Dinan Stage 1 Suspension (M3) Full Review
Let me start off by saying I was a Dinan hater for a long time. Most people online are the same way I've found - that it's overpriced for something you can build yourself for cheaper. I actually agree for a lot of their parts, but I think the suspension is one of their better products.
I weighed my options and did a ton of research, eventually deciding on the Dinan stage 1 suspension - it includes 'custom' valved Koni sport dampers, and Dinan springs. They were having a 25% off sale, which was also some incentive, so it ended up costing me about the same as Eibach's/H&R's and off-the-shelf Koni's (Less than $1k).
The whole kit is pretty straightforward, so I won't go into a ton of detail. I would expect Dinan to package the springs a littler better than plastic bags, but I guess it doesn't really matter. The fronts rubbed together and some of the paint came off in one or two spots. The dampers came in Koni packaging so all was good there.
They include a setup sheet with all of the recommended shock, swaybar, and alignment settings. The recommended Koni settings are:
Front: 1/4 turn from full soft
Rear: 1-3/8 turns from full soft
Dinan has put stickers on each damper saying something like "this shock has been adjusted to the recommended settings from the factory". The front struts were at 3/8 turns from full soft. The rears were FULL SOFT. Don't trust the sticker - I called them and they basically said "oops". :thumbsdown:
Install went perfectly with no issues. I did not need any special tools for any of this. The rear springs came out almost by hand, with a screwdriver to help them along. The struts require a little twisting but they came right out as well.
The Dinan front springs are 'keyed', so they sit in a little different position than the OEM springs. The rear springs have ground ends, so orientation does not matter. Check out the DIYs here on the forum before trying anything - they help with special things like disconnecting the DSC sensor, or making sure the wheels are both dropped to avoid swaybar pressure.
At the same time I also replaced my original RTABs with new OEM ones from Vorshlag. The car no longer twists when accelerating and feels much more planted. A+!
Dinan vs OEM rear springs
Rear spring in place
OEM vs Koni shocks. Not as drastic difference as Koni vs non-M dampers :laughhard:
Strut in position
I'm also happy to say my JTD RSM's with 10-12k miles are in perfect condition still. Good quality product.
OEM RTABs. New design compared to what was in there (05 M3)
I couldn't find much precise info regarding ride height when researching. Here is what I have (measured center of the wheel to fender edge).
Front Left: 14.375"
Front Right: 14.375"
Rear Left: 14.125"
Rear Right: 13.875"
Front Left: 13.75" (-.625")
Front Right: 13.5" (-.875")
Rear Left: 13.75" (-.375")
Rear Right: 13.5" (-.375")
I drive primarily on the street on bad roads, so I couldn't be slamming the car down. The 'drop' is barely noticeable even to me, but I am happy with it.
My major complaints with the OEM suspension were harshness over bumps and bouncing during hard cornering. For 60k miles, it actually worked quite well... you have to give it to Sachs.
Now the car is just great. It is very stable through bumpy turns - no bouncing at all. Body roll is decreased - the car doesn't roll as much, but yaws as it should. Also, during hard acceleration the car used to squat and feel like it was going to wheelie :D. Now it's completely flat and solid as it should be.
Ride quality is improved, but definitely still firm. Larger bumps are not as harsh, but you still feel them. Honestly, I loved the Koni FSD shocks I put on my 330Ci. I could fly down a crappy road and not feel a thing, yet it still handled with amazing control. The Koni sports are much more performance oriented.
Overall, I am totally satisfied with it and can't wait for this weather to clear up to do some real driving.
After. Not the best comparison due to different lighting and wheels, but there isn't much to see anyway. I need to take some better pictures.
Feel free to ask any questions. I'd be glad to help out.
Still liking it??
Now that you have had more time, still liking it? The stock suspension seems to have to much body roll for me and seems to rebound strangely on challenging roads at a good speed. Maybe I'm too used to my S2000s suspension. Trying to decide if I'll remedy it on my M3.
The most noticeable difference is in the damping control as you mentioned. The stock suspension tends to bounce a lot in the turns even if the road is very smooth due to being underdamped for progressive springs. The Koni's are much more solid and provide more stable cornering. Ultimate grip is probably similar because that depends more on tires, but handling confidence and turning response is much better. Body roll and pitch is also reduced by a good amount.
Ride quality is similar but not as harsh over small bumps. The bumps feel more muffled - but you definitely still feel them. The ride gets smoother at higher speeds. I still recommend it, but wish this weather would dry up! :hi:
yeah I love my dinan suspension... haha i have stage 3 on the 325ci its awesome... haha it was funny when my friend drove it he was driving in a straight line and was like oh it feels kinda like stock then he took a turn and was like woah it just turns... the best way i can describe dinan suspension is as if its variable... like its comfortable then when you get on it it sorta feels like its a different animal and is like lets take this turn faster.... haha... i actually took it up to 140 and was taking tightish turns on the freeway and it just feels like the suspension sorta adjusts itself for the situation... and the balance between the springs and shocks...its like so fluid... like in a corner you can feels like all the parts are working in harmony that's the best way i can describe it... at least thats how i feel haha
Have a 2003 330 Ci, replaced the "worn" performance package shocks / springs with the Dinan stage 1. Whoa , huge difference. Just put on 1000 miles, half in the mountains of NC..the car carves through the turns, very little body roll yet it handles the bumps and dips much comfortably, less bouncy and more secure. Good investment.
Stage 3 just installed
History: I had a 1997 E36 M3 with the Stage 2 suspension, x-brace and strut tower brace and loved having it for more than 9 years.....despite hearing all the Dinan haters going on about this and that. The car rode well in pothole-riddled Atlanta and held its own with highly modified BMW's, Porsches and even Lotuses up in the North Georgia mountains, some of which have roads that ARE as technical as the Dragon (albeit shorter)....and we ran them hard.
Today: So it appears that the E46 parts production ended some time ago at Dinan and they're selling off whatever they've got left for our cars, so I pulled the trigger and got the stage 3 setup with the rear trailing arm bearings. Since I really missed the old car's setup and after 6 years of owning/thrashing it, I decided to get the Stage 3.
I always thought I'd stay stock with the E46 M3 due having seen how fast pro drivers are at the BMW Performance school (after attending it several years ago) and others with stock suspension setups and realizing that you go faster with more skill and judgement through professional training and seat time than you do from throwing money at racing suspensions that offer little or no benefit to most of those who tout their benefits despite never using 100% of their cars' potential when they were stock. The OEM setup is great and only during really spirited mountain runs did I ever miss the neutrality of the old car and rue the understeer of the stock suspension.
So I spent 6 hours of tearing around mountain roads learning the new setup yesterday. The car does need to allow you a lot of room to really throw it hard into turns but will break into snap oversteer at a certain point (much higher than OEM). The turn-in is definitely quicker and it you really see the advantage of more camber in the front on tight radius switchbacks while accelerating through the turn.
The fun part: As I was heading home after 6 hours, I ran into a guy with the new Porsche Cayman GTS with distributor tags. Since Porsche's headquarters are in ATL, I assumed that it was some factory hot shoe shaking down a production model. Once traffic permitted, we went like bats out of hell around some very serious twisties, many with off-camber turns. I was able to stay on his bumper but had to work the engine and put my heel-toeing skills to their limits. It was clear that he had a braking advantage (std Brembos) on me and was able to go much deeper into turns than I could. Also, that car has more footprint due to tire width (I'm on OEM 19's). I was able to make up any distance that he pulled out of turns very quickly, but was cautious not to get too close and backed off when I saw traffic in the distance.
After about 7-8 miles, we both pulled into a gas station and talked. I'm not lying about this: he couldn't believe that I was able to stay within 3 car lengths given the roads. He turned out to be a Porsche employee (not a pro driver but very experienced)and admitted to having done all of their driving schools and had extensive track time as well. I admitted that I felt like I was using most of the car's potential and that I really was working hard to stay with him. I didn't tell him about the suspension though....:shhh: So now I've got a buddy who enjoys this kind of driving but has the skill and maturity to know when to put the hammer down as well as when to back off and err on the side of safety. Anyone who's done spirited driving up in the mountains in a pack will know what I'm talking about and why.
To say that I'm happy with the setup is an understatement. I will admit that it is not the same dramatic effect that my old E36 upgrade had on my abilities to cope with the aforementioned driving situation. Its comfortable to take a lady out to dinner in as well as make the twisties your own personal rollercoaster. I know that it would not be the optimal race setup, but that's not what we're doing here.
I'm not here to start a flame war. I was just relaying impressions as someone who installed this product.
My expectations for a 90% street car are met by this setup and yesterday's experience confirms it. If you feel that you have to have many of the other fine suspensions that others feel add to the overall driving experience, by all means go with them. After all, your car is all about what makes you happy and what you can afford to do it, hopefully in an objective manner. However, I highly suggest driving/riding in a car that has what you're looking at already installed and functioning.
My best to all.
Get over yourself
Good review OP.
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