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BMW M Cars Will Get On-the-Fly Adjustable Braking

All images by the manufacturer
All images by the manufacturer
Photo: BMW

The BMW M8 and M8 Competition will get a new generation of BMW’s adjustable drive modes. Plenty of cars now come with “comfort” and “sporty” settings for steering, suspension, and throttle response. But BMW will be one of the first to also offer braking feel adjustments from the dashboard.

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The idea for an electronically controlled brake tweak is interesting. And long overdue, in my opinion. Braking is such a huge part of driving, especially performance driving, that I’m surprised it took so long for automakers to recognize it might be beneficial for a car to be able to brake more or less aggressively depending on where or how it’s being driven.

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Or maybe it was just too hard to execute until now. As for how the M8 creates the effect of multiple brake modes, I’ll share the brief straight from BMW:

“The new system brings together the brake activation, brake booster and braking control functions within a compact module. The integrated braking system reduces weight by around two kilograms and employs a vacuum-free brake booster to enhance the car’s overall efficiency. The brake pressure required is triggered by an electric actuator, which allows it to be generated more dynamically and also ensures significantly faster and more precise interventions from the driving stability control system.”

“The integrated braking system also does an excellent job of allowing vehicle deceleration to be geared precisely to the driver’s requirements and of generating sublime pedal feel in any situation. Braking feedback to the driver is unimpaired by wet road surfaces, significant lateral acceleration or high brake temperatures, and this ensures precise metering of braking power at all times. The version of the new braking system developed for BMW M models also presents the driver with two pedal feel settings.”

“COMFORT and SPORT modes alter the amount of pressure on the brake pedal required to slow the car. This allows the driver to choose between a comfort-oriented perception of the braking process and a particularly direct, instantaneous response to applications of the pedal. The new BMW M8 teams this innovative system with both the standard M compound brakes and optional M carbon-ceramic brakes.”

Neat! And a great idea. As for how well it actually works, I mean, “Braking feedback... unimpaired by wet road surfaces, significant lateral acceleration or high brake temperatures,” is a pretty bold claim. I might even hazard to say “not possible.” But I guess we’ll see.

One of the many annoying things about driving a supercar in LA traffic (hah, what a complaint) is snapping your passenger’s neck when you try to slow to a stoplight. Big, aggressive brakes that are great when they’re hot and bringing you from 120 mph to 40 can have a little too much bite in big city traffic going from 30 to 0 mph. And, let’s be real, that’s a more realistic use case for over-engineered performance cars anyway.

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I’m very curious to hear more about how BMW’s adjustable braking system actually feels. And of course, the system will also allow you to adjust the responsiveness of the engine, stiffness of suspension, and weight of steering. Even cooler: you can set the all-wheel drive xDrive cars to rear-drive, should you so desire.

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You will be able to tweak all of that from the BMW M8 and M8 competition’s iDrive system in a setup menu. More aggressive settings also trigger a “sporty’ dashboard, which appears to include an odd mirrored dual tachometer display I’m not sure what to make of.

I usually find that “Comfort” mode is the most correct setting when vehicle settings are available, but I can appreciate BMW giving us options.

Jalopnik Staffer from 2013 to 2020, now Editor-In-Chief at Car Bibles

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DISCUSSION

At some point, cars went from being un-adjustable to now having infinite combinations of settings, just to add complexity and cost. Pretty soon, you’ll have to take the car to the dealer to “dial in” a specific setting you want. I think a few pre-sets: comfort, normal, and sport should suffice for most drivers. Add a “custom” setting too for those who want to tinker with their cars more thoroughly.