Retrospective: E9X M3 Steering Wheel – GTS vs M Performance

Think about this: the oldest E9X M3 examples are eleven years old at this point. Certainly looking at it or winding that glorious S65 up to redline would make you think otherwise; perhaps the only real giveaway of its age would be its technology, but it’s a platform that still has a very special place in our hearts.

We recently brought in an OEM GTS steering wheel for a customer and it gave us the opportunity to take a closer look and compare it to the ever-popular M Performance version. To my surprise, there were more differences than I thought so let’s put them both under the magnifying glass and see what’s what.

As far as similarities are concerned, each wheel is the same overall diameter and cloaked in Alcantara. And that’s about it. Really, for as similar as the wheels look from about five feet away, a closer approach reveals a lot more disparities.

Alcantara Color and Shape: The BMW M Performance Alcantara is a deep black, coordinating more seamlessly with the E9X’s all-business interior. As a result, that 12 o’clock colored stripe (this one has been custom dyed red by IND) really pops and pairs well with that darker hue. It’s impossible to ignore the flat bottom treatment here as well; it’s a nice sporting touch reminiscent of more dedicated track car duties. By contrast, the GTS Alcantara is almost GT3-esque, leaning more towards the grey spectrum than black. In GT3 fashion, there is no 12 o’clock stripe—that design cue is saved strictly for their RS models—making this wheel the definitive choice for those looking for a more subtle upgrade.

Center Trim Insert: Truth be told, I’m a little salty on this one. I have a BMW M Performance wheel in my E90, but have lusted after the GTS trim for years. Unfortunately, it’s a piece that’s exclusively available with the wheel and cannot be purchased as a standalone item. For the real E9X heads out there, it’s a cool piece because the checkered flag pattern coordinates with the equally cool Competition / GTS door sills. The M Performance variant comes devoid of any trim—it assumes that you will be satisfied enough repurposing your OEM unit. Fine.

Once the center trim is installed on either wheel, they will happily accept the IND M button (as seen above).

Tri-Color Stitching: This is actually one that caught me off guard. The M Performance wheel stitching will be familiar to all of us—it echoes the familiar wide pattern that we’ve come to expect with the M lineage. But take a look at the GTS wheel—the stitching is not only much tighter, but it’s a different pattern altogether. The visual effect is striking and it reiterates the GTS’s more focused intention. As a small touch, note that the Alcantara seams res more or less parallel to the ground on the M Performance wheel (to match the flat bottom), whereas the GTS is a 45 degree angle.

Closer inspection reveals even more—the GTS tri-stitch wraps all the way around in a really unique way. Although you’ll never see it once installed, it’s an attention to detail that you have to appreciate. In a really nerdy tactile way, it was cool to slide my finger down from the paddle to feel the stitch on the GTS wheel.

But that brings up one more thing: the GTS wheel is designed for DCT use, meaning there are paddle provisions on the backside. Granted, you’re more than welcome to leave the wheel devoid of paddles if you are a 6MT guy, but it’s worth noting.

What do you guys think? Which wheel would make it into your car?

Words and Photos: Mike Maravilla (@unscenemedia)

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