How different can they really be?
"In this Special Series about the Custom BMW Performance style CS seats, I set out the process to match my Genuine BMW Performance driver seat with a replica passenger seat in collaboration with David at Recovered Workshop.
I go down history lane, document the differences with the standard Recaro CS, dive into intricate integration of OEM electrical components, cover the mounting solutions and detail the final upholstery & paint work required to get an OEM match.
In this entry, I compare the standard Recaro Sportster CS with the BMW Performance seat - how different can it really be?"
The CS Frame.
As I covered in the first entry to this Special Series, the BMW Performance seats were custom Recaro Sportster CS built to BMW specifications with certain OEM integrations.
As I run through the differences with the CS seats, the question you should answer for yourself is whether these are worth the roughly 2x price point these will be compared to CS seats.
My goal is to replicate the OEM seat 1:1, serving a base for members to then follow my route, or spec the seats as they see fit.
Many of you messaged me as I posted the first article, hoping the seating positions of the replica seat would be lower.
"Matt, the CS seat seems way lower, no?"
I understand why, the BMW Performance seats look massive compared to the CS.
The CS seat on the left has no rails nor mounts. The OEM seat on the right has the corrects and mounts already bolted to the seat.
To the dismay of many, there will be no height difference when spec'ing the OEM mounting solution.
The obvious differences between both seats are in the upholstery of the BMW Performance seat.
The seat covers are spec'ed in 9002 Alcantara with BMW specific foam with embossed curvatures.
The foam differences are obvious once you sit in them. It's been confirmed by a few members that have gone through complete reupholstery of original Performance seats when they were readily available in Europe.
9002 is the signature grey'ish dye used by BMW across their entire range.
The bottom cover still retains the original Recaro CS pattern.
The Nappa leather & White stitching.
Beyond the original Tri-Color stitching, few E9x M3s came spec'ed with colored stitching. BMW M reserved these mostly for Special Edition LCI cars.
For their Performance parts, BMW M seemed adamant about using white stitching. This stitching echoes the performance steering wheels.
The signature logo.
The BMW Performance logo is one we've rarely come across. We need to appreciate BMW's evolution in using M on everything.
Those were the days that performance parts used across BMW cars that weren't pure M didn't get to bear the M logo, with a few exceptions.
The BMW Performance stitching is grey, differing from the white on the leather, they instead matched the plastic seat belt covers.
Comparing to the standard CS, Recaro cut costs. The logo is a vinyl paint. I'm not a fan of the break in the leather as well, it looks like an after thought.
The BMW performance seats differ in many details, the accessories is where they start having diminishing returns for most.
The race belt holders.
The light grey painted plastic pieces are a nice, contrasting touch.
It's where I expect members to differ from BMW M's approach and customize the color to their liking, or keep it black to save on cost.
The reclining symbol is not sticker applied after paint, it's under the clear - another little quality touch.
The Standard CS has what appears to be uncoated plastic.
The manual sliders & handle.
This is where most replicas skip on the OE integrations and instead use the Recaro manual handle. It is actually a metal bar coming across the bottom of seat rails.
The use of manual sliders is major departure from most E9x M3s. The overwhelming majority of our cars came fitted with electronic sliders. I can only think BMW wanted to support their Performance brand with a seat that was actually lighter than the OEM electrical seats.
The Performance seats each weight 25.3 kg / 55.7 lbs, the OEM seats weight 28.4 kg / 62.6 lbs depending on exact options.
Ah - AH! This is where BMW slacked off and didn't bother. The OEM seats were spec'ed with Recaro bottom mounts.
We will be testing the original Recaros and BreyKrause mounts, comparing the two in terms of seating position.
The OEM electronics.
Beyond the credibility points in running a BMW Performance seat, the integration of OEM electronics is where I feel the cost to benefit is worth it for those looking to keep these cars long terms.
The EuroSpec side airbags.
BMW reuses the same Recaro side airbag available on the CS EuroSpec seat.
I label it as EuroSpec as Recaro USA does not make the CS seat readily available in the US. They instead focused on a cheaper, more cushioned GT variant - because America!
I imported the seats from Germany and will offer this solution to those looking to retain airbags. If side airbags are not a concern for you, this is where you will be able to cut costs considerably.
The OEM 3-way heating elements.
The heated Recaro CS are available with a 2 way heating element that is activated with a button on the side of the seats.
The BMW Performance seats integrated OEM grade heating elements that were wired to the heated seat button on the center dashboard.
This is admittedly pet peeve, but an important one nonetheless. It's a small, but crucial thing for my personal goals.
This will require some R&D as BMW doesn't sell the entire elements separately, they are sown onto the original leather or cloth.
This is the module that brings everything together.
The OEM wiring loom.
BMW can be very considerate of their enthusiast owner's base - at times. They've often provided retrofit kits for a myriad of LCI options on various chassis.
Unfortunately, they also discontinue products frequently.
The wiring loom is one of them - we will have to recreate a loom from scratch for the replica seat.
Other small things.
Beyond all of these changes, there are a few varying mounting points below the seats that will require drilling to fit the modules on the CS seats.
Dave and I have our work cut out to make this happen. We'll accept nothing less than OEM.
Up next: it's time to pull our the scissors.
Dave starts tearing into the Recaro CS seat and doing the patrons for the covers.