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  • Writer's pictureJoshua Walling

The Hunt For Budget Friendly Coilovers: The Verdict



Let's Get up to Speed

In our last installation of the “Hunt for a Budget Friendly Coilover”, I gave my initial thoughts on the MTS Technik coilover for my Dakar Yellow 1995 BMW M3, and left you readers hanging with a final review as I was about to set off on a long journey to Idaho to attend the 2022 OverCrest Rally. The idea - the rally, and the journey to it, being the best means for testing the muster of any “street” coilover. If you haven’t yet, head over to our initial review where I lay out how I define a “street” coilover, and what my thoughts of these MTS Technik coilovers are.


The Journey There

The weeks leading up to a rally are always hectic, at least for me. I seem to take my sweet time prepping the car over the winter and then somehow always end up in a big rush. I ended up installing the MTS Technik coilovers a few days before the rally, and had my car aligned just one day before.


Bright and early, around 4:00 AM, I set off from Milwaukee, WI to head towards the start of the rally - Challis, ID. Along the way, I linked up with some friends from around the midwest - resulting in a 997 911, an Estoril Blue M Coupe, and a red 318ti in tow. Of course, we wouldn’t make the 24-hour drive in one sitting, so we just thought we’d see how far we could get before needing to stop for a break. The trip west was almost exclusively freeway driving. Long straights and 80+ mph cruise speeds. This is one of the areas that a good street coilover has to perform well. After all, if you put as many miles on your car as I do, you will end up spending a lot of time on roads like these. I’m in my mid 30’s, and I am less tolerant of poor ride quality as I get older (lower back issues do not help). After 18 hours and 1,080 miles, we decided to call it quits in Miles City, MT and crash for the night. I have to say, I was more than thrilled with the comfort the MTS Technik coilovers provided over this very long first stint.


The next day was more of the same (or so we thought) to get us the rest of the way to Challis, ID, where the rally was to begin. Google Maps predicted a casual 9 hour, 570 mile journey to get us there. However, what we didn’t notice was a 50 mile segment along Bannock Pass that would take us over the Montana-Idaho border. Bannock Pass, for those who aren’t familiar, is a gravel mountain pass with breathtaking views, but washboard gravel roads meant for trucks, and not lowered BMWs.

Once the road turned to gravel we pulled over for a break to get our bearings. The rear settled along the way, resulting in a right height that was lower than I would prefer. This is something I would fix later in Challis - thankfully the MTS Technik Coilover system uses a helper spring in the rear, making it incredibly easy to compress the compound spring setup by hand and adjust the collar on the spring perch.

After a brief 15-minute break, and a failure to connect to any cellular service to see if there was an alternate route, we decided to just forge ahead and take the pass. While I personally didn’t mind any gravel, I had the worst condition paint in the group.

The Bannock Pass did not disappoint in the views category. Being from the midwest, it isn’t often that we get to see expansive views like this, so I made sure to stop along the way and snag some photos. Here, you can see the rest of the group pressing on down the road and kicking up dust in the background. It isn’t worth describing how the suspension performed on this section, as even the bone stock 997 911 felt like the interior was going to fall apart on the washboard sections. The vibrations were so intense that your dashboard looked like it was liquid, even slowing to under 5 mph in some areas. If something was going to fall apart, it would be on this road… Thankfully, the E36 door panels survived - a notoriously poor part of these cars.

We were also unaware of the seasonal forest fires that were ravaging vast areas of Idaho at the time, so this is the last time you will see blue skies in any of the photos (it isn’t just bad editing or exposure). At its worst point, visibility began to drop, as shown in the image below. No, a filter is not applied to the image below, it truly looked like roads were suddenly paved on Mars.


Rest and Registration

Just as the sun was setting we made it to Challis, got settled into our motel, washed off the 1,600 miles worth of bugs, and adjusted the rear suspension to improve the right height (and the ride quality, as I believe there was significant suspension bind down that low). At this point there was nothing left to do but pour a glass of Bulleit Bourbon and get some rest. Tomorrow, we didn’t have much to do but hangout and register for the rally.

Registration took place at Bayhouse Ghost Town, and required a slow drive up a barely maintained gravel road to get there. The suspension did fine, but the floorpans of the car, even at a respectable ride height, did not fare as well.

Once at the top, there was a paved lot and the rest of the rally attendants hanging out. Goodie bags and rally decals were handed out prior to heading back down to the main road to head into town for some pizza and beer.

At this point, you are probably begging me to talk about the suspension, but they had performed admirably. Freeway, long sweeping mountain pass highways, and slow cruises around town had all been tackled with ease. The next two days would put them to the absolute test, with hard driving for 600 miles. For now, we needed to relax and enjoy being in a new place and meeting new friends.



OverCrest Rally - Day 1

The next morning, at sunrise, we met at an old airstrip to receive our drivers briefing. This rally is not a time/speed/distance rally - it is a have-fun-and-enjoy-the-route rally. That being said, there is no pressure - all about having fun with your friends and appreciating the phenomenally well-planned route.

The cars, while overwhelmingly porsche, did have an eclectic mix - including a few BMWs and old Alfas. The first 100 or so miles of the rally were a dream. The roads wound and curved to follow the rivers carving through the mountains. I had picked up a passenger at the drivers briefing, and was told that this was “the most sorted E36 he had ever been in” - a compliment I attribute to the fresh MTS Technik suspension and bushings.

The car was planted, and yet compliant, which made hammering the winding mountain roads absolutely sublime. Shortly after the start, we did a down-and-back route through Boise National Forest on Hwy 21 along Ponderosa Pine Scenic Route, where things started to get twisty. Just to give you guys an appreciation of what I put the suspension through, I’ve placed a screenshot from Google Maps below. This wasn’t a leisurely drive either, it was a truly spirited drive. The MTS Technik Coilovers truly left me wanting nothing - and I honestly could not be more impressed with their performance for the price point.

At the top of the pass, we took a short break to take it all in. For most of us, these were the best roads we’ve ever driven in our lives, and we needed a moment to let the experience sink in.

The majority of the route for the day was taken through long, winding roads that paralleled the Payette River. A spirited, yet calm drive between Snowbank and Packer John Mountains. Corners that are long enough to load up the suspension and push you in the bolstering of your seat for extended periods of time - enough time to sit in those moments and appreciate the grip that the tires and suspension allow for. These roads are literal bliss, especially when you are from the midwest, like myself.

We eventually made it to Warm Lake off Route 579, our final destination for Day 1, and were told to explore just a little further up the road. The exploration did not disappoint - and this time, I don’t need Google Maps to show you…

This section of Route 579 has you climb 2000 ft of elevation over a short four-mile stretch of road. No other part of the trip would top this drive. The drop-offs at the edges of the road were steep, and pushing the car on this road would have adrenaline at all time highs. We climbed in elevation so quickly that, for lack of a better understanding, I believe I vapor locked my gas tank - meaning that the pressure in my gas tank couldn’t equalize in time and prevented adequate fuel from getting to the engine. At least, this was my assumption, and perhaps there is a maintenance item that I should be looking into. In any case, after coasting back down the road towards lower elevations my car had no trouble starting and we were off headed back to the hotel for the night. Notice how I am not spending hours talking about the performance of the suspension. I’m actually having a hard time focusing on it because it dutifully did its job in the background over hundreds of miles spent in the upper rev range of the M3. I find it much easier to point out something's flaws, than to point out where that same thing excels.


OverCrest Rally - Day 2

The next day was more of the same long winding type of river paralleled roads, and no one was complaining. This day was more relaxing, and filled with pulling off to “talk shop” about the absolute perfection that was the Idahoan roads.

At one point, a large group gathered in a perfect spot along the river and just took it all in. The scenery out here, even amongst the smoke-filled mountains, was breathtaking.

That is all I have for you. I couldn’t be more pleased with the MTS Technik suspension. I feel that it performed exactly as it was designed over this week-long, 4,000+ mile stress test. I asked for so much from this suspension over this journey - the washboard gravel roads, the long brain-killing freeway miles, the sweeping highway curves, the sharply twisted backroads - and the MTS Technik suspension answered.

Cheers,

Josh


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