Baseline Vehicle Behavior
Both Jeff and others here at Shock Surplus had similar impressions with the new 2020 Silverado 1500 RST Z71. While the public is sold that these trucks are premium bumper to bumper, that's not the case when it comes to the suspension, there’s a lot left to be desired from people that know the space.
There are many vehicles across GM, Ford, and Jeep that feature a Rancho twin tube shock. In all our test drives, the factory Rancho shocks have inadequate rebound designed into the shock, which produces far too much body roll and boaty behavior. This isn’t a knock against Rancho, but a knock against automakers with poor requirements in their suspension.
When we say boaty, we mean too much left-to-right bouncing when going up driveways. The rear end is wobbly when hitting speed bumps. Naturally there’s always some shimmying when these things happen, but good shocks - even decent shocks - can improve this behavior noticeably.
First Impressions, Jeff (Vehicle Owner)
When you went over speed bumps with the factory shocks the truck would bounce a few times before settling and now with the 5100’s you go over the speed bump and the truck would absorb the bump and settle. When going into a driveway at an angle, you no longer feel like you are getting tossed around because the shocks are not damping the side to side motion the way they should be.
Towing the sxs trailer also received a very welcomed improvement. Although the trailer and sxs are light (4500lbs total), the truck had some noticeable sway when the road got rough or when the wind kicked up. This was all fixed with the new Bilstein 5100 shocks on the truck. There is some added firmness in the ride quality, but that for me means more control over the truck.
Expectations of Control
Comfort is so subjective that what Jeff wants for his vehicle to give him a better ride, would mean too firm for many people. It is not uncommon to hear the feedback, “Bilstein is too stiff.”
But lets set the record straight, Bilstein’s digressive valving translates to massively improved handling compared to a factory shock alternative. But at the same time, you will also continue to feel a lot of the road irregularities and small bumps, those don't go away, and this is where expectation vs reality parts ways.
If we’re paying good money for new shocks, our expectations should align with what the product is meant for. The Bilstein 5100 is a perfect daily driver upgrade for a vehicle that needs to handle better, while also providing substantially better handling off-road. Bilstein won't be a ‘cushy Cadillac ride’ if that's what you’re after - there we said it!
Off-Road Impressions, Jeff (Vehicle Owner)
“I did not get the feeling that I was going to bottom out on any substantial bump. I was able to comfortably get on throttle to 35-40 miles and still feel in good control.
When going slow, under 10mph, over washboards and small rock fields did feel a little rough, but airing down and increasing speed so that I was driving on top of the bumps rather than through them increased the comfortability.”
Expectations of Comfort
With digressive shocks, where the low-speed inputs are restricted to produce the control we talk about above, the opposite is true when the speed starts picking up. After blowing through the initial stages of valving that 99% of drivers see 99% of the time, the ride starts to loosen up.
As speed increases (20mph+ over rougher terrain) the suspension starts cycling through more of its available travel, damping starts to loosen up since the shock oil has now blown through the restricted digressive piston and the low-speed valving stack (shims). This is where a ‘plush’ feel comes in and you lose the feel of all the chatter and small rocks of the trail.
While the suspension is comfortable in this range, this is where the limits are of the 5100 series and where shock fade starts to come into play.
Enthusiast & Experts’ Takeaway
We’re not sugar coating it when we say the 5100s are a huge improvement for this vehicle and the uses it sees. The dramatic improvement in handling has transformed the ride quality for 99% of the miles this 2020 Silverado 1500 sees. The boost in confidence while towing is worth more than the dollar-cost alone of these shocks.
While we only have a few thousand miles on the shocks, these Bilstein 5100s are known to last upwards of 100k miles under normal conditions, that’s significant for the investment in your vehicle. Don't skimp on cheap shocks, Bilstein are a great stock replacement that protects your vehicle over its (hopefully) long life.