Bilstein 5100 etc. vs FOX Shocks: Should we even compare them?

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I’ve seen quite a few people pit Bilstein and Fox against each other in search of quality offroad shocks. I totally get that – we’re talking about two kings of the extreme.

However, as the price difference indicates, there is the element of comparing apples to oranges. Not only because of Fox shocks’ lighter, better heat-resistant aluminum construction.

Let’s get some things right first. Most people talk about Bilstein 5100 vs Fox 2.0, but there are several shock types to compare:

  • For standard monotubes: Bilstein 5100 (prices here) vs Fox 2.0 Smooth Body (prices here)
  • For reservoir shocks (long travel): Bilstein 5160 (prices here) vs Fox 2.0 Reservoir shocks (prices here)

  • For coilovers: Bilstein 6112 vs Fox 2.0 coilovers.

Note: Fox coilovers are generally easier to adjust even after installation thanks to their rotating spring collar. That’s why I’d generally recommend them over 6112 Bils, despite the latter coming with more height adjustments.

With standard monotubes, you might find Fox 2.0 easier to install. However, the 5100 series is a better bang for your buck for moderate offroading. Here’s a little Fox beauty:

Fox 2.0 vs Bilstein Shocks: A thorough comparison between all their lines

Why people compare the 5100s to Fox 2.0

Simple: because there are not that many choices for premium truck shocks or quality suspension for offroad warriors. You’re not going to ride a set of Monroes in the dirt now, are you?

Before I look at the three main differences between Bilstein 5100 and Fox 2.0, let me say this:

For some, these improvements are unneeded – the higher price tag just doesn’t justify them. If you want moderate offroad adventures, a set of 5100 shocks has a lot to offer.

Conquering rough terrain of medium intensity is these shocks’ forte. Their digressive valving smoothens bumps and potholes alike. Generous zinc plating on the shocks protects from corrosion and also shields the monotube from offroad debris.

Add the fact that they’re way cheaper and you’ll see them win polls from moderate offroad warriors (an F150 forum example).

Product Image
Bilstein 5100
  • Specially designed for lifted vehicles & 4WD.
  • Zinc-plating protects from debris, digressive valving smoothens rough terrain.
  • Crazy good for its price if you're not into ultra extreme rides.
Check Prices & Fit

However, exactly these three main differences make Fox 2.0 steamroll over the 5100s for extreme offroad warriors. 

Additionally, on max height settings the Bilstein ride harsh. The valving on Foxes makes them firm, yet more comfortable to ride with when it comes to higher lifts.

Three main differences between Bilstein and Fox

➥➥ Construction

All Fox 2.0 shocks are made of powder-coated aluminum. This is a superior construction to the steel monotube design with zinc plating Bilstein 5100 & others sport. This leads to three important improvements you have with Fox:

First, lightweight construction that doesn’t drag your suspension down.

Second, outstanding heat dissipation. Fox shocks will stay cool even in extreme situations. Something that you want to see, as heat can sharply reduce shock life and even lead to the body cracking.

This is supplemented by the fact that Bilsteins go for digressive valving which causes heat ups if you cycle them too hard. In other words, in more extreme dirt rides.

Third, while 5100s have plenty of zinc coating, the custom-set powder coating of a set of Fox 2.0 shocks like these provides even further protection against debris, gravel…whatever you will be traversing over.

No joke – look what kind of stress are these manufactured to cope with:

➥➥ Extended lifted vehicle support

Fox 2.0 come with a 2” lift by default (though it sometimes gets to 2.25”). Bilstein 5100 has lifted vehicle support too, and they function well right until you get to the 4” mark.

Above that, Fox is the king. 2.0 shocks will provide firmer control and better dampening on higher lifted trucks. The fit is also snugglier if you decide to go big with 4.5” or 5”+ lifts 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.

Product Image
Fox 2.0 Performance
  • CNC machined anodized aluminum body. Light, stays cool, looks cool.
  • Goes through everything - even the roughest of offroad environments.
  • Nitrile rubber bushings for superior suspension articulation.
Check Amazon prices Check AutoAnything

Reservoir shocks:
What the two brands offer

Let’s first move on to reservoir shocks. Here, Fox 2.0 meets Bilstein 5160.

And it wins hard.

With both, you have an external reservoir that gives you more oil/nitrogen capacity.

Similar to the construction of the Fox shock itself, it’s made of aluminum and anodized. No danger of leaking and it also doesn’t add much weight to overall suspension.

Generally, Fox 2.0 has better construction, better long travel capabilities, and it also looks cooler. I’d go for a set of these over the 5160s.

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 choice, really.

Here’s a comprehensive video on them:

Coilovers:
Fox 2.0 vs Bilstein 6112

What about the IFP Coilovers? Here they battle it out with Bilstein 6112.

Well, things here get really heated up between these two.

On one hand, with Fox you get aluminum coilovers that are rebuildable and refillable. You literally can do anything with these and adjust them however you want.

They’re also complete coilovers (check them for Tacoma), unlike the strut + coil spring combo of 6112.

On the other, Bilstein 6112 has a bigger body (2.6” vs 2”), a bigger piston (60mm vs 48mm) and better height adjustments (up to 2.75″ vs 2”). The bigger size allows for better ride handling and support for heavier loads.

In the end, where I think Fox 2.0 coilovers win is:

First, 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.

Second, the ease of installation and height adjustment. 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. 🙂

Conclusions

I’ve praised Bilstein a lot in some of my other articles and I stand by my words. Especially the 5100 is a classic for any offroad warrior…with some limitations. The newer Bilstein 6112 fare way better in terms of overall durability with their newest gen Eibach springs that are cold-treated and custom engineered. I’ve done a review on them vs the 5100s, and there’s a reason why I insisted they are a worthy competitor to Fox 2.0 coilovers.

Bilstein 5100 vs Fox 2.0 Shocks: Are We Really Comparing Apples to Oranges or?

The tradeoff?

Well, Bilstein’s digressive valving is great and their overall technology are better suited for traditional driving. The 5100s being the offroad-upgraded version of Bilstein 4600 allows for a very good balance for an urban/offroad vehicle hybrid.

As I mentioned before, however, there’s a plateau of resistance here. On ultra extreme terrain, this diggressive tech causes heating and a ride that’s stiff to the point of being uncomfortable.

Compared to Fox shocks, Bilstein will be a bit smoother on the streets. If you want maximum versatility and mild offroad action, though – you might consider Rancho shocks and specifically the RS9000XL with its 9 adjustable settings.

There’s a reason why brands like BDS or newer gens model like the 2019 Ford Raptor include Fox shocks in their lift kits (press release here), instead of another brand (Bilstein in this case). 

You get premium suspension, but you also pay premium for it.

Founder of ToolingFun. Couldn't even change a lightbulb in my teenage years. Discovered the joy of DIY projects during my 2nd year in college. All about tinkering around, trying fun tools and projects, and giving my opinion on industry brands!