Determining your objectives when doing suspension upgrades is the first and most important step of the process. Some will want to maximize handling for competition, others may do suspension mods entirely for aesthetic reasons (lowering). My goal has been to improve handling as much as possible with little or no effect on ride quality. I realized from the outset that this would take some planning, and that I would not get the same results as someone who is not concerned about ride quality. With that out of the way, here are the parts and pieces that I used.
My first additon was new tires - P225/45ZR-17 Kumho SPT summer performance tires. Looking at the the user feedback on Tirerack.com, the tire was generally praised for its excellent grip on both dry and wet surfaces, while some complained that the sidewall is not stiff enough for competiton use. This was exactly what I was looking for - a tire with good grip, but without an excessively stiff sidewall that hurts ride comfort. I mounted the tires on a set of Rota 17 X 7.5 (48mm offset) Subzero wheels. This wheel/tire combo weighs the same as the factory wheels with the 215/45-17 RE92 tires. The tires performed as expected, and are quieter than the stock RE92s as well.
Next up was a set of springs. After a short stint with Prodrives
, I installed the Subaru SPT Pink springs. As opposed to the Prodrives, these springs have enough ride height to maintain front control arm geometry (an important consideration for handling) and suspension travel, and have a higher spring rate to reduce body roll. Out of all of the suspension mods I have done, these had the most noticeable effect on ride quality, but are not nearly as much as springs with less suspension travel (lower ride height). The addition of the springs in combo with the wheels/tires made a big difference in the handling ability of the car, with only a very minor hit on ride comfort.
Immediately following the spring install, I had a performance alingment done on the car at a Local Sunoco station that has a Hunter machine. We maxed out front camber, ending up with minus 1 degree on each side. In the rear, one side was minus 1.4 degrees, the other minus 1 degree. We installed one camber bolt - on the minus 1.4 side - to even out the rear, ending up with minus 1 degree camber on all four corners. I had hoped for more in the front, but was pleased we were able to get the rear to 1 degree. Toe was set at minus .02 degrees (toe in) as per my request to help with straight line stability on the highway. The alignment made a big difference - more than I expected. I suspect even a stock WRX would really benefit from a "performance alignment."
Last month, I replaced the OEM 17mm RSM with a Subaru 20mm bar. I reused the stock links to help keep NVH in check. The heavier RSB made a difference, but not as much as the springs. With the heavier RSB, slight oversteer became evident for the first time, but it felt as though the front end was still trying to roll too much. At this point, the car handled immensely better than stock - no comparison. But I knew I was going to have to do something in the front.
I picked up a 22mm Whiteline FSB a few weeks ago and finally had the chance to do the install. Once I removed the subframe and jacking plate, the bar was very easy to swap out. I reused the OEM links, cleaned up the subframe and jacking plate and put it all back together.
I have to say, the FSB made a huge
difference - perhaps as much as the springs. On the cloverleafs, the car feels glued to the road. Around and 'round the cloverleafs I went, pushing the car faster and faster. Squealing tires (front and rear) finally gave way to just a touch understeer, but at a much higher speed than I have been able to do before. The car feels extremely well balanced and poised, as if all of the parts are "singing in harmony." I am very pleased with how well this combination of mods has fulfilled my original objective.
Are there better handling WRXs out there? No doubt about it, but I bet few if any of them ride as comfortably as mine, especially on less-than-smooth roads.
Here is a break down of the costs to get to this point (includes shipping costs where applicable);
Wheels, tires and lug nuts - $1050
SPT Pink springs - $260
Alignment - $95
Camber bolt set - $35
RSB - $95
FSB - $110
Total cost of parts = $1645, or $595 for just the suspension components.
If your objectives are the same as mine (improved handling with little decrease in ride comfort), I can recommend this combination of parts.