The Coilover Upgrade Guide for Subaru BRZ, FRS, and GT86

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The Coilover Upgrade Guide for Subaru BRZ, FRS, and GT86. One of the best handling mods for the Subaru BRZ, Scion FRS, and Toyota 86 is to replace the stock suspension with coilovers. The 7.6 second 0-100km/h time with a naturally aspirated engine and 200hp is not fast. The light 2,700lb curb weight, on the other hand, makes these cars agile, quick, and a lot of fun to drive around corners.

While bolt-on mods can add about 50whp for $2,000, getting any more power out of it will require forced induction and some serious cash. As a result, coilovers are one of our favorite performance mods. Coilovers will not only improve handling and cornering while reducing body roll, but will also make the car look better by lowering it. So, whether you want to slam the car for stance or improve street or track handling performance, coilovers are at the top of our list of mods.

The Coilover Upgrade Guide for Subaru BRZ, FRS, and GT86

The best coilovers for the BRZ and FRS are determined by your objectives. We will categorize this guide into three sections:

  • Entry-Level Street & Stance
  • Occasional Track & Mid-Level Street
  • Superior Street and Dedicated Track

But, before we get into the best BRZ, FRS, and GT86 coilover setups, there are a few important coilover basics to go over. The most important considerations in this case are tube design, damping control, and spring rates. We’ll also go over the differences between lowering springs and coilover upgrades for the BRZ and FRS.

Because the suspension is the same on all FRS, BRZ, and Toyota 86 models, this guide applies to all of them.

FRS, BRZ, and GT86 Coilover Fundamentals

Not all coilovers are designed for track use and high performance. As you might expect, the ones that are are quite expensive and have a slew of extra features that would be overkill for a simple daily driver. So, when deciding which of the features listed below to include in your coilovers, keep your goals (and your budget) in mind.

Also keep in mind that the best coilovers aren’t always the ones that offer the best “performance”. While most expensive track-level coilovers have a lot of adjustability that allows them to be driven on the street, driving on a set of track-tuned coilovers on a daily driver would be miserable.

Mono vs. Twin Tube Design

Shocks are an important part of coilovers. They are typically classified as either monotube or twin-tube. This is due to the design and engineering of the coilovers. Without getting too technical, we’ll highlight the key differences between these two options.

Monotube coilovers are more sensitive and precise, resulting in better handling performance. However, because they are more sensitive, they may be slightly less comfortable for daily driving. If you track your BRZ or FRS, a monotube is a must-have. You have a choice for a street-only car.

Twin-tube coilovers are less sensitive and precise, resulting in fewer handling improvements. The trade-off is that they are significantly less expensive than monotube coilovers and will be more comfortable on the road. If you don’t care about performance, such as stance, twin-tube is a good option. Furthermore, this is not to say that twin-tubes will not be an improvement over stock; they will still provide more performance than stock, just not as much as monotubes.

Damping Management

Damping, also known as dampening, refers to the shocks on coilovers. Shocks’ primary function is to control the compression and rebound of the coil springs. A stiffer shock allows for less spring compress and rebound, while a softer shock allows for more compress and rebound.

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Coilovers are available in two configurations here: pre-set damping or no control, and adjustable dampening. The manufacturer adjusts the damping on pre-set coilovers to provide the best combination of performance and ride quality. Coilovers with adjustable dampening have knobs on the top that allow you to stiffen or soften the damping, giving you more control over performance and ride quality. When it comes to track-level coilovers, most will have 2 or 3 ways of adjustment, allowing you to independently adjust rebound, compression, and speed, whereas most street-level coilovers only have 1 way of adjustment.

Damping control, as you might expect, is more expensive. So here’s our high-level take:

  • Damping adjustability: required for any car that sees track action, but optional for street and daily driving.
  • Pre-set damping: cost-effective, ideal for those who don’t care about performance and are looking for entry-level options.
  • 3-way adjustable damping: required for dedicated track cars, but overkill for street cars unless you don’t mind spending a lot of money.

Rates for the Spring

The weight of the car is supported by the springs. Spring rates are the amount of force required to compress a spring by one inch. As a result, higher spring rates result in a stiffer ride. Budget coilovers will only come with one spring option. Some of the more expensive coilovers (typically $1,500) allow you to upgrade your springs so that you can choose your own spring rates.Higher spring rates equal a stiffer ride, which is better for performance.

Higher spring rates = stiffer ride, better for performance
Lower spring rates = softer ride, more ride comfort and quality

One of the most important aspects of ride quality is spring rate. If you have extremely stiff, track-level spring rates, you will have a poor street ride quality. Even if you have adjustable dampening and set it to the softest setting, the ride will be rough because all of the force is sitting on the springs rather than the struts. On the other hand, if you have extremely soft spring rates and try to compensate by setting the damping to stiff, you are putting a lot of stress on your shocks, which can cause them to blow out.

Also, if you are slamming your car or going for stance, you will need stiffer springs to prevent bottoming out.

In the end, don’t get too worked up about spring rates. Most coilover setups will include the optimal spring rates for the coilovers’ intended use. Spring upgrades are usually only required if you have very specific performance goals.

Lowering Springs vs. Coilovers for the BRZ and FRS

Not sure if you want coilovers? The alternative is to install lowering springs on the car. We always recommend coilovers if your budget allows for them for a few reasons.

For starters, lowering springs do not allow you to adjust your ride height. This is important if you have aftermarket wheels and/or larger tires, or if you plan to or swap out your wheels frequently. Springs only provide a fixed drop, which can cause rubbing if you use larger wheels or tires, or wheels with a low offset. Regardless, being able to adjust the height is a great feature to have.

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Second, unless you also upgrade your shocks, even the most inexpensive set of coilovers will ride better than lowering springs. The stock shocks on the FRS, BRZ, and GT86 aren’t designed to handle the stiffer spring rates that lowering springs provide, making for a less comfortable ride. Also, because the shocks have a greater impact on performance than the springs, springs alone will provide less performance than a full coilover setup. And if you’re going to do springs and shocks/struts, you’ll end up spending the same amount as coilovers.

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Benefits of BRZ, FRS, and GT86 Coilover Upgrade

  • Ride height can be adjusted from 0 to 3 inches.
  • Better cornering and handling with less body roll
  • When compared to springs, the ride quality is more comfortable.
  • Damping adjustment for softness/stiffness (for more expensive coilovers)
  • Excellent replacement for worn or old factory suspension.

A good set of coilovers will always outperform the stock suspension. And, with some low-cost options available, coilovers are a great upgrade, especially if your stock suspension is worn.

Coilovers are probably the best suspension and handling mod you can make to your FRS or BRZ, whether you’re looking for stance/lowering or improved street/track performance.

Best BRZ and FRS Coilover Configurations

When it comes to coilovers, “best” is a highly subjective term. The best setup is one that fits within your budget and achieves your objectives. A $3k set of track coilovers may have the most performance potential, but they aren’t the best coilovers for someone looking for stance, for example.

1) Raceland BRZ/FRS/GT86 Coilovers for Stance and Entry Street

Budget-friendly, Stance, Entry-Level Street, Best Bang-for-Your-Money

1-3′′ reduction in height

Price: $519

Racelands are our favorite entry-level value coilover. These will not provide track-level performance, but they will be stiffer and provide better performance than the stock suspension. They are a twin-tube design with no damping control, so we consider them entry-level and would not recommend them for track use.

Racelands are the best for stance and will get you as low as you need to go with a drop of up to 3 inches. They also have excellent customer service, a lifetime warranty, and Affirm financing, making them an excellent choice for anyone looking for a low-cost setup.

Damping is pre-set to match the spring rates available. The damping and spring rates are stiff enough to keep the car from bottoming out when fully lowered, but soft enough to make it a comfortable daily driver.

Overall, these aren’t the most powerful coilovers, but they will outperform the OEM suspension. They’re stiff enough without sacrificing ride quality too much. It’s also a good company. However, if performance is more important to you than cost, we recommend something from bucket #2.

2) Weekend Warrior and Mid-Level Street

A more advanced setup is required for higher performance street setups and weekend track warriors. All of these options feature monotube designs and adjustable damping, giving you greater control over ride quality and performance. Damping control is essential for any daily driver or street car that also sees track time. It will allow you to adjust the suspension stiffness/softness so that you can stiffen it for track days but soften it for street driving.

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These coilovers are quite expensive due to the performance and adjustability benefits they provide, costing between $1,000 and $1,500. They will, however, provide about as much street performance as you require while also being adequate for track use. Some of these options will let you upgrade your springs and/or select your spring rates. When doing this, keep your goals in mind. Softer spring rates are probably better for a daily driver, whereas upgrading to a stiffer spring is a good idea for a track car.

Coilovers for Mid-Level Street and Occasional Track

  • Suspension of ST
  • XR1 Stance
  • The Fortune 500
  • N1 Apexi
  • BC Motorsports
  • KW V1
  • The Skunk2 Pro ST

3) Top-Tier Street & Dedicated Track Coilovers for the FRS/BRZ

Once you get past the $2k mark, you can start looking at track-level suspension setups. These are all top-tier monotube designs, with most having 2 or 3-way damping control to independently control compression and rebound settings.

Most of these setups have spring upgrade options, but they will generally have stiffer spring rates because they are more track oriented. A number of these coilovers also have camber-adjustable top mounts, which allow you to control wheel camber.

Finally, these coilovers will all have less height adjustability than the options listed above. Because track cars will never require a 3′′ drop, most of these setups will only drop 1.5′′ inches.

Best Track Coilovers for the FRS and BRZ

  • KW V3
  • Ohlins
  • Extreme XA Pedders
  • N1 Apexi Evolution
  • 510 Fortune Auto
  • Club Racer RS-R

Summary of BRZ and FRS Coilovers

Coilovers are available in a variety of configurations and price points. When deciding on coilovers, keep in mind whether you require monotube performance and damping control. Furthermore, stiffer spring rates will provide more performance and slammed cars, whereas softer spring rates will provide a more comfortable ride quality.

You can’t go wrong with Raceland coilovers if you’re looking for an entry setup or just some lowering/stance. While adjustable damping and monotube are nice, they are not required for street cars unless you are looking for performance. Racelands will provide more performance and a smoother ride than stock suspension but will fall short of the performance of bucket #2 coilovers. Stick to these if you need something cheap.

Unless you’re constructing a dedicated track car, you probably don’t need anything more than $1,500. Coilovers in this price range will have most of the bells and whistles and provide enough performance for street and track use. $2k+ track coilovers are only worthwhile if you need independent rebound and compression damping control.