Is the BMW Adaptive Suspension System Worth it? (+3 Adaptive Suspension Issues)

In this brief article we are going to discuss what exactly is a BMW Adaptive suspension system, what are the features, advantages and how to tackle BMW Adaptive suspension problems.

What is the BMW Adaptive M Suspension System?

The Adaptive M Suspension gives you the ability to choose freely between “Comfortable” or “Sporty” driving styles. With the ‘driving experience switch’ you can manually apply the basic settings for your driving style as per your taste. Furthermore, you can change these on the fly.

For each driving mode, the highly sensitive sensors deliver the crucial vehicle parameters, such as wheel rotations and driving speed, to the Adaptive M Suspension every few milliseconds. The System then signals Electronically controlled valves in the shock absorbers to adapt its settings. The result is vehicle ride and handling feel can be set to feel more “Sporty” or more “Comfortable” as per the driving mode instantaneously.

How does BMW Adaptive M suspension work?

The main feature here is Electronically Controlled Shock-Absorbers. Electromagnetically controlled valves in the damper pistons allow damping forces to be adjusted continuously. When the valves are in open position, more oil is allowed to flow from one damper reservoir into the other, thus reducing the damping effect. In this way, the chassis can balance out rough roads in a more effective manner resulting in increased driving comfort. When valves are closed, the damping is higher and the handling becomes more direct: this effect is more conducive for driving fast on roads and racetracks.

The Adaptive M system can regulate all dampers individually and independently. The System Sensors ascertain the current movement of the chassis, by sensing parameters like, Steering angle, Throttle position, Yaw rate, wheel rotation and the actual G-Forces that the driver’s input is producing along the selected Driving Mode. So while cornering in a chicane, vehicle roll and tire grip at all wheels will be controlled, by providing either more or less damping the individual suspensions. The optimal damping forces are calculated every few milliseconds for each individual damper and continuously and seamlessly adjusted. 

The Adaptive M Suspension System provides a choice of the three modes COMFORT, SPORT and SPORT+ at which to set the basic character for the dampers. 

In COMFORT mode the damping response is more soft resulting in a more supple ride quality. In this setting, the dampers iron out uneven road surfaces and at the same time offer a decent level of driving stability. 

The damper setting in SPORT mode is visibly tauter. The damping is more pronounced resulting in reduced wheel movement and more direct road contact, but at the same time with sufficient comfort to balance both roads as well as uneven racetracks.

SPORT+ mode results in a particularly precise ride: on even surfaces. In this mode the dampers are set in such a way as to generate maximum lateral grip at the tires to result in precise handling. This mode is more suited to flat racetracks.

How do I know if my BMW has adaptive suspension?

To know whether you BMW had Adaptive M Suspension, you can follow these 3 methods:

  • Go to BMW VIN Decoder and enter the VIN to see if the Adaptive M Suspension option has been added to your BMW.
  • Physically check and see if wires are attached to your dampers.
  • Check the iDrive settings below:
    • Press the menu button on the iDrive controller and select ‘Settings’.  
  • Select ‘Driving Mode’
  • Select ‘Configure SPORT’
  • If your BMW is equipped with Adaptive M Suspension, ‘Chassis’ and ‘Drivetrain & Chassis’ will be displayed. If not, ‘Drivetrain’ is the only option. In this menu, you can change what the Sport option does to the vehicle.
  • Sport Plus mode will show up on the dash and iDrive screen. BMWs equipped with Adaptive M Suspension will have the Drivetrain & Chassis highlighted in red.

Can I add the Adaptive M Suspension to my BMW?

The availability of this feature depends on the hardware installed in the vehicle. Once you have logged in to your My BMW account on the BMW Shop you will automatically be shown only services that you can purchase for your vehicle

Even after the vehicle production has completed you can still equip your vehicle with additional services and functions. If Adaptive M Suspension is available to you, then the hardware 

for this feature would already be installed in your vehicle when it left the factory. This gives you even more flexibility when it comes to configuring your vehicle after it has left the production line.

It is quick and easy to activate using an over-the-air download

Is the BMW Adaptive suspension worth it?

Yes, the Adaptive M Suspension is totally worth it. Even the world’s best Static Dampers can operate only within a limited range and will feel ideally suited only for a certain road condition. Invariably, if you encountered a bad road, you would deal with it by reducing your speed till the point that the vibrations are bearable.

The Adaptive M suspension, on the other hand, will react to the road conditions and make adjustments to its damper settings every few milliseconds based on vehicle sensor data. Very rarely, would you need to go to a dead stop, just because of road conditions. You can confidently set the Driving mode to Comfort and cruise at normal speeds even on bad roads, because you know that the suspension is intelligently adapting itself.

What are the problems in BMW Adaptive Suspension and how do I deal with them?

The BMW Adaptive Suspension problems are:

  • One of the most common issues with even normal shock-absorbers is leakage failure. Once the shocks leak, they have basically failed and need to be replaced.
  • If you try to replace the adaptive suspension Shocks with non-adaptive Shocks of the same matching fitment, then you will end up with a permanent suspension warning on your dashboard, which would be difficult to get rid of.
  • Because the replacement shocks cost about $1000 per piece to replace without labour and taxes added, many people look to alternatives. As it turns out, it is also possible to refurbish the Adaptive Shocks but that would mean your damping increased upto 40% compared to stock because of change in viscosity of the oil during refurbishment.

Other articles about  BMW you may be interested in

What are the BMW suspension Problems?

BMW Chassis Codes Explained

BMW 1 Series Suspension Issues Explained


In this brief article we have discussed what exactly is a BMW Adaptive M suspension system, what are the features, advantages and how to tackle BMW Adaptive suspension problems.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): BMW Adaptive M Suspension System

Is BMW adaptive suspension air suspension?

No, these are 2 different systems altogether and they may or may not be available in the same vehicle. The BMW “Adaptive M Suspension” is a separate package available as an option with M models. Whereas, the “Adaptive 2-axle Air Suspension” comes with certain models like the BMW X5 50i as standard.

The two systems function differently also.

The “Adaptive 2-axle Air Suspension” improves driving dynamics by automatically keeping the vehicle at a constant height regardless of the load. It can also be raised or lowered manually.

The “Adaptive M Suspension” features Electromagnetically controlled dampers and its own control system. You can choose between “COMFORT”, “SPORT” AND “SPORT+” modes and choose how sporty you want your suspension to behave. 

The “Adaptive M suspension” is meant more for a sports-car type of driving feel but at a little bit of the expense of ride comfort. The “Adaptive 2-axle Air Suspension”, on the other hand provides for a smooth ride but you do lose a touch of that sporty feel.

The BMW X5 M is an example of having both the “Adaptive M suspension” professional package as well as the “Adaptive 2-axle Air Suspension”, which is standard on all X5 cars.


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