(First posted on MLR forum in March 2015)
I’d been thinking of changing the Tein coilovers for something different for a while as they always felt a bit ‘crashy’ and were pretty old. So I spent some time reading MLR and other forums about various options such as going back to original springs and dampers, evo 9 springs and dampers, lowering springs on evo 9 dampers and many coilover options.
I quite liked the idea of going with some Evo 9 dampers but with the original springs I think the car would have sat too high. Maybe ok with the original wheels if I were going for a factory standard look but with the wheels and tyres I have I think it would have looked silly. So I could have gone for lower, stiffer springs on original dampers but I read quite often that that wasn’t a great solution and I know springs and dampers really need to be matched right to work properly. Plus whatever options I’d have had with OE dampers would have been limited so getting the ride height exactly as I wanted might have been a real pain or impossible.
So that left coilovers as the way to go. All I read is that you pretty much get what you pay for. The problem with that is I couldn’t justify spending 2k+ on something like Bilstein, Nitron or Ohlins when I am saving for a garage extension. I set myself a budget of 1k which obviously ruled out the top end options but I figured if I read as many reviews as possible about the various options I could buy something decent. (I will also point out, a used set was not something I was going to risk as you can’t trust they are ok or that they won’t need an expensive rebuild 200 miles down the line.) So all the obvious sub 1k options were considered. BC for example, but I just read too many bad things about them and poor customer support. To be fair I also read things may have improved more recently but I was just put off them. There are some super cheap budget things on eBay too but I can’t see them being anything other than pretty rubbish.
I ended up being torn between the HSD MonoPro and the MeisterR Zeta-R.
I found the HSD’s on Driftworks (around £700) who seem to have plenty of happy customers writing some good reviews. I also found this quote on their website “Our kits are highly rated by such clubs as the MLR” but I don’t remember finding any evidence of that on MLR. The HSD interested me because the fronts are an inverted monotube, but the inverted damper means it’s adjustment is on the underside. Not great for easy adjustment and would most probably result in a seized or broken adjuster due to it’s exposure to the elements. I also figured they are a slightly more complicated design and have more friction surfaces which might not be an ideal situation given the materials used are unlikely to be as good, low friction/hard wearing materials you’d find on top end inverted monotube items.
The MeisterR’s I found directly from their site (£692 inc %10 MLR discount). They are the usual configuration monotube damper with the adjuster at the top. I also read many reviews from happy customers of theirs too, even the one or two who’d had problems with earlier kits were dealt with very well and had no complaints once things were sorted. They seem very popular on the Honda forums and a friend had some on his 400bhp S2000 which he was perfectly happy with. MeisterR also talk about doing corrosion testing to the threaded damper body (corrosion can be a real problem with all manufacturers). Though, to be honest, I’m not sure how realistic the salt spray testing is compared to the real environment of a wheel arch in all weathers, at least it show’s some thought and effort has been put into dealing with this problem. I also noticed the spring rates they provide front to rear are more in keeping with the OE rates front to rear, ie higher at the rear than the front. This accounts for the fact that the front is a strut and the rear is multi link effectively giving a softer spring rate at the wheel. All other options seemed to have higher spring rates at the front, seemingly not accounting for the Evo’s suspension design??? Another thing that was good for me is that MeisterR are based in Kent where I think they build their GT1, so only an hour from me which might have been useful if I did have any troubles.
Standard Evo 6: Front 3.2kg/mm Rear 4.6kg/mm
MeisterR Zeta-R: Front 7kg/mm Rear 8kg/mm
HSD MonoPro: Front 8kg/mm Rear 6kg/mm
I ordered a set of MeisterR’s. They arrived very quickly so I was able to fit them that weekend. They were easy to fit without any poorly matched dimensions, hole misalignment or anything like that. All the threads mesh nicely with no binding or sloppyness and they seem of decent build quality overall though obviously mileage on the car is what will really test that. Like most other coilover sets, ride height, pre-tension and camber can all be adjusted, meaning I have been able to get a setup I’m happy with which would not have been so easy if at all possible with OE parts.
I’ve now had them on my Evo for 4-5 months/2000miles and have had plenty of opportunity to compare them to the previous Teins fitted, driving my daily commute and some more ‘spirited’ driving. Overall I’m very happy. They are certainly an improvement in ride quality over the Teins and aren’t horribly crashy on uneven roads which is what I really wanted. I have tried various damper settings and can say the adjustment makes a real difference giving a sharper drive when stiffened but at the determent to comfort. I’ve found the softer end of the damper settings all round are what I prefer with maybe a little increase in stiffness at the front.
I have to point out that I’m under no illusion that they have the compliance of a top end damper or the comfort of an OE damper and spring. Obviously they have higher spring rates than OE setup which is going to have an effect on comfort and the damper valving technology is not going to be what you’ll find in a high end damper so the ride/compliance will not be what Ohlins might offer for example. Most importantly though, I am happy they offer value for money in fulfilling my requirements for my budget.
I’m not able to recommend them over any other options at this price such as BC, HSD etc as I have no personal experience of their build quality, ride etc, all I can say is I’m happy with my purchase. This is a problem I met when trying to choose for myself. There are no independent back to back comparisons of these things so you cant make a choice on a product that is best for road use/track use or comfort. You can only go on reviews by people who have paid their money and are/aren’t happy with what they have. It would be great to get some of the main brands of all budgets together for a big test! I volunteer to do the fitting so long as I get to do the driving too. 😉