Finally!! A year and a half after setting out, we've finally crossed the finish line. The coilovers we developed with BC Racing are now available!
There are other coilovers on the market from brands like KW and Nitron, both of which make great products, but those are fairly expensive. Standard OEM coilovers aren't any better - they cost as much as performance aftermarket ones. I wanted to come up with a coilover option that filled a gaping hole in the market: the reasonably-priced one. We've done the same thing bringing BC Forged wheels into the Aston Martin market - high quality products at reasonable prices - and now we're doing it again with their sister company's coilovers.
To get things started, I decided to aim for a product that would appeal to the largest number of Aston Martin owners. Working with BC Racing allowed me to nail a few birds with one adaptive stone.
- Some people want a less-expensive direct replacement for the leak-prone factory dampers.
- Some people want to keep their ride quality as close to OEM as possible, but lower the car slightly.
- Some people want to lower the car as much as they can for an aggressive stance.
- Some people want a coilover with as much adjustability as possible so they can change how the car rides based on whatever they're doing that day.
We were able to meet all those needs in one fell swoop with BC Racing.
The first set of prototype coilovers worked well, but structurally they didn't suit the car. The adjustment knobs on the front coilovers were hidden under the front strut brace mounts and impossible to reach without disassembling the brace and mounts. The strut brace mounts from the DBS have holes to accommodate the electric valve adjustment solenoids for those cars. The hole was just large enough to stick a finger into to poke the side of the knob to rotate it, but that's far from ideal.
Meanwhile, the adjustment knobs on the rear coilovers were tucked up and away, only reachable by squeezing your hand through the fender liners with enough space to get the tips of your fingers in there. Again, doable but not ideal.
BC Racing went back to the drawing board and redesigned the struts to have the adjustment knobs built into the struts rather than mounted to the top of them.
These knobs have 30 clicks of adjustability for the rebound and compression valving. Click one way, the damper gets more stiff. Click the other way, the damper gets softer. To keep things simple, let's refer to "1 click" as full soft and "30 clicks" as full stiff.
We started off with them set to the midway point (15 clicks) to get a baseline for ride comfort and performance. I went further to stiff and found where I like it, which was at 20 clicks. I needed to make sure people would be happy with comfort just as much as performance, so I went the other way for further testing. I've been doing a lot of driving with the coilovers set to 5 clicks, which is nearly but not quite full soft, and I've found it to be very comfortable without feeling like the dampers are too soft.
Having a comfortable ride in normal driving is one thing, but I wanted to go a step further. I went to the bumpiest roads I could find and plowed through bumps, potholes, and raised manhole covers to see how the suspension would take it. I did the same with speed tables and driveway curbs. The sounds from hitting things made me cringe far more than the physical impacts.
How Low Can You Go
Part of why I was able to get away with bouncing the car around is because I have it set to a mildly-lower ride height. We had the first set of prototypes set much lower and, although it looked really awesome, it was too much of a hassle to drive. Some people don't mind maneuvering a super-low car through obstacles, but I prefer more carefree driving. When the second set of prototypes went on the car, I asked BC Racing's techs to make sure it was only slightly lower than the factory setup.
Being able to set the ride height however you want it is a major selling point. I have standard OEM dampers with H&R springs on my grey V8 Vantage. Although it looks great and handles well, the drop is more than I'd like sometimes. I've scraped on speed bumps, gotten stuck in a parking garage, and even ripped the front valance off the car while backing out of the driveway of a townhouse I was looking to buy when I lived in Virginia. Experiences like I've had with them make it difficult to recommend H&R springs. I do recommend them for specific uses - I've enjoyed them greatly on track and they give the car a great stance. But if ride height is a concern, or if you have Sport Pack suspension on your car, they're a no-go.
VelocityAP lowering springs are a great alternative to H&R. They don't drop the car quite as much, and they're compatible with the Sport Pack dampers so you won't have the dreaded "pogo effect" H&R's springs have with those dampers.
But if you want ride height adjustment, springs won't cut it and coilovers are the only way to go.
Ride height adjustment is handled by a pair of rings on the strut body, which are loosened to adjust where they are positioned. A pair of purpose-made wrenches are included with the coilovers so you can adjust the ride height. It can take a little trial to get them where you want at first but once you have a baseline it's pretty easy to change from there. Tightening the rings together fixes the lower spring perch in place.
Because of how the spring perch is set on the body, its position has no effect on spring rates. That is, raising and lowering the spring perch on the shock body doesn't compress or expand the spring, so you can change the ride height without affecting how the spring behaves while driving.
The spring rates are similar to those of the special edition Prodrive V8 Vantage. These spring rates, along with the adjustable dampers, results in a sporty yet compliant coilover setup that can be adapted to suit each person's needs.
Time to Get Swifty
There are two springs available for the coilovers. The standard springs are made in-house by BC Racing while the optional upgrade springs are made by Swift. If you don't follow racing, you may have never heard of Swift. If you're interested, BC Racing has a page of their website with a brief history of the company.
Swift's springs are made to be incredibly light and durable. Lightness is an important factor in a spring's performance. Much like the way a lighter flywheel can better allow the engine to react to driver inputs, so too can a lighter spring better allow the suspension to react to the road surface. This is an incredibly important concept to understand - remember that the only thing keeping your car on the road are the four small contact patches where the tires actually touch the pavement. The car's suspension is what maintains those contact patches. (Side note: this concept also directly applies to lightweight wheels, tires, and lug nuts.)
Durability, meanwhile, will help ensure you don't get spring sag. Sag is what happens when a spring loses its elasticity and can no longer support weight as well. When springs sag, they need to be replaced. Another benefit of BC Racing's coilovers is that they're completely rebuildable and all of the parts are available à la carte.
I do recommend getting the upgraded Swift springs. Even with the added cost, the total price of the coilovers is still very reasonable.
The coilovers are now available to order. Because they're a brand-new item, inventory hasn't been built up yet and orders are being sent to customers as they're made. That means they're currently made-to-order and delivery time is typically 3-4 weeks from the time an order is placed.
The coilovers are currently only available for the V8 Vantage, but we'll be working on the DB9 next. The lessons learned from the current setup's development gives us a head start on the DB9's coilovers, so hopefully it won't be another year and a half before those are ready.
Of course, given the way things have gone with everything else.... I'm going to go knock on wood.