THINKING ‘WAY AHEAD’ SINCE 1954
Bilstein says it offers exactly what customers in Australia want: a product range extending from OE and aftermarket products to street and off-road performance suspensions
When August Bilstein laid the foundations for the innovation incubator Bilstein in Altenvoerde in Germany in 1873, nobody had any idea of the crucial influence the company’s products would one day have on the driving comfort and safety of cars.
Bilstein says this did not become apparent until 1954, when its engineers in Ennepetal used the discovery of the Frenchman Bourcier de Carbon to bring the first mono-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers to market.
Three years later, for the first time, a Mercedes-Benz production vehicle was equipped with this innovation, which became standard in modern cars.
Monotube gas pressure shock absorbers developed and tested by Bilstein have since found their way into virtually all leading car marques, such as Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Bugatti, Ford, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Lotus, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, Porsche, Subaru, and Volkswagen.
A new identity
In 2022, Bilstein adopted a new brand identity out of this self-confidence. With new logos, a new claim, a new typeface and revised design guidelines, the shock absorber experts say they are focusing on the future of suspension technologies, the customer experience, and the brand itself.
Under the new claim ‘Way Ahead,’ Bilstein summarises its aspiration to offer all customers and partners a head start, whether in terms of development, market coverage, or the use of suspension technologies.
At the same time, ‘Way Ahead’ serves as a product promise for leading technologies, comfort, safety, and performance.
Bilstein says this is backed up by impressive facts, noting that today Bilstein is also the leading option for electric cars, such as the iconic Tesla brand which is successful worldwide.
International thinking with a local focus
Bilstein states that it thinks internationally, but also knows that the demands of customers differ from country to country.
In Australia, Bilstein has acquired extensive market knowledge over many decades and also with the support of the Bilstein Service Center, Sydney Shocks, which carries a wide range of “Bilsteins” suitable for all popular vehicles.
Bilstein reports that this includes a rich shock absorber and suspension range for cars typical of the Australian market, such as the Holden Commodore or the locally developed and built Ford Falcon.
It states this also resulted in a corresponding tuning programme and numerous options in the areas of street and off-road performance.
Moreover, with the series replacement shock absorber B4, a wide range of popular European and Asian vehicles is covered as well.
Meeting conflicting demands with confidence
Today one of the most advanced Bilstein suspension systems is installed in the current Mercedes S-Class ex works. Bilstein says this system shows what is technically possible today, because at last a long-standing conflict of goals has been convincingly resolved.
The demands of customers are particularly high when it comes to luxury vehicles: a premium segment saloon should be especially comfortable, yet still as dynamic as a sports car if required, and also extremely safe.
Bilstein says it makes this possible with state-of-the-art suspension technologies, setting new benchmarks in this segment at the same time.
The innovative Bilstein DampTronic Sky is its adaptive shock absorber system with two-valve technology for the independent adjustment of the damping forces in the rebound and compression stage, while playing a major role in driving dynamics, comfort, and safety.
This modern “Airmatic” air suspension combines air bags and adaptive shock absorbers, which reportedly respond particularly sensitively.
The damper recognition is controlled individually at each wheel fully automatically – with separate rebound and compression damping.
“In this way, we achieve a very high spread, a particularly wide range of driving modes from especially comfortable to dynamic,” Bilstein Head of Product Development, Andreas Mai, said.
However, a wide damping force spread is not only an interesting solution in the luxury class, but also for sports cars.
The Maserati MC20 and the Porsche 911 (992) were the first to be equipped with the new DampTronic X shock absorbers from Bilstein.
Bilstein reports that the high adjustment dynamics allow the required damping forces to be adapted to the demand determined by the central control unit in just a few milliseconds.
Further, the control concept calculates and adjusts the damping several hundred times per second, depending on the driving situation and wheel selectivity. In this way, agility as well as driving comfort and safety can be increased.
“It is a very good system that offers a wide spread between comfort and a sporty and dynamic set-up,” Bilstein Technical Project Manager, Marc-Raphael Stratmann, said.
“We have the only inboard system on the market that works with pilot-operated pressure relief valves in both the rebound and compression stage. The excellent controllability combined with very high dynamics is impressive.”
Leading aftermarket solutions
With its expertise, the German specialists say they do more than just ensure that modern premium vehicles from sports cars to SUVs and luxury limousines
set standards in terms of suspension technology.
If the need for aftermarket spare parts and performance upgrades should arise later, Bilstein says all factory features are supported almost without exception.
A good example of the technology transfer is the Bilstein EVO SE coilover suspension for the new Porsche 911, which is the only product in its class to support the original electronic damper control, meaning deactivation has become a thing of the past.
Bilstein notes that simply rebuilding or imitating such a complex system without OE knowledge and the necessary patents is almost impossible, as the development effort is huge unless a technology is already known from a company’s original equipment activities.
If shock absorbers for active suspensions are defective or worn out, it explains that replacement is significantly more expensive than conventional “products” and notes that owners of older cars in particular are therefore looking for affordable alternatives to original parts.
Fair value replacements from the aftermarket are significantly cheaper, but rarely support active control, says Bilstein, which notes this turns an active high-tech suspension into a passive one.
It states that garages that want to offer their customers a better solution can, however, fall back on the Bilstein B4 and B6 aftermarket shock absorbers with the DampTronic add-on.
These absorbers replicate all the features of the OE shock absorbers and are just as easy to install according to the plug-and-play principle, says Bilstein.
For vehicles with air suspension, Bilstein also offers its B4 air suspension modules, stating that “unlike many remanufactured products (reconditioned old parts), they continue to support active suspension control.”
Further, it says the Bilstein B4 gas pressure shock absorber is 100 percent the same as the factory-fitted components in terms of quality and functionality – but at a lower price; and this applies to the actively controllable DampTronic variants just as much as to the basic product used for passive suspension systems.
Bilstein explains people who have to master particularly tough everyday conditions with their vehicle or simply want to increase its performance can opt for the Bilstein B6 DampTronic.
It states this product represents improved OE replacement in combination with active suspension systems; explaining by going beyond the original, it offers a noticeable plus in safety and performance – without lowering or changing springs.
In addition, the B6’s higher performance reserves are said to be particularly effective on poor or winding roads, in dynamic driving, in dangerous situations, when towing a trailer, when transporting external loads – such as bicycle racks or roof racks – and generally with heavily loaded vehicles.
A real alternative
Defective air suspension modules are often replaced by relatively inexpensive remanufactured parts. However, the price advantage comes at the price of various disadvantages in terms of performance and functionality.
Bilstein says its B4 air suspension modules, on the other hand, are a real alternative to expensive original parts.
“As one of the few aftermarket options, they are completely brand-new, while remanufactured old parts include used shock absorbers with uncertain wear status,” Bilstein Regional Sales Manager Asia/Africa/Oceania, Martin Hyar, said.
“In addition, manufacturers of remanufactured components often disable the electromagnetic control valve instead of replacing it. This turns a high-end system with active control into a passive one.
“With Bilstein B4 air suspension modules or Bilstein B4 and B4 DampTronic and B6 and B6 DampTronic shock absorbers, on the other hand, cars drive like they did on day one.”
For more information, visit workshop.bilstein.com
Photos: Copyright Bilstein 2022