In a recent Top Gear episode, Jeremy Clarkson tested the new BMW F80 M3. In the test he brought up the fact that the electric power steering wasn’t up to snuff with the M3s of yore. However he said that about the steering in Sport+ mode, the mode you would assume would be desired by enthusiasts because of the name and added heft it carries. But he claimed it to make the car to twitchy and less accurate and seemed to prefer the Comfort setting.
The same was said by UK journalist, Chris’s Harris. It seems that Comfort mode may be the best for the M3, according to two highly-esteems journos. Which leads me to my question of the day — are Sport modes necessary?
I can see the point of having sport modes for automatic transmissions, because then it will change the shift points and ultimately how the car performs. But is it truly necessary to have three different modes for steering and suspensions?
In a much older episode of Top Gear, they claimed that the famous Stig was actually a tenth of a second faster around their test track, in a VW GTI, in Comfort mode than in Sport mode. It’s been a claimed for quite sometime now, by many journalists that Sport modes just make cars more uncomfortable and offer no significant performance increase.
I guess one can make the argument that these different modes are to fit peoples preferences. Some may like their 3 Series to have light steering and soft suspensions and some may like stiff suspensions and heavy steering, so BMW gives it the ability to do both. Which is understandable but a bit noncommittal. What happened with companies making cars that they like and standing behind their products, rather than pandering to every audience?
I remember when the latest Mercedes-Benz C-Class debuted and various publications snubbed it for not handling as well as the 3 Series or ATS, instead it was more like a baby S-Class. However, Mercedes claimed that this was done intentionally. I commend the folks in Stuttgart for that. They designed a car that they liked and built it, if you don’t like it, well too bad. Up until recently, BMW did the same thing. BMWs were performance-first cars and if you wanted something comfy and squishy, go somewhere else.
Maybe Sport modes are a good way for companies to have their cake and eat it too, but it just seems noncommittal to me. Maybe it’s true that I’m a bit old-school, but I miss the days when a car came from the factory one specific way and if you liked it, you bought it, and if not you didn’t. This made each and every car different. With all of these customizable modes, cars all seem the same now. Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon, but I want an M3 to drive like an M3 all the time, not just in a specific combination of settings.