Do you get wound up talking about coilovers or blow hot air after defending air suspension? For years tensions have been high between the two opposing sides, each having very strong opinions for their way of life: conventional coilovers or the new-aged air suspension. As a person who has experienced both sides, I ask you all, "Why can't we all just get along?" Suspension comes in all different shapes, colors and sizes, but on the insides they are all the same - they have struts. Here is a quick breakdown between KW Suspension Coilover Kit V2 and the AirREX Digital Wireless Air Management System to show that the differences are not so different after all.
Coil vs Bag
The obvious difference between the two styles are those twisty things and the rubber packet-a-ma-bobbers. While coil springs and air springs (the more technical terms), look nothing alike, they hold the same purpose - expanding and contracting to absorb bumps while also establishing ride height, all of which affects the car's handling. Both applications usually have progressive spring rates, which means more compression results in stiffer spring rates.
There are ups and there are downs. We already established that the ride height is determined by the spring, whether it be coil or air, the only difference is how they do it. Coilover and air-over-coil suspension, like this AirREX Air Suspension work in a similar way where the the loosening of the collars will adjust the position of the spring and determine the ride height. For a coilover setup, you will need to do this each time make the ride height adjustment, while you most likely only have to do this once for an air suspension. Once this part is set, the air management system takes over and will inflate or deflate the bellows to get to your desired ride height.
Ride Comfort: Dampening Adjustments
No big difference here, most quality suspension kits - coilover and air suspension - are capable of a decent range of dampening adjustments that will make the struts ride stiffer or softer depending on your needs. As mentioned earlier, inside every suspension kit are struts - and as long as you have the proper struts with adjustable characteristics, the ride comfort of the two styles will be as good and as reliable as the other.
Installation starts off identical by swapping out the factory struts for new ones, that's about where it ends for coilovers -but its only the beginning of the air suspension installation. Whether you go with the easy plug-and-play box from AirREX or a custom set up like the one built out below, you will still need to find ways to run air lines to the four rubber bellows as well as electrical lines to power the whole thing. Air suspension installations can be much more complicated and thus more expensive, but that's all part of the territory.
In the end there is no wrong, there is no right, as long as your ride is safe and it works for you. You can get it with air or you can get it with coil; the choice is yours.
Watch the video below where SEMA Show car builder Josh Sherwin Esfahani tells us why having air suspension is a good idea and also corrects misconceptions about air suspension in general: