Koni ACTIVE Shocks at ECS Tuning for a Demonstration
The most coveted parts of the tuning community tend to be oriented around the best performance options with the highest price tags and the most awards and racing successes. There are times, however, when a car enthusiast can take his or her praise about the most sophisticated parts and eat those words. KONI is a suspension company that has been producing dampers as long as cars have used those suspension designs that definitely has the prowess, acumen, and pedigree behind them to check most boxes for enthusiasts, but this article is not going to center around pure performance parts. The new KONI ACTIVE suspension is something that we just couldn’t leave without sharing with our readership.
We had the pleasure of hosting a few KONI team members here at our facility who brought some of their toys for us to try ourselves. Among their lineup were three F30 320i BMWs with less than 200 miles on the oldest one and two 2016 Mustang GTs that were also infants in terms of mileage. The cars in which we were most interested were, of course, the BMWs. This writer has personally never driven a non-M F8x, so jumping behind the wheel of the automatic F30s was a fairly foreign experience in and of itself. The real trick, though, was what we noticed in the ACTIVE-equipped F30. First, we have to establish a baseline before we get to talk about the greatness that is the ACTIVE damper. The OEM suspension on the F30 is not what we would call harsh by any means. Jumping into a brand-new F30 was everything a prospective buyer would expect: sleek, comfortable, quiet, and engaging to drive. One thing we noticed was how much it ‘rumbled’ over bumps. The stiff suspension translated the road feeling very well into the car, but we could definitely tell the attempt at a good ride quality hurt the performance capabilities of the suspension, and vice versa. Next, we gave the ACTIVE-equipped F30 a spin.
For background, most of this writer’s time is spent either in a heavily modified E30 or in a bone stock WRX, so almost everything about the F30 was very new. The difference between anything BMW or otherwise we were used to was immediately apparent upon touching the throttle. The car felt smooth; there is no other word for it. The ACTIVE dampers use a high number of ports through the valves that can either be all open, all closed, or anything in between to allow the viscous fluid to pass through and compress the damper. The variability with the number of open ports through the valves allows the compression force to change based on the conditions of the road. The changes happen whether you are accelerating, decelerating, or cornering to maintain a silky driving feel. This immediately begged the question of how applicable they were for performance vehicles. According to the KONI representatives, the ACTIVE dampers were featured on a car that just won some high-level autocross championships, but to our expectation, were not something he would recommend on a car that sees any extended track time. These dampers perform exceptionally well on the road, however, as an excellent sporty choice that goes miles above the factory comfort. The road felt like glass, which is good, but another aspect that many performance drivers will consider is how it affects the inputs to the driver. We expected the feeling to be more muted than the stiff factory suspension. It wasn’t. Since the car did not pitch forward, backward, or side to side as much, and it did not react to changes in the road surface, we felt less like we were hanging on to the wheel and more like we were planted in the seat very stable. The suspension did more than just provide a comfortable yet sporty ride in that it seemed to ‘even out’ all the minute changes you may not think about correcting as you do with normal suspension. If you hit a small pothole and the wheel jerks, how do you react and how does that reaction translate through the car’s movements? These are questions I normally have in the back of my mind that were not present with the ACTIVE suspension, which made it all the better for a daily driver. Less thinking, more driving, and more comfort.
While the ACTIVE suspension might not offer the best performance capabilities, it does offer equal performance to the factory suspension mechanically speaking as well as a significant improvement to overall driveability and ride quality. The convenience of driving an ‘unmodified’ car cannot be beaten by anything modified for racing, so having a car that you can depend on that offers sportiness yet refined comfort is something most would consider out of reach for a normal budget. KONI ACTIVE dampers definitely gave the impression that the car could be double or triple the value as a result of the ride quality alone. The only thing left for us to wonder is how they will feel compared to abused, high-mileage, outdated suspension and really feel a difference! After all the driving, I can say I am disappointed to jump back into a car that does not sport ACTIVE dampers for my jaunts around town or on road trips. Look out for these dampers as they are set to be released in the coming weeks!