It’s not often that someone throws you the keys to two of the latest Mustangs and let’s you take them for a spin. That’s just what KONI is doing on its Activate the Nation tour across the United States. We popped in on the tour’s stop at BMR Suspension in Seffner, Florida, to see how the company’s new Special Active dampers perform on a 2018 Mustang.

When you are on a smooth road or in a sweeping turn, that valve system is closed off, giving you more control… — Mason O’Hara, KONI

“We are ‘activating the nation’ as the launch for this new product line,” Mason O’Hara,Technical Sales Representative at KONI, explained. “It is the newest generation of our selective damping technology. What it does really well is filter out those unwanted harsher impacts in the road.”

KONI’s Activate the Nation tour is crossing the US to show the company’s new Special Active damper technology. We sampled the dampers during its stop at BMR Suspension, and while we were there we also got a preview of some new BMR Mustang products, so stay tuned for a story on that at a later date.

According to KONI, this new damper technology rivals the efficacy of the more expensive active suspension options available from the factory, but its design allows it to easily retrofit into vehicles that weren’t option with such a system from the factory. Obviously, the company believes in its patented Frequency Selective Damping Technology, as this tour lets customers experience it firsthand.

“This is a five-week tour. We are going all across the US, doing 24-25 stops, getting our dealers and the public in cars to experience the technology,” Mason said. “I can sit here and tell how the shock works, but until you are behind the wheel you can’t feel it… We are excited to get it into the public’s hands so they can really see what the active technology is capable of.”

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The tour features three BMWs and two Mustangs, so obviously we wanted to get a chance to sample the new dampers in the Mustangs. We have plenty of seat time in the latest Mustangs, but most of it comes in those with the higher performance suspension options. The KONI system is ideal for those looking to update base-suspension cars.

“In your normal commute, you know the roads you drive on. You know where those potholes and cracks are. Typically you want to avoid them,” Mason said. “In situations where you can’t avoid them, this technology is going to adapt to that high frequency of the piston velocity in the shock. It opens up a valve to allow more oil flow for a softer rebound damping. That allows it to absorb that impact more smoothly for a better overall ride quality.”

Koni still offers its traditional performance dampers as well, but the red units are the Special Active struts showcased during the Activate the Nation tour.

We started by jumping behind the wheel of the Mustang upgraded with KONI’s Special Active dampers. Obvious by its bold graphics, but just as obvious when we hit the streets around BMR. To show how well the dampers work, our co-driver had us intentionally ride over the rough stuff, which the car seemed to glide over with little upset, and on the smoother, higher speed sections it felt quite confident.

“When you are on a smooth road or in a sweeping turn, that valve system is closed off, giving you more control with the performance valving of the shock,” Mason explained. “It blocks off those holes, giving you more rebound force that you need for control, which lessens body roll and sway. Even under acceleration and deceleration, the dip and dive are reduced, which helps in that area as well.”

KONI Special Active Damper Features

• Available for cars, trucks, and SUVs

• Can be installed in most new and older cars

• Improves safety and road holding

• Latest generation of Frequency Selective Damping Technology

• Performance for driver and comfort for passengers

• Proven on over 1.5 million factory-equipped vehicles

• Rivals expensive factory electronic systems

• Secure and stable feeling for spirited driving

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The Special Active-equipped Mustang felt comfortable and confident, but the real test was sliding behind the wheel of the base-suspension stocker. Immediately, we sensed its stance was both softer and less accepting of surface irregularities. Body roll and brake dive were also more pronounced. Both of our drives were at reasonable street speeds, but we suspect the differences would be more pronounced on the racetrack, especially someplace like Sebring International Raceway where the bumps create a suspension tuning challenge for racers.

“Anytime we are driving, I am sitting in the passenger seat and as soon as they feel that first little bit of suspension travel, they say ‘Oh, wow,’” Mason added. “You can feel it from your seat to the wheels to the input of the car, its really amazing technology.”

These valves are what make the Special Active dampers so special. They open and close based on damper frequency to deliver less rebound for comfort and more rebound for control.

We definitely had that moment while driving the car. These dampers look to be a great option for those who wanted active suspension, but didn’t or couldn’t add the option to their cars. The dampers will be available later this year, and though they aren’t expressly designed for use with performance lowering springs, the company plans to offer a matched spring/damper package in the future as well.

For more on the Special Active dampers, you can visit the KONI site here, and to catch one of the remaining stops on the Activate the Nation tour, visit its Facebook events page here.

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