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Flyin Miata 2.5 suspension kit review
In December, I stumbled across and purchased a 1996 M-edition that was in decent shape for a reasonable price. The shocks were dead, but arenít they always on a used Miata? I drove it through the winter, all the while researching how to upgrade the suspension. Just shocks? New springs? Sways? A package of some sort? As most of you know, there are a ton of different options out there.
The car also needed to be that greatest of all Miata.net conundrums: a daily driven street car that the wife will enjoy, and an occasional but still competent track car.
My experiences with suspension mods are limited. My lowered í99 Sport is running Bilsteinís PSS coilover setup and a previous NA ran stock springs and sways with Koni sports. Both are/were good but the Bilstein PSS setup was by far my favorite. Itís firm, controlled ride made it much sportier and raised the handling a notch or two. Yes, it was a little more harsh over bad road, but the tradeoff in performance was worth it. The Koni shocks were decent, but I didnít like that I couldnít set the compression myself and the vagueries of the adjustment process left me doubtful that I had all the shocks set the same, especially as they aged.
I had become kind of partial to Flyin Miataís 2.5 suspension kit due to the praise it always seemed to generate and because over the years Iíve come to trust that FM knows what theyíre doing. I PM-ed a few posters who are running the Tokico Illuminas and read all the reviews about each part. It seemed to be a good performance setup that wonít beat you up, so I took a chance and ordered it.
Installation was fairly straightforward. I used the long-bolt method, which was WONDERFULLY easy. I only ran into trouble twice. The first issue was how tight the coils on the rear springs were. They were difficult to get spring compressors on and especially off. In the end I stopped caring if they got scratched or not and just got rough with them and then everything got easier. The second was that I installed the new longer front sway bar bolts with the extra length pointing towards the new Tokico shocks. With only 1-2mm space between them, I worried that they might make contact and a shock would get punctured, so I removed the bolts and installed them from the other direction.
After everything was bolted in, torqued down, and double-checked, I took her for a drive. Even needing an alignment and balancing really badly, I could tell that big changes had been made. Big positive changes.
The carís stance it all business now too. It sits low, but not nearly as low as my í95 with Koniís on the lowest perch. After a long week of driving it, I have yet to scrape anything anywhere and Iíve done steep driveway aprons and speedbumps of varying heights.
I discovered that the Chevy dealer near my house has some of the best alignment and balancing equipment in town, so I Ė figuring that since they work on Corvettes so they MUST know what theyíre doing Ė made a mid-week appointment to have her aligned to Icehawkís specs and road-force balanced. They got the specs perfectly and said she balanced very nicely too, with no need to move the tires around on the rims. My 65mph shimmy is *completely* gone.
The first thing I noticed the first time I threw it into a corner was how buttery smooth it felt. It quietly glided through the corner in a way that Iíve never experienced before. My í99 feels quick through corners, but it feels like itís fighting something as it does. I pushed a little harder. The car did as asked once again. Itís as balanced as a ballerina, displaying just a *hint* of oversteer coming out of a sharp corner. Not even enough to get excited about, just ďhey! Oh, there..Ē as it gripped again and continued on. The car is much flatter than before through corners, but not excessively so. Transitional responses are quick and controlled. On Illumina setting #2, thereís still a little brake dive and acceleration squat but the side-to-side motions are quelled. Despite the higher spring rates itís running, bumps and broken pavement donít upset it as much as my PSS-equipped 1999. Iím eager to get on track and really push it to see how well she responds.
I quickly learned that my tires are woefully inferior to this suspension. It feels like the bigger sways transmit more responsibility for cornering to the tires and unfortunately mine arenít up to the task. They scream like a spoiled toddler way before the suspension yields anything. Of course, theyíre old, hard Yoko Avid something-or-others, not serious summer rubber. I plan to scrub them off at the next track day and then replace them with something much, much grippier.
As an everyday driver, it seems perfectly acceptable too. Since my wife plans to drive it as a DD during the summer months, I was worried that it might be too harsh but reasoned that I could always replace the offending part with the stock one and make it better. However, seeing her smile after driving it and after a lot of passenger seat time the last few weekends, I shouldnít have worried. She loves it. Broken and patched pavement still come through loud and clear, but they do in a stock Miata too. I think itís just due to the inherent flexibility of a convertible that bad pavement resonates through the structure. (Maybe FM frame rails would help?)
Is the ride worse with stiffer springs? I donít think so. Itís certainly better than when I was driving on dead shocks. My butt-meter tells me that itís no worse than the Koniís and stock springs on my old Ď95 or the PSS Bilsteins with 275 lb springs on my í99. Certainly for the performance gain, itís a more-than-acceptable compromise. And interestingly enough, the faster you drive it the less you feel any irregular road surface. It will take a twisty, bumpy, lousy back road and turn it into a roller coaster that will have you grinning from ear-to-ear. Which is to say, it works as advertised. Iíve been driving it every day for the last week now and Iím just amazed at how much more fun it is. My wife keeps trying to get me back into my í99, but I want to keep driving *this*.
I was hoping to tell people how well each part does itís job, butÖyou canít tell. I think part of the black art of suspension design is surely how well each part ďplaysĒ with the others, and my impression is that Flyin Miata has put together a great setup. Now, I'm no suspension expert but unless Iím sorely mistaken, in a good suspension every part complements the others because, to a degree, every component does a little bit of every other partís job and if itís good, you canít tell whatís doing which. So it is here. The system works together as a whole and the results Ė so far Ė have been marvelous. Iím EXTREMELY pleased with the kit as a whole and I'm VERY pleased with my purchase and my car's newfound competency. My sincere thanks to Flyin Miata for this great kit and to everyone who reviewed it; your reviews do not lie.