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Coilovers MK4 GTI – Searching for a Cheaper Alternative

Overlay of the M-Sport dampers and stock suspension dampers on E90 335i

Coilovers for the MK4 GTI are a super popular solution for the relatively soft standard suspension. In this article I’ll go through the alternative sport suspension options (using Sachs shock part numbers) for the MK4 platform (Octavia RS in this case) to see if I can get 95% of the performance of a coilover, for a fraction of the cost (and less than half the cost of Bilstein B8).

Whats Wrong with Coilovers?

Coilovers are great when I’m “on it” but my daily driver is “on it” less than 0.001% of the time. I want a suspension that’s relatively comfortable the majority of the time, a suspension that allows me to attack a bumpy country road without get bounced off line and a suspension while not as good as coilovers when I’m “on it”, will still give 95% of the performance of coilovers.

Generally I’ve found I can get this type of suspension on cars with good lowering springs (H&R) and decent/fresh dampers. However, on the MK4 GTI platform, Octavia RS in my case, new springs and fresh dampers are not cutting it. Sure they deal with bumps excellently but at higher speeds there is too much vertical movement at the front of the chassis. I’m considering MK4 GTI coilovers (double adjustable, maybe Spax/KW/Sachs) to cure the problem but before I do that I want to see if Sachs has an alternative damper/shock to the codes they give in the catalogue for the MK1 Octavia RS( /MK4 Golf/A3 MK1/Leon MK1) that will make the suspension perform as I want it to.

Why Sachs Shocks?

Performance, quality and price. Bilstein make their B8 sport dampers for the MK4 platform but the price seems excessive (circa 200 Euro/USD/GBP) for a single front damper. Sachs on the other hand make “reinforced” dampers for half the price.

The issue with Sachs dampers/shocks is their catalogue. Whereas Bilstein give the same code for all the MK4 GTI platform cars, Sachs give different codes for the TT vs the MK4, Octavia MK1 and Leon MK1.

I want to know, is there a better Sachs damper option available than the one I have just put on the car?

Bilstein

The highest performance dampers, for lowered cars, are the B8.

The code Bilstein give for their B8 dampers for the Audi TT 2wd is 35-046387

Bilstein say this code is suitable for all (or all that I have seen) MK4 platform, 2wd cars, that are fitted with sports suspension. (I’ll assume they mean cars slightly lowered from the factory when they say “sport”).

If Sachs say TT dampers fit the Octavia/MK4 etc and vice versa then I guess the Sachs will also be fit, even if Sachs don’t state that….

Sachs

Sachs on the other hand, list a damper code specific to the TT.

For the 2wd Audi TT MK1, Sachs give their code as 317 368 (this is the white label product which tends to be the “reinforced” version). If we look at the “substitution chain” for this damper Sachs give the code 400 028 as the previous damper, and this was the Sachs Advantage model. Advantage being Sach’s performance/sport damper, which has now been discontinued.

MK4 GTI

What codes do Sachs give for the MK4 GTI?

315 087, blue label. The “reinforced” version has the code 200 954. Looking at the substitution change for the 200 954, the previous version had the code 312 355. And this is listed as an “Advantage” model. Sachs also give a “parameter code” for this Advantage sport damper which is SFE32/22X160A.

The parameter code for the 317 368 (reinforced version for the TT) is SFE32/22X135A.

Sachs Parameter Codes

I can not find any information of Sachs parameter codes.

So I am going to try and work out what they mean below, let me know what you think.

Because Bilstein give the same code, for it seems all of the 2wd MK4 platform cars, I’m going to assume the size/length of the Sachs dampers are the same for all MK4 platform cars also.

Looking at the difference in the parameter code for the MK4 GTI and the TT MK1, the last numbers are different, 160 for the MK4 GTI and 135 for the TT.

Would it be safe to assume that this number refers to the valves in the dampers? And if so, does a lower number indicate increased stiffness?

Do these assumptions add up?

Let look at the parameter code for the blue label, stock replacement (softer) dampers for the MK4 GTI.

315 087 is the blue label code and the parameter number is SF32/22X178A.

Again, we have the same code at the start ie SF32/22X but we have a different number at the end. I think it’s safe to assume the blue dampers are softer than white label (because the preceding version for the white label dampers was the Advantage model) and the last number parameter number for the blue damper is 178.

178 for the softer dampers.

160 for the stiffer dampers.

Arguably the lower the number indicates a stiffer damper. The blue label damper is softer than the white label “reinforced” version.

And if this is correct then the TT dampers will be even stiffer as the last number for them is 135.

Parameter Codes for Other Cars.

Let’s see how the Sachs parameter codes work for other cars. To see if there is a correlation.

BMW E90 335i

Sachs list two different codes for the blue dampers on this car. But the parameter number is the same for both codes.

The parameter code being SFE32/22X103A. Sachs say the difference between the codes is one is for cars with M-Tec suspension, the other for stock suspension. Hmm. Are the lengths of the dampers different?

Doing a very unscientific overlay of the two dampers, perhaps one could argue the 403 code (non M-Sport) damper is slightly shorter. But this would make no sense, so I’m going to assume the photos on the Sachs website are not 100% accurate and that both dampers have the same size.

Overlay of the M-Sport dampers and stock suspension dampers on E90 335i

Having said all that, looking at the photos on the Sachs website, the fittings on the dampers appear to be different between the product codes. There are two small screw visible on the bottom of the 405 M-Sport left, front damper. Whereas the 403 does not have the screws, but does have bracket on the body of the damper.

On this evidence I’m going to make another assumption.

The “parameter” codes are for the damper bodies and the damper part numbers will indicate fittings which are added to the body eg for anti roll bar mounts, brake line holders etc.

The Sport Dampers for the 335i

Sachs (kindly) also list the Advantage dampers for the 335i (which have been discontinued). What are the parameter codes for the Advantage?

SFE32/22X87A.

And to recap the parameter code for the softer blue label dampers is SFE32/22X103A.

Again we have the same code for the start, SFE32/22X, but the last number is different, 103 for the softer damper and 87 for the stiffer. Again, lower number is on the stiffer damper. We could be on to something.

More Cars

A brief run down of some more examples

Mercedes C63 AMG W204

Comfort Suspension vehicles SFE36/25X107A

Standard Suspension vehicles SFE36/25X88A

Another indication that the lower number is stiffer IMO.

VW Golf MK7

GTI SFE36/25X164A

1.6 SFE36/25X164A

Hmmm

Golf MK5

GTI SFE36/25X157A

Old Advantage SFE36/25X142A

Lower = Harder, 142 vs 157.

Mazda 3 1.6 SFE32/22X172A

MPS SFE32/22X172A

No difference

Peugeot 207 1.4 SFE32/22X160A
Peugeot 207 1.6 Turbo 150bhp SFE32/22X152A

Lower = Harder. 152 for the sports model vs 160 for the normal model.

Assuming I’m Correct

That the last number in the parameter code indicated dampers stiffness and the lower the number the stiff the damper. How does that help me with the Octavia RS project?

I believe I need a much stiffer front damper over the one Sachs recommends, is there a Sachs damper with a lower parameter that fits the Octavia RS MK1?

Going back the Bilstein catalogue. Bilstein say all the MK4 models (2wd) can use the same damper. ie Bilstein give the same damper code for all the cars. This means dampers from Audi TT should fit the MK1 Octavia RS. But are the TT dampers stiffer? And if so by how much?

Octavia Part Numbers

For the Octavia RS, Sachs give the front damper code as 315 087. This is a blue label damper which Sachs said is fine for the RS. (After fitting them I have to disagree, at least if the car is fitted with H&R springs).

The parameter code for this stock replacement part number is SF32/22X178A.

Sachs also list a “reinforced” damper for the RS, which I didn’t choose (because of my experience with other cars not needing them for good performance). The code for the reinforced dampers (white label) is 200 954, which, on the Sachs website says is for sport suspension vehicles (catalogue says both codes are okay…). The parameter code for these white label dampers is SFE30/22X179A. Hmm, the parameter code is different. I’m not sure what this means. (But the last number is only 1 different so if my assumptions are correct, stiffness will be similar)

Let’s look at the non RS model to see if they use a different damper.

315 087 for the 1.8T blue label, and 200 954 white label. Okay, so the RS is not something unique from the normal models.

Going back to the research we did above for the MK4 GTI, the sport version for that car had the parameter code SFE32/22X160A. Not the same as the sports damper for the Octavia RS (SFE30/22X179A) but the new sport version does have the same parameter number.
Is the stock replacement damper the same for the MK4 Golf and the MK1 Octavia?

Golf MK4 blue label has parameter number SF32/22X178A while the Octavia has SF32/22X178A.

Interesting

For some reason the stock dampers have the same parameter codes but the sport MK4 and the sport Octavia have different parameter codes (correction the new MK4 code is the same).

Give that the stock replacements have the same parameter codes I’m going to assume the sports dampers are also interchangeable.

Are the MK4 GTI dampers an upgrade over the listed Octavia RS dampers?

The last number for MK4 dampers is 160 (old model) vs 179 for the Octavia. On this evidence the MK4 GTI dampers could be an upgrade (stiffer). Assuming my assumptions about the “parameter” codes are correct.

I have no idea how big a difference 19 points is for the last number (179 minus 160).

Let’s look again at the TT damper.

Sachs only list one damper for the TT, a sports damper, that replaced the Advantage model, and that has the parameter code SFE32/22X135A.

That’s 25 points lower than the MK4 GTI old sport damper and 44 points lower than the RS (reinforced) damper.

Given how soft the suspension is on the Octavia now, and how much stiffer I believe the damper needs to be, I think I’m going to go with the TT front dampers. If it turns into an under-steering dog, then I guess I’ll have to fit a rear anti roll bar.

The Rears

On the back I put the “reinforced” Sachs dampers, code 556 271, parameter SEOV26X187A
Golf MK4, sports rears have the same code.

Audi TT, sports rear have the same code also.

That’s a relief, I don’t need to do anything to the rears.

What Have I Learned?

I’ve learned a number of things from Sachs during this process.

They seem to care a lot more about putting the correct damper on the correct car than Bilstein do. Whereas Bilstein uses the same code for many cars, Sachs have different codes for different models. Perhaps Sachs over-complicate things or perhaps there is something to it.

Is there a reason the TT appears to have so much stiffer dampers at the front vs the MK4 and RS, even though the TT rears are the same as the MK4 and RS?

Coming to the damper selection for the MK4 platform and getting coilover levels of performance.

As I mentioned many times above, I went with the stock Sachs damper for the RS at the front. If my assumptions are correct, the TT damper is quite a bit stiffer than the MK4 GTI and Octavia sport dampers. The code at the start is different, 30 for the sport MK4 and 32 for the TT, but given that the stock MK4 damper has 32 and assuming 32 is related to length, I think the TT damper will be fine. Ride height is perfect with the stock Sachs damper. And I wouldn’t want to go lower with coilovers if I wanted the car to still be driveable.

If the dimensions of the TT damper is the same but with more stiffness they could be the perfect choice. If for some reason they don’t work out than coilovers for this MK4 chassis are always a possibility.

There is only one way to find out and that is to buy a pair and see if they solve the problem. Subscribe to the YouTube channel and the StrikeEngine website to see what happens.

The Codes

CarStock Sachs CodeStock Sachs ParameterSport Sachs CodeSport Sachs Parameter
Octavia RS315087SF32/22X178A200954SFE30/22X179A
MK4 GTI315807SF32/22X178A200954SFE30/22X179A
TT 1.8T 180 2wdNANA317368SFE32/22X135A
Bilstein give the same codes for all cars for their sports suspension. Sachs do not. I assume the last number in the “parameter” code refers to stiffness, the lower the number the stiffer the damper.


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This page was last modified Mar 12, 2024 @ 8:43 pm

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