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2010 2011 BMW 5 Series Forum F10 BMW 5-Series (F10) Forums General 5-Series Sedan and Wagon (F10 / F11) Forum Dynamic Handling Package: Why it's the Best BMW Suspension Money Can Buy
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      07-03-2014, 03:22 PM   #1
digitalnoah
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Dynamic Handling Package: Why it's the Best BMW Suspension Money Can Buy

The handling of a car is the most important feature to me. That's why I drive a BMW.

I recently researched and ordered a new F10 5 series and did extensive research on BMWusa.com, on review sites, here on these forums, and in person at the dealer, test driving multiple vehicles and configurations.

I have been particularly interested in the Dynamic Handling Package (DHP), as everything I had read stated that the F10 grew in size and weight, was based more on the 7-series platform, and suffered from body roll and diminished road feel/numb steering. But reading about a package was not enough to make a decision, especially when the DHP is a $3500 upgrade.

So I went to the dealer and test drove two F10 cars back to back. One with the DHP and one without.

I went into the first test drive expecting to only benefit from the dynamic damper adjustments I had read about: changing the personality of the car from soft to sporty with a flick of a switch. I toggled through the settings and felt a noticeable difference. The normal ride felt balanced, but the Sport+ ride felt tight, sharp, and with much more road feedback. Even though this was a refreshing experience, I decided I could live without this feature.

Then I went in the car without the DHP. The car felt like a completely different car. It felt big, heavy, and seriously affected by body roll. It was rocking all over the place; over bumps, in corners, on the highway. I simply could not wrap my head around how BMW went to market with a car that handled like a 1980s Buick. And as an owner of a E90 3 series and E60 5 series, I began to doubt if BMW as a company was starting to head in a terrible direction. (I'll leave that for another thread.)

Having read all the threads on DHP, and now having done my own research, I want to clarify a huge misconception here on the forums. DHP is not just about Dynamic Damper Control and being able to manually set the stiffness of the shock dampening. Yes it allows this, and yes this is a nice feature. But this is a feature that should only cost $1000, which it does when added to an F30 3 series. The DHP also features Adaptive Drive, which is truly remarkable technology. But, sadly it's a technology that is very poorly understood online.

Unlike Dynamic Damper Control, Adaptive Drive isn't about changing the car's personality. It's an always-on feature that is always there behind the scenes, counteracting physics to make a big, heavy car feel flat in corners and predictable no matter what the road throws at it. How does it do this? It adjusts the adaptive dampers, independently on all four corners, multiple times per second. And in addition to this, it also adjusts a dynamic set of sway bars that can become stiffer and softer automatically.

This is absolutely genius engineering. Sure you can put racing coil overs on the F10 and get M5 sway bars to tighten up the suspension to track-ready specs (you can read on this forum that hundreds of people are doing this as a "must-have" mod). But you end up stuck with a track-ready car that is unbelievably stiff at all times. Take it on a road trip and you'll be exhausted. Go over a speed bump, and you'll scrape your under carriage. With the DHP, you get dynamic sway bars that are constantly flexing and stiffening to ensure the car is square, flat in corners, and confident. Yet they are softer and smoother when the car is going over uneven pavement and bumps. I see it as a completely uncompromising experience: you get the ride-quality benefits of a softer luxury sedan and the handling benefits of a modified suspension. $3500 for that combination? Yes, please.

Why am I writing all of this? Because in the hundreds of forum posts and reviews that I read, I didn't read any of this information anywhere. (note, I have since found this group of 5 YouTube videos which describe the engineering behind Adaptive Drive, though in the context of the X5. And I found this video which shows the swaybars adjusting, but on an older E60 5 series). I'm hoping that writing this thread will help get the information out there so that more people realize the following:
  • DHP is more than just dynamic dampers
  • The DHP is worth every penny of its $3500 price tag
  • The best suspension available is not the m-sport, but the DHP
  • BMW as a company is still a pioneer in the world of superior handling cars
  • You don't have to void your warranty and spend thousands of dollars on modifications to make your car F10 handle as it should

Last edited by digitalnoah; 07-03-2014 at 04:30 PM. Reason: Grammar correction.
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      07-03-2014, 03:41 PM   #2
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Thanks for your point of view. There are many posts on this topic. Those with RWD swear that the 704 sport suspension is the better way to go. I have a 535 X Drive, so the 704 suspension isn't available. I considered DHP, but in searching all of the dealerships in Canada at the end of 2013, I couldn't find one car in inventory so equipped.

There are some dealers in Canada that allow you to search their new car inventory. Calgary BMW has a dozen F10's in inventory and the last time I checked, not one was so equipped.

This begs the question: Is the option too expensive, or has BMW nailed the profile of its current customer base, who like a softer riding, smoother car as opposed to a "sports sedan". I would agree that a base 528 with its skinny steering wheel and extra light steering effort behaves somewhat like a Buick, but my 535 M Sport is far from that kind of drive.

I hope I have the opportunity to drive both cars with and without DHP. More important than the $3,500 for the DHP option is whether the car feels "right" with DHP or not. If it doesn't, I wouldn't want to be stuck with the option for 36 months.
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      07-03-2014, 04:12 PM   #3
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Agree that finding a DHP equipped car on a dealer lot is not easy. Ended up with a custom order for that very reason.

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      07-03-2014, 04:31 PM   #4
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Amen.

I believe I've probably been one of the forum's biggest "fan boys" recently of DHP. I picked up my 550xi with DHP about 6 months ago, and I've said numerous times here on the forum that it is THE best option money can buy for the F10.

As Grover said, the Active Roll Stabilization (ARS) - part of Adaptive Drive - has been discussed here on the forum in numerous threads. And you're right, many people mistake DHP for just dynamic dampers, and ARS, along with the drivetrain modification in each dynamic driving mode, can turn the car into a completely different animal in each mode.

I, too, drove F10's with and without DHP back to back. My dealer didn't have a DHP car on the lot, but luckily the dealer's owner let me take out his personal 550xi with DHP. WOW. After experiencing it, there was no way I could buy the car without it. It just completely transformed the car.

I'm probably the perfect example of "want to have my cake and eat it too." I've always bought BMWs with sport suspensions because I couldn't contemplate not having the best possible control over the car. But then I'd suffer through owning that suspension during most driving experiences, where it's rare to only drive on beautifully paved roads. Likewise, I take enough long trips that after 2 or 3 hours in the car, the sport suspension would just wear on you unnecessarily.

But as you said, it's not just about dynamic dampers. The ARS technology is truly amazing. Take a corner that's meant for 25mph @ 45mph, and you won't feel the slightest body roll. People say the F10 is a big, heavy car (and it is)... no less the 550xi, which is the beefiest pig of all, but I've found that ARS just has a way of making the car shrink around you. You don't feel weight under normal cruising - you feel weight under acceleration, and in the case of cornering lateral acceleration. The ARS "trick" of counteracting the forces "just enough" and in a dynamic way, makes an otherwise big and heavy car feel significantly lighter on its feet. And the fact that it's dynamic means it always applies only what's necessary, keeping the car softer and comfortable when appropriate, and stiffening up to counteract cornering forces when necessary. It's absolutely a thing of beauty to experience.

If you're looking for a permanently "track ready" car, as you said, a passive sport suspension is probably the better way to go. It's less complex (less stuff to break!), less expensive, and it'll get the job done just as well or better - after all, you can put THE most aggressive coilovers and swaybars on your F10, and really make it feel like your tires are bolted directly to the frame.

However, if you're the type of driver who wants duality from their car - soft and supple at times, firm and sporty other times, the DHP option is a must-have. Additionally, ARS will make the car handle like a lighter and smaller car... which really stiff sways can do, as well, but again only statically - and you're stuck with that feel in all driving situations.

So I'll repeat my claim - I don't think there's a better way to spend $3,500 on an F10 option. If your BMW dealer doesn't have one to test drive, find a dealer that does. It's something I think all F10 owners should experience - preferably before buying. To the question on why it's so rare to find? Well, it's a $3,500 option... and that's not inexpensive even by BMW standards. So I'd venture a guess that it has more to do with the dealers' desire to avoid risk of stocking cars that wouldn't as easily sell to off-the-street buyers versus those custom ordering. Same goes for other high-end options, like B&O. Stocked cars tend to be the most "mainstream" to keep them appealing to the widest set of buyers.
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      07-03-2014, 05:54 PM   #5
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I'm one of the forum members that has been beating the drum for Adaptive Drive, for a couple of years at least, both here and on the UK section forums.

I totally agree not everyone grasps the full function (or abilities) of the active suspension systems.

Just this morning I posted the following comment in a UK thread.

Quote:
I waited about 3-months to get in a demo 530d saloon with Adaptive Drive. In the end BMW sent one of their cars up to Perth, as two of us were wanting to test drive AD.

Will be interesting to see if Gordon does go with AD, or stays with the passive M-sport setup.

For me AD is the perfect setup for my driving. Quite deceptive how it shrinks the car, as you push on. The ARS part of AD keeps the car very flat for a large car, you just expect more body movement for the speeds you can corner. Even that function has two modes, so in Sport and Sport+ you have a very stable car. I like the fact it helps the agility of the steering as well, (I don't have IAS) but even so the steering is better than cars without AD from my experience. At moderate driving levels the chassis has a neutral handling balance, moves towards understeer as you work the chassis harder. I appreciate the neutral chassis in such a large car, being a touring I expected it to be a little more deficient compared to the saloon, but you can forget its a touring when pressing on.

I rate Adaptive Drive as the best option on my 535i. (N55 engine comes as standard. )
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      07-03-2014, 07:08 PM   #6
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Hi there digitalnoah, thanks for the informative thread and post. I had not driven a DHP F10 before settling on mine (dealer didn't have any). Now, I'm stating to regret not getting the DHP. Is it in any way possible to retrofit the DHP to a passive F10? I know that this will definitely sound like a stupid question but I would consider paying more than 3500 to save me the cost of trading to an F10 with this feature or to have to compromise on ride quality with spring, swaybar, etc.

Thanks a bunch.
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      07-03-2014, 09:03 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F10Enthusiast View Post
Hi there digitalnoah, thanks for the informative thread and post. I had not driven a DHP F10 before settling on mine (dealer didn't have any). Now, I'm stating to regret not getting the DHP. Is it in any way possible to retrofit the DHP to a passive F10? I know that this will definitely sound like a stupid question but I would consider paying more than 3500 to save me the cost of trading to an F10 with this feature or to have to compromise on ride quality with spring, swaybar, etc.

Thanks a bunch.
Every time I think there's no way to retrofit something, someone seems to make it happen... so I'm going to say yes, it's probably possible. As for cost? Who knows. Aside from the obvious suspension components, there may be tangential types of parts/components that need to be swapped if, like other BMW systems, there are option-specific variants of otherwise seemingly standard parts. I'm also guessing there's some recoding and iDrive updates to be done. For instance, in my iDrive, there are menus to configure whether dampers are adjusted during dynamic drive modes - I'm assuming those features don't exist (or aren't available) in non-DHP cars.

If it costs significantly more than $3,500, and you'd otherwise lose a lot on a trade, I'd probably just look at getting it the next time around. It really is an amazing set of technologies, though. Many high-end exotics are playing with similar technologies. Active suspension systems are certainly the future.
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      07-04-2014, 12:30 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F10Enthusiast View Post
Hi there digitalnoah, thanks for the informative thread and post. I had not driven a DHP F10 before settling on mine (dealer didn't have any). Now, I'm stating to regret not getting the DHP. Is it in any way possible to retrofit the DHP to a passive F10? I know that this will definitely sound like a stupid question but I would consider paying more than 3500 to save me the cost of trading to an F10 with this feature or to have to compromise on ride quality with spring, swaybar, etc.

Thanks a bunch.
That would be a very expensive proposition and IMO absolutely not worth the cost. A few of us costed out the 704 passive suspension and that was around $3500 including labor so imagine what DHP retrofit would cost.
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      07-04-2014, 02:24 AM   #9
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Alot of the perceived lack of handling in the base suspension is due to soft springs. I changed mine to eibach (for 550, so a bit stiffer) and I can tell you I have zero complaints. It handles amazingly for a car of this size and weight.
I haven't driven the DHP so I can't compare, I'd imaging it does alot more on a dynamic basis allowing both comfort and sport without changing settings etc.
BUT $300 springs can fix 90%+ of the handling deficiency in the base suspension - just something I thought I'd share in case anyone was thinking that getting DHP is the ONLY way to get great handling.
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      07-04-2014, 05:44 AM   #10
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I have the adaptive drive option 2VA, EDC option 223 and Dynamic drive option 229 on my M550d touring.
I knew what this meant before getting the car, EDC is one thing, but the active sway bars of the dynamic drive is a whole other thing.
About 4 years ago I saw the sway bars demonstrated on an x5, and I knew that this was a "must have" when buying my 5.

With my setting in sport or sport+, I feel just as confident trowing this 2 ton wagon around corners on small country roads as I did in my old e46 M3 with KW v3 suspension.
And then I have comfort for everyday driving, which the M3 did not.

Now, if we could only get rear wheel steering, that would be awesome........ BMW did it 20 years ago, why not now.
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      07-04-2014, 05:44 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F10Enthusiast View Post
Is it in any way possible to retrofit the DHP to a passive F10?
Quote:
Originally Posted by ezmaass View Post
Every time I think there's no way to retrofit something, someone seems to make it happen... so I'm going to say yes, it's probably possible. As for cost? Who knows.
I think this is the type of system that is made up of car parts, computer parts, and a bunch of software. Something tells me this is probably one of the more challenging retrofit mods to pull off. If it's possible, I'm going to assume that it would cost way more in parts and labor than the original $3500 price tag.
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      07-04-2014, 06:34 AM   #12
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All right, thanks again for the info. I guess I've learned my lesson for the next time I get a 5 series. For now, I'll just stick with springs and maybe swaybars if they are availible for XDrive. I was really disappointed when I couldn't find a single DHP in my area to test drive (you would think that in Canada, people would love the comfort+ option for our crappy roads).

Thanks again for all your help!
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      07-04-2014, 07:03 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F10Enthusiast View Post
............(you would think that in Canada, people would love the comfort+ option for our crappy roads).
I dont have a comfort+ mode, though I have seen some have.
I have:
Sport+
Sport
Comfort
Eco pro

Don't know what you need to get comfort+
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      07-04-2014, 08:11 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Noggie
Quote:
Originally Posted by F10Enthusiast View Post
............(you would think that in Canada, people would love the comfort+ option for our crappy roads).
I dont have a comfort+ mode, though I have seen some have.
I have:
Sport+
Sport
Comfort
Eco pro

Don't know what you need to get comfort+
I have a 2013 loaded msport xdrive with dhp. CA rightly said you will hate this car coming from an e90 with sport pkg if you don't get it. He's right. BMW should include this on every 5 simply because if the f10 is the only BMW you have ever or will ever drive you will have never driven the ultimate driving machine in the standard setup. Even with dhp I now have m3 and m4 envy as that car seems to have the fun factor of the e90 in a larger package. 2 years left on the lease.
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      07-04-2014, 10:08 AM   #15
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I'd like to point out that you can only get the DHP/Adaptive Drive for 530, 535 and 550. So for many especially here in Europe, with lots of smaller engines, this is not an option.
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      07-04-2014, 10:27 AM   #16
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Quote:
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With my setting in sport or sport+, I feel just as confident trowing this 2 ton wagon around corners on small country roads as I did in my old e46 M3 with KW v3 suspension.
This is exactly correct. I think some folks here have thought I was exaggerating when I'd say that this car, even the heavier 550xi, feels light on its feet and just as tossable as my previous 3ers. Without DHP, I wouldn't likely be saying it... and Adaptive Drive / ARS is a big reason why the car feels so much smaller and more nimble. When you enter a hard turn, you expect to feel the weight shift to the outside wheels and feel the car lean. But that's exactly where Adaptive Drive and Active Roll Stabilization within the Dynamic Handling Package shines. In spirited driving - like I said, maybe taking a 25mph turn @ 45mph - it feels so much more nimble and lighter than it should... and from my back to back testing, much enhanced over a car without DHP. You can certainly get the 5 to handle very well with just a passive sport suspension and sways, but it's a static setup... one size doesn't fit all, unfortunately.

Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalnoah View Post
I think this is the type of system that is made up of car parts, computer parts, and a bunch of software. Something tells me this is probably one of the more challenging retrofit mods to pull off. If it's possible, I'm going to assume that it would cost way more in parts and labor than the original $3500 price tag.
Yes, agreed. I'm sure it's possible - people have done amazing retrofits... but I'd expect it to be very expensive. I'd sooner trade-up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 4UKCATS View Post
I have a 2013 loaded msport xdrive with dhp. CA rightly said you will hate this car coming from an e90 with sport pkg if you don't get it. He's right. BMW should include this on every 5 simply because if the f10 is the only BMW you have ever or will ever drive you will have never driven the ultimate driving machine in the standard setup. Even with dhp I now have m3 and m4 envy as that car seems to have the fun factor of the e90 in a larger package. 2 years left on the lease.
Same here - came from an e90 335 with sport package. The 550xi with DHP makes me feel just as confident, but it gives me driving comfort when I want it that the passive sport suspension on the 335 never could. It really is the best of two worlds.

I'm sure, like every other technology, it'll eventually come down in price and then trickle into models as standard equipment. Look how long it took for navigation to be standard equipment on the 5-series. It's a shame that more dealers aren't keeping DHP cars in stock, though, because it really sounds like it hinders many buyers here - people are weary of spending $3,500 for an option they can't test out.
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      07-04-2014, 11:26 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F10Enthusiast View Post
All right, thanks again for the info. I guess I've learned my lesson for the next time I get a 5 series. For now, I'll just stick with springs and maybe swaybars if they are availible for XDrive. I was really disappointed when I couldn't find a single DHP in my area to test drive (you would think that in Canada, people would love the comfort+ option for our crappy roads).

Thanks again for all your help!
Just be careful with the springs only approach. What you end up with is a mismatch between the springs and dampers(struts). Also, springs lower the car which doesn't allow the OEM dampers to work in their full range which will shorten the life of the dampers. Many have done this and it seems to work for most of them, but just be aware of the downsides. Budget allowing, consider coilovers which will give you matched springs and struts.
If you do go with only springs. ACS springs are considered the best for the F10.
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      07-04-2014, 11:27 AM   #18
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I'd like to point out that you can only get the DHP/Adaptive Drive for 530, 535 and 550. So for many especially here in Europe, with lots of smaller engines, this is not an option.
Even VDC, on its own, is not a common option here in the UK. Although the motor magazine reviews say the suspension options are key to making the 5-series great to drive, there seems a reluctance to take up the options.

For example WhatCar state:
Quote:
Adding Variable Damper Control makes it great to drive, too, but be warned - itís not nearly as good without.
Big wheels on the other hand are readily added, I suppose they show, VDC and Adaptive Drive don't... I do wonder if many users really care about the drive.

Adaptive Drive is an expensive option at £2,770 ($4,750) here in the UK. Also with not many demo cars about, how can customers test 'back to back' and feel the differences before a decision on that sort of investment?

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      07-04-2014, 11:31 AM   #19
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Now, if we could only get rear wheel steering, that would be awesome........ BMW did it 20 years ago, why not now.
Can't you get IAS (Integral Active Steering) in Norway? Or is it like AD, only certain models?

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      07-04-2014, 11:47 AM   #20
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I have driven both and prefer 704 although my comparison might not be the best cause one was a 2011(dhp) and the other a 2014(704)
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      07-04-2014, 12:10 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HighlandPete View Post
Can't you get IAS (Integral Active Steering) in Norway? Or is it like AD, only certain models?

HighlandPete
We can get IAS here too, but IAS is not an option with xDrive, and M550d has xDrive as standard.

And AD is about £4000 here.
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F10 520d M-Sport Alpine White | HRE P43SC 20x9+20x11 | Michelin PSS 255/35+295/30 | KW V3 Coilover | M5 Front Sway Bar + M550d Rear Sway Bar | 3D Design Front Lip | BMW M Performance CF Spoiler | BMW M Performance Diffuser | BMW M Performance Black Grills | BMW M Performance Pedals |
remmib is offline   Norway
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      07-05-2014, 01:15 AM   #22
SonicEndeavor
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Drives: 2014 535i in transi
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: California

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Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalnoah View Post
. Sure you can put racing coil overs on the F10 and get M5 sway bars to tighten up the suspension to track-ready specs (you can read on this forum that hundreds of people are doing this as a "must-have" mod). But you end up stuck with a track-ready car that is unbelievably stiff at all times. Take it on a road trip and you'll be exhausted. Go over a speed bump, and you'll scrape your under carriage.
There's a bit of misinformation here.
F10 owners typically install street coilovers not race coilovers on their cars. A good set of street coilovers like KW V3's are highly adjustable for both compression and rebound to customize the driving experience to each owners needs. They are quite comfortable while providing superior performance, and not at all "unbelievably stiff" unless the owner sets them to the stiffest setting (which no one does except for track days, then they set them back once on the street). They are height adjustable and will not cause any scraping over speed bumps unless the owner drops the car really low.
Quality coilovers are a great option for the F10, and preferred by many including myself over a computer controlled active suspension, but each driver has their personal preferences.
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2014 LCI 535i /// M-Sport - SAT, Premium package, HK Audio, Drivers Assistance, Top/Side/Rear cameras, multi-contour seats. Coded myself: Turn off power when opening door, ASS off by default, Turn signals in HUD, DVD in Motion, Transfer telephone ringtone to car, Enable tire pressure and temperature display, Disable iDrive & Rear/Side camera disclaimers.
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