Evaluating the HKS Max GT R35 GT-R Coilover Suspension System

Evaluating the HKS Max GT R35 GT-R Coilover Suspension System

by Mike Kojima

Not so long ago we evaluated HKS' new Max ST coilover suspension system on our AP1 Honda S2000 project.  The S2000 is a pretty decent handling car from the factory that is pretty suspension sensitive, the AP1 in particular has a lot of toe change with suspension moment and some wonky suspension can make it quite a handful.  

Even though we are pretty jaded with suspension and are spoiled because we usually rock pretty high end dampers on our daily rides we were very pleasantly pleased with the performance of the Max ST suspension right out of the box.  HKS told us that they strive to provide a pretty decent set up with the base adjustments and centered adjustment should be a really good baseline and they were right. This is the first time we were not able to improve on a coilover set much by adjusting it from the as delivered condition!  

For our next evaluation we decided to try the other HKS coilover in the lineup the Max GT damper. While the Max ST is calibrated for the serious driver being set up like a hard core street and or weekend warrior track day shock, the GT is made for a mildly performance oriented driver that wants to lower their vehicle with a decent ride and have handling that is a step up from stock but with little sacrificed in the way of ride comfort.

For our test mule we chose the R35 GT-R because for one, it is one of the best handling stock vehicles made and frankly most coilvoers on the market are a step down from stock.  Nissan spent plenty of time fine tuning the R35 dampers on the Nurburgring among other places and the stock spring rates and damping are pretty damn good for the enthusiast driver. Nissan has also spent a lot of time refining the R35 and each model year has been more refined than the last, particularly the jump for CBA to DBA models.

The other thing is that even the greatly refined DBA rides pretty firmly. Although the ride is actually pretty decent for the enthusiast driver, it is still a matter of complaint from much of the lame automotive media and sissies who should really be driving quite refined car like Audis. We were wondering if HKS's comfort oriented GT damping calibration could improve the GT-R ride comfort without taking away handling prowess.

We eagerly installed our test set of Max GT's on a bone stock DBA 2014 model and went about evaluating it, what did we think?  Read on.

At a first look, the HKS Max GT coilover is a pretty high quality unit.  It is a monotube design.  It has a large diameter shaft which displaces more fluid.  This makes the valving more sensitive particularly at low shaft speeds where fluid flow is at a minimum but maximum control force is sometimes needed. A new larger needle valve is used which gives the potential to reduce low speed rebound damping through adjustment which potentially gives a smoother ride at the expense of control. To reduce the unsprung weight the mounting brackets are made of forged aluminum.  You can adjust the ride height independently of spring preload although this isn't advisable without taking the time to verify the tire clearance because you could bottom out the tire in the wheelwell.

The HKS Max GT dampers have spherical bearing equipped pillow ball mounts.  These can offer better performance because they assure all wheel moment is controlled by the damper unlike rubber mounts that allow for uncontrolled movement. One drawback is that they have the potential to transfer noise and vibration into the drivers cabin. The GT shocks have 30 way adjustment and are designed to have a good baseline with the adjustment set at 15 all around.

The HKS Max GT shocks have dust boots to protect the seals, tender springs to keep the main springs tensioned on droop, adjustment spanners and for the rear shocks shown here, a neat flex drive for the adjusters.  More on how neat that is later.

The shock bodies have HKS's PNE coating which is a tough lubricious power coating which is 5 times more rust resistant than galvanizing and has anti seizing properties. This makes the shock body durable and spring seat and ride height adjustment easy. The HKS GT Coilovers have a spring rate of 16kg front and 8kg rear which is up from the stock 14.3kg front and 6.8kg rear.


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