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      08-29-2016, 08:40 AM   #1
OzJustin
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2008 BMW 135i  [4.33]
MCA Coilover Kit for 135i - Review

Hi all

As some of you may know, I had been looking into a damper upgrade for my 135i earlier in the year. After contacting MCA Suspension here in Brisbane, Australia I’m happy to share that I’ve been a prototype tester for a new kit for the BMW 135i platform. Given there are relatively few options for our platform I thought I’d share my experience with you all and provide a review.

Why I chose MCA:
I had considered options such as KW, Bilstein and Ohlins initially but the AUD, overseas shipping, duty, GST etc led me to look into other options. I did consider Shockworks in Victoria but after some back and forth re a prototype kit I was getting the impression that while they were interested in developing a kit for our platform, it really wasn’t a priority for them and it could be a significant wait.

After these initial investigations I decided to contact MCA as I had heard they were starting to expand their range. I’m sure many of you have heard of MCA Suspension here in Australia. They’ve been achieving great things, primarily in the Japanese car scene. They also have a very strong reputation in the rally scene, and more recently in events such as World Time Attack with their ‘Hammerhead’ Nissan S13 Silvia.

Long story short, Josh Coote was prepared to undertake some R&D for our platform and I became a prototype tester. I was very much a guinea pig and taking a leap of faith given no previous reviews or established name in the BMW sector. Despite this I was confident in MCA’s reputation and wanted to support a local Australian company.

The purpose for my kit:
Let’s be clear from the outside that my 135i is a street car and not a compromised track only special. You can see from my build log that my car is tuned, has a good set of non-runflat tyres, 1M control arms and 1M strut brace. My suspension is otherwise stock, including the sway bars and subframe bushings (for now).

I had a number of goals for my kit.
• I wanted my kit to be track capable should I decide to take this path in future, though it is primarily a street car and must work on the road.
• I wanted the kit to be as stealth and OEM looking as possible.
• No ridiculous lowering or slammed stance. I am function over form here.

My kit and quality:
MCA offer four series of suspension at present going from basic to very advanced – Blue, X-series, Red and Gold. I chose a custom Red series kit for my 135i with the adjuster extenders and ‘stealth’ option. The stealth option essentially makes your whole kit black so that it looks OEM. Because I upgraded to the 1M strut brace with black plastic ‘M’ covers you can’t even see the camber plates or damper knobs i.e. very stealth.

Key features of the Red series kit:
• Custom springs
• Custom valving for your car
• Designed by MCA and assembled in Australia
• Each kit is dyno tested and tuned prior to being sent out
• 13 increment damper adjustable (0 = hardest; 12 = softest)
• Camber tops

I settled on 6kg/mm (200mm long) front springs and 11kg/mm (220mm long) rear springs. Note I initially ran a 12kg rear spring but we determined this was slightly too firm for my intended use. (Please ignore the numbers on the springs in the below pics as we swapped out the springs after the photos).

My kit arrived well boxed with each individual strut/damper in individual boxes. The kit also included height adjustment spanners, sway bar end links (which weren’t needed in the end) and an instruction manual with recommended damper/spring/ride height adjustment settings.

I was very impressed with the quality of the kit. All components looked very well made.

The install:
I elected to have MCA install the kit, set the ride height and perform a wheel alignment for me. They also installed the rear adjuster extenders in the boot of my car. The install took a few hours but went smoothly.

Side point but I didn’t realise how porky the 135i is in stock form. With all fluids and a full tank of petrol mine weighed 1533kg when being corner weighted (see scales image below).

Below is my initial wheel alignment. Keep in mind I wanted tyre life preserved rather than running huge camber. I was also very happy with the set ride height. The front is maybe 10mm lower than standard M-sport suspension while the rear is probably 30mm lower to eliminate that stock raked look. From a functionality perspective, it is not particularly low and speed bumps are no problem, especially with the firmer dampers. It does look mean though!

I couldn’t help but sneak a few photos of MCA’s workshop and cars (see install day pics below). They had a Subaru WRX being prepped for SubiNats and their Toyota 86 which I’ve discovered since my initial install day is now being prepped for a Nissan VQ37 engine swap and trip to World Time Attack later this year. Should be an awesome track toy!

Revision Number 2:
After receiving the car back and driving the initial setup for a few weeks I noted a few things. The rear adjuster extenders weren’t playing nice with the factory BMW boot trim material and were squeeking like crazy rubbing on the holes in the boot trim. I ended up pulling the trim out, drilling the trim holes slightly larger and wrapping the extenders in felt tape to eliminate the squeeking. Problem solved and something worth considering for anyone else running adjuster extenders, regardless of brand.

While the kit was very impressive from the initial setup, I did notice that the car was a little jittery at lower speeds, particularly on the firmer damper settings. MCA agreed to take the car back and have another look at the kit. They ended up increasing the rear rebound rate and swapping from the 12kg to a slightly softer 11kg spring which made a significant difference to ride comfort.

MCA also adjusted the wheel alignment for me after this tinkering. Below is the updated wheel alignment. The car was running slightly lower in the rear than revision 1 so an additional 0.5 degrees negative rear camber was added to avoid my tyres hitting the metal guards.

Customer service:
I wanted to address this point specifically given customer service is lacking in so many companies these days. I will go out of my way to promote a business that delivers on customer service as I feel it is crucial and should not be forgotten.

I have been dealing with Josh Coote from day one and he has been excellent. He was extremely patient with all my questions and borderline OCD requests when it came to the valving and balance between comfort and performance. Excellent communication with me throughout, though I will say Josh needs to clone himself judging by how busy he is and the time of some of his email responses (3AM at times!)

Josh and MCA went above and beyond with the fine tuning of my kit. For revision 2 Josh had my car for 2 weeks and drove 400km+ testing the revised setup. He was even kind enough to wash my car before he returned it to me. Now that is dedication and putting the customer first.

Kit performance:
Now you are probably wondering how does the kit drive after all this?

Well I’m pleased to report that I’m very happy with the finished product. You know you have a good kit when you’re itching to get the keys and take it out for a Sunday morning drive. Here are my key thoughts after several weeks of driving:
• The damper adjustment delivers tangible changes per increment. Some coilovers are either full hard or full soft and nothing in between. You can tell the difference with this kit.
• There is a really good range of damping from full hard to full soft. The car is very firm on full hard (0 setting) but I would still not say harsh on large bumps. It is very composed. The car is very soft and supple on full soft (12 setting). Some may think it is a little floaty on this setting but I like to think of it like a limousine or ‘wife friendly’ setting.
• I have found I’m running setting 6 front and 8 rear for general road driving. Firming up the front to say 4 results in a noticeably crisper front end with sharper turn-in though.
• I would say the dampers absorb large bumps better than stock M-sport suspension. The car is very composed over large bumps. You still feel them but there is less crashing.
• The dampers ride small bumps and road imperfections well. As stated earlier, I felt the car was a little jittery at lower speeds, particularly in the rear, until we softened the rear spring rate slightly. The jittery character is obviously most noticeable on the firmer settings (say 5 and firmer) but is very reasonable once softened a little for the road.
• At higher freeway type speeds the car is excellent. It is very civilised and rides bumps well while also feeling very planted.
• One of my favourite features of the kit is the crisp front end with very sharp turn-in response. The steering is perhaps slightly lighter than stock but you get a lot of feedback through the steering wheel. You can feel every road imperfection.
• There is noticeably less squat and dive under acceleration and braking. Body roll is reduced, particularly on the firmer settings, however, if you like a really flat car through the corners then perhaps thicker sway bars may be in order if you want to run on the softer damper settings. I understand MCA have designed the kit around standard sway bars so this is something to think about. I think they achieve their traction and comfort by not running super stiff so perhaps we need to recalibrate our thinking that a super stiff flat car with no compression is a ‘good’ car. I will defer to the experts on this one.
• Ride height is a very good compromise between performance, looks and practicality. As I mentioned I was not looking for a slammed setup. I wanted a functional street setup that would let me get up driveways, clear speed bumps etc which has been achieved.
• I have noticed that with 1+ passengers there is a little bit of rub on the inner felt guards in the rear at my current ride height. MCA have suggested I add an additional 0.5 degrees negative camber to eliminate (that will only be 2 – 2.5 degrees camber total which is reasonable). If that doesn’t eliminate the rub then I may raise the rear ride height slightly.
• Apart from the slight rub noise in the rear I have no noise complaints. The springs are quiet and there is no noise from the camber plates.
• Overall I am very happy with the kit and can highly recommend it as a very versatile kit that can be made an extremely comfortable street/family friendly setup with a twist of the damper knobs, or a controlled and precise track day toy with a twist in the other direction.

I’ll leave a few winter pics with my coilovers installed to finish up this review!

Contact:
Should you have any more questions on the kit I am more than happy to answer them. I hope my review has been beneficial.

If you are in the market for a quality set of coilovers for your 135i then I would highly recommend contacting Josh at MCA. They are well worth a look if you are currently considering overseas/European options.

http://www.mcasuspension.com/

As an aside, I understand MCA are also considering kits for the 335i as the 135i kit is very similar.

Justin


Now I know a thread is worthless without pics...

Unboxing pics:






































Install Day:







































Winter pics - post install:







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      08-29-2016, 10:26 PM   #2
dane083
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and lastly but not least, the price?
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      08-30-2016, 03:11 AM   #3
OzJustin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dane083
and lastly but not least, the price?
Short answer is it depends on which series you choose (i.e. Blue, Red etc) and which options you choose (e.g. adjuster extenders, stealth option, extra springs etc). All prices are on their website but to give you an idea, a custom Red series kit like mine with options is approx AUD$2900.
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      08-30-2016, 05:00 AM   #4
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Nice install and great review. I've driven an evo with the Reds installed and was impressed with their street manners even with super stiff springs. Good to hear they have made a kit on a 'street' 135i, need to find some spare cash now...

I'd imagine the drive will be even better with upgraded subframe bushings, even with the inserts on my stock m sport suspension it made a noticeable improvement.
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      08-30-2016, 05:33 PM   #5
OzJustin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnny135
Nice install and great review. I've driven an evo with the Reds installed and was impressed with their street manners even with super stiff springs. Good to hear they have made a kit on a 'street' 135i, need to find some spare cash now...

I'd imagine the drive will be even better with upgraded subframe bushings, even with the inserts on my stock m sport suspension it made a noticeable improvement.
Yes definately a good street setup.

I had originally planned to install upgraded Whiteline subframe bushings (KDT917) just prior to the coilovers but unfortunately they were out of stock for months in Australia. The approx. $500 labour to install also put me off. We need a member like 'VTL' in Brisbane to help with a DIY install.
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      08-30-2016, 05:48 PM   #6
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Looks like a serious setup you've got there now! Thanks for the writeup! Very good info with the corner weights, its hard to find hard data on the weights of these cars. I'm guessing a manual will be a few kgs lighter since there's no AT plumbing and less complex gearbox.

Definitely needs subframe bushings now, seems like they're all back in stock now. Just drive your car down to Melb to get them fitted
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      08-31-2016, 05:06 AM   #7
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Nice write up Justin
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      08-31-2016, 09:18 PM   #8
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I'd say you are missing out if you still have stock subframe bushings. The RSFBs are the most important components needed for good handling.
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      09-01-2016, 05:58 PM   #9
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I've always wanted stealth black coilovers with no badging! (hated the bright yellow bilsteins I had on a previous car haha)

Great to see a local manufacturer offering these! Are they designed in house and manufactured to MCA specs in Asia or designed and manufactured in Australia?

These are a 2 way setup yeah?
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      09-02-2016, 05:03 AM   #10
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Great review Justin.

I have had a few emails with MCA recently over some suspension for my 130i, and was thinking of the XC line, as my car is my daily. What are the major pros/cons compared to the stock M-suspension? The website claims better performance and comfort! Thanks.
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      09-03-2016, 03:09 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DR-JEKL
I've always wanted stealth black coilovers with no badging! (hated the bright yellow bilsteins I had on a previous car haha)

Great to see a local manufacturer offering these! Are they designed in house and manufactured to MCA specs in Asia or designed and manufactured in Australia?

These are a 2 way setup yeah?
Based on the info I've seen from MCA their dampers are:
Designed and developed: Australia
Parts are manufactured: Taiwan, Europe and Australia
Assembled to order, including damper internals and shock dyno tested: Australia
That was another reason why I wanted to support. Where I can help it I won't touch chinese products with a 10 foot pole.

Re two way adjustment - the Red series are not separately compression and rebound adjustable. You'll have to check with MCA whether they only do rebound or combine both in the damper knob.
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      09-03-2016, 03:23 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walnut
Great review Justin.

I have had a few emails with MCA recently over some suspension for my 130i, and was thinking of the XC line, as my car is my daily. What are the major pros/cons compared to the stock M-suspension? The website claims better performance and comfort! Thanks.
Thanks Walnut.

My thoughts compared to standard M-sport suspension:
- More comfortable on the softer settings. There is less crashing over larger bumps
- Ability to dial up the dampers to a very track capable setup in a mere 30 seconds. You obviously don't have this flexibility with stock.
- Ability to run more camber with the front plates

The only downside in my view is it's a bit more jittery at low speeds compared to stock. It is very negligible on the softer settings but you do notice it when firmed up.

Hope that helps. Let us know how you go with the XC kit if you take that path.
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      09-28-2016, 07:16 AM   #13
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Im looking at getting a set of Blues on my 135i as it is only my daily and the odd track blast now i have it tuned/intercooler/dump pipes. I have also heard awesome report about the product and customer service and will probably put some reds in my Rx7 looking for a better setup for more traction. Nice review also
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      09-28-2016, 05:42 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madaz07
Im looking at getting a set of Blues on my 135i as it is only my daily and the odd track blast now i have it tuned/intercooler/dump pipes. I have also heard awesome report about the product and customer service and will probably put some reds in my Rx7 looking for a better setup for more traction. Nice review also
Thanks mate. Let me know how you go with your setups.
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      10-05-2016, 05:57 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madaz07 View Post
Im looking at getting a set of Blues on my 135i as it is only my daily and the odd track blast now i have it tuned/intercooler/dump pipes. I have also heard awesome report about the product and customer service and will probably put some reds in my Rx7 looking for a better setup for more traction. Nice review also
You've done what i should have when i owned that car!
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      10-06-2016, 05:27 AM   #16
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Nice write up
Josh and Murray are true experts in thier field.
Is your car faster on the track now than what it was prior ?
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      10-07-2016, 02:21 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by koastal
Nice write up
Josh and Murray are true experts in thier field.
Is your car faster on the track now than what it was prior ?
Thanks Koastal.
Sorry I can't answer that one as my car has never seen any track time. I've no doubt it would run substantially quicker based on the way it handles on the street on just the soft settings. Crank up the dampers for the track and I'm sure it would fly!
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      10-16-2016, 03:00 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirst View Post
You've done what i should have when i owned that car!
Yep fun car took it to lakeside happy laps waiting for the blues to turn up now...
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      03-24-2019, 06:28 AM   #19
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Does anyone know why they no longer list BMW on their site? Lack of interest?
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      03-24-2019, 04:32 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by juld0zer View Post
Does anyone know why they no longer list BMW on their site? Lack of interest?
I know people who have contacted them but they never had interest in making them again for e8x/e9x.
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      03-25-2019, 06:03 AM   #21
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I had Street Essentials done for my E82 135i. There were a few issues that needed attention but all fixed now.

I'm very impressed with the difference in the car's handling and ride. Mind you, after 150,000km, my bump stops were shattered and the shocks were pretty tired so, just about anything would have improved things.

Give them a call.
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      03-25-2019, 11:15 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by juld0zer View Post
Does anyone know why they no longer list BMW on their site? Lack of interest?
I don't think they ever had BMW on their site, they do still do them though for a few models.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vtl View Post
I know people who have contacted them but they never had interest in making them again for e8x/e9x.
I believe that was a rumour, or maybe spoke to the wrong person or something? Or maybe they briefly stopped to consolidate and started again idk, either way I spoke to Josh a couple weeks ago about it and he 100% confirmed they'll do them now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JBT2 View Post
I had Street Essentials done for my E82 135i. There were a few issues that needed attention but all fixed now.

I'm very impressed with the difference in the car's handling and ride. Mind you, after 150,000km, my bump stops were shattered and the shocks were pretty tired so, just about anything would have improved things.

Give them a call.


What issues did you have? I've heard various stories, but always resolved in the end
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