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hotchkis_frontsprings.jpg For many IS owners, springs are a touchy subject. Almost everyone wants to drop their car a little and improve the handling. Few are willing to kill the smooth ride that Lexus has given us to do so. What to do? I think Hotchkis has given us a very viable solution with their new coil springs.<P>

If the ultimate handling IS is your objective, or you road race or autocross your car hardcore, then these are probably not the best springs for you - precisely because they match very well with the stock shocks. In any shock/spring setup, the two need to be well matched. Put a serious drop or weakly wound spring on the stock shocks and you'll get a bouncy ride that hammers into the bump stops. Put the Hotchkis springs on a serious set of Koni's and you'll be holding back the performance of the shocks. But for the stock suspension of the IS, these coils are golden. Add the Hotchkis sway bars and you've got a mean street machine that holds its own on the track as well. I believe that Hotchkis did their homework, tweaking and testing these springs to be just right. It probably helps that John Hotchkis drives an IS300 himself.<P>

Now, these springs are heavy beasts. The front coils actually weigh about 2 lbs more each than the stockers. But this is "sprung" weight (no pun intended), so it's not nearly as bad as extra brake or wheel weight. It's my assumption that this weight is due to the noticeable thickness of the coils, compensating for the shorter height. The Hotchkis springs dropped my car about 1" all the way around. In my case, this was perfect. I have a wheel fitment which puts my 18x8 Super Legerras to the edge of the fender in the front. I like the look, but it doesn't afford me much room for dropping the car. For those on stock wheels, this drop is enough to take out the majority of the wheel gap without having to worry about scraping and bumping body panels, particularly with aftermarket lips or body kits.<P>

Installation was routine and typical for aftermarket springs (covered in the Installation article). Hotchkis thoughtfully includes new bump stomps for all four corners. They are shorter to accommodate the additional travel afforded by the new springs as well as a bit softer to keep your teeth in place if you do manage to hit them. It should be noted that with many aftermarket springs you do NOT need to compress the new coils before installing them on the shocks as they are usually much shorter. But due to the Hotchkis spring's conservative drop you will need to compress them prior to installation. This only reaffirms my belief that these springs are very well matched to the stock shocks.<P>

hotchkis_rearsprings.jpg So how do they ride? Awesome. Exactly what I wanted with none of the side effects I was afraid of. The car is tighter and feels better planting into corners. The ride is not bouncy or compromised. I did not want to lose the "comfort" of the IS's ride as it is my daily driver on a long commute (I save the stiff, all-out handling ride for the Miata). They are of course a bit bouncier than stock, but under regular driving, the comfort is still there. I was pleasantly surprised to find that even speed bumps felt only slightly different on the Hotchkis springs.<P>

I discovered, a bit unexpectedly, that my new ride would actually UNDERsteer in hard cornering. I don't like it, but it was easily corrected by loosening up the front sway bar. With stock sways, these springs should not adversely affect the balance of the car, as the Hotchkis sway bars I'm using are much stiffer in front. After talking to John, I found out that they actually tuned the rear springs a bit softer after riding around in the back of the car. How many times have you ridden in the back seat of your car? Me, never. But they found a really harsh when ride sitting back there and adjusted the rear springs rates accordingly. This probably helped keep the rear from getting too bouncy as well.<P>

After an autocross event this weekend, I am even MORE happy than I was before. The car handled so well that the driver could not keep up. I was improving on every run and could have pushed harder. The car now is capable beyond my means. On the last two runs I installed the PLP strut braces (front and rear - I had the brackets pre-installed) and was even more satisfied. I can't imagine driving a stock IS now.<P>

There is a downside here. Since installing the new suspension, my gas mileage has dropped by at least two mpg. Why? Because I've been driving the car so hard lately and having so much fun. In fact, after a trip to the grocery store, I told my wife that I don't even feel like driving the Miata. Because the IS is fun, solid AND comfortable.<P>

If you don't want to spend the money a full set of coilovers and/or you don't want the ride and noise penalties that come with them, then I think the Hotchkis springs are one of the best choices you can make, especially when paired with the stock shocks. The tasteful drop and improved handling characteristics without undo ride harshness are exactly what I feel a large number of IS owners are looking for. Two thumbs way up!<P>

<B>[UPDATE]</B><BR>
In this review, I mentioned that because of the conservative amount of drop provided by these springs, I did not notice any rear camber issues after installation. Last night, I put 9 boxes of Pergo flooring in the trunk of my car and it dropped the car by about another inch and a half - tucking the tires JUST inside the edge of the fender - and leaning the wheels in about one half inch. Just an interesting data point...
 

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Good review. I think I am going to get these as I want to keep the ride how it is now. Just need that small drop to flush out the wheels.
 
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