KW Variant 3 – Tech Article:
The WRX needed a serious suspension overhaul from the day we picked up the car. Right away we knew that at least one of the stock struts was well past its prime, and a few of them probably weren’t far behind. This didn’t come as much of a surprise considering the amount of mileage on the odometer. So we lined up a set of KW Variant 3 coilovers to take on the challenge of making the WRX into a solid all-around performer, rain or shine, snow or sun, track or street.
When you pull the KW coilovers out of the box you immediately notice the shiny finish of the Inox-line stainless shock bodies. Next you notice the purple anodized hats, and powder coated springs. These things put on a really great show straight out of the box. So now that we drooled over them it was time to swap them onto the car.
In the case of our WRX you have to reuse the stock top hats, which generally isn’t much of a problem, except that the WRX’s stock front top hat limits access to the top nut on the strut. For removing the stock struts it was a non-issue, we just hit it with an impact gun and the nut came right off. However when it came to putting the hat onto the KW shaft, we had to get a bit creative because we couldn’t simply blast it on with the impact. We ended up using a spark plug socket that had a hex end, with an 8mm socket on a ¼” drive extension through the center of the spark plug socket. This allowed us the hold the shaft safely with the 8mm, while turning the top nut with the spark plug socket via a crow-foot and a torque wrench. It was quite a contraption, but it worked flawlessly. So you should plan ahead for how you want to tackle that portion of the install if you are working on a WRX. After that was figured out, we just had to bolt the front coilovers into place in the same way the stock ones came out. We re-attached the brake lines to the provided mounting tabs and the front was ready to get buttoned up.
The rear of the WRX had its own set of challenges. Nothing nearly as dramatic as making your own tools, but it wasn’t exactly a quickie install either. On the WRX the rear seat has to be removed to get to the top mounting bolts, so we pulled the bottom out, then the back of the rear seat. Once the rear mounting points were exposed, we noticed that removing the seatbelt coils would give us a bunch more room to reach the 3 nuts that hold each rear strut in place. This did help, but in truth, the nuts were still slow going due to limited access to turn the ratchet. Again, nothing complicated, it just took a bit of extra time. Once the stock shocks were out, we switched the top hats over to the KW coilovers and were ready to re-install. The reinstall was basically the reverse of the removal and caused no major issues. We opted to leave the rear seat out of the car at this point to allow access to the top adjuster on the KW.
Time to check the ride height. When we assembled the front and rear sets, we spun the spring perch to an even measurement on all four, but completely guessing on how low the car would actually sit. Once the car hit the ground we were all very excited about the way the car looked, but we knew that with our wheel and tire combination we weren’t going to be able to get away with leaving the car that low. At least not yet. The car looked amazing at that height, but because we chose an aggressive tire size, we knew we would have to roll the rear fenders before we could commit to a permanent ride height. So we opted to raise the car back up on the lift, and spin the perches up a bit to get the car to sit at a safe height until we get around to attacking the rear fender clearance issues.
So after some other small adjustments, and a cleanup around the shop, it was time to take the car for a quick drive to make sure everything was ok, and to see if there were rubbing issues and if so, how bad they were. Over small slow bumps the suspension seemed quite stiff, but once you got onto the road, the car rode quite well. And this is really with virtually no true tuning of the suspension. We already have plans to take the car to an autocross in the very near future where we can really dial in the suspension, so any real efforts now would be wasted. The car did rub a bit in the rear over certain bumps, so we again adjusted the perches a tad, and called it a day.
Shortly after the install, a couple of us spent extended seat time in the car on both highway and city streets, and the car was
amazingly comfortable and held its composure through some aggressive turns. We expect to see some dramatic handling and ride quality improvements once we can lower the car back down to a final height and get the suspension dialed in a bit more.
Last Minute Update:
We spent a couple of hours with a fender roller, and managed to clear the offending lip out-of-the-way. After a quick drive, the rubbing is gone. So we lowered the car a bit which resulted in the height you see in the picture. It rides as well as before, now we just need to align it and truly tune the suspension.