Finally, here is my LONG (sorry) subjective review of the B16 Bilstein Ridecontrol suspension for the e90 335.
I have to start by thanking Mike at **********s for making the buying experience an easy one with their advice and guidance on the product, shipping options, charges and best of all fast and efficient delivery. The Bilstein package was the largest order I ever placed and I was obviously worried about possible damage to the product crossing the Atlantic. It was shipped directly from Bilstein US in perfect condition.
I researched the various suspensions from the different brands as well as the Bilstein range for the e90 and searched the bimmerpost reviews. The PSS10/TEIN/H&R/KW/Eibach looked great with mostly good reviews. But I settled for the B16 ridecontrol because of the convenience of the in cabin dampening control feature and because it would be another gadget in my performance arsenal. The bilstein advert that grabbed my attension read like a TV commercial and what a sucker for adverts I am:
"Would you like to be able to adjust the ride of your 3 series without ever stepping outside of your car? If so, the Bilstein B16 Electronic Ride Control Adjustable Coil Over System is for you. The Bilstein B16 Adjustable Coil Overs allows for cockpit adjustment saving you the hassle of manually adjusting your coil-overs. With the flick of a switch you can take your BMW from a normal ride used for everyday driving to; sport mode to firm up the suspension and allow for improved handling.
Advantages at a glance:
The Bilstein Adjustable Coil-overs are perfect for any car that is both daily driven, and sees aggressive street driving/track use. Since the coil-over is height adjustable this allows you to choose exactly how low you want your car to sit. The Bilstein B16 system puts you in complete control, providing the kind of precise suspension tuning formerly available only on race cars. From a weekend of track use, to daily driving, this system provides perfect handling when you want it."
- Bilstein mono-tube/inverted technology for front and rear (whatever this means)
- Immediate damping force selection provided by a cockpit mounted push-button
- Bilstein Nurburgring-Nordschleife road tested and tuned
- Good ride comfort coupled with an agressive sport option suspension
- Great lowered appearance-fully adjustable ride height - and German TUV approved
- Bilstein warranty
So, the package arrived and I was impressed with the quality of the springs, shocks and all the parts that came with it.
Made an appointment with my local BMW dealer to discuss the implications on my existing warranty if I were to install the Bilstein kit and the cost of installation. Essentially, my warranty on the old suspension kit was deleted (only) but I received a two year warranty for labour and installation of the Bilstein kit excluding the Bilstein components. But this did not posed a problem for me because the Bilstein components/kit comes with its own warranty that lasts as long as the car remains in the possession of the original owner that purchased the suspension kit. (of course there are some warranty exclusions - such as do not race with it!!!hee..heee..)
If I were to reinstall the old BMW suspension (to be reinstalled by the BMW dealer) the warranty on the old system would be restored. Fine with me.
So, after 8 hours over two days the suspension was installed by the dealer. And what a great job they did especially with the wiring and the in cabin mounting of the control unit. The wiring is completely independent from the BMW car wiring and the only link is connecting the Bilstein wires to the battery terminal for powering up the Bilstein control unit. The wiring runs from the 4 shocks on the inside of the car (under the carpet on the sides) to the front of the car near the BMW ECU area where it plugs into its own Bilstein ECU control unit. The only difficulty we had with the wiring install was the fact that the wires of the front shocks come out at the bottom of the shocks which made it more difficult to guide safely upwards to the bonnet area without twisting and forming crinkles unlike the rear shock wires that come out at the top and was easily guided through the existing holes in the body of the car. We discussed the various heights-the kit is fully height adjustable - a 15mm drop was my preference but we settled for 20mm. On the 17' and 18 inch wheels I am sure one can go even lower.
The old suspension was the sport pack version. With the Bilstein kit installed the car had a lowered stance front and rear but not excessively low. I could push one finger and a bit between the rear tire and fender. But the embarrasing stock gap was gone - car appeared streamlined, low and aggressive. My test drive after the install before the wheel alignment was done was a nervous and tensed affair (right in the stomach) expecting to be surprised or experiencing the car to bottom out or to be dissapointed with a very expensive purchase. But the test drive was spoilt by the rubbing of the rear tires (225/35/19 front and 255/30/19 rear) against the fender walls whenever we hit a dip even a slight dip. So we put the standard wheels and tires back on (225/45/17 front and 255/40/17 rear) and yippee off we went!! No rubbing or thumping.
After a short drive the difference in improved handling and ride comfort could be felt immediately. It was a tad softer than the standard suspension. I pressed the sport switch or push-button and wow! That little switch/button was like hitting the G-spot of the car.
Okay, the description for this round switch/button is a misnomer. When the car is started the suspension is in normal mode (the default mode) but normal mode is actually sport mode, so I will refer to normal mode as sport mode. When you press the switch/button the car is in sport mode but it is actually race mode, so I will refer to it as race mode. Sport and race mode. Sport is the default mode and race mode is when you press the switch. Okay? The switch button emits a pretty blue light when the car is started and when pressed it "clicks" and a tiny spot in the middle of the round button also lits up in bright blue to tell you you are in race mode. I am glad the switch is hidden in the ashtray because at night the blue light is too intrusive and sharp on my eyes and better to close the ashtray lid at night - during the day it is pretty and perfect. The first few days I had to take my eyes of the road to find the switch but I am getting used to its location with less fiddling.
After two days I had the fenders rolled in to get rid of the squealing and rubbing and put the 19' wheels back on.
It is hard to believe that the old stock BMW suspension looks so crappy and ugly yet giving us the "ultimate driving experience" and is the benchmark in a great handling car - the stock suspension is comfortable and reassuring, as we all know, owning a bmw. If you drivie a BMW on the track with standard suspension you know how much abuse it can take on the track without falling out underneath you - it just goes assuringly from the one corner with body roll and all to the next bend. You will never push the car on its stock suspension to its true limits in real world driving conditions/situations - I don't think so. The Bilstein kit is better in the comfort stakes to the stock suspension even if it is just; but it is in the handling that the B16 ridecontrol is far more convincing and improved substantially to the stock setup. I hope I am not ambiguous about this point.
Back to that switch: the race mode is something else altogether - it is simply brilliant!
"The kit features an electronic control unit that senses road characteristics and G-loads and makes shock valving changes in a millisecond!"
Race mode is an agressive and immediate dampening force selection that seriously tightens up the springs and shocks. It does NOT lower the car but gives the feeling and appearance of being further lowered. Some of the early reviews I read about the B16 system talks about the race mode being too soft for track use and others said it feels like the car was running "on rails" and I think the latter is an apt description for what happens in race mode. I think (my personal opinion) it eliminates the need for further under chassis braces and sway bars - the car is thoroughly glued to the road. No matter how hard you push it in the corners or bends. Look, I am not an expert in all this technical suspension jargon but the experience on the road is simply amazing. I had the opportunity to have fun driving through the challenging Bainskloof mountain pass and remain impressed with the capabilities of the system. You can switch from race to sport so quickly when the road surface worsens to get it back in comfort (sport) mode. I reckon the suspension will get even better over time once settled in.
Crossing road humps in shopping centre parking lots was clear and fine and no need to turn the car sideways to go over them. Just gently cross them as usual.
Another surprise is the average fuel consumption is down from 12.8 litres per/100km/phour to 11.6 litres per/100km/phour consistently for my urban driving cycle! Is this due to the lower stance of the car, better aerodynamics and less drag? Maybe, since this is the only way to explain the drop in fuel consumption.
The car also "feels" quicker and lighter...If someone can identify with this please chime in. Or is it just my imagination? Surely a car that drives, handles and turns better should perform better overall and thus translates into better sprint times?! Even, if it is marginal?
There it is...fire away...
1.Ashtray install close up.
3. control unit
4. wiring diagramme