Editorial: What We Saw On the New X3 And What It Tells Us About the F30 3 Series

3-Series, Featured Posts | November 16th, 2010 by 45
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Electronic Power Steering (EPS) The safe bet is that it’s coming and will be standard on the full range of F30 vehicles. It doesn’t make …

Electronic Power Steering (EPS)

The safe bet is that it’s coming and will be standard on the full range of F30 vehicles. It doesn’t make any sense for BMW to develop it, deploy it on both the 7 and 5 series and not utilize it on the 3er. There are fuel consumption benefits to be had and BMW takes their devotion to EfficientDynamics seriously.

The rap on electric power steering is that it doesn’t provide sufficient steering feel. And when even Consumer Reports complains about reduced steering feel in the new 5 series you have to take notice. I have not been a fan of any electrically assisted steering, but this generation of BMW’s EPS is the best of the bunch I’ve sampled. It still isn’t as good as the best hydraulic steering racks or manual steering racks (but then how well can you steer a 1500kg car with a manual rack).

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Rendering Jon Sibal for LeftLaneNewsIt’s interesting to hear the take on the usefulness of steering feel from various race drivers. Some insist that they get every scrap of info possible from the tires passed up into their hands, other’s are just looking for consistency and the little vibrations and other info that can be passed up from the tires is not all that vital to the task.

If steering feel is really of primary importance then most BMW’s will fall a bit short, try a Porsche or an NB Miata instead. And whatever you do, don’t expect world class steering feel from runflat tires. Tires are responsible for a lot of what’s perceived as steering feel and runflats aren’t known for their brilliant tactile sensations.

All that being said, if you want a hydraulically assisted power steering rack on your next 3er, maybe you should be planning on buying an E90. It will interesting to see if the next gen M3 uses EPS though.

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Eight Speed Automatic

The ZF 8HP transmission is another piece of EfficientDynamics. It’s about six percent more efficient than the 6 speed auto it replaces but it has some additional tricks above and beyond enhanced fuel economy.

The core of the transmission is four epicyclic gear sets and five shifting elements. That gives it eight forward speeds and reverse. In a conversation with a BMW engineer, I facetiously asked how many reverse gear ratios they could do, he chuckled and said a few but didn’t think they would ever introduce a car with more than one.

The truly trick piece of this tranny is that it can accept a variety of interfaces between the engine and tranny core. There’s the usual torque converter, that’s ubiquitous in automatic transmissions (the torque converter obviates the need for a clutch between the engine and tranny). It can also be equipped with an electric motor. Soon more BMWs will
utilize the electric motor nose that will hybridize the car. We’ve published rumors of a diesel four cylinder X5 utilizing the electric motor nose of the 8HP. Expect a four cylinder F30 with that nose in the near future. Then there is also a dual-clutch module that could possibly replace the existing DCT.

An additional feature, from a fuel economy standpoint, is that the ZF 8HP is the first automatic that is compatible with stop/start. We sampled stop/start in the press preview of the X3 and came to the conclusion that it will feel totally seamless when coupled to the hybrid (electric motor) module.



This is a little known piece of gear that allows a great deal more integration of the various vehicle electronic modules. It is migrating down from the 7 and 5ers into the F30. It will find its way into pretty much the entire model range before long. The cost of development requires that it be spread across as many units as possible.

FlexRay acts as a ‘bus of buses’, it basically is a high bandwidth bus that interfaces to the lower bandwidth CAN buses utilized by the majority of the vehicles electronic modules. It doesn’t just act as an interconnect though. It also routes priority messages between buses. One way of grasping what FlexRay allows is to think about the communication
required between the cruise control code, ECU, and the ABS system in an active cruise control, stop and go, system.


The proliferation of government regulation requiring reduced fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions is driving manufacturers nuts. When Aston Martin has to re-badge a Toyota iQ to help with their emissions numbers you know things are warped beyond belief. BMW’s approach has been to find a lot of little things that add up to fuel consumption and emissions savings. EPS and the ZF 8HP automatic transmissions are just two additional pieces in their EfficientDynamics portfolio.

The difficult task that BMW faces is how to steer a course towards efficiency while retaining the driving dynamics drivers expect from a BMW. And it’s getting even more difficult. BMW has to make sure they maintain a focus on the driver’s seat in the F30. If the new 3er misses the mark with potential buyers . . .

45 responses to “Editorial: What We Saw On the New X3 And What It Tells Us About the F30 3 Series”

  1. Tom says:

    Is it just me or doesn’t anyone else find the crease between the kidney grill and hood distracting. I realize crash standards now influence the front styling, but I much prefer the way the E36 and E46 integrated the kidney grill and hood.

    • Matt says:

      I am the same, I prefer how it used to be done.

      The benefit I see with the new design is that, in a low speed crash. Where a traditional bumper-to-bumper would leave the bumper and the bonnet (hood) damaged. Moving the panel line further back reduces the chance of the bonnet (hood) being damaged, making it easier and cheaper to repair.

      • FreudeKing says:

        Absolutely cheap ugly! They tried to copy Volvo, and to have the BMW badge sitting on plastic is just plain cheap! They have also made the BMW badge plastic, it used to be high quality metal – go check it out.

        The entire car’s looks is degraded with that bumper plastic extending so far up – actually it reminds me of those Toyota hatchbacks. Don’t come with the excuse of pedestrian safety requirements when Merc and Audi are not doing the same thing. It’s all nice and easy for these designers to blame regulations when they see their final products turning out to look like a PIG in the end and their human nature of not admiting to mistakes are present.

  2. Kyle Leclair says:

    I completely know what you mean, Tom, but if you don’t recall, the crease was simply in another location – underneath the headlights and grill above the bumper. I have had the same thoughts as you previously but now upon further inspection I believe I prefer the current way.

  3. plaxico says:

    lets just hope f30 is gonna have better build quality than the previous model

    • Wooo hoo. says:

      What are you talking about??

      • FreudeKing says:

        E90 is a very solid car. If anything the F30 will be cheaper as new management hunts for profit and is doing everything they can to cut cost (also at the expense of product quality – note the 10 major recalls thsi year). I wouldn’t be surprised that they direct you to the internet for a catelog instead of having a printed one… I mean they now use one of the cheapest magazine paper to print their 5 Series catelogs for their potential customers and cut out of printing BMW Magazines, what next??? So if you want a decent good quality BMW 3 Series, you’ve seen the last one – E90

  4. Joe says:

    Electronic Power Steering (EPS)????? Noooooooo, please, noooooo!!!!!!!!!

    • FreudeKing says:

      You know what the most interesting thing is: They will probably put the exact steering found in the 7 series just to save development cost.

  5. Paul says:

    4 me that was the reason i didnt buy the new x3. i was in the market to xchange my previous x3 – u could say whatever about it but it was fun to drive and the steering good enough – and when i saw the new pne had the same crap epsteering i opted for a RR. with me at least bmw lost a customer of 20+ years with this crap electric steering. if they ever make it an option, like the run flats i might return. until then in my view bmw made a poor option going with rft and es tech. there cars are worse tp drive – and this is not an opinion its a fact i think everyone agrees both public and carmags – so i dont understand why on earth they keep pushing for this. when it comes to styling its always ambiguous, some will like it some wont but when it comes to rft and electric st everyone agrees its shit

    • FreudeKing says:

      I agree 100%. And this bunch of new management have their noses so high up, pointing towards the sky that their eyes cannot see clearly what their customers now want. A set of new RFT driven by an elderly man with tame driving style was finished after travelling 20000km on them, about 18 months after replacement. I am sorry to say but whatever fuel saving technologies you put in your BMWs will not compensate for the ridiculous expenditure on these senseless tyres that you force customers to accept!

      BMW must think they are so big that customers will take whatever they give and that they are the people who dictate to teh customers what they must have. Well, sorry, the sooner you get the fact that you must give customers a choice, the sooner you will stop losing chunks of market share every month to Audi because who in this world will put up with these troublesome RFT!

    • stapler says:

      you didn’t buy the new X3 due to eps but you have not driven it. that’s just stupid. that’s like not buying an hdtv b/c the example you saw was showing a standard def show, therefore all hdtv’s are crap. good police work lou.

  6. Paul says:

    and they are going to f*** with a bmw classic the 3 series ? are u sure that bmws new ceo isnt an Audi fan? i didnt exchange my e46 because i thought the current 3 series was to bland, heavy and specially with rft had a poor ride and now this eps? Porsche here i come

    • wazon8 says:

      You need to have plenty of money since you hesitate between BMW and Porsche. Are you sure that you’ve seen Porsche price list?!

      • FreudeKing says:

        Clearly, BMW has been losing market share to Audi (since the new CEO took over) at such a rate that Audi is going to be No,1 in no time. He comments about VW and makes jokes about VW’s CEO. So you can connect the dots…. All he has been doing since he took over was to cut cost, cut brand building, introduce cars that are non-premium at the expense of the brand and try to push up share price to boost his own bonuses – at the expense of BMW’s long term future (imo). Look at BMW’s markst share for the past few years, Audi is about to take over!!! Somebody, please give these bunch a WAKEUP CALL!

        • FreudeKing says:

          BTW, if you want to lead by cost efficiency – GO MANAGE VW/KIA/TATA. BMW is about superior differentiation. These people will drive BMW out of the premium segment and manufacture underwear if they think it will increase BMW’s profits!

          • bob says:

            I believe it is someone else who requires a wake up call.

            Any conquest sales that Audi may get from BMW are the sales that BMW doesn’t want. In this new global economy, it is simply too unsophisticated to pontificate that BMW is getting all the sales they possibly can. Incorrect.

            Through their clever sales management strategy, they’re getting the *right* sales to the *right* customers in the *right* regional markets at the *right* time. The developing dynamics among NA’s sales figures for the US vis-a-vis AG’s worldwide sales figures substantiate this. Otherwise the situation in ’08, when ~44K units were deliberately diverted away from the US market, would have been an isolated event. It hasn’t been.

            BMW only takes the sales they deem ‘best’, provided that the long-term growth rate is maintained, and not much more.

            Subsequently, Audi gets BMW’s leftovers.

          • FreudeKing says:

            What a load of rubbish! The fact of the matter is that BMW cannot help it that they are losing market share to Audi (because they are not doing things right at management level, see the drop since new management has taken over). I am not talking about the US alone. I am talking about global sales!

            So, are you telling me that BMW is deliberately letting Audi have more A4 sales because they don’t need to sell so may 3 Series even though the 3 Series is adding value to the shareholders as the return is still way above WACC? I think you should wake up too or go brush up. It seems like you have a bigger problem than BMW if you are thinking like that. How exactly do they push customers to Audi in your view??? Deliberately give them bad service? Tell the customers that they have to wait 12 months for their 3 Series that they want to order? Tell me exactly which model BMW does not want.

            Your example of divertion away from the US market was due to the fact that there was limited supply of those vehicles at that time. I am looking at things in a global perspective and with extra capacity at hand, BMW would want to sell as many as they can.

            So don’t come with these rosy “clever sales management” excuses for poor performance and consistent loss in market share to competitors. The first thing you look at when you see if a company has good future growth prospects is the market share (both historic and forecast) and at the rate BMW is going, the forecast looks even worse.

            I refer you to management comments, if sales volume and being the market leader was not important to BMW, then why is the retention of ths crown so important that they mention it? Why are they selling a sub-1 Series to compete agains the A1??? If you didn’t know, it is to get more units sold.

            The one good thing that came out of your arguement is that you have given BMW management a reason to explain to shareholders when they lose the no,1 status in a few months time. But as a logical customer and fan, I don’t accept weak waffle as reason for poor performance. It’s like blaming models that are not out yet for the overall weak sales in the US, a few months ago they say it’s the 5 that is not out yet, now they say it’s the X3, next they say it’s the 6 Series that’s not out – giving reasons for constant poor performance. Look back at the period before current CEO, the company was in a much better position and performed much better than now because the strategy of cost cutting does not fit well with BMW. Cost efficiency and minimisation are for companies like VW, BMW is about brand building and product differentiation. If you look at what new management has been doing: banning CS, cutting advertising, making products that even themselves know will hurt the brand (but comment to say that the brand is strong enough to take the hit). Soon we will have a Ford Fiesta competitor from BMW.

            It is also interesting how you think BMW is so high ad mighty that Audi gets the leftover. If you work for BMW and I am your boss, you would be fired straight away. It is exactly your attitude that brings a company like BMW down as they detach from reality and customer desires.

          • bob says:

            You’ve fabricated information before about great Audi is; and, you’re doing it again…

          • FreudeKing says:

            Fabricate??? Go check out the world wide sales figures! look at the annual ones, go compare from 2001 ~ 2009. then look at quarterly for 2010. Your comments will look unjustified with all this info at hand. So don’t say someone’s true facts are fabricated to try and save your own unjustified arguments.

      • paul says:

        a boxter cost as much as 135i

      • paul says:

        also porsche will soon launch an X3 rival…lets see who drives better shall we? it used to be the other way around.

  7. Paul says:

    lets face it people… bmw just doesnt make them like they used to. my 7 year old Csl is a better car than ANY bmw currently made. And 10 years after it was developded what has bmw come up with that trumps that? a 150k m3 that only a few will be able to acess and a diesel super car that sounds like my kids vespa, has tires as thick as the aforementioned vespa and its slower than my 10 year old Csl. Ridiculous

    • wazon8 says:

      Just deal with the fact that industry changes its face whether you like it or not. Man, you simply ignore changes that took place in environment. Fuel will be only more expenssive, supplies are not ethernal and so on. Agree, they could keep hydraulic steering for some of their models.

      Do you try to convince us that e46 is better that e90/e92? Don’t make jokes – new 3-er is better in each aspect, although I loved my e46 a lot. It’s not even clear to what you compare CSL. To m3 e92? Then it’s as if you compare apples to oranges. CSL is track oriented car which is nearly useless in everyday life. Contrary to it, M3 is address to people who want to have a car suitable to everyday driving and to racing it on a track. Is it so hard to understand?

      I am afraid that I’ve never heard Vespa sounding like BMW diesels. Perhaps it depends on our sensibility to sounds differences. But I need to say that I feel sorry for you, since you hear irritating sound of scooter’s engine much often than I.

      • paul says:

        i still prefer the way my E46 drives the E90…maybe its just me but it just feels more nimble and communicative. and people than own an M3 usually have another car as a daily driver ( i certainly woudnt take my pride and joy to a supermarket parking lot) and im sorry u dont seem to grasp the concept of exageration…of course it doesnt sound like a vespa!!! u need to see some brit com and lighten up….try faulty towers, little britain and stuff like that. I was just stating that for most people a supercar should sound like one…or u going to tell me the VED is going to sound as nice as a F430?

    • richard says:

      Completely agree my E34 1995 M5 was no fault damaged, so was given a new 330D M to drive. No feel or tactile feedback in the steering, oversensitive braking with little feedback from the body, Gave the 330D back as unsafe to drive, amd will probably now buy a Porche GT3 or a Ferarri to replace my M5.

      My E34 M5 engine gives out about the same power as the new 1M, though is normally aspirated not turbo.. So much for evolutution.

      My E34 M5 had a manual gearbox (6 speed), and found the 330D very slushy to drive it felt like the car was not in control. And hated it, the problem here of course is all the new M cars have autos. My M5 clutch is about 10 years old, and dislike having no choice but an auto box as a bunch of guys destroyed their clutches through misuse.

      I am not a BMW hater, and love the 3.0 CSL M3 CSL E30 evo etc.

  8. JakeM says:

    If the next 3er will look like this then that’s great news.

    While the current 3er is a great car, the styling has never completely won me over. It lacks visual sportiness and elegance to me. Just my opinion.

  9. bob says:

    Where have all you guys been? BMW implemented EPS with the E85. Or, IOW, approx. ten calendar years prior to the F30 reaching SOP.

    And, that pretty much sums up this editorial. Be it RFTs, 8spd auto’s, or whatever. We all know, or should know, the trickle down effect, with respect to new technologies…It’s been BMW’s modus operandi for decades.

    Further, kindly consider the fact that the 3 Series is BMW’s biggest seller, when the issue of timing of new technologies arises.

  10. BMfan says:

    paul, freudking, plaxico, em… whats your other names? You are living in your own little world where you cant afford a decent BMW and you are here posting trash about BMW.
    Go to the blogs of those brands you prefer to BMW. Maybe thet have manual steering and sweat it out turning your cars when you are parking or trying to get out of tight places. The world has moved on and BMW sales are soaring. Reading your posts is disgusting.

    • paul says:

      u seem to forget that it was cars like the E30 M3 with those “heavy” and sweatty sterring racks that made this company what it is today and the reason most of us are here today…our love of the way bmw´s drive, certainly not there fuel efficiency. show of hands those that joined the bmw club cause there engine uses less petrol than an audi or mercedes???

      • Matt says:

        What kind of replies are you expecting to that question? You are on an enthusiast blog, asking BMW enthusiasts whether they have BMWs for the way they handle.

        I would be willing to bet that the majority of BMW owners don’t own a BMW solely for the way the car handles. That quality, styling, comfort and effiency are more important. In the UK, the 320d is the most popular 3 Series – not any the larger, more powerful cars.

        The thing you have to realise is, you can kick and scream that BMW aren’t producing cars as enjoyable to drive as an E30, or E39, it is a different world now. Cars now have to conform to ever more stringent standards; safety, enviromental, etc.

        Get with the times, it’s 2010, not 1982. The world’s a lot more cuddley place now!

        • FreudeKing says:

          If BMW gave up its good driving dynamics, handling and steering feel, I might as well buy an Audi or Merc. The above is what made BMW the BMW today. Not Efficient Dynamics (which every other company is doing at the moment, nor telling people that they get JOY from driving a BMW – where’s the JOY if the above factors are missing). So NO!

          Always blaming more stringent standards, safety and environment. How much fuel does the electric steering actually save? less than 0.1l per 100km and yet you have destroyed the main characteristic of a BMW, what BMW should inherently have. Speaking about saving fuel etc. the amount of saving on fuel for a BMW customer will never be more than the highly excessive cost of the run flat tyres which BMW forces all its customers to have (life span only 50% of a conventional tyre, cannot fix if get a puncture, costs a lot more to purchase when new.) On average, the ownership costs for a 5 year period should be 10% more on the purchase price as compared to other cars in this segment just on the stupid tyres!

          • FreudeKing says:

            btw, have you noticed how everyone at BMW have been brain washed, even those exterior designers are yapping about efficient dynamics and joy… blah blah blah. Well, I don’t get joy from looking at the bloody ugly X1, it makes me want to vomit.

            Perhaps they are all sucking up to the CEO, who’s mad about these two terms. Joy is this, Joy is that, Joy is BMW and blah blah blah, so lame! Give me some solid stuff please, I know damn well whether I will get Joy or not. You are not telling me anything by saying I will get joy, tell me exactly what you offer and I will decide.

      • vsonix says:

        actually, fuel efficiency is one of the reasons I love my 11 year old 318ti so much. Fun to drive, cheap to insure, uses no more petrol than a bog-standard Astra/Punto/Focus.

    • FreudeKing says:

      Of course reading my posts is disguisting for you becasue you have a lack of knowledge. To say that BMW sales are soaring with no consideration for other factors just confirms how shallow you are. I love BMWs and would not consider any other cars, yet I have to be objective when it comes to the management and direction of the company.

      I am not one of those who agree with everything just because I am a fan.

  11. Joe says:

    The thing that annoys most is that BMW certainly has all the necessary technology to make the steering more pleasant and efficient: in a car driving control is important, and for those who buy bmw this feature is crucial.

    If I want a car standard, pleasant, elegant, secure and low power consumption can also buy or Mercedes or Audi or Lexus.

    Try comparing the style of driving a Z4M E85 (hydraulic) and a the new (electric) steering of E89, first to write a case.

    If you have no idea what the difference is, the better to avoid writing errors.

    It ‘s a matter of fact, not an opinion. Then that BMW does not give a damn about this issue, which has other priorities, this is’ another story.

    But BMW, with coherence, should change his Head Line “Driving Pleasure” with the phrase Eelectronical Pleasure” …

  12. gnuman says:

    I’ll always love the 3 series for it superb handling and all around driving pleasure, but when it comes to reliability these cars have slowly been getting worse and worse. Had an 325i on the beautiful e46 chassis…amazing machine, however it slowly started developing cooling problems (not to mention cheaply made window regulators) all after warranty…the car just kept on giving me problems. I finally got a e90 335i for added power and have had fuel pump problems, minor sensor problems and just recently an ignition dilemma…thank god it has all been covered by warranty, but c’mon. I have ’00 2 door STI that has almost 200k and has only needed general maintenance.

    • FreudeKing says:

      The E90 is the most reliable car in the UK. I know many who are impressed with their ownership experience. So your case may just be an isolated one.

  13. Nnnn says:

    FlexRay is a shared bus? It sounds like an awkward topology for all these scattered devices, and creates the risk of single failure bringing the entire system down. I don’t want a short in my tape deck to block the ABS and airbags.

  14. Bojan says:

    I do and do not agree on electric power steering. Had ’07 328 coupe and now driving ’06 Audi A3 3.2 ( sorry guys :))…..and must say that steering does not feel “weird” in A3, but responsive with a lot of feedback. Makes sence to go electric for we all know how many leaking hoses, pumps and racks BMW had to replace. I trust they did the homework and made electric one as good if not better than previous hydraulic…..BTW, eye balling 335is :)

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