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      06-15-2009, 09:55 PM   #1
TopDown's Avatar

Drives: 2017 G30 540i M Sport
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Sport Automatic Transmission?

What is the Sport Automatic Transmission option on the 5-series? Is it just another AT, or is it a 5-series marketing name for DCT?

G30 540i M Sport
Hers F36 440i Gran Coupe
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      06-25-2009, 12:41 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by BMWUSA
Power at your fingertips.
The six-speed sports automatic transmission
in the BMW 5 Series Sedan.

Take the power into your own hands with the six-speed sports automatic transmission. Choose automatic mode for supremely precise automatic gearshifts, or switch to manual mode for motorsports-style gear changes. Use the gearshift paddles mounted on the steering wheel or enjoy the precise feedback offered by the gear selector lever introduced exclusively for this special transmission. Pressing the Sports button makes the entire shift process even more dynamic.
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Last edited by bmr760; 07-20-2009 at 04:05 PM..
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      06-25-2009, 06:10 PM   #3
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Drives: 2015 X5 35i Msport SG
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No its not just another AT with paddle shifters, its a lot more.

IMO this transmission make the manual obsolete, especially if you live in a heavy traffic areas.
The sport button alone gives this transmission a very quick response, changes the steering response compared to the regular auto trans.

Check this link out to get a good review on what this Transmission does.

The following is my first attempt to satisfy what many people have been asking me for -- an in-depth review of the new 550i Sport with the Sport Automatic transmisison... Hope you have a few minutes!

First of all, I've only gone about 220 miles now so even though there's much more playing to do, I'm going to go over some of my findings, thoughts and experiences with my 2008 550i Sport Automatic Transmission (SAT).

Most of you know that I've been a huge fan of the SMG transmission and have over 32,000 miles under my belt driving my old 2004 545i SMG. If I could've ordered this new 550i with the SMG, I would have done so in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, BMW isn't offering the SMG anymore on non-M cars (but hopefully will be offering it again in the future with the rumored improvements like dual clutches (DSG) to help keep the masses happy) so I decided to try the SAT because it seemed like something that was as close to an SMG as I could get without going back to a traditional manual. Believe me, once you go SMG and become accustomed to it, it's really hard to go back to using the left leg again! The SMG is just that cool after you get through the learning curve of how to drive one properly. With the 2008 (LCI) E60, BMW introduced a new automatic transmission (made by ZF) that is supposed to only need the torque converter to get the car moving from a stop. Once the car is moving, the gears are supposed to be "directly" coupled to the drivetrain and the shifts occur very, very, quickly.

Because my car is one of the first handful of SAT cars around and because I know many people are interested in it, I'll try to focus this report mainly on the transmission but since the car has pretty much every available option offered in the US, I'll try to give my impressions on some of those things too. Also, since the LCI has some differences and improvements over the 2004 car I just spent over three years with, I'll comment on some of those things as well.

Okay, before I get deep into things, I need to simply say that I'm trying my best to properly break-in the car (it's very hard to do!) so at this time, I can't say for sure how things are going to feel once I can actually nail the accelerator pedal and shift at redline. All I can do right now is explain what I'm seeing/feeling from the perspective of a person who's very used to the SMG. I'll be able to comment more after break-in but I know there are many anxious folks out there who are getting close to lease-end on their SMG cars and are on the fence about whether to go SAT or go manual. In a nutshell, I can only surmise that after break-in, I'm going to like this car even more! That said, I don't mean to imply that all current SMG owners should choose the SAT. The good news is that it's very likely that in the near future there will be an abundance of SAT cars available on dealer lots for test driving purposes.

The Sport Automatic transmission:
The SAT is an extra $500 above the standard (no additional charge) Steptronic. What does $500 buy you? It buys you shift paddles on the steering wheel that are setup the same way the non-M SMG cars are setup -- both paddles work in the same manner -- pull either paddle with your fingers and you upshift, push either paddle with your thumb and you downshift. I've said it a million times before, this arrangement makes the most sense for all-around driving on regular roads or spirited driving on a racetrack. You never need to guess what paddle you're touching if the wheel is turned and you can up or downshift with one hand on the wheel (not that I'd ever take one of my hands off of the wheel! ) In addition to the paddles, the SAT gives you the choice between two driving programs: normal or sport, and a shift lever on the console that is nicer looking (the boot around the shifter is leather instead of some sort of rubber) and nicer feeling (I think -- I've never felt the standard shifter). As far as the two driving programs go (activated by the sport button on the console), keep in mind that in addition to faster shift times and holding individual gears longer, the sport mode does more than just modify the transmission's behavior -- it also modifies the throttle response and the steering response.

If you're the type of person who always buys automatic cars and only uses "Drive" without ever shifting yourself, then save your money. If you are someone who likes to have some fun either once in a while or all the time by moving the shifter over to the left and using the Steptronic sport mode or shifting it yourself in the Steptronic manual mode, then I think the $500 premium is money well spent because you get the paddles and the extra driving programs which makes the car even more fun to drive. That being said, in normal mode using just "Drive," the car feels like a really, really good automatic transmission car. (Granted I think I've tried that mode out for about ten minutes tops and in the past, the only other Steptronic cars I've driven were service loaners so I don't really know how it compares. I just know it's really good...) If you are an SMG buyer or a traditional manual buyer, well then that's where the rest of this review will hopefully help you out. Just like before, there isn't one choice that's right for everyone so even though I may be happy with my choice, it obviously doesn't mean that you should choose the same thing for your needs.

Okay, now to the fun part -- how's the car feel using all the fancy, high-tech modes? It feels really nice but also it feels really different than the SMG. I think that's really my only issue right now -- I kind of forgot that even though I think it's the next best thing to the SMG, it is an automatic so there's going to be some automatic-like qualities that will take some getting used to. One silly thing, for example, is how the car will move forward in drive on a level surface if you don't keep your foot on the brake. Being used to the SMG, if I were stopped on a side street waiting to pull out onto a busy road, I have to remember that I'm going to be moving forward as soon as I let off the brake, not when I step on the gas. It sounds like a minor thing (and it really is minor) but at this point, the timing of everything still feels foreign to me and I'm sure I'll get used to it in a day or so. Another thing that I need to get used to is how much pedal travel I need to use on the gas. As anyone who's driven a manual or SMG knows, in the lower gears especially, you need to be very gentle and smooth on the accelerator pedal or you'll end up lunging forward like a "bucking bronco." After driving a manual all my life, my right foot is pretty well programmed to be smooth and gentle. With the SAT, as with all automatics, you have a little more play (or "sponginess" as EBMCS03 called it in another thread) where you have to press a little harder on the gas to get the car to move aggressively -- especially starting out from a stop. You may be asking yourself, "Rudy, are you saying you've never driven an automatic?" The answer is, "Of course I drive an automatic all the time. I drive my wife's automatic, I often drive loaners or rental cars that are automatic, etc." I have no issues driving them because when I'm sitting in those cars, I know I'm not in my car. Because this new car "feels" so much like my old car to my brain and body, I'm programmed to expect it to act like my old SMG car. Get it? Good!

As far as shift speed goes, in sport mode (and even in normal mode somewhat) it is really fast. The tach literally leaps from one point to the next as the car changes gears up or down. It's as if the tachometer is some sort of quartz clock that only clicks from shift point A to point B like the second hand on a clock ticks from one second to the next second with perfect precision. Strangely, that incredible shifting speed is another thing that takes some getting used to. On the SMG, you initiated an upshift with the shifter or paddle, the car would disengage the clutch while you would feather the throttle, then you'd feel in the seat of your pants the moment the car was re-engaging the clutch with the new gear so you'd sort of know just when to reapply the throttle. The throttle feathering was a very slight movement but the timing was key. With the SAT, everything happens so much faster that depending on the car's speed and what gear your moving to, you might have to press the throttle harder and sooner than you would with the SMG. This phenomenon is especially key when downshifting. Both the SMG and the SAT will blip (or rev-match) the throttle when downshifting to prevent the balance of the car from being disrupted when the lower gear is engaged. The problem is that everything happens so freaking fast on the SAT that sometimes the balance of the car is still upset because the timing as well as the magnitude of the accelerator re-application is simply different. Also, the throttle blips are not as noticeable as the SMG was when downshifting -- again probably because the transmission shifts so quickly. On the SMG, the blip was very pronounced because the car took more time to engage the next gear. After the gear was engaged, all that was needed was a small adjustment of the throttle to stay balanced. Also, there's a little bit of that spongy feel on some downshifts, even with the throttle blip. What's interesting is that there's been some downshifts which felt very SMG-like and there have been some that have felt very automatic-like. I haven't yet figured out what conditions apply to make things feel one way or the other but I think once I get the freedom to rev beyond 4000 rpms I will be in a better position to figure this out. I'm still playing around with all these issues and I'm hoping that in addition to me just needing to simply adjust to something new, I'm wondering if some of these things may be a function of me short shifting and trying to break the car in properly. All I know is that I've "tasted" some really sweet shifts so I know it's possible...

It's interesting to note a few other things about the SAT -- when using manual sport mode, the car will not downshift unless it really has to -- just like the SMG. One small difference is that if you're in a higher gear and you push the accelerator down hard enough to hit the kick-down switch, the car will downshift (unlike the SMG which would hold the current gear like a manual). I really don't know what happens when you mash the pedal in manual sport mode and take it to redline. Will it upshift like an automatic or hit the rev-limiter like a manual or SMG? I'll find out soon and report my findings when I can.

For now, I think that's about all I can remember about the SAT. Whew, thanks for staying with me through that!

General Driving:
I know this has been mentioned before but I have to say that I'm really happy about the exhaust note of this car. It's lower and louder than the 545i. I'm sure it won't take long for my neighbors to figure out that I'm coming down the street from the rumble of the exhaust now instead of the extreme throttle blips from the SMG downshifts...

The ride on the 545 with the Dunlop runflats was pretty harsh/stiff but I never really minded it. I'm one of the few that kind of enjoyed the runflats, especially since I never had to pay for summer tires the entire lease! (Thanks BMW and Dunlop for taking care of us with that whole treadwear/roar thing... ) The new car came with Continental non-runflats and yes, the ride is softer -- even though the wheels are 19" instead of 18". Handling feels pretty much the same and the active steering seems like it's not even there anymore (but it is.) I'm not sure if I'm just really used to it or if they've refined it some more -- I just know that I like it. Oh, and did I mention how much I love the exhaust note on this car?

Now for some quick opinions on some of the options...
My favorite one right now that I'm having a ball with is the Active Cruise Control with Stop and Go. I didn't have ACC on my 545 because I was worried about it allowing too many people to cut in front of me which would cause me to slow down constantly while others passed by. I chose to get the option this time because I figured that with the extra stop and go feature, it might actually be something that would be cool. Also, I figured it was more of a "second generation" thing which is usually always improved or refined from earlier versions. I had no idea how cool the stop and go part would be. I don't live in L.A. but man, even in "normal" congestion on 35 MPH and above speed limit roads it works quite well. Once in a while, you have to intervene (and you never want to stop paying attention) and help out when the car loses it's "lock-on" with the car in front of you but generally, it works really well and is really a nice feature. Although I'm not one to let myself be distracted by my BlackBerry, etc. while driving, in heavy traffic this feature kind of tempts you to check your messages, etc. One key thing to know about this option is that having the HUD makes it much better because you can see if you're "locked-on" or not right in the windshield. Another thing I find way cool is that the ACC system is smart enough to know if you're changing lanes (if you are using the turn-signals) and it's smart enough to use the navigation map data to know if it would be unsafe to accelerate (like if there was a sharp turn ahead). Did I mention that you still need to pay attention and not start reading the newspaper or surfing the 'net with your iPhone while driving? Good, I thought so...

The lane deviation warning system can be a nice feature too. If the lane you're in (or the road you're on) has decent markings, the system will "lock-on" to the lane and warn you if you approach either edge by vibrating the steering wheel -- the system only vibrates if you do not use your turn-signals. It feels exactly like a mild rumble strip that is often found at the edges of the roadway or the center line. The difference is that the passengers don't feel or hear a thing. Also, the vibration happens a little earlier than where an actual rumble strip would be so it helps alert you early enough to be able to react and correct things (or wake up!) if you need to. Road markings, however, can be unreliable and this feature is only useful if you can get a "lock-on" from the markings. Also, as with the ACC, the HUD shows if you are in the locked-on state or not.

Night Vision is something that is fun to play with around town but I still need to test it more at night on the highway, etc. No question you can use it to tell where people's exhaust systems run under their cars! I'm not sure if it'll give enough advanced warning to spot speed traps though. (Obviously, it's supposed to do more than that but I'm allowed to wish, right?) It's really an amazing gadget but I need to use it more to figure out if it's something I'd get again. I think I need to train myself a little more on glancing at the screen at certain intervals. Again, on the highway, it might work out but around town, especially now since it's new, I find myself watching it instead of glancing at it. Having it display in the HUD would be way cool -- maybe some day...

Ventilated Seats are simply great! I'm someone who gets pretty warm while seated so for me, it's the killer option. They move a significant amount of air -- on the highest setting (of three settings total) you can actually hear the seats working and at first I kept thinking one of the rear windows was open a crack.

The HD Radio option works fine but I don't listen to FM very often since there are so many more entertainment choices available (Sirius, USB, iPod, etc.) One interesting thing I noticed is that there is no longer an "all stations" function on the FM band. They've reverted it back to having "Autostore" now. I'm assuming that the HD Radio (or the RTTI system) takes away the ability to have the two tuners necessary for providing the all stations function. Not a big deal to me because I don't use FM much outside of my home presets but I always thought that the all stations feature was cool and much better than the more primitive Autostore feature. Speaking of the Real Time Traffic Information system (RTTI), it clearly knows about the traffic conditions along the major roadways around my city. I haven't tested the nav system's dynamic re-routing capabilities yet but I might get a chance to soon. Another thing I noticed with the radio has to do with the AM band. I use AM to listen to local newscasts fairly often. In my city, station KDKA (the first commercially licensed radio station in the USA) broadcasts a very powerful (50,000 watts) signal so reception is pretty easy but, as with all AM stations, there are inherent sources of interference all around town like overhead power lines, etc. In the 2004 car, when interference existed, you would hear the station drop out or you'd hear noise, hum, etc. until the interference cleared -- basically what you'd expect from AM. On the 2008 car, it seems as if they've attempted to improve the reception of the signal during times of interference by dropping the audio quality (kind of an oxymoron with AM) down to a muffled but static-free sound. In other words, as your driving down the road listening to an AM station, it'll sound fine (for AM) until you run into some interference of the signal. When that happens, you don't get static or loss of signal, instead you get a muffled sounding but clear signal as if someone turned the treble control all the way down. To me, it's actually more distracting and annoying than the occasional static or dropout. Again, maybe it's all in what you're used to...

The Adaptive Bi-Xenon Headlights are slightly different on the LCI. They still light the road extremely well but I think they are not as "blue" as the old car's lights were. The light is more natural and, if you ask me, is probably an improvement. Things look more "normal" at night under the lights. Also, although people are getting more accustomed to Xenon lights on cars, many people who don't "get it" still assume you have your high beams on if they see a blue tint coming their way and they end up flashing you. Now that they're not as blue, less people may end up thinking that you're blinding them when in reality you're not. Also, there have been some studies about the blue color causing more glare than the whiter lights so BMW, as usual, may be ahead of the times as the trend to reduce glare moves forward. The new cornering lights are very cool and work very well. They come on by themselves only when needed (during a turn) and they light the corner very nicely. I compared the brightness of the fog lights between the old car and the new one and it seems as if the new car's fog lights are not as bright as the old car's. It really makes no difference to me since I pretty much never use the fog lights unless it's foggy (right Iceman?) and it seldom is foggy around here. Finally, in the "I never noticed that before" department, the words "BMW Dynamic Xenon" is inscribed around the perimeter of the main beams. I first saw it on the new car and thought "neat, that's new" but then I looked at my old car and saw it there as well. You learn something new every day, I guess...

I don't yet have an iPod but I can say that I've been using a couple 4G USB sticks in the iPod/USB interface and they've been working very well. The car displays the songs by artist, album, genre, etc. and it supports playlists in the M3U format (which I haven't had the time to test yet.) The stick plugs directly into the interface inside the center console (no more climate controlled console, I guess! ) but if you want to put a bunch of other stuff in there, you'll likely want to find a small USB extension cord since the USB device kind of sticks out and blocks access if you plug it directly into the interface.

iDrive has been tweaked a little bit as well. I don't know if some of these tweaks will trickle down to the older cars via Progman updates or not but it's clear that they're starting to think a bit more about how to make a good system even better. Sure, there are favorite buttons now (more on them in a minute) but to me, the cool changes have to do with what happens now when you press certain existing buttons. For example, on the old car, the seat heating switch had three LED's on it to indicate if you were on the high, medium, or low setting. If you wanted to adjust the distribution of the heat between the seat and the backrest, you had to go to the climate menu and find the seat heater distribution page before you could make an adjustment. Now, the seat heater button has only one LED to indicate whether it's on or off. As soon as you press the button, the iDrive screen immediately brings up the seat heater distribution page. On the page, in addition to being able to adjust the distribution, you can use the control knob to set the heater to high, medium, or low. Also, repeatedly pressing the seat heating button cycles you between the three settings and off so you can simply continue to press the button and look at the screen to see what you have set. After a short timeout period, the iDrive CID returns back to whatever screen you had before. The same concept applies to the seat ventilation, the air distribution (for either the driver or the passenger via new dedicated switches), etc. In my opinion, this is one of those refinements that makes great sense and probably should have been there from the start. As far as the favorites buttons, I'm disappointed that you can't program any screen in iDrive to a button. Right now, you can only program entertainment presets, telephone numbers, and navigation destinations. Why not allow us to store something like "map, direction of travel" or "parked car ventilation" to a button? What is very cool about the new favorites buttons is that they're heat sensitive so as your move your finger across them (without pressing any of them), the bottom of the CID pops up with little "tabs" that show you what is programmed on which button. I was worried that they would be like the two programmable steering wheel buttons (one if you have lane departure warning) where you'd have to remember what function you stored there. It's nice to see that they're using more screen "pop-ups" for things to make the car more friendly to people who may not be as tech savvy, etc. The removal of the haptic feedback in the controller knob is a great improvement. Gone is the lag when scrolling long lists, etc. Again, I'm not sure if this is something that can trickle down to older cars or not -- it's likely that the hardware in the controller is different on the LCI but it seems to me that even with the old controller, you could program out the code for the force feedback, right?

Well if you're still reading this monster post, then more power to you! I think for now, that's enough observations to talk about for only having the car a few days. I'm sure some of my opinions will change over time but rest assured that whatever they become, you guys will be the first to know!

Overall, I'll say one more time that the new car is great but the old was also great so enjoy your car no matter what model and options it has!
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      08-03-2009, 10:29 PM   #4

Drives: '09 e92 M3
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is it possible to install the new shifter on the older 2006-2007 models?
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      07-25-2014, 02:23 PM   #5

Drives: 535xi
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      04-22-2018, 03:43 AM   #6

Drives: BMW E60 550i
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guys i have problem at this gearbox, when i put at Drive it writes M2 and won't changing any M3 or M4... only changing gears at Sport mode it changing itselft S1,S2, S3, S4 somebody can help me?
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      04-22-2018, 04:48 PM   #7
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U can feel the engine change when u press sport.
Sweet Pie
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      04-23-2018, 06:40 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by N54Twin View Post
U can feel the engine change when u press sport.
That friggin' rules! Thanks bruh.
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