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Old 09-12-2017, 08:39 PM   #1
Short Bus
FIA GT Newbie
 
Drives: '10 GTI
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Texas
Posts: 700
Review: Koni Sports on stock springs

I've been running a set of Koni Sports for a few months now and I think I've logged enough miles to offer an experienced opinion.

Current setup:
Stock springs
Stock swaybars
Stock bumpstops (they were in good condition)
ECS Tuning front strut mounts
Audi TT front control arm bushings, rear position
Bridgestone RE760 Sport tires (cold pressure: 38 psi front, 34 rear), OEM size on stock Detroits

Expectations:
The bottom line is..... these are inexpensive, very affordable twin tube performance oriented street shocks. These are not Motons, JRZs, Ohlins, or Penskes. But keep in mind that the performance those brands comes at a price, literally. Not only do they cost more, but Ohlins recommends that you rebuild your Road & Track dampers every 19,000 street miles or 10-20 track hours. I don't have time for that. I don't need to know if the quarter I ran over was heads up or tails up, I just want to know that I ran over a quarter.

Adjustment:
I have the Konis adjusted at 1 1/4 turn from soft up front and 1 1/4 turn from soft at rear. I initially had the rears set at only 1/4 turn from soft, but rebound was so underdamped that even the slightest lift off the throttle mid corner to adjust my line upset the car as the springs decompressed with what felt like no damping slowing them down. I would like to back it off a touch and try 1 turn from soft on the rear, but I like how the car drives enough that I've prioritized other chores before going in and readjusting.

I do not expect my Konis to last forever, but it seems reasonable that this $500 set of twin tube street dampers would last longer than race dampers and maintain an acceptable level of performance for at least 50,000 miles with some track days sprinkled in.

Ride quality:
The rebound adjustment does give you some ability to tailor this to your liking, but my impression is that you have to chose between high frequency comfort and low frequency control. For the purposes of my description, high frequency means "sharp bump, high shaft speed" like a pothole, and low frequency means "slow shaft speeds" like what you might experience as the car settles after cresting a "sharp" hill.

My personal preference is for good low speed control, and these dampers feel like butter over big, dull bumps that make my wife's Camry wallow like a pontoon boat. So I'm very happy with how the Konis ride, but they can be quite harsh over poor sections of washboard pavement. Sharp, high frequency hits, like potholes, are definitely noticed, but I find it to be perfectly tolerable. I imagine that my car's ride quality would become noticeably better if I went with 17" wheels with a taller sidewall to help soak up the sharp stuff better. I'd also bet that reducing unsprung weight via wheels, Passat control arms and spindles, and Boxster brakes would also have a positive impact on ride quality.

Performance:
I've read on VW forums (here or elsewhere) that Koni Sports are not for stock springs, that you must pair them with aftermarket springs that lower the car. That's nonsense. These dampers work quite well with the stock springs. In fact, with the stock linear rate springs combined with the long, progressive bumpstops which essentially give you a progressive spring rate the handling is quite good so long as you adhere to the mantra of "smooth is fast."

In fact, I think these dampers probably work even better with more travel. Dropping the car an inch or more, increasing the spring rates (probably via the bumpstops I'm sure you'd be riding on), and restricting the travel would probably take these dampers out of their element. I really do not think that you could get a really high degree of fine control out of these at the limits of handling with greatly restricted bump travel, and having to crank the rebound up to minimize the bounciness would certainly make the ride excessively harsh. But that's not what these are for, that's what Motons are for.

The car transitions smoothly and soaks up big mid corner bumps effortlessly. There's a bend on my way to work with a mid corner bump that used to give me whiplash when taken at speed. Taken at about 60 mph, turn in, car takes a set, hits the bump, and then you have to begin transitioning back to the right to merge onto a freeway. On my (completely worn out) OEM dampers the car would basically crash over it, completely upset and unhappy, with a hard bounce on the other side. Now the car just soaks it up and gently lets the car down as the suspension extends and then compresses as it crests and settles.

Load transfer is well controlled and easy to adjust via smooth inputs to the steering, throttle, and brakes. Balancing over/understeer after the car settles into a bend is fun and easy. As I learned, I think the key is to be sure you have enough rebound dialed in at the rear of the car, otherwise the back end wants to snap around as the springs decompress too abruptly.

The car also puts the power down much, much better. My engine is completely stock, not even a tune, and on certain roads the traction control light would blink at me in third gear. Even second gear on most roads was useless and first gear and wheel-hop went hand in hand. Now in first gear I might have to lightly feather the throttle in first when the turbo spools.

Wheelhop is nearly eliminated. Now it only happens when I get some revs and dump the clutch from the standing start. I'll get two really nice, even black stripes that get put down smoothly (XDS is surprisingly effective) until the wheel speed comes down to the vehicle's momentum. That last bit of transition between no grip and full grip is where I get wheelhop now. (I have street density 034 engine/trans mounts, I guess it's time to do the subframe mount)

Recommendation:
If you love pushing your car hard through every bend in the road you come across you as you go about your day to day business, but want to maintain a near stock level of ride comfort at a low price, these are what you want. The easy to recommend alternative would be a set of Bilstein B8s, but those cost more up front. It's also more difficult to tune your bumpstops, as the fronts are inverted and have to be partially disassembled to get to.

Ideally, you would pair these with a set of Ground Control sleeves, so you can choose your spring rates and get the car corner balanced to make it even nicer to drive without being forced to lower the car as far as what it seems that the average pre-assembled height adjustable coilover package requires.

Ultimately I think I'll probably send these off somewhere to have them custom valved to perfectly match whatever springs I ultimately choose with the Ground Control sleeves I eventually buy.
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