It’s strangely difficult to remember a time without a mobile phone, yet just a decade ago the devices that we can no longer live without were considered a luxury. Today we rely on our phones to do virtually everything but the single thing they were originally designed to do, make a phone call. While the list of borderline useless functions increases daily, German suspension maker KW has designed one app you might actually want to use.
In the paddock area of the 24 hours of Nürburgring I spotted this white 991 in their booth. Being the first modified version I’ve ever seen of this recently released 911, I had to move in for a closer look. To my surprise I saw a large iPhone outline drawing emblazoned on the side of the Porsche accompanied by text which reads “KW iSuspension”. I was intrigued.
Naturally I did what any curious journalist would and I went right to the source to find out what this was all about. Driving for several hours from the ‘ring I eventually arrived at KW’s impressive facility. For a petrol head this place is about as close as you can get to a real life Charlie and the Chocolate Factory experience. These guys take their suspension building very seriously.
At KW they do things a little differently from most aftermarket suspension companies and build their components to a higher standard. Rather than hiring robots to do their welding everything is done by a trained human hand. Spot checking isn’t acceptable, instead they insist on inspecting every damper before it leaves the facility. I could go on and on about just how dedicated these guys are, but I think the fact that they purchased an ex-Formula 1 shaker rig from BAR should put things into perspective.
Right, so before we get to the phone let’s take a look at the key component – KW’s DDC coilovers. The DDC is essentially a Variant 3 coilover except the manual damper adjustment knobs have been replaced by electrical connectors. They offer a plug-and-play, and more importantly dash warning light free, solution for many newer cars with factory adjustable shock absorbers.
With my brain still wrapping around the DDC coilovers I decided it best to take a ride and let it all sink in. I’ve had a handful of experience with KW products over the years, including a set of sister brand ST coilovers on my daily driver, and I have grown to expect amazing things from them. Even with high expectations, the DDCs were on another level.
The shock absorbers offer three modes which, from softest to stiffest, KW call comfort, sport and sport +. Controlling the adjustment is a complex computer which plugs into the car’s factory system. Supplied with the kit is a button to change modes which can be mounted in the open or cleverly hidden like we see here.
So essentially what you have with the DDC kit is an electronically adjustable damper, done right. No cheesy motors to mount on top of your shocks, no cutting up your dash to mount an ugly control box and no warning lights or voided warranties. But it gets better if you happen to have an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad…
With an optional Wi-Fi receiver for the DDC brain unit and a modern apple product you can now tap into the shock’s ECU for custom finite tuning. After a quick download from the app store you’re ready to go.
The first screen you’ll see shows the three basic DDC damper settings. By touching the setting of your choice the computer dials in the damping accordingly. At this point you’ve just turned your phone into a complicated wireless button, but it does get better.
Under the advanced screen things get a little more interesting. You can now adjust the dampers throughout the range, with 0% (factory comfort) being the softest and 100% (factory sport + ) being the stiffest. You can now offset the front and rear axle by as much as 30% and once you find settings you like you can save them.
On the personal screen you can store up to five settings to recall on the fly. This could of course be very useful for storing, for example, settings for several different racing circuits you frequent. I know this is one feature I’d really like to have on my EK! But it gets better because KW have also allowed you to share your settings with your friends so they can test out your newest tune and vice-verse.
So it’s a coilover system that’s impossibly adjustable from your phone, it bolts right into your car and doesn’t cause any problems. I can hear you thinking “that’s great… but how does it ride?” It’s difficult to put into words, but if I had to try I’d say it’s unbelievable. If you’ve driven or ridden in any higher end sports or luxury cars built in the last five or so years you’ve likely had some experience with adjustable shocks and the bizarre feeling of changing settings on the fly.
The DDC shocks take this concept to the next level, and without magnets. As we set off through a small village the two hundred year old road surface was daunting to say the least, but with the shocks set on comfort the surface discrepancies were scarcely detected – a massive feat considering the rubber bands the car was wearing for tires. Once we got out into the twisty bits in the countryside the system was switched over to sport + and from the cabin it felt like an entirely different car.
The only downside I could think of, if it could even be considered a downside, is that they don’t offer this shock for my Civic. Certainly this is only the beginning and I can only hope that they will eventually develop a universal brain unit to further extend the product in our market. Until then I have to solute the thinking behind the iSuspension, making my phone just a little more relevant.