Suspension is an often overlooked but very crucial part of your car. Think about it. Every time you drive your car, the ride is cushioned by your suspension. For many people, the stock suspension on your vehicle is adequate for the daily slog to and from work. But for others, the enthusiasts (which, if you’re taking the time to read this post, probably means you), no stock suspension is good enough, even if it’s the factory sport suspension. Tracking the car or tackling your favorite section of windy road will highlight the deficiencies in the stock suspension. This blog article will cover the basics of suspension, why you may want to replace it, and some of the aftermarket options. Note: This article is meant to simply give you an overview of suspensions (I will uncover the topic in more detail in the future).
When we talk about suspension, what do we mean? Oftentimes (I would argue in 95% of all situations), we’re talking about the shocks/struts and springs – the part that bounces up and down. You feel it every day and the stiffness (or lack thereof) will have a big impact on the ride quality of the car. Some people find the stock suspension to just not be stiff or responsive enough, and upgrade to something that suits their needs better. Others may be in a situation where the factory shocks are failing and they use this opportunity to upgrade. The first case is self-explanatory but the second may be harder to determine. Does your car bounce up and down over and over again after you hit a small bump or undulation in the road? If so, it’s likely that your shocks need to be replaced. 99% of the time, your shocks will be the part of the suspension that fails (the springs are steel, and do not fail under most circumstances).
Besides failures, why else do most people want to upgrade the suspension? I mean, what are we looking for that the stock suspension doesn’t already offer? Here’s a quick list:
- Less body roll, brake dive and acceleration pitch for a more stable ride quality
- A lower center of gravity for better handling (usually ~2″ lower than stock)
- Reduction of the wheel gap (which is often adjustable) for a better visual appearance (because we’re all vain at heart)
- Improvement of the response of the car through adjustable dampening (the rate at which the shock rebounds after a bump)
- Reduce understeer through spring rates (and Audi’s are notorious for understeer)
So now that you’ve determined you want/need to replace your suspension, what should you spend your hard-earned money on? You have several options:
New OEM Shocks
If you were happy with the ride of the car when the suspension worked, you may want to just replace the old shocks with a new set of OEM shocks. This is perfectly fine, and the car will drive the same as when it was new.
Those who want a slight performance upgrade while retaining the OEM springs (and ride height, which is the distance from the ground to the fender) may want to replace the worn-out shocks with new aftermarket replacement shocks from Koni or Bilstein. This will give a slightly stiffer ride, but it will still be very compliant and comfortable for everyday driving.
Aftermarket Spring/Shock Kit
This is the next step up from just replacing the shocks. Adding in springs will put a spring in your car’s step. It will be a little more responsive than stock, and will likely be a little lower as well. Lowering it will lower the center of gravity for better handling. When paired properly, such as a Koni FSD/H&R Kit, upgraded springs and shocks can be a good bang for your buck. The downside is that the ride height is fixed, so there is no adjustability.
Coilovers are the ultimate upgrade in regards to suspension. They feature adjustable ride height so that you can tailor the stance to your liking, and some feature adjustable dampening so that you can tweak the rebound to your preferences. Most coilovers also have a stainless steel body so they don’t seize up in the winter (if you live in a climate with salt). Within the context of coilover suspensions, there are many different levels. Basic coilovers will offer adjustable ride height and a spring rate a bit stiffer than stock (~500# front, ~600# rear) for about $1200. Mid-range coilovers will offer adjustable ride height with adjustable dampening for $1800-2400. These also have stiffer spring rates in the 700# and 800# (F/R) range. Top tier coilovers will have remote reservoirs on top of the full adjustability, and will likely offer a vast range of spring rate so that the car can be custom tailored to your preference.
While this description was long, it barely scrapes the surface of upgraded suspensions. In future articles, we’ll talk about sway bars, control arms, and other suspension components and how they all work together. In the meantime, this should give you a general overview of the world of suspensions and why people upgrade from stock setups. Enjoy!