Project Evolution was finally ready for its first track day outing. Other than the power-adders - which include AMS FMIC and piping, an AEM intake, Cobb Tuning 3-inch high-flow cat and exhaust, an RRE ECU tune, and the Defi Advance CR gauges - everything else (the suspension, wheels and tires) was stock. My plan of attack was to put down some preliminary lap times at Buttonwillow (BW) Raceway before upgrading the suspension to see how much better the new Toda Fightex coilovers would be. After a solid day of running configuration 13 at BW, I quickly found out that the EVO X is an amazingly capable car right out of the box. And that begs the question, Why does it need a suspension upgrade?
For a number of reasons, actually. Aftermarket suspension systems not only allow ride height adjustability but also dampening control, camber adjustment and stiffer springs, which all add up to provide more grip and translate to faster lap times. If you're not into all that performance stuff, they allow you to slam your ride to make it hella cool.
But being low with the wrong coilovers can have its drawbacks, like an unpleasantly stiff ride. That's why investing in a quality set of coilovers can make or break your driving experience. Even if you don't track your car, a well-rounded coilover system will provide you with a comfortable ride and low stance - something I thought wasn't possible - but after installing Toda's Fightex Type DA coilovers, my opinion has changed.
My past experience with coilovers has been mostly entry-level systems, so I was taken aback by the amazing ride quality of the Fightex coilovers with the EVO's low stance. With 12 available dampening adjustments, the middle setting proved to ride practically like stock, and I'm not joking here. It was mildly stiffer, but the coilovers absorbed the bumps and cracks in the road as well as the stock suspension did. With springs rates of 12K up front and 10K in the rear, I was shocked (no pun intended) at how comfortable these coilovers were on the street because, as I mentioned earlier, my past experiences taught me to expect a harsh ride. Further proof came when I drove another EVO X equipped with a cheap set of coilovers, and sure enough, the ride quality was what I expected - harsh and rough. You get what you pay for. Spending an extra thousand-plus dollars on a higher-end coilover setup will immensely improve your driving experience, and I've yet to even test the Fightex coilovers on the track!
Aside from the great road-handling characteristics, the Toda Fightex Type DA coilovers offer some other excellent features like independent ride height adjustment that doesn't affect spring pre-load or damper stroke length. The shock bodies are constructed of aluminum, which is rust-resistant and much lighter than conventional steel casings. The chrome high-strength anodized upper pillow ball mounts are also corrosion resistant and designed as a separate piece from the spring mounts, effectively ensuring they don't adversely effect the spring and dampers performance during rotation.
But it's the little details that really set the Fightex coilovers apart from the crowd. A groove has been cut into the lower coilover housing to fit the ABS sensor wire bracket like it would on the OEM setup. I have yet to see another EVO X coilover with this feature; most need to be zip-tied on. It's apparent that Toda built these coilovers properly and didn't cut any corners.
I should mention that Fightex coilovers are manufactured in-house at Toda with one single technician overseeing the entire assembly and are dyno shock tested before shipment. Toda prides itself on providing high-quality products through strict standards and serious research and development. The Type DA coilovers have the same design qualities that Toda's Formula3 race dampers do.
I left the coilover installation and setup duties to the experts over at Evasive Motorsports, which also installed Whiteline's roll center adjustment kit that adjusts the roll center of the suspension back to near stock setting after lowering the car. This is an often-overlooked mod that most owners tend to skip. The EVO X's front strut-based setup will induce more roll after lowering the car, which is detrimental to handling because it provides less grip to the front tires. Replacing the factory ball joints and outer tie rods with Whilteline parts corrects this problem. Considering the $200 price tag, I suggest this mod to any EVO X owner planning to lower his car.
Lowering Project Evolution also meant that it needed a new set of wheels and tires. It wouldn't be caught rolling on stockers, so a call to Mackin Industries netted me a set of 19x10.5 +12 Volk CE28N wheels. This size is typically reserved for GT-Rs, but because the EVO X has such huge fender wells and a wide stance, 10.5-inch wheels clear the fenders with a bit of massaging. Again, the expertise of Evasive Motorsports paid off as they rolled the rear fenders without any issues or paint cracking. The aggressive +12 offset meant quite a bit of camber had to be dialed into the front and rear: -3.5 and -2.5 degrees, to be exact; coincidentally, it's a great track setup as well. The downside is the excessive camber will wear tires faster. However, I've had great success with Nitto's NT05s lasting quite well on aggressive camber setups, so they were my preferred tire for this application in a 275/30R19 size. The NT05s are an excellent match for the EVO X because they offer precise, balanced grip that's ideal for the car's heavy demeanor. They too are quite the capable track tire, but by going with a 19-inch setup I won't be doing any track days on them; these wheels and tires are strictly for the street. A set of 18-inch wheels will serve as my track setup.
I realize that I've left you hanging about the track day and how the Toda Fightex coilovers fared against the stock suspension, but sadly I've run out of room this month so you'll have to wait for the full report in the next issue.