Bilstein vs FOX Shocks: Should we be comparing them?
Yes, you read the title right. I’ve seen quite a few people pit Bilstein and Fox against each other in search of quality offroad shocks. I totally get that as I deeply respect both brands. They’re among the kings of the extreme.
But let’s be honest, guys. A set of Fox shocks is several times more expensive than a set of Bilstein 5100s. Aren’t we doing the whole apples to oranges thing, then?
We are, kind of. Which doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea to talk a bit about the Fox 2.0 shocks and how they compare to the classic 5100 series:
Let me start with a very important preface:
If you do not plan to do heavy offroad driving – and I mean a lot of extreme adventures, I don’t recommend getting Fox shocks.
It would be a prime example of going overboard with your hard-earned dollars.
Yes, I know they look cool – just check them, but still.
It’s OK to stick to the solid performance of Bilstein 5100s in most cases. Especially for your typical street driving – on the pavement a set of 5100s will always drive smoother/feel better than the Fox.
As for a cheat sheet before I continue…
Three main differences between Bilstein and Fox
Fox 2.0 are made of powder-coated aluminum while the Bilstein 5100 stick to steel monotube design with zinc plating. This makes Fox parts lighter, yes. However, the big advantage of aluminum is that it stays cooler and dissipates heat better.
If you’re going for the extreme offroad, the aluminum body will ensure your shock absorbers last longer. You don’t want to see heat getting the best of your shocks and them getting all cracked as a result.
➥➥ Lifted vehicle support
Fox 2.0 come with a 2” lift by default (though it sometimes gets to 2.25”). Stock Bilsteins have pre load and if you want to get a lift with them you have to go for the Ride Adjustable upgrade.
Generally, the Foxes will drive smoother on lifted trucks compared to Bilstein. They’ll also fit better if you decide to go big with a 4”+ lift on your offroad monster.
➥➥ Fox’s Recharge & Rebuild
OK, now this is the total no-brainer with Fox 2.0. That sweet nitrogen they run with means you can rebuild or recharge them anytime you need. Bought them once? Well, they’ll be sticking around for as long as your vehicle lives. 🙂
I’ll mention one thing both brands have in common, though.
They’re not cheaply outsourced to some random plants in China. Bilstein manufactures their shocks in Germany or the US. Fox stick to American soil for their aluminum beasts.
The Fox 2.0 family:
Understanding the different series
OK, so something very important to bear in mind is that there’s not only one type of Fox 2.0. There are several series – shocks, coilovers etc. aimed to please different audiences and fulfill different uses.
I want to focus on their two most popular products – the Fox Coilover IFP and the 2.0 Reservoir from their Performance shocks series.
The Reservoir variety is straightforward.
You have an external reservoir that gives you more oil/nitrogen capacity. Similar to the construction of the shock itself, it’s made of aluminum and anodized. No danger of leaking and it also doesn’t add too much weight to the overall construction.
These are especially great if you have a Jeep that you want to turn into an offroad beast. If you plan on sticking to modest lifts (1.5” to 3.5”), you can check this set. It’s the best one you can get.
Also, here’s a comprehensive video on them:
What about the IFP Coilovers?
Well, things here get really good. Because you get aluminum coilovers that are rebuildable and refillable. You literally can do anything with these and adjust them however you want.
A very important design detail here is the bushing. The upper mount of the IFP Coilovers comes with a composite bushing that helps with noise isolation and reduces vibrations significantly.
Yes, you’re going to need that when you’re conquering those insane bumps out there in the open.
Another important thing: the ease of installation. These are 100% bolt on shocks with no modifications (or welding, Jesus!) needed. Bam! and you’re done in an honest hour of proper work. 🙂
A balanced offroad/street shock, but definitely not extreme-ready
I’ve praised Bilstein a lot in some of my other articles and I stand by my words. The 5100 is a must for any offroad warrior…with some limitations.
As I mentioned, you still have steel construction here. If you go overboard with your riding in the dirt, this thing is going to get hot…Suffice to say, that’s going to have a negative impact on how long will these shocks last.
The zinc plating takes care of general debris and even wards off rust, but the powdered coating of a set of Fox shocks will offer better overall protection.
Well, Bilstein’s digressive valving is great and their overall technology is better suited for traditional driving. The 5100s being the offroad-upgraded version of Bilstein 4600 allows for a very good balance between city/offroad shocks. In that sense, getting a set of these is more versatile as long as you don’t do some really crazy excursions in the wild.
The same applies for rides with a higher lift level. There’s a reason why brands like BDS include Fox shocks in their lift kits, instead of another brand (Bilstein in this case).