Ah, the age old question of “which coilovers” is asked again. This time, they’re for a 2013 Scion FR-S as the current ST coilovers it’s worn for two years have been outgrown and we’ve been evaluating the plethora of options available. For as long as we can remember, our eyes have been on Ohlins with their promise of a track capable coilover that you can drive to and from the track in comfort–while having the precision and handling required to still hold their own on track. After a short drive with an Ohlins-equipped BRZ, we were hooked. The ride felt firm, planted, yet surprisingly comfortable. Oh, and Ohlins’ “The Original Gold” look absolutely stunning installed in the car, which is a shame since you can hardly see them.
One of the main reasons we had the desire for Ohlins was the Dual Flow Valve, or DFV, which is on every single one of their Road and Track series of coilovers. The DFV has a simple and very important job to do, and it’s the reason they have such world renowned handling–basically the DFV provides the same flow and characteristics on rebound as it does on compression to make sure the car stays in control regardless of what you hit. When you hit a bump, crack, or pothole, the shock absorbs the impact–but on rebound the average coilover won’t respond fast enough to extend back out. This means your tire is either off the ground or in minimal contact, robbing you of feedback and control.
Vehicle WITHOUT Dual Flow Valve: after hitting a bump in the road, the shock/coilover cannot respond quickly enough to ensure constant contact with the road.
Ohlins DFV has a special way of handling everything you can throw at it. Depending on the size of the bump or shaft speed of the coilover, oil flow is diverted through multiple valves. At lower speeds, oil will flow through the shaft jet bleed, while higher speeds will allow oil flow through compression ports located in the piston. Talking with Christer Loow from Ohlins, we learned why they claim this is better than competitor offerings. “Basically the DFV is like a secondary piston with a set of shim stacks, which meter the flow from the adjuster, so it can go through either the main piston or the secondary little piston. It gives us a much better way of shaping the shock dyno curve to give us a more linear curve in the beginning. If you just have a pure bleed adjuster, you end up with very low forces in the beginning, which builds up sharply before it blows off. So to get you enough forces down low, you get a harsh mid region. With the DFV, you have a much better transition between low and high shaft speed.” When it comes to real world driving, Loow proclaimed, “…you tend to have a much better compromise between performance and comfort.”
Left shock shows compression flow, while right shock displays rebound: During low speed movement, oil flows mostly through the shaft jet bleed (shown by lower arrow) while sudden changes in shaft position can allow passage through compression ports in the DFV increasing comfort.
At very quick shaft speeds (large bump/quick maneuver left or right) oil can also flow through rebound ports providing ultimately greater contact with the road versus a vehicle not equipped with such a system. The importance of allowing oil to flow through multiple bleeds and ports is what allows Ohlins Road and Track coilovers to exhibit impressive ride quality and performance whether you’ve just hit a small imperfection, pothole, or large bump.
With our patented Dual Flow Valve, you can have performance and comfort. – Christer Loow, Ohlins
Ohlins DFV helps keep your car stable, in control, and matches compression and rebound to provide the best traction possible no matter what the road or track throws at you. “If you drive one of our kits, you’ll feel that it’s firm and stiff like you want, but without being harsh like some kits which have too much low speed or too much mid speed damping. You can get away with much stiffer springs (on our kit) but if you put an equally stiff spring on another coilover, you’d need so much damping that it would rattle your teeth out versus with our patented DFV, you can have performance and comfort.”
With Ohlins DFV, the vehicle absorbs the bump in the road and keeps the tire in constant contact to provide you with complete control.
Ohlins futher continues their quest of stability with the use of a needle bleed valve. As the coilover shaft travels in and out of the shock body, the oil inside heats up. Normally, this would cause the coilover to respond differently to the same bump since warm oil and cold oil flow differently. However, as the shock oil warms up, Ohlins unique needle bleed valve will expand with temperature, maintaining a consistent dampening rate. Although you won’t feel the valve open or close, you will notice that your suspension is responding the same way at the same corners, whether you’re on the 30th lap or the first.
The valve on the left shows the needle bleed valve closed. As the shock temperatures rise, the bleed valve will open providing consistent flow rates and predictable handling.
Ohlins recently changed up their coilovers for the FR-S and BRZ, allowing you to purchase the coilovers with their adjustable top hats or without. We spoke with Ohlins about this, and Christer Loow told us this has allowed them to get into a price point and market that they were not at before.
The final part of the Ohlins coilover setup are the springs. To provide ourselves with an accurate feel for the coilovers out of the box, we chose to use the included linear springs from Ohlins. The front spring rates are 228.4 lbs/in while the rears are 171 lbs/in. We think these will really be on the soft side when it comes to track use, but we’ll evaluate their performance once we get out to the track. An important note is that this Ohlins coilover kit (MI20) has different (softer) spring rates than the older MP20 kit which included top hats. Ohlins specified that you can increase or decrease spring rates by up to 30 percent before needing to revalve the coilover, so at least future testing will be relatively easy to do and still know the suspension is operating within specifications.
Now if you decide not to get the Ohlins shock mounts, you have two options; either reuse your factory top hats or select adjustable top hats from another manufacturer. We opted to source our own from Velox Motorsports. Velox (pronounced Vay-Locks) has been making some killer stuff for street/track/motorsport vehicles over the past few years and their dedication to enthusiasts and proven performance is why we chose them.
These OEM replacements allow up to -3 degrees camber and work with Bilstein, KW, RCE, ST, Koni, Ohlins, stock struts, or any other coilover/shock that requires use of the factory mounts.
These bare bones camber plates are exactly what we wanted–functional, lightweight and adjustable, all while being designed, machined and assembled right here in the USA. Specifically made to replace the factory top mounts, these camber plates work with any coilover that is meant to re-use the factory top mounts–but you gain the ability to adjust camber; which was our primary reason for installing adjustable camber plates. The old coilovers we had on the car had slotted holes on the bottom mount of the shock allowing very primitive adjustment when it came to camber.
That primitive way was this; push the top of the brake rotor toward the car and tighten the bolt which locked in maximum negative camber. Boom, instant negative camber, but zero ability to adjust camber to get things dialed in perfect. Sure we could’ve used camber bolts (aka crash bolts) but we wanted something robust and adjustable. Since we’re using Velox adjustable camber plates now, all fine tuning is done on top of the coilover – making it easy to see what camber settings we have with the machined notches on the plate.
Notches on the camber plate allow us to achieve exact measurements for alignment time after time. Write down which notch setting you’re using after your alignment in case something slips.
Installation for the Ohlins coilovers and Velox camber plates was pretty straight forward, and everything went together without a hitch. Following simple directions, we had the front camber plate assembly installed on the Ohlins coilovers and measured carefully to ensure we had the recommended spring preload as suggested by Ohlins. Since we were reusing the rear shock mounts, we made quick work of removing the factory OEM pieces from the old coilover and the Ohlins/Velox setup was ready to be installed.
An important change we were also making to the car was ride height. We were actually raising the car from where the old coilovers were. The car wasn’t slammed by any means before, but after installing 255/40/17 Toyo R888r tires, the fender wells were pretty well filled in and dangerously close to rubbing on the tire. To prevent damage to the car and tires, we opted for Ohlins recommended ride height which was 20 mm lower up front and 15 mm lower for the rear (versus stock ride height). Conveniently, the Ohlins came right of the box at these recommended settings, so all we had to do was verify the ride height collar was tight.
The front coilovers were fairly easy to install, but we took extra care to make sure all brake lines and sensors were secured and out of the way. Ohlins provides all the hardware for this, and the brake lines and ABS sensors are kept in OEM locations. Adjustable front swaybar endlinks included with our 22 mm Whiteline swaybar made for easy adjustment and perfect length since lowering the car with non-adjustable end links occasionally causes binding or clunk sounds.
Shockingly, the rear coilovers were installed with the wheels and tires still on. Everything lined up and bolted on just as expected, and three bolts later the coilover was secured. Ride height adjustment will be difficult to do while installed, however, as there is very little room to get the wrench on and turn more than 1/8 a turn at a time.
It’s always a good idea to align the car after changing out suspension components or ride height, and since we did both, it was definitely needed. The short drive over to the shop was uneventful, but the steering wheel wasn’t quite centered and the car felt numb while driving. Driving the car with alignment specs out of range can be a safety issue since the car will handle unpredictably with settings out of whack.
Upon arrival to the shop, we had the exact settings we wanted and relayed that to the tech. We’ve found the car performs best with zero toe, and as much negative camber up front as possible. With the Velox camber plates, the shop was able to get negative three degrees of camber on the front wheels–perfect, since that’s precisely what we wanted. Unfortunately for the rear of the car we still have more negative camber than we’d like (that’s to lack of camber adjustment in the rear), but we’ll track the car a few times before buying the matching rear lower control arms from Velox that will allow me to reduce the rear camber.
With an industry known Hunter alignment machine, the alignment specs were precise and all changes were immediately shown on screen to the technician.
Immediately after the alignment appointment, we hit the local canyon to see how the car felt. Since the Ohlins offered adjustable compression and rebound with one knob, we set the coils at “street” for the drive to the canyon. The ride was shockingly smooth, potholes and road reflectors were barely felt, and there seemed to be zero effect on the car. No shakiness, awkward rebound, pops/grinds, or any teeth clenching sounds. We can only attribute this to the DFV in the Ohlins, since the compression and rebound is matched perfectly to prevent the car from becoming unsettled and bouncing when hitting road imperfections.
To have an accurate feel for what the adjustment knobs do, we drove the same stretch of road several times, each with different settings. The first run up was done with the coilovers set to “street” driving which is a range of 10-20 “clicks” from fully tightened. We chose 14 as my number, since we wanted coilover changes to be quite obvious until we have a chance to really put some miles on them and dial them in perfectly. With the street setting, the car felt very smooth in the corners but steering control felt slightly delayed and the body seemed to float a bit before settling down when first turning in.
The whole time we were thinking we don’t think Dad would complain or even know there is aftermarket suspension installed. The “street” setting felt darn near perfect for daily driving all while being an improvement over the factory suspension. We really had no complaints, steering was quiet, thanks to the Velox Motorsports camber plates which feature a spherical bearing and prevents spring bind or twang. Bumps, dips, and grooves that normally had us clenching before were driven over carefree now since the Ohlins coilovers seemed to just eat them up.
Easy access to adjustment knobs. Shown left is the truck/rear coilover adjustment. Shown right is the knob on the bottom of the coilover–you can access this if you lay on the ground.
Knowing there was more, we pulled over and quickly adjusted the coilover knob to the “winding road” setting between 5-10 “clicks.” Again, we opted for the middle ground and selected eight. This time, the canyon road felt different and better. The car seemed more precise, the slight delay in left to right transitions was nearly gone and the chassis felt more firm and planted. Hitting dips and bumps in the road were still seemingly transparent, since the DFV is working regardless of setting. Most notably, the car felt “sporty.” We could see this setting being called “sport” by OEM manufacturer’s since the ride quality was firmer but not punishing. The car still glided over uneven pavement and I was starting to learn more and more that the DFV is much more capable than we originally anticipated.
Lastly, was the “track” setting, which Ohlins claims you should use 0-7 clicks. We used four, and again carried on down the hill. Immediately we were met with crisper steering and direct vehicle feel. The ride was still decent, but not nearly as plush as when the Ohlins were set to “street.” Everything about the car seemed quicker and more taut; the steering was immediate, the chassis seemed eager for each turn. The slight delay I experienced with the street and winding road settings where the car took a moment to get settled after initiating a turn was gone. Diving into turns, the car felt very planted and at no time did we ever feel any slipping.
With purpose, we decided to drive over the road reflectors to see how the suspension responded. The constant repetition of bump after bump was perceived in the car and steering wheel, but to a much lesser degree than before. The Dual Flow Valve really does work as Ohlins claims–it opens quickly on small road imperfections but slows down when needed driving hard around long sweepers. Of course we can only drive so hard in the canyon, so a track day is in order to really get a feel for the new setup.