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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

BMW M3 E90/E92 Cruise Control Feature Review

Over the Christmas holiday weekend I took the BMW M3 on its first extended road trip -- or at least a trip great than 100 miles. And because of the 100 miles of open road heading up Interstate 5 in California from Bakersfield, I was able to try out the cruise control feature on the vehicle for the first time. And the cruise control would have the opportunity to be used not only in flat stretches, but also rolling hills and a couple of steep grades as drove over the Grapevine.

The cruise control feature is one that I have found to be really hit or miss in past vehicles. For instance in Ashley's GX470 it is worthless if you are traveling over 65mph and hit any sort of grade. The computer tells the engine to shift to a lower gear and the car accelerates quickly to adjust a simple 2mph correction. My Audi A4 on the other hand was excellent across most fronts and only suffered in downhill grades such as the Grapevine would accelerate above the set speed. Generally speaking, the down shift issue cannot happen on a manual transmission anyway. :-)

Leaving early on Christmas morning, I was able to turn on the cruise control almost instantly due to very few cars being on the road. I pressed the button on the left side of the steering column to activate the cruise control and then pushed the lever forward to set the speed. Two things happen once the speed gets set. The first is a "really cool" feature -- although I am not sure what function it really performs -- a red line slides up on the speedometer to the speed you have set and a digital number is displayed in the information window to confirm the speed that you have set (see picture below). From there, you just tap forward or backwards on the cruise control lever to increase or decrease speed in 1 MPH increments. To cancel, just pull the lever up or down.

BMW e90 / e92 / e93 M3 Cruise Control Settings and Review
Overall, the cruise control and speed management worked very much as I expected. Even at 73 mph, I was able to leave the cruise control on up the Grapevine grade without much strain or variation in speed. Speed remained constant and the power remained smooth, exactly what you would expect given the horsepower / torque and the quality of the settings.

However, I did run into two minor issues.

The first had to do when I was going downhill on the grades. The cruise control was able to maintain a constant speed rather than accelerating, but it was less than smooth. You could feel the car surge and slow every few seconds as the computer seemed to be unable to create the right mix of power and throttle. When the throttle would ease off, the engine would start breaking and decrease the speed. Then it would increase the throttle with a slight lurch forward and you would maintain the set speed. At first, I thought this was because I was running the car in "Power" mode and the electronic damping control (EDC) set to "Sport" -- by turning the power off and setting the EDC to comfort, the problem was a little muted, but still there. On the way home after it continued to occur on the downhill grade, I just turned off the cruise control and drove down.

The other minor issue was the due to the same shape / size of the levers, I would occasionally tap the top lever forward or backward which has the effect of turning on the high-beams or in effect bright-lighting whoever was in front of me. It was usually followed by me at some point passing the car and waving to say "sorry". Hopefully with more use, that will happen less frequency.

Still, despite these minor annoyances the cruise control on the BMW M3 E90 sedan / E92 coupe / E93 convertible seems to fit the bill.

Have you had a similar experience with your E90/E92/E92 BMW?