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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

HKS Hipermax IV GT Review (Toyota 86)

As it is, the stock suspension setup on the Toyota 86 is well balanced and comfortable for the street. Engineered and tuned, the already sharp steering coupled with exceptionally low body roll had me with no complaints for stock.

But...like all petrolheads out there, expectations bubble and the want for more constantly fuels the need for a more responsive driving experience.

Then there is the HKS Hipermax IV GT, a street friendly coilover that is as track worthy as it is comfortable. Having had these once before on my Lexus and toured the production line of the HKS factory myself, I am still convinced that I need not be spoilt for choice.

Much like those coilovers built for professional racing, HKS has developed and tuned each and every Hipermax coilover variant specifically for a unique platform. So, alongside one another, no Hipermax of each platform variant is the same as another. While these high quality suspensions are by no means cheap, they are still affordably priced considering the extensive developmental effort invested in them.

THE DRIVE

Despite the not too stiff spring rates of (6) and (4) kgf/mm for the fronts and rears, I would be lying if I told you that the Hipermax IV GT was as comfortable as stock because it is definitely not. HKS Garage R says that, for the Toyota 86, the recommended settings are (Front:12/30 and Rear: 11/30). As a result, the ride is stiff but within tolerable levels. Certainly not harsh but aggressively stiffer.

It is a good thing that the 86 is not a chunky front-engined sports car like the Nissan GTR or Lexus RCF because any heavier and the steering may not be as razor sharp with all that added weight transfer. As a baseline, the 86 is much more agile, making it a breeze to drive. Even so, the first noticeable difference out with the Hipermax was the heavier steering. Now, my wheels were computer aligned by Garage R so I reckoned that the difference was due to the new coilover geometry and caster/negative camber settings.

With the Hipermax, freeway cruising was still acceptably comfortable but the car bounces a little over uneven surfaces, a constant reminder that I am driving something 'aggressive'. At higher speeds, things start to become more comfortable, corners were executed effortlessly to the point that I felt the 86 could handle corners at greater speeds. The added stiffness did a lot of justice in lateral weight transfer, keeping body roll to a minimum and maximizing traction even after hitting bumps, cracks and road imperfections.

While I certainly did not push the car as much on the street in wet conditions (because I value my life and that of my beloved 86), she handles and brakes brilliantly with less nose 'dive' during aggressive deceleration. With the already responsive steering coupled with the Hipermax, the overall handling is like a dream. Still as predictable with good feedback, I could 'feel' and 'read' the road pretty nicely with greater confidence. Right now, I am more convinced that twists and turns are the forte of the 86 as the more addictive driving experience clearly overwhelmed that with the stock coilovers by several folds.

Lack of a better word to describe my appreciation, the Hipermax IV GT made me feel like I'm high on narcotics each time I take the wheel! Forgive me for this but I'm still as excited about the Hipermax on my 86 even after having it for a month...


THE YEAS

An acceptably comfortable ride for the daily drive with the flexibility for some occasional fun and aggression upon demand. With a ride that's not too hard, you won't bust your back. A justified value for money performance suspension setup that spots the "Made in Japan" satisfaction in terms of built quality and performance.

Front only camber settings with 30-point damping and ride height adjustments for both front and rear. Fully repairable and maintainable by HKS Garage R with 1-year product warranty.

THE NAYS

Damping adjustments may seem a little tricky for the front due to inverted tube design. Personally, I wouldn't trouble myself to get under the lower control arm to tweak it. The rears are a little more straightforward but requires an adjustment tool (included) that's nothing more than an elongated allen key with a nice knob.

Rears can be a little bumpy for fully grown passengers but my kids aren't complaining because they are all about excitement... (Not sure where this paragraph should go but it will remain here to avoid accusations)

Other than the slight 'squeaking' noise at low speeds from the springs/top mounts (particularly in the parking lot), there isn't a great deal wrong with the Hipermax IV GT if street comfort and performance is the impetus of it all.

THE ALTERNATIVE

Go for the stiffer HKS Hipermax IV SP if you are a hardcore track junky who couldn't care less about comfort or the well-being of your own spine.

For full product info:
http://www.hks-power.co.jp/en/product_db/hipermax/db/13673

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