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Giving my M3 the boot

We'll install a G8X M Performance Shifter, but BMW doesn't make an exact fit, so some custom work will be needed.

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Have you sat inside a BMW M car, grabbed the steering wheel and thought, “How nice”? Part of the reason comes from M’s signature tri-color thread work. Light blue, dark blue, and red. Then peak down, and you’ll see the shifter and boot. No stitching. Why? Who knows. But we’re going to fix it with a new G8X M Performance Shifter.

How I got here is a bit complex…

Why doesn’t BMW M use tri-color stitching everywhere?

M3 boot
Here’s a shifter from an E46. It’s nearly identical to the one the G8X uses.

I can’t imagine it’s a cost issue – we’re talking about using colored thread here. It’s 50 cents for a spool. Opt for the automatic transmission, and the shifter does get M colors.

And in ultimate troll fashion, BMW has indeed finally given us the ability to purchase a shifter with M threads in the G87 M2. You know, the last M car ever to have a manual transmission. The M3 and M4 still don’t get it from the factory as of yet. Better late then never.

There’s also the issue of the shifter knob itself. Hasn’t really changed much at all – if ever. It’s become out of place in a modern car. Let’s fix it.

G8X manual shifter options

M3 boot
The G80 M3 stock shifter.

We can do this a few ways:

  1. The G87 M2 tri-color boot fits the M3 perfectly. We can just order it from a dealer.
  2. iND makes a boot that features cross-stitching (it looks nicer), and can be had in Alcantara or leather
  3. You can select a shifter from an F10 M5 and make it light up
  4. Various aftermarket knobs are available and will fit, usually in a metal finish.

But nothing there seemed to be a drastic enough change while still maintaining the OEM+ look I’ve worked hard to achieve. And slapping a titanium shift knob doesn’t really match the fancy car aesthetic the G80 has.

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This hasn’t changed much in a long time.

While BMW does not make an M Performance shifter for this M3, they did for the previous generation. So, #5 – use the M Performance shifter from an F8X and retrofit it to my car. Its carbon fiber finish and M logo will match best.

G8X M Performance Shifter and boot

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I love trying things that have never been done before, and this qualifies. But it wouldn’t be a simple plug and play solution.

The F8X boot is larger than the G8X, so I’d need to cut and shape it to fit. On top of that, the stitching is white and not tri-color. To be fair, this part was originally meant for an F3X, and would have looked great with my interior on the 335. iND does sell a tri-color version, but cutting would still be required. The knob itself is not also available as a standalone part.

BMW makes a non-M knob with Alcantara, but it’s faux aluminum and wouldn’t match.

An Alcantara boot seemed important to match my armrest and seat backs, which lead me back to iND – would they mate the knob to an Alcantara G8X boot?

Of course, but I’d need to purchase the stock knob and M Performance boot. Problem is, I’m not much of a seamstress, and none of the shops I typically work with could do this kind of delicate work. If I simply cut the F8X boot to fit, I’d still need to take my stock one apart to fit the original trim ring (BMW doesn’t sell that separately either). I’d rather not do that.

You can see where this is going…

At least iND gave me the spare stock knob and boot.

Installing the G8X M Performance Shifter and boot

Here’s the iND Alcatara boot

And the M Performance Knob (with boot)

You’ll need zero tools. If you care about your old shifter, wear gloves to protect it. And hey, don’t put your face right over the knob when you pull it off, or you’ll end up with a black eye.

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Pull up on the boot, and the trim ring will easily pop off.
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Next, put the car in gear and pull up on the knob. Don’t put your face right over the shifter or you could knock yourself out. It needs a fair amount of muscle to release.
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Pop the new one on in reverse order. Installation is a five minute job.
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It’s a bit shorter and much thinner than the stock knob.
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It’s probably second only to the steering wheel in terms of prominence, so I’m glad I was patient and did my research before settling on what I really wanted. Speaking of steering wheels…

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