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E46 M3 (2001-2006) Engine: S54 - Max Hp: 333 hp at 7,900 rpm / 262 lb/ft at 4,900 rpm
Total Produced: 45,000+ - Years Produced: 2001 to 2006.


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Old Tue, Feb-24-2015, 01:02:52 AM   #1
EricSMG
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Default Ohlins RT Review (strictly street perspective)

Preface:

Many of you know that I'm a suspension critic and am never satisfied. I've been through a few setups and use them on city streets and canyon runs and autoX. What defines a good street suspension are two things: how easy it is to drive and how well it handles the dramatic set of variables that the street throws at it. As such, I'm very critical of a setup's subjective qualities - those that cannot be measured. The "driver experience" if you will.

These cars handle extremely well bone stock. As such, I have no interest in increasing it's limits because it will do things that you think it shouldn't be able too. BUT - I have two complaints with the stock setup:

1. The chassis gets a little busy/jiggly over small bumps, and
2. The vanity in me wants a just a tiny drop

So with that, I've been on a obsessive mission to find a setup that is as easy to drive as stock but calmer and better looking. I've been close, but always wanting more I decided to try the Ohlins RT fully knowing that it is very possible I won't like them for my purposes.

Impressions:

They've been in for a few days and I've played with the damper settings. The kit is very high quality and easy on the eyes (not that that matters). The adjusters do seem a bit delicate, a small nit-pick.

They feel like I thought they would - like a hunkered down, stiffly sprung set of coilovers. The car hugs the road precisely - the chassis follows every dip and crest. This cannot be avoided with 400/630 springs rates, it's just the fact of the matter.

They are not harsh. Small, sharp impacts are better than I expected. With the valving cranked up, these small impacts remain largely the same but their response becomes very sharp to steering inputs with almost no lean at all. This is the dual flow valve working its magic - high speed valving remains constant as you increase the low speed valving.

Suspension travel is highly limited. See full droop pic below. I did measure their bump travel - you gain 3/8" relative to stock/Koni. At maximum front ride height the ride height measures 13.75" or a 3/4" drop. So - even at max height they're a tad too low and with such limited droop travel they are clearly designed to operate within a low, narrow range. These things will go mega-low.

All of this to say - they are not my cup of tea. I think they are really good for what they are - an aggressive dual purpose setup. Probably won't get any better I'd think. They won't beat you up on the street but they are not "easy to drive" as the bigger dips/hits are simply too much for the stiff springs and narrow working range to comply with. These are just the nature of such things as I've been down this road before, not an issue specific to these Ohlins.

I think Ohlins should offer two variants of the kit - the RT version for the track junkie that also needs to get his ass to the office and the "Road" version for city guys like me who simply want a little more refinement and adjustment than stock. The latter would have far softer springs, include lower front poly spring isolators (this is standard metal-metal) and be designed to retain all 4 rear OE spring pads (these don't work and Ohlins instead supplies 1mm thick rubber pads). This kit would also allow near-stock ride height with far more droop travel. These changes would allow the suspension to "breath" with the road, keeping the chassis more even-keeled and ultimately letting the driver relax more.

For fun, I took this pic of my current hardware, indexed properly as if installed:



Max front droop:



Special Thanks to Dal for his wonderful write-up of these coilovers and patiently answering my many questions over the last 12 months. We all have different tastes and this was a fun experiment for sure - it's only confirmed where I need to be, which is stock/near stock.
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Last edited by EricSMG; Tue, Feb-24-2015 at 01:33:01 AM.
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Old Tue, Feb-24-2015, 01:04:33 AM   #2
TboneM3
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Default Re: Ohlins RT Review (strictly street perspective)

Thanks Eric.
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Old Tue, Feb-24-2015, 01:10:09 AM   #3
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Default Re: Ohlins RT Review (strictly street perspective)

Eric, first of all, thanks for the review.

I'm going to preface this question by saying, that the two sets I am about to mentioned are not exactly comparable by any means, but for my own knowledge would like know where they stand.

How do these feel compared to KW V2's for street driving?

Again, I know they are in a completely different league.
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Old Tue, Feb-24-2015, 01:13:07 AM   #4
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Default Re: Ohlins RT Review (strictly street perspective)

Always enjoy it your feedback.

If you had to bullet-point it, what would be the specific qualities you wish these dampers had?
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Old Tue, Feb-24-2015, 01:20:44 AM   #5
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Default Re: Ohlins RT Review (strictly street perspective)

Quote:
Originally Posted by TboneM3 View Post
Thanks Eric.
My pleasure! It's fun, ain't it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by AP22 View Post
Eric, first of all, thanks for the review.

I'm going to preface this question by saying, that the two sets I am about to mentioned are not exactly comparable by any means, but for my own knowledge would like know where they stand.

How do these feel compared to KW V2's for street driving?

Again, I know they are in a completely different league.
I think these are going to feel better than V2s over most surfaces because these dampers are able to react quickly to surface changes. I also think they're going to feel much much better when firmed up as they do a really good job of keeping the "fast" hits at bay. The V2s seems to just get really stiff really quickly, kind of like a Koni SA.

One thing they share is their rather low ride heights even fully raised up. I think I could only get 13.75" front as well with the V2s, if I remember correctly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by natty99 View Post
Always enjoy it your feedback.

If you had to bullet-point it, what would be the specific qualities you wish these dampers had?
Yep, you got it.

- More droop
- near stock ride height ability with less lowering range
- Less aggressive high speed damping (the DFV is a tad aggressive for basic city use)
- Much softer "full soft" valving on the rear shocks as they're pretty firm even fully open - no doubt an effort to control the stout rear springs

But again - you make these changes and you sacrifice performance in the realm that they were designed around, so as with everything, it's a trade-off and I think Ohlins really found a happy medium between super badass-ness and not killing you on the street.
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Last edited by EricSMG; Tue, Feb-24-2015 at 02:48:20 AM.
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Old Tue, Feb-24-2015, 01:36:16 AM   #6
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Default Re: Ohlins RT Review (strictly street perspective)

Thanks for your review, and persistence with suspension options. It's a great benefit for all of us.

So what's next? Are you moving to TCK setup, going back to one of the previously tried setups, or something more exotic such as JRZ/Moton/MCS?

As a side note: I'm always eagerly awaiting your reviews on suspension. Good informative reads.
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Old Tue, Feb-24-2015, 01:46:44 AM   #7
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Default Re: Ohlins RT Review (strictly street perspective)

Thanks for the straight forward review. No doubt that ohlins is a great set up but it's or for everyone

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Old Tue, Feb-24-2015, 02:25:59 AM   #8
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Default Re: Ohlins RT Review (strictly street perspective)

Good review. I just bought these and will be experimenting with different settings myself.

I'd like to point out that spring rates may and will completely sway a review one way or another. I suspect that if the springs were closer to 350/450 and also from a reputable source like Swift, this system would probably satisfy more of the OP's needs.

Then again, low is low, and not even the best damper in the world can ever fully compensate for all loss in travel.
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Old Tue, Feb-24-2015, 02:43:18 AM   #9
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Default Re: Ohlins RT Review (strictly street perspective)

Had really hoped Ohlins were the happy-ever-after, but this picture says it all (for me at least!) Wow.

Quote:
Originally Posted by EricSMG View Post

I think Eric has uncovered the importance of droop travel, an overlooked secret of aftermarket suspension. For everyone over the age of 30, we owe him a debt of gratitude
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Old Tue, Feb-24-2015, 02:56:26 AM   #10
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Default Re: Ohlins RT Review (strictly street perspective)

Quote:
Originally Posted by camberm3 View Post
Good review. I just bought these and will be experimenting with different settings myself.

I'd like to point out that spring rates may and will completely sway a review one way or another. I suspect that if the springs were closer to 350/450 and also from a reputable source like Swift, this system would probably satisfy more of the OP's needs.

Then again, low is low, and not even the best damper in the world can ever fully compensate for all loss in travel.
Oh, absolutely on the spring rates!! I've always known the dramatic affect they have despite the general "forum" notion that rates don't matter. Quite the contrary, in fact. I've experimented with different rates on multiple other coilovers and the difference in even 100 lbs per wheel is dramatic. I've always claimed that softer is better for the street because it lets the suspension work while the chassis stays on a relative same plane. I've always felt that the chassis feels most balanced (ride frequency) with as much F/R rate delta as possible (I do think Ohlins did a good job here with the 400/630 split).

But you nailed it - low is low and small travel is small travel. No damper can change these physical limitations. What they can do is minimize the compromises of these physical limitations.

People always say how good a suspension "rides" without qualification. Yes, the RT rides quite nicely for a stoutly sprung, high performance coilover system. But I don't sugar coat things and so I call them what they are.

It's all good though! I knew this going in but had to satisfy my curiosity. I had the idea going in that if I didn't like the rates (high possibility) I would swap them out for some 300/500 TCKs. But after realizing first hand how these were designed to be used, droop, travel, etc., I think that would be a wasted effort as I'd be trying to make them something they're not. A tall, soft spring just won't work like it should with these dampers.
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