Customer’s often ask when the 6112 is actually needed if they’re already on 5100s and debating an upgrade. We sell both options by the hundreds, and have been in countless vehicles equipped with Bilstein to frame our experience.
5100 vs 6112 Behavior
Are the 6112 more comfortable than the 5100 on the daily drive?
Maybe a tad, a fair percentage of people would guess wrong which shock they were riding on given the scenario we went through of identical vehicles, identical terrain.
Which one is softer?
They both feel extremely similar on pavement and the daily drive. The 6112 will be significantly softer in the medium or high speed off-road obstacles. The 60mm piston is leagues ahead of the 46mm piston in terms of damping ability, which means it can slow down the vehicle better through the compression range, and keep control during the rebound phase of suspension travel, giving you a ‘bottomless’ feel more often. This is compared to the more jolty and harsh feel on the 5100s in the harder hits when you’re doing 20-30mph down the trail.
We’ve focused on Bilstein quite a bit here at Shock Surplus, it's not only one of the biggest sellers out there for light trucks and Jeeps, the 5100s are also very good shocks and give a substantial handling upgrade over factory shocks.
Ride Review: Bilstein 5100 Install on a 2020 Chevy Silverado 1500
Ride Review: Bilstein 5100 Install on a 2020 Ford Ranger FX4
- Eliminating body roll
- Decreasing nose dive and rear squat
- Improving braking distance
- Tighter handling on and off-road
5100 vs 6112 on Toyota 4Runners
Both of these 4Runners are 5th gen, between 2010 and 2021, identical platforms in terms of suspension dynamics and behavior. Don’s white 2016 4Runner has the 5100s on KDSS, while Kristie’s black 2021 4Runner was on the 6112/5100 combination without KDSS.
With the 6112 series shocks, Bilstein doesn’t stray from that goal. Across our own staff, some more experienced than others, and the public at large - it was extremely hard to tell a difference between the 5100 and 6112 shocks on-road. Both were tight, and bump compliance was a tad better in the 6112, they’re a bit more forgiving on speed bumps and potholes, otherwise some even forgot which shock was under which 4Runner.
“Small bump harshness on the 5100 that is less prevalent on the 6112s” - Bowman
“It was surprising how similar they felt until things got real rough” - Jeff
“From the front end I didnt notice too much of a difference between the two 4Runners. When I rode in the back seats of both of our 4Runners you can definitely feel the difference between KDSS and non-KDSS. Kristie's (without KDSS) felt a lot more plush then mine, and we were both running the same exact set up in the rear, 5100s and 2 inch Icon springs.” - Don
Off-road is where the 6112 shines and is warranted for use. The 60mm piston has to do less work compared to the 5100 series, the damping surface area is significantly larger (25% more) in the 6112, which allows it to respond in a less harsh manner to keep the vehicle under control.
On-road the ride quality is going to be almost indecipherable to most people, almost by design. Bilstein is aiming for specific on-road handling characteristics, which is built into their digressive piston. The tuning on top of that only gives small iterations of on-road performance.
Both shocks are identical in travel lengths, but the 6112 can stop those hard hits without bottoming out the shock. It also has greater rebound properties so the front end doesn’t buck-up after a large compression event, and thus keeps the tires on the ground. Super important when traveling at a decent speed and navigating turns off-road.
In other words, when you hit that wash or hard bump on the trail, the 6112 will prevent the vehicle from bouncing off like a pogo stick. The behavior is more akin to hitting those long drawn out speed bumps, smooth up-and-down motions that aren’t as harsh.
The 6112 is a mid-tier performance shock, whereas the 5100 is a factory-level upgrade, they both have their place. If you’re looking for a bit more off-road performance, but dont want to go crazy with high performance coilovers from the Race-brand manufacturers, the Bilstein 6112 is by far one of the best bangs for your buck.