Production - KW



Production - KW
086-090 PVW 0512 28/03/2012 14:14 Page 86
ow unless this is your very first
time picking up a copy of the
mag, we’re pretty sure you don’t
need us to tell you who KW
Automotive is or what it’s all
about. And if it’s not your first time but you
do need us to fill you in, we’ve got to ask,
where have you been all this time?! After all,
KW Automotive is one of ‘the’ names when it
comes to premium suspension in the VAG
scene, look under the arches of any serious
car parked up in any showfield or track day
car park and there is a high chance you will
see KW’s trademark purple and yellow
colours looking back at you. But while we all
might know the KW Automotive name, we
bet there aren’t many out there who know
where it comes from and more importantly,
where it’s going and what it has in store. So
with that in mind, we decided to take a trip
down to the German company’s new
purpose-built UK HQ near Rochester to meet
up with KW UK main man Richard Goode and
get a closer look at the brand. And what a
place it was, but more on that later…
For starters, it might be somewhat
surprising to learn that KW didn’t exist at all
until it was formed in 1992 by Klaus
Wohlfahrt. But it will be more surprising to
learn that the coilover system we all know
and love so much didn’t even exist until KW
pioneered it back in 1995 – before then the
idea of height adjustable suspension was
strictly for the race track.
If that wasn’t impressive enough then the
rate at which KW has grown in both scale and
technology is what really blows you away –
from just three employees and 150sq metres
of space when it formed in ’92 to 130
employees and 16,000sq metres of space at
its base in Fichtenberg. But while it may have
experienced rapid growth, KW still prides
itself on specialising in ‘small scale’ runs,
meaning that something can go from the
drawing board to the production line in an
086-090 PVW 0512 28/03/2012 14:15 Page 87
Think coilover technology stopped with height adjustment and the ability to play
with bump and rebound settings? Think again. We take a trip to KW Automotive
UK to see the future of static suspension. Words: David Kennedy Photos: Si Gray
incredibly short amount of time, perfect for
the high-end brands it partners and the race
teams it supports. KW even has its own ex-F1
seven-post rig at its factory, something that
even some F1 teams don’t have.
As the story goes, Klaus was at Autosport
one year and got chatting to a member of
what was the Honda F1 team at the bar. They
mentioned that they had a seven-post rig they
didn’t need anymore (like you do). Klaus said
that he’d always wanted to own one and the
rest, as they say, is history! The fact that KW
had to build an entirely new facility to house
the rig (it also took two lorries to deliver it
over to Germany and once it was in place,
took four Honda engineers almost a year to
set it up) might give you an idea of the
complexity of the piece of kit we’re dealing
with, but it was worth it as it can replicate
any track condition. Interestingly KW now rent
it out to other race teams, regardless of what
suspension brand they use.
But what makes KW as a brand cooler in
our eyes is that founder Klaus Wohlfahrt was
a VW enthusiast before he started the brand
and an avid hillclimber. In fact it was his
experiences in hillclimbing that led him to
start developing his own suspension kits for
the road, put simply, he thought he could do
better than what was on offer already. And
hillclimbing is just one area of motorsport
where KW excel, a list that includes the
WTCC, the Mini Challenge, endurance rally
events and over 70 teams at the legendary
24 Hour Nürburgring event – even some
teams that are sponsored by rival
suspension manufacturers – very cool!
What else is cool is that KW supply the
suspension components for a lot of premium
car manufacturers or specialist manufacturerapproved tuning brands. While we were at KW
UK Richard showed us the coilover destined
for the new AMG Black Series, specially
designed by KW for the Black. It’s not painted
in KW’s purple and yellow colourway but
086-090 PVW 0512 28/03/2012 14:15 Page 88
instead in matte black, obviously.
KW also works with ABT Sportline, Roush,
Gumpert and legendary Ferrari-tuner, Novitec
Rosso. The company has also developed the
suspension for the £120k BMW M3 GTS and
the new Mini Coupé among many more, all
given their own unique colour scheme and
branding, of course. It’s thanks to KW’s ability
to handle and specialise in small-scale
production runs that means it is the preferred
suspension choice of many race teams and
manufacture-approved aftermarket brands;
something that the team are very proud of.
There’s also KW’s work in developing
stainless steel construction of its
components such as dampers – known as
Inox-line – and the use of a polyamide
composite for the spring collars. Put simply,
KW’s components can take whatever the
elements throw at them without corroding;
something their infamous salt-bath display at
Essen one year proved controversially.
KW hasn’t just grown within itself, it’s also
grown to take in other companies as well,
including Weitec, which it purchased about
five years ago, along with ST Suspensions,
Belltech and LSD Doors too.
So what of KW UK then? Well, KW’s UK
division was set up in 2005 by Richard
Goode and recently moved in to new
premises; a brand-new barn/farmhouse
setup with space for the admin and sales
departments, a warehouse for stock,
training facilities and a workshop capable of
overhauling and rebuilding kits and dynotesting dampers.
But we hadn’t just visited KW’s new
headquarters to get a tour round, oh no. We
also heard that KW had some pretty special
new kits in the works too and a couple of
pretty exciting demo cars in the workshop
that we ought to get behind the wheel of –
we didn’t need asking twice! So without
further ado, let’s take a look at some of the
exciting new developments from KW…
Full DDC kit looks complicated but is actually pretty simple to fit – if you can instal normal coilovers and have a basic understanding of wiring then it shouldn’t be too hard
Performance VW
086-090 PVW 0512 28/03/2012 14:15 Page 89
Now if you’re lucky enough to own a new
Scirocco, Mk6 Golf, Tiguan or Passat, the
chances are you already know what
Volkswagen’s Adaptive Chassis Control or
Dynamic Chassis Control systems are.
Essentially, the optional extra allows the
driver to adjust the car’s suspension damper
settings from a button on the centre console
in to three modes: Comfort, Normal and
Sport. But until now, if you wanted to fit
aftermarket suspension to an ACC/DCCequipped car, you had no choice but to
sacrifice your ACC/DCC capability by fitting
a module (KW supplied) to disarm the
switching mechanism. Not anymore! KW has
developed its own DDC kit that allows you to
not only fit a set of proper KW coilovers but
also retain the functionality of your car’s ACC
button on the dash thanks to a plug ’n’ play
connection to hook up with your car’s
control systems. Clever stuff.
But that’s not all. KW realised that some
people might want the functionality of the KW
DCC system, along with the performance
and appearance benefits of a proper set of
coilovers, while not having the factory ACC
system to plug in to. A problem? Not at all,
all the engineers at KW had to do was
develop its own version of VW’s ACC system,
control module and all. And that they did,
and let us tell you right now, it’s a seriously
impressive bit of kit! The kit is the same as
the regular DCC kit in terms of the coilovers
themselves, but with the added Electronic
Control Unit (ECU) hooked up and hidden
away and a small, subtle control button
integrated in to the dash somewhere
controls it. Very clever stuff, we’re sure you’ll
agree. But we weren’t at KW just to hear
about these latest developments and listen
to a slick presentation from Richard, we
were here to get behind the wheel and test
them out for ourselves…
First up was KW’s own Audi A6 TDI fresh
from the factory in Germany fitted with KW’s
own DCC kit complete with the control ECU
hidden away to do the job of changing the
settings for us. The
on the
through three
colours depending on
what you’ve got the system
set to: red for Sport, blue for
Normal and pink for Comfort.
Compared to say, a standard Scirocco,
the KW Sport setting was a lot firmer and,
indeed, sportier than the standard Sport
setting on a normal ACC-equipped car, while
the Normal setting too was stiffer than it’s
OEM counterpart. In fact, with the car set in
Sport, we were impressed at just how much
we could hustle it around, far more than we
thought a big ol’ A6 was capable of;
testament to just how good the KW DCC
system is.
When we switched to the Normal and then
Comfort settings, the car changed
completely, the ride switching to a much
softer (although still firmer than the OEM
system) and more normal-road friendly ride.
Impressed? You bet we were. In fact we
were so impressed with the system we
couldn’t help but think that it might well be
the future of coilovers for road cars.
It’s one thing to listen to Richard
bigging up the products but
to get out on the road and
feel the car switching
rock-solid and
track-ready to smooth as a
factory car with just a couple of presses of a
button totally blew us away.
In fact the Audi was so good we almost
didn’t want to take it back, but seeing as we
had Richard’s own Scirocco R to go out in
too before the end of the day, we thought
we ought to head back and switch keys. As
Richard’s Scirocco had VW’s own ACC
system from the factory, Richard simply
replaced the suspension with KW DDC
coilovers and hooked up the control unit to
VW’s ACC module. And it’s as simple as
that – all the benefits of a proper set of
coilovers, with the stock ACC button just in
front of the gear stick still doing it’s job as
VW intended it to do. And while the
differences between Sport, Normal and
Comfort weren’t quite as pronounced as
they were in the Audi, they were still certainly
noticeable. And
086-090 PVW 0512 28/03/2012 14:18 Page 90
coupled with the remap, grippy rubber and
OZ Superturismo wheels, well, it was a
seriously impressive drive. With the ability to
take the family out in the car and have it ride
almost as soft as stock and then have it stiff
and dialled enough to tackle a track day the
next, the KW DCC system really does offer
the best of both worlds, and all at the press
of a button. Impressed? You betcha.
But that wasn’t the end of the trick kit
Richard had to show us. And he had certainly
saved the trickest bit of kit till the end. What
we’re talking about is the DCC iPhone App.
Yep, an iPhone App for your suspension! An
optional extra for the complete KW DCC kit,
it allows you to control and adjust your
suspension from your iPhone, iPod or iPad
through a W-LAN module. You simply
download the App, pair it with the module
hidden away in your car and then you can
switch between Sport, Normal and Comfort
from your i-device. Pretty cool.
But it’s not nearly as cool as what Richard
showed us next. In addition to the standard
settings, you can adjust the damper rates
from 0% (maximum comfort) to 100%
(maximum Sport), and unlike the normal kit
you even adjust the front and rear axles
separately. What’s more, you can save up to
five different settings. You can have a track
day setting, a comfortable motorway setting
and a normal driving setting or whatever you
can think of and you can email your settings
to a friend with the same kit to use (or use
settings a friend sends you). KW could even
send you its preferred setting for a specific
track too. An equivalent App is currently
being developed for Android phones too.
We’ve covered KW’s Hydraulic Lift System
(HLS) in our News pages before but it’s
definitely worth going over it again. Put
simply, the HLS kit comprises a hydraulic
cylinder unit between the spring perch and
spring on the coilover body. When the button
inside the car is pressed, the cylinder
expands to give 45mm of lift in four-five
seconds at speeds of up to 50mph; just the
thing for clearing speed bumps or tricky
angled approaches in to car parks and the
like. But as the hydraulic cylinder doesn’t
compress itself while driving, it doesn’t alter
your car’s handling.
It can either be fitted to both the front and
back or to either separately, and it can be
controlled either by a dashboard-mounted
button or by an optional remote control.
What’s more, it can even be fitted as either
part of a complete coilover kit, or as an
upgrade to an already existing kit.
The Drop Kit works in much the same way,
but in reverse. This means you can set your
car’s height up on coilovers and then the
Drop Kit lowers the car an additional 20mm
at up to 15mph at the touch of a button, all
the while performing exactly the same as a
normal KW coilover kit. Whoever said the
traditional coilover was dead certainly hasn’t
told the guys over at KW. And to think, KW
has gone from developing the first street
coilover to coilover systems that can have
their damper rates adjusted from an iPhone
in just 17 years. We can’t wait to see what
the next 17 years will bring… l
The KW DCC kit (that hooks up with your factory ACC system)
starts from: £1625 + VAT
The KW DCC kit stand-alone kit starts at: £1965 + VAT
The WiFi module: £225 + VAT
The KW Hydraulic Lift Kit starts at: £2192.52 + VAT (single axle)
The KW Drop Kit starts at: £2500 + VAT (single axle)
For more details on the KW range from Variant 1
through to Variant 3 coilovers, its new Sport
Comfort Range, the DCC kits, the HLS and
Drop Kits, contact KW
Automotive on
or by calling
0870 990 7536.
Hydraulic Lift System (HLS)
offers the best of both worlds.
The future of coilovers? You
better believe it…
Performance VW