In today’s world of crossovers, the idea of a taught handling experience seems to have been lost in exchange for practicality and versatility. Although Mazda has entered the crossover market with the CX line of vehicles, they haven’t forgotten their sports car heritage when designing it. Japanese tuning company AutoExe has taken notice of Mazda’s noble effort, and in a bid to capture the hearts of sports car enthusiasts with a crossover, they’ve developed a healthy line of parts for the CX-5.
In this article, we’ll be installing a set of AutoExe coilovers for the KE CX-5. The CX-5 we’ll be using for this article is one of our customer’s vehicles and has already been fitted with an array of other AutoExe parts such as the front strut tower bar, lower arm bars (front and rear), and the premium tail muffler. As the car is about to hit 60,000 miles, it served as a good time to replace the dampers from wear and tear to maintain optimal driving performance.
**Please note that this is not a full install guide, rather this is designed to show the features of this product**
The AutoExe coilover kit includes front and rear dampers as well as the springs and a set of two spanner wrenches. This kit is designed to provide you with a comfortable ride while providing heightened agility over the factory suspension. These coilovers are height adjustable via the perch, however, the compression and rebound are set by the factory.
Before we started, we took a measurement of the front and rear ride height. On the front, we noted a height of 32” and 33” on the rear with the stock suspension. We opted for a mild drop on both axles; by default, AutoExe’s coilover kit lowers the car by 15mm (0.59”) on both axles.
The CX-5’s suspension setup consists of a Macpherson strut in the front with a multi-link trailing arm setup in the rear. In order to replace worn components, our customer provided us with a bag of all-new OEM parts, which also saved us time from having to swap over parts from the old suspension.
Once we jacked the car up and removed the wheels, we took a closer look at the stock suspension with approx. 60k miles on it:
Both front and rear dampers are gas pressurized to prevent the shock oil from foaming, which can cause cavitation. At this mileage, damper performance has noticeably degraded, affecting ride and overall handling.
AutoExe’s coilover kit for the CX-5 uses twin-tube dampers for both axles, a smart choice for this car. By going to a twin tube setup compared to a monotube, the stroke length can be lengthened without physically extending the casing of the damper, as the outer (pressure) chamber surrounds the working (inner) chamber. By opting for a long stroke length, a comfortable ride can still be achieved, keeping true to the CX-5’s original intentions. Furthermore, if the damper casing is dented from some sort of impact, the piston can move freely as the pressure chamber will take the brunt of the hit as it hits on the outside.
We used Motul Tech Grease 300 to ease installation on certain parts such as the bump stop. After compressing the spring over the factory top mount, we were able to get it back installed into the car:
Ideally, you’d want to opt for adjustable sway bar end links, as the angle of the sway bar has changed due to the lowered ride height of the car, adding pre-load to the bar. In addition, adjustment of tie rods to compensate for the new height is recommended to avoid bump steer. Adjustable end links and tie rods are both available for this car from AutoExe; we will hopefully be doing an install of both on this car in the near future.
To save time and a headache, the upper bolts for the rear dampers are studs, eliminating the need to rip apart any liners in the trunk to access the top bolts; simply undo the nuts at the bottom of the studs. The bottom shock joint on our customer’s CX-5 was attached via a very long stud; you can either choose to remove the stud to get the damper off (not recommended) or slide it off the stud by putting leverage on the suspension arms.
We adjusted the height of the rear suspension by spinning the upper perch mount’s collars, in order to lower the rears more than the fronts. The upper and lower spring seats were changed for new ones, however, the upper shock mount for the rear dampers was re-used.
After everything was properly torqued down, we checked the height on the new settings, which showed a new height of 31.5” in the front and 31” in the rear, as opposed to 32” and 33” in the rear. Doing a before and after test of the handling showed that the new suspension provided greater control compared to the worn-out factory dampers, while the use of rubber factory mounts eliminates any noise problems associated with harder mounts.
For more Mazda CX-5 and AutoExe, bookmark our blog for more content! We will be installing the AutoExe tie rods and end links in a separate article when our parts arrive.