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E46 M3 (2001-2006) Engine: S54 - Max Hp: 333 hp at 7,900 rpm / 262 lb/ft at 4,900 rpm
Total Produced: 45,000+ - Years Produced: 2001 to 2006.


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Old Sun, May-03-2015, 11:31:05 PM   #1
Dal
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Default Bilstein B6 HD with OEM Springs Review


Watch this!





What you just witnessed is 'Hydropneumatic suspension' at work on a CitroŽn DS.


The system that was first developed in 1955. That's right, it's 60 years old!

The ride quality is exemplary, no doubt you guessed as much from the video.

Such suspension is currently not available for the E46 M3, perhaps one day.

Still, it's not like the E46 M3 has a shortage of aftermarket suspension choices is it?

We have suspension kits for all types of owners.

This includes track, weekend cruisers and the daily drivers.


The Daily Driver

I myself fall into the cruiser/daily driver category. To me, ride quality is important. It is just as relevant on the track if you think about it. How can a driver push to the limit if he/she is not comfortable inside the car?

You can spot this in a typical Chris Harris 'modern car' review. With the dampers, he'll often prefer to use the 'comfort' setting on canyon/country roads. This helps to soak up the bumps and undulations, allowing him to remain comfortable. If he is comfortable, the further he can push the car.

Over the years I've felt an increasing misconception between performance and comfort in suspensions. That is, performance and comfort cannot co-exist.

I'm not so sure that has to be the case, within reason.

I removed my Ohlins R/T coilover kit a month ago so I could fabricate a set of lower rate springs. I took this opportunity to sample the Bilstein B6 dampers with OEM springs in the interim.


B6-OEM

From this point on I will refer to the system as 'B6-OEM' for brevity.

The B6-OEM is in large overshadowed by the B12 kit. Recall the B12 kit is just that, a kit. It consists of the same B6 damper paired with a set of Eibach lowering springs. In other words, both items are "off the shelf".
Unlike the B12, the B6-OEM offers no change in ride height. Actually no, it does... it raises the car a smidge over stock ride height!
This could explain why the B6-OEM is a 'no go' for most people, thus the lack of apparent interest.

That said, I've spoken to experienced individuals who have tried the B6-OEM setup. They report utter praise for how well the car performed. They implied for handling and comfort on the road nothing could match it. Intrigued by this, I purchased a set of Bilstein B6 dampers and a set of used OEM coupe springs.


Recap: B6 + H&R + GC Plates

Before delving into my findings, I'd like to recap a previous B6 setup I tried.





Indeed, this was my first encounter with the Bilstein B6 damper. At time the B12 kit received glowing reviews. My curiosity led me to experiment with the H&R lowering spring. The B6 is for use with stock springs (or a spring within reasonable range). So I knew pairing a H&R spring would need GC street plates due to a loss in usable damper travel.

You can find detailed discussion about the GC street plates in various B12 threads. In short, they restore up to 1 inch of damper travel without changing the ride height. It is a much needed component for this setup.

The ride was average. There were times on the street where it became too harsh for my liking. In contrast the fast road performance was impressive. Without a doubt the GC plates helped. In truth though, it was more a band aid for a bad situation. Without them, you'd be engaging the bumpstops way too often.

Just recently awareness of the B6's damper travel limitations has come to fruition. We'll discuss that later, but knowing what I know now this setup was not ideal.

Furthermore the B6 valving will not favour a spring like the H&R. I know this because the B6-OEM feels like a different setup all together.




B6-OEM Review

[Test Parameters]
Vehicle Data
Model: E46 M3 Coupe
Options: All except sunroof
Alloys: OEM 18"
Tyres: Michelin Pilot Super Sport - Stock sizes
Notes: Stock roll bars, stock bushings, RE top mounts (rear)
Duration: 30 days (city driving and country roads).











I took this picture of three springs available for the E46 M3. I did this to illustrate the differences between them.
The difference between the Eibach and OEM is quite noticeable. It's interesting because I often see divided opinions about eibachs ride quality on forums. Close to OEM they may be, but they're different enough to displease some.
Bilstein state the B6 is for use with OEM springs, but I don't think it's that black and white. It's more realistic to assume the valving is set to a rough OEM range. Despite Eibachs being a little stiffer, they are still in scope.







The picture on the left EricSMG took when he tested how much usable travel the B6 has. You can read more about his findings here. In the picture, the B6 is at full compression.

It was rather illuminating to see just how travel challenged the B6 is. You can visualise the detrimental effects of using aggressive lowering springs with the B6. It emphasises the importance of using GC street plates.

Pictured on the right is the cause of it all. The 'long' internal bumpstop Bilstein is infamous for. It's common for B6 owners trim parts of the bumpstop to reduce its size. Generally, such actions could be frowned upon, much like cutting springs. Bumpstops also act as tuning devices afterall. In the case of the B6 though, trimming bumpstops is standard practice, an exception.



Ride Height

Let's get this out of the way. It's likely what your most interested in at this point.

Images of the E46 M3 and B6-OEM are scarce to nonexistent.


















The above image illustrates the ride height difference between OEM and B6-OEM cars.

Both cars were well matched - not just in colour!

The fuel ballast was the same along with options.

A few of the differences were:
  • Alloys/Tyres
  • Sunroof, no rear blind on the OEM
  • Rear Blind, no Sunroof on the B6-OEM


By studying the image, it's clear the B6-OEM has a taller ride height. That's no surprise, we know the high gas pressure in the B6 influences the ride height. The PSS 18"s with their chunky side walls helps cut some of the arch gap. Worth noting, cars with more options (heavier) may benefit too.

In all honesty I've become accustomed to the ride height. I did feel somewhat conscious at first but this feeling soon subsided. Generally, most cars on the road have a much higher ride height. So in relative terms the B6-OEM ride height looks "low" depending on the context.

The car currently has 12mm/10mm spacer arrangement from my last setup. This is temporary.

Trading low ride height yielded serious improvements to the ride quality...




The Positives

People often describe the B6 damper as 'firm but not harsh'. I prefer to say it's 'taut'. When driving with this setup the quality valving soon becomes clear.

Bumps and imperfections iron out well. You'll sense the suspension pushing the wheels into the holes. This results in great stability and comfort.

Interior rattles is one way to quantify this. Many irritating rattles emitting from the cabin over rough imperfections have diminished. The difference is significant, it highlights how much plusher the car rides.

In spite of that, my most profound observation with this setup is the stability. Point the B6-OEM on a poor maintained suburban road and feel the car leap like a scalded cat. The bumps and imperfections are 'eaten', nothing upsets the chassis. To feel an E46 M3 perform like this on the street is remarkable.

This setup feels well suited to the E46 M3 suspension geometry. The chassis feels less inhibited, more unhinged compared to my previous setups. I can say with confidence this is the most compliant suspension I've experienced.

You'll only appreciate it by sampling the B6-OEM - it's not obvious until you do.

The B6 valving is digressive. To test the high speed valving I located a road with an evil manhole cover. The manhole cover dips down to around an 1" inch or a bit more. As the car went over the manhole cover, it softened the initial hit and made a mild "thud" sound.

On the back roads the B6-OEM is a hooligan. Yes, there is body roll but it's well controlled. It never catches you by surprise in the way a full OEM setup would. It provides plenty of grip too.

It won't beat lap times but it will make you smile. I found carving through the country roads lots of fun. The chassis feels much more playful. My Ohlins R/T felt like a surgical tool on country roads, sharp and precise. The B6-OEM is not as focused, you have to grab the car by the scruff of the neck. It's quite entertaining and enjoyable to 'feel' the car transition into the turns.

Remember, not all country roads are 'smooth'... no road is in truth. Thus the quick stabilization by the B6 makes it more than capable for this kind of activity.



The Negatives

No suspension is perfect, the B6-OEM has its drawbacks too.

Over severe rigid bumps I can hear noise from the rear suspension. I would describe the noise as a mild 'clunk'. It tricks you into thinking there is something detached in the boot. I've heard this kind of noise before, it's suspension related for sure.

Some owners of the B12 kit also cited similar experiences. According to some of the reports the 'clunk' fades as the miles rack up. I too have noticed it fading but it is still there sometimes.

In contrast the Ohlins R/T were silent, no abnormal sounds whatsoever.

At times when driving on a city road in mild traffic the B6 becomes a little overzealous at handling the road imperfections. This is of course during it's low speed valving region. It's so eager to iron out the bumps it may feel edgy, most often in the rear. EricSMG uses the term 'rowdy' to describe it, I couldn't agree more!

Attack the same piece of tarmac at higher speed and all is bliss.

During the early days of testing I found the damping to be inconsistent day to day. Some days it would ride great, others not so good. In contrast the Ohlins R/T is much more consistent. My feeling is that it has to be down to environmental factors such as temperature. There is good news though, adjusting the tyre pressures adds greater consistency.

The B6 is non adjustable. It is what it is. That said, you will need to experiment with tyres pressures to get the best comfort. I'll go into more detail shortly. I've listed it as a demerit as it involves manipulating the tyres, rather than the damper itself.



Advisories

If you want to try out the system, I have composed some extra notes to help you.


Run-in time
You may dislike the B6-OEM at first. The ride could be stiffer than you imagined. I experienced this too. The system just needs miles. After two weeks of daily driving or 300+ miles you should feel the B6 softening. They'll continue to soften with more miles. It's similar to trying on new shoes for the first time, they don't feel great at first.


Tyre Pressures
The B6-OEM is sensitive to tyre pressures. You will need to adjust them to cater for your needs. During the first few weeks of testing, I found the B6 too 'busy' for my liking. I reduced my tyres pressures by 2 psi all round. I noticed an improvement in comfort but something about the ride just didn't feel right. Convinced I was heading down the wrong path I went back to stock pressures, and the 'busy' behaviour returned.

Turns out, I was on the right track. I owe special thanks to 'nrubenstein'. A few weeks ago he posted his results with regards to the B12 and lower tyre pressures. He found that by lowering the tyre pressure by 5-6psi resulted in a more compliant ride. Once again I tried decreasing my tyre pressures, this time by 5 psi.

The difference was remarkable, the car has never felt soo good over urban roads!

It is a compromise though, the car feels less perky at these pressures, not by much but noticeable. I may try bumping the pressure up a tad.



Closing Thoughts





I've had a blast with the B6-OEM, daily drivers will benefit the most from this setup.

It's likely some will ignore the B6-OEM due to its lack of lowering. But for what is lacks in ride height, boy does it make up for in comfort and performance.

The B6-OEM blends performance and comfort in a way that I've never experienced in previous setups. There is good compliance on urban roads, but enough composure for spirited drives.

You get the feeling the B6-OEM is 'always on', ready to tackle the next imperfection. As discussed sometimes it can be a little too eager. If the B6 had a small amount of adjustability it would be perfect.

Then there is the price. The 'cost to value' proposition is appealing. For the price of a B6-OEM kit, I feel there is little that can touch it in this range. Even higher priced systems would have their work cut out "on the street".

From a street perspective, excessive lowering creates several difficult to solve problems. If we're being honest it's 99% a fashion statement.

Be under no illusion that 'I hate low ride height'. Go through my build thread and view my previous setups... I enjoy the visual appeal of a low riding E46 M3 too.

But it was illuminating to see just how much performance I gained back with this setup. I did plan to try the B12 kit, but for this experiment I wanted to divorce myself from the 'lowering' aspect, less complication.

On that note, bear in mind you can always convert this kit into a B12 by using Eibach springs - don't forget those GC plates!

If you would like to try this setup, but can't get over the pending ride height. Let me propose something. This winter, when all the car shows, photoshoots etc come to an end, consider trying it then. Add on a set of winter 18"s and test it for yourself.

It's worth doing for a reference point alone.

I'd like to extend my thanks to EricSMG and tinman143 who have both experienced this setup. They answered all of my questions.



Where to next

Right now, I'm happy with the way the car rides. But should I move on (i get curious), the following are options:

a) Get the lower rate springs made for the Ohlins R/T - I have a feeling it still won't compare to the B6-OEM on the street.

b) Experiment with Twintubes... Bilstein B4 vs Koni Yellows...

c) Start a Kickstarter project, raise funds to produce the worlds first E46 M3 'hydropneumatic suspension'.


Thanks for reading!

Dal



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Old Mon, May-04-2015, 02:44:16 AM   #2
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Default Re: Bilstein B6 HD with OEM Springs Review

Great read and great insight. Thank you for doing this for the forum! You and EricSMG are the suspension gurus of M3F.
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Old Mon, May-04-2015, 03:44:51 AM   #3
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Default Re: Bilstein B6 HD with OEM Springs Review

Yes, Dal!!!

It really is quite remarkable - the blend of comfort and sport is like nothing else. It's so aggressively refined.

I've been running my Konis-OEM setup for a about a month now. Prior to that was brand new Genuine BMW struts/shocks - I owed it to myself to feel what "truly stock" felt like.

Well, today - I swapped back in the Billy HD front struts with Dinan front springs (rear remains Koni-OEM). I did this so that I could isolate changes per axle.

Already I can feel the greater quality of the Billy over the Koni, no question. But like you said, the HDs require a "break in" period and previous to today I'd only put a few hundred miles on them. I will run them for a few weeks while they soften up a bit, should be amazing. I will swap the rear HD-Dinan setup in once I've acclimated to the front.

I've found that, to combat the increased ride height whilst mimicking the HD-OEM setup as closely as possible, the HD-Dinan combo is the ticket since the Dinans are virtually identical in rate to the OEM springs except slightly shorter. This setup yields about a 1/8" drop, so it looks great. However, I will need GC street plates as I'm already not quite satisfied with front bump travel.

Killer review, Dal! Ain't this fun?

PS - you car looks quite handsome in that last pic.
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Old Mon, May-04-2015, 07:37:35 AM   #4
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Default Re: Bilstein B6 HD with OEM Springs Review

Great write up Dal!
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/// 2004 SilberGrau M3 ∑ Coupe ∑ 6MT ∑ slicktop ∑ manual seats ∑ zero options ∑ JOURNAL
-NA S54-


∑Evolve-R Alpha N ∑ Evolve CSL CF Airbox ∑ Eventuri Scoop ∑ Supersprint V1 stepped 63mm ∑ SS V1 S pipe 63mm + 200 cell HFC ∑ OE sect 2 60mm ∑ SS Sport 60mm
∑Besian ∑ RE pullies/fan delete ∑ WPC rod bearings ∑ GroundControl S/A (Koni/Eibach 440/550) + tall RSMs ∑ TMS Camber & Subframe plates ∑ SPC Adj alloy rear camber arms
∑RE Trans Mounts ∑ AKG poly SUB/DIFF 95a ∑ SDW RTAB ∑ Weighted ///M knob + UUC DSSR + delrin carrier bush ∑ OE CSL trunk ∑ APEX 75mm Studs
∑Sportline 8S 18"x8.5/9.5" ∑ MPSS 245/275 ∑ Brembo 996 36/40 345mm CSL Textar FF & 28/30 328mm CSL ATE "D738" FF ∑ CM brackets & ss/teflon lines
∑Pioneer DEH-80PRS ∑ Eclipse PA5422 ∑ CDT HD-6 + WS-100i ∑ CDT EX-530 ∑ 8" Kicker

DD/Beater: 1999 Civic LX - Kenwood x998 ∑ PPI 1600.4 ∑ CDT HD-6 + HD-100 ∑ CDT EX-530 ∑ DVC 10"
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Old Mon, May-04-2015, 09:49:04 PM   #5
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Default Re: Bilstein B6 HD with OEM Springs Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by AP22 View Post
Great read and great insight. Thank you for doing this for the forum! You and EricSMG are the suspension gurus of M3F.
Quote:
Originally Posted by TboneM3 View Post
Great write up Dal!
Thanks for the kind words gents



Quote:
Originally Posted by EricSMG View Post
Yes, Dal!!!

It really is quite remarkable - the blend of comfort and sport is like nothing else. It's so aggressively refined.

I've been running my Konis-OEM setup for a about a month now. Prior to that was brand new Genuine BMW struts/shocks - I owed it to myself to feel what "truly stock" felt like.

Well, today - I swapped back in the Billy HD front struts with Dinan front springs (rear remains Koni-OEM). I did this so that I could isolate changes per axle.

Already I can feel the greater quality of the Billy over the Koni, no question. But like you said, the HDs require a "break in" period and previous to today I'd only put a few hundred miles on them. I will run them for a few weeks while they soften up a bit, should be amazing. I will swap the rear HD-Dinan setup in once I've acclimated to the front.

I've found that, to combat the increased ride height whilst mimicking the HD-OEM setup as closely as possible, the HD-Dinan combo is the ticket since the Dinans are virtually identical in rate to the OEM springs except slightly shorter. This setup yields about a 1/8" drop, so it looks great. However, I will need GC street plates as I'm already not quite satisfied with front bump travel.

Killer review, Dal! Ain't this fun?

PS - you car looks quite handsome in that last pic.

Hey Eric - thanks, it sure is fun! I've love how various suspension change the 'feel' of a car. Each one makes it drive different, it's damn addicting.

We spoke almost a year ago about this setup, it's always been on my mind, so glad I tried it.

I have been following you progress with the Koni/Dinan combo closely. The ride height of your car in that picture was great!

I had dismissed the Dinan springs and B6 all together as I was under the the impression from their [Dinan] web site it was developed for the Koni Yellows?

Am I right to assume 'virtually identical' means their rate is more closely matched to OEM than the Eibachs... or am I splitting hairs here?

You've got me thinking.... B6 + Dinan Springs + GC Plates = have your cake and eat it

The car is booked in for work at the end of the month. Depending if this itch increases I might have a play with that. I look forward to reading your review on it - The B12 and B6-OEM is documented, all we need now is the B6-Dinan on the list

Oh, and a tip for readers ... buying a used set of B6 dampers might not be such a bad idea if your keen to experiment. The B6 has great durability, so on the basis they are in good condition not only is it cheaper but you'll bypass the 'run in' time too!
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Old Mon, May-04-2015, 10:38:29 PM   #6
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Default Re: Bilstein B6 HD with OEM Springs Review

Nrubenstein and | Djayr | both run B6-Dinan-GC street plates and love it. They're who motivated me to try the setup - so I bought the B6s and Dinans and gave it a go.

Upon first installing the setup I was displaeased with the stiffness of the B6s - I remembered them (from the B12 setup years ago) feeling much more compliant. But I'd forgotten one critical aspect - the "break in" period. This time around I'm, so far, pleased with the fronts so it may be the rear shocks that are a little too firm. Thus the one-axle-at-a-time approach.

Also - the Dinan springs are virtually identical to OEM spring rates per my butt dyno (as well as Vorshlag's site regarding the E36 M3, they're also linear). I'd even call the rears slightly softer to be honest. The Eibachs, in contrast, are notably firmer than stock. Combined with the B6 dampers, the car really hugs to the road. The Dinans let the car breath like the stock springs do, but, effectively negate the higher ride height of the B6s with maybe even a slight drop. I'll report back on this after a week or two of settling.

Keep us posted on how you're feeling about the B6-OEM setup. I think it'll continue to get better. I'll do the same with my B6-Dinan setup, but it needs GC plates to be truly "polished".

That said, I am talking with a not well known (in the Bimmer world) Bilstein tuner about some valving and bumpstop tricks, so stay tuned!

Edit - the Koni-Dinan setup is very comfy but uninspiring like the very "always ready to rumble" B6-Dinan setup. These B6 dampers are badass and really change the handling poise of the car. The Koni-Dinan setup isn't planted and leans a lot with high speed steering inputs while the B6-Dinan setup, in stark contrast, really holds its composure quite well. It rolls, but much more confidently and controlled.
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Old Tue, May-05-2015, 12:36:56 AM   #7
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Default Re: Bilstein B6 HD with OEM Springs Review

What about a Dinan + B6 + Vorschlag plate setup? I already purchased the plates but haven't installed them. Will they really cause much of a hassle?
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Old Tue, May-05-2015, 12:56:24 AM   #8
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Default Re: Bilstein B6 HD with OEM Springs Review

I've been on Bilstein B6-OEM for 5 weeks now; it's the start of motoring season for me. My infant impression:
1) They don't feel any different than OEM; the road feels the same over the bumps to me. That's good, right?
2) The car is definitely noticeably different doing the Michigan Left Turn (U-turn); the rear doesn't break loose like OEM. I'm so used to how easy it is to break loose OEM, I haven't managed to challenged the set-up yet. Maybe now I can shed the "high-school-er just got out of school" image.
Notes: My car is ~100 lbs heavier per strut over coupes
My typ pressures; 32-34 psi
.
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Old Tue, May-05-2015, 01:06:00 AM   #9
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Default Re: Bilstein B6 HD with OEM Springs Review

Thanks for the review! I'm considering the B4s for my car, since it's nearly half the price of the B6s, although I've considered them as well. Lot's of good info on this site, especially with EricSMG and Nrubenstein around....
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Old Tue, May-05-2015, 01:45:40 PM   #10
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Default Re: Bilstein B6 HD with OEM Springs Review

I upped the pressures this morning from 28/29 to 31/32.. [cold], - half way up to stock. I drove to work and observed the ride. It's perked up as expected, but so has the 'busy' behaviour, not by much mind.

At 28/29 the car feels damn good to drive (comfort). I'll monitor the ride back home, just to be sure.



Quote:
Originally Posted by EricSMG View Post

...

Keep us posted on how you're feeling about the B6-OEM setup. I think it'll continue to get better. I'll do the same with my B6-Dinan setup, but it needs GC plates to be truly "polished".

That said, I am talking with a not well known (in the Bimmer world) Bilstein tuner about some valving and bumpstop tricks, so stay tuned!

...
Will do!

B6 with custom valving would be the ultimate indeed.


Quote:
Originally Posted by WuBai View Post
What about a Dinan + B6 + Vorschlag plate setup? I already purchased the plates but haven't installed them. Will they really cause much of a hassle?
I've not used the Vorschlag plate. It has come up in discussion before in various B12 threads. I can't quite remember if they are similar to the GC street plates. By that I mean they incorporate a urethane bushing to limit NVH. This is a nice feature of the GC street plate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by voyager006 View Post
I've been on Bilstein B6-OEM for 5 weeks now; it's the start of motoring season for me. My infant impression:
1) They don't feel any different than OEM; the road feels the same over the bumps to me. That's good, right?
2) The car is definitely noticeably different doing the Michigan Left Turn (U-turn); the rear doesn't break loose like OEM. I'm so used to how easy it is to break loose OEM, I haven't managed to challenged the set-up yet. Maybe now I can shed the "high-school-er just got out of school" image.
Notes: My car is ~100 lbs heavier per strut over coupes
My typ pressures; 32-34 psi
.
Well, from the sounds of it, you do not have any complaints. Generally 'we' notice a deterioration in comfort much more than when we gain it. It will be interesting to hear your thoughts as the weeks roll on. If you have any images of your car with the setup please post them up.




Quote:
Originally Posted by PSUEng View Post
Thanks for the review! I'm considering the B4s for my car, since it's nearly half the price of the B6s, although I've considered them as well. Lot's of good info on this site, especially with EricSMG and Nrubenstein around....
I did look into the B4's... I just could not find enough information to 'convince' me to try them. With them being of twintube construction I think a B4 vs Koni Yellow showdown would be great! Perhaps a little unfair with the Koni's being adjustable, but still.

To be fair, I don't think I have read a "bad" review on the B4. From the threads I have read, owners install them and that's that! It's also nice not having an internal bumpstop to contend with.
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Discussing Bilstein B6 HD with OEM Springs Review in the E46 M3 (2001-2006) Forum - Engine: S54 - Max Hp: 333 hp at 7,900 rpm / 262 lb/ft at 4,900 rpm
Total Produced: 45,000+ - Years Produced: 2001 to 2006. at BMW M3 Forum.com (E30 M3 | E36 M3 | E46 M3 | E92 M3 | F80/X)