You’re reading this very publication, one dedicated to Germany’s finest automotive export, so we feel we’re on safe ground when we assume that you’re already well aware of the somewhat unforgiving handling found on classic, mid ’80s 911s. While it’s true that the classic 911’s slightly ‘spiky’ handling is part of the car’s appeal, the advances made in modern chassis technology mean that there are now ways to nullify the G-series’ more ferocious traits, without diluting that essential ‘Porsche-ness’ that makes 911s of this era so compelling.
Leading the charge in this respect is KW, a suspension expert that’s been at the forefront of this constantly evolving industry for many years, and one with a longstanding association with Porsches of all shapes, sizes and eras. The firm’s latest development is a kit of its celebrated Variant 3 dampers for the aforementioned 911, and we were invited over to its impressive headquarters (more on that in a moment) to try a number of cars fitted with said kit for ourselves.
The KW V3 uprights for the G-Series are bump and rebound adjustable, while also allowing for both damping rate and ride height settings to be toggled, effectively giving 911 owners complete and total control over the chassis layout of their particular car. Better still, the V3 kit works with the OE front and rear torsion bars and negates the need for costly and invasive strut conversions, a move that will no doubt please those who value the suspension setup Porsche’s engineering team opted to imbue with car with all those years ago. Indeed, cars fitted with the V3 kit retain this generation of 911’s torsion bars and threaded wheel carrying ‘knuckles,’ so a boon for purists of all types and tastes.
We feel it’s worth delving into the capabilities of the KW Variant 3 package in greater detail, primarily as it’s an evidently capable bit of kit whichever way you look at it. The ability to independently adjust the rebound and compression damping settings while on the car will likely be one of its biggest selling points, and it’s something that’s been achieved through its maker’s patented valve technology. It might sound like it has the potential to be head-scratchingly complex for those of us without a motorsport engineering degree, yet in practice it’s anything but. The attached adjustment wheel with 12 clearly labelled pre-sets can be used to toggle the 911’s compression settings, in turn directly influencing the 911’s performance.
The kit is available for the 911 G-Series, with both the 3.2 Carrera and Turbo models being covered and catered to by specific, uniquely designed kits. This is highly significant point as, the differences inherent in the chassis and handling traits of both models mean that they’re almost different cars, and therefore require different suspension setups and differing driving styles to be truly ‘tamed.’ This chimes rather neatly with KW’s own ethos – “As comfortable as possible, as hard as necessary”. It also explains why the firm doesn’t offer a Variant 1 version of the kit, one devoid of the adjustable valve technology, with fixed rate damping and only height adjustment; they don’t want Porsche owners to compromise in this respect and understand that taming these cars requires a more capable product.
We’ll get to the principle reason for this multi-faceted ability in a moment, but part of the reason for the KW V3’s success when it comes to nullifying some of the G-Series’ ‘back stabbing’ traits while on the limit can be found in the consultative process involved with bringing it to market. The firm admits that it conversed with a selection of leading Porsche specialists, performance drivers and classic tuners in its native Germany, even gifting them pre-production versions of the suspension package to test for themselves. KW received invaluable feedback and first hand data in return, and this was swiftly ploughed back into the project, with the resulting dampers proving to be impressively adaptable, suitable for fitment to both naturally aspirated and turbocharged versions of the G-Series.
The result of this chassis tuning and fettling? Well, we had to find out for ourselves, to cut through the wall of PR speak and hyperbole that accompanies any product launch of this nature. We were looking very carefully at how the cars tested, both an NA 3.2 Carrera and Turbo, handled when pushed towards the ragged edge, but also as to whether they’d lost some of that essential, hard to pinpoint character which made them such automotive icons in the first place.
We were handed the keys to both cars one after the other, and were then let loose onto the back roads surrounding KW’s Fichtenber base; bumpy lanes with off-camber corners, narrowing bends and rutted straights – roads that would’ve given a standard 911 a tough time. The results were impressive indeed, with both cars exhibiting far less scary handling when on the limits of adhesion and far less propensity towards lift off oversteer. Both sported a significant increase in the amount of feedback through the wheel, probably thanks to the increased time all four wheels spent in contact with the road surface. We were able to drive both variants faster, with more confidence and with less effort. Equally significantly, both the Carrera and the Turbo still felt like true ’80s Porsches, no doubt the result of both retaining their OEM torsion bars fore and aft. They felt suitably aggressive and certainly every bit as involved, just with that terrifying edge ever so slightly blunted.
All very impressive we hear you say, but how on earth did KW manage to develop such a game-changing product for the 911, a car that’s tested the skills of some of the finest automotive engineering minds for decades? To answer that we need to look to KW’s Fichtenberg HQ, specifically its state of the art development facility. We all know that many large suspension firms maintain impressively well-resourced development facilities, but what sets KW’s apart is both its scale and providence.
The KW V3s for the Porsche 911 were some of the first uprights developed using the company’s latest purchase, a seven post shaker rig bought directly from Ross Brawn, specifically the Brawn GP team! The shaker rig effectively allows KW’s engineers to perfectly replicate the kind of forces associated with heavy braking, acceleration, compression, rebound, weight transfer and much else besides, and all without the test car having to leave the workshop. It means that its engineers can assess how the car reacts in real time, in turn allowing them to devise solutions to any suspension issues that arise. This explains why KW’s latest V3s make such a dramatic difference when bolted beneath the arches of classic Porsches, and why the firm is able to devise such impressive engineering solutions to models that have earned a reputation for being tricky handlers.
Shaker rigs are among the most technologically advanced (and therefore pricy) bits of chassis development hardware around, and while undoubtedly effective and worthwhile, actually getting this new purchase installed and up and running caused KW many sleepless nights! First up, space, something KW needed to get a bit creative with! Getting the seven post safely housed within its HQ ultimately involved a bonkers amount of construction work, with half a nearby hillside having to be excavated to make enough room for the F1-grade facility and associated kit. Power was also an issue, though quite how acute an issue only became apparent when KW came to fire the shaker into life, whereupon it proceeded to plunge half the local village into complete darkness! A bespoke sub-station was therefore the only solution, meaning yet more excavation work and expense.
The seven post shaker rig was finally installed, powered and up and running a few years ago, and the fruits of all that labour have already become apparent. While this is undoubtedly very impressive and bodes well for future product development, we were most amazed by the effort KW is putting in to develop products for what is, let’s face it, far from a mainstream, mass market model. F1 grade materials, thinking and development processes for your three decade old 911? Yes please!
The KW V3 kit for the G-Series 911 has just been launched and is available to order now. As we’ve covered above, it’s a well realised bit of suspension engineering that really can transform the handling of any car it’s bolted to. Factor in the quality of the kit, the engineering nous behind it and the fact that it can be fitted without the OEM torsion bars having been removed, and it becomes apparent why various sections of the classic Porsche world are deeply excited about this latest offering.
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