angle. It's a mesmerizing experience and one that truly makes this one of the most enjoyable and fun cars I've experienced in a long time on my favorite back roads.
And the icing on the cake is how the car now stops too. It’s an often overlooked benefit of good damping that not only does it improve things when you are pushing on or cornering or under power, but also helps massively with keeping the wheels in contact with the road under braking, especially on broken or undulating ribbons of road. Again the Birds setup really helps the tyres key into the surface and maintain that all-important contact with the road under heavy retardation. It's simply wonderful.
Needless to say I am very happy with the M140i now. Transformational is a word that has been bandied around a lot with the package that Birds have put together for this car, but I think it is wholeheartedly deserved. It's simply the most essential upgrade you could ever do to this little Bavarian pocket rocket.