Bilstein 5100 vs FOX Shocks: Should we even compare 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.
We’re talking about two kings of the extreme.
But let’s be honest, guys. Bilstein 5100s are no match for Fox 2.0 shocks. Note that I didn’t say Bilstein, but referred to the 5100 series.
Bear with me for a little before I explain why. If you want fairer comparisons between Bilstein and Fox, it would be:
For coilovers: Bilstein 6112 vs Fox 2.0 coilovers.
Note: Fox coilovers are generally easier to adjust, even though 6112 series Bils come with 5 (!) height adjustments.
By the way, AutoAnything also has a good selection of Fox shocks on decent prices.
Why people compare the 5100s to Fox 2.0
I think I know why a lot of people talk about the Bilstein 5100 and Fox. They want a durable offroad shock with good dampening, ready to tackle bumps off the beaten path.
And you know what? That sexy 5100 buddy achieves that.
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 voila, you got yourself a set of attractive shocks:
However, there are three main differences that make Fox 2.0 steamroll over the 5100s for extreme offroad warriors.
For some these improvements are unneeded – the higher price tag doesn’t justify them. Others look at these features as something indispensable for their 4WD beast.
Let’s look at them and check which group will you fall into.
Three main differences between Bilstein and Fox
Fox 2.0 shocks are made of powder-coated aluminum. This is a superior construction to the steel monotube design with zinc plating Bilstein 5100s 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.
Third, while 5100s have plenty of zinc coating, the custom-set powder coating of Fox 2.0 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.
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 shock for the milder extreme
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 dirt rides, 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. Talking about environmental damage, the newer Bilstein 6112 also fare way better 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.
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 for an urban/offroad vehicle hybrid.
In that sense, getting a set of these is more versatile. Well, as long as you don’t do some really crazy excursions in the wild. Compared to Fox shocks, they’ll 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 include Fox shocks in their lift kits, instead of another brand (Bilstein in this case). 5100s come with ~3.5” lift support, but anything higher and you’re looking at Foxes. Extremity – and its natural rules.