Everything You Need to Know: Initial Impressions and an In-Depth Review of the Bilstein B8 8112/8100 Setup on the 5th Gen 4Runner
Suspension is one of the greatest upgrades you can do to a 4Runner. You will not only reap the benefits of a well-tuned suspension system off-road, but also on-road. One of the biggest problems with suspension is that there isn’t one lift kit that rules over all other lift kit options on the market. No golden bullet. No one size fits all. Suspension is a dynamic beast that must be specifically incorporated into each individual vehicle for ideal performance.
You see, one suspension might be better on-road, providing less body roll and better grip on asphalt. However, better on-road handling typically leads to a harsher off-road experience over moderate, lower-speed terrain. Another suspension might allow you to go through rugged obstacles with control at low speeds but increase body roll and not provide enough dampening through higher velocity inputs.
Give and Take
The big takeaway is that you usually have to give and take. You might have shocks that are unbelievable at low speeds off-road, but on-road you don’t have control when making quick lane transitions and you won’t have sufficient control at higher speeds off-road. On the flipside, you could have shocks that allow you to be very responsive. However, at slow speeds off-road and through moderate to light terrain, they might be very firm and provide a lot of feedback to the driver.
Finding the right suspension for you and your application is a balancing act. You have to determine what is most important to you. It is not as simple as going out and purchasing the most expensive suspension setup…in fact, a more expensive highly tuned race shock might provide lesser comfort on-road and over moderate terrain than factory shocks because race shocks are designed for high speed, high-velocity inputs.
More often than not, folks do not understand suspension systems, how dynamic they are, and what is really best for their application. You really have to be honest with yourself and determine what qualities you want in your suspension system. It is very easy to install some shocks that will impress your friends and folks on Instagram, but once again, the most expensive suspension system may not be best suited for your needs.
I have recently installed the Bilstein B8 8112 and 8100 shocks on my 2017 4Runner. I believe they are a top contender for the best shocks you can get on a 4Runner for all-around performance, but most particularly high speed, high load applications.
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Now, this is a pretty bold statement…the best all-around performing shocks?
Especially with companies such as Fox, King, and ICON providing substantial competition. I believe these shocks are about as good as it gets…if you are wanting a truly dialed-in suspension that can handle big inputs, high speeds, and provide control through faster-paced environments while still providing sufficient comfort at lower speeds.
Before I dive into these shocks, I’d like to start at the beginning and work my way to the present…all the way back when I had factory suspension.
The Factory Toyota 4Runner Suspension (Non-KDSS)
The factory shocks that come on a 4Runner are decent in my opinion…for getting started. I have a 2017 TRD Off-Road 4Runner, non-KDSS. I went with the TRD Off-Road because I knew I would be making quite a few modifications in the long run. So, purchasing a much more expensive TRD Pro only to replace the very components that make a TRD Pro 4Runner a TRD Pro didn’t make sense.
The factory shocks on my 4Runner provided a comfortable ride quality and soaked up bumps moderately well. I did quite a bit of off-roading with them, and the factory shocks got me to the point I’m at today. They worked really well, all things considered!
I was comfortable on the road, they performed decent off-road at lower speeds, and they were a great foundation for me getting started in 4×4 vehicles and off-roading. However, as I progressed and became more focused with driving off-road, I realized that the factory shocks did have some shortcomings.
First, I remember that the factory shocks soaked up smaller, low speed bumps quite well, but larger bumps could be very harsh and jarring. It wasn’t unusual for me to accidentally engage my bump stops and feel the harshness of bottoming out. You could hit the bump stop quite easily, especially at higher speeds and with increased payload. This isn’t a good thing when going off-road, particularly at speed. It can result in damage to and loss of control of your vehicle.
Second, factory shocks have a good amount of body roll which is undesirable on the road. The body roll was a result of the great comfort the factory shocks provided. However, this came at the cost of body roll and non-ideal responsiveness at higher speeds.
Last, due to the relatively small piston and shock body, the factory shocks can start to fade if you use them for an extended period at higher speeds, while towing a trailer, or worst case scenario, towing a trailer while off-road at high speed. There just isn’t enough oil capacity to keep cool under harsh conditions.
I do believe the factory shocks are a great starting point, but if you hit the trails enough you might consider upgrading to gain more control through rugged terrain, prevent shock fade, and simply provide more comfort at higher speeds. I did exactly this.
Bilstein 6112 and 5160 Shocks
I eventually upgraded to Bilstein 6112 and 5160 shocks. The reason I upgraded was two-fold. One, I wanted to lift my 4Runner a bit and the 6112 shocks provided an easy way to do this. Second, I wanted a more robust suspension that would be better on-road and off-road than the factory shocks. In particular, I wanted a suspension that could provide more control at all times, less body roll, and better dampening through larger input terrain and/or higher speeds.
I debated going with the Bilstein 5100s on all four corners or the 6112s up front with 5160s in the rear. The 5100 is a great shock from Bilstein and is quite possibly one of the most common suspension upgrades for trucks and SUVs. This is for good reason! The 5100s are a great shock upgrade. They are also very affordable for the product and performance you receive.
No doubt, the 5100s would have served me well, but I wanted a suspension package that had sufficient oil capacity to prevent fade when I am driving for long periods over rough terrain. I also wanted shocks that could provide a bit more dampening over rough terrain and allow me to better utilize the suspension travel that my 4Runner had.
I researched the 6112/5160 setup, and it seemed like the right choice for my needs. After all, it had 60mm front pistons (which is huge) and remote reservoir rear shocks. The larger diameter front piston and remote reservoir rear shocks provided a lot more oil capacity as well as increased dampening, which overall results in better control.
Some years of the TRD Pro 4Runners even came with 6112s up front and 5160s in the rear, so I ultimately decided to install the 6112/5160 setup.
The 6112/5160 setup was awesome! I can’t speak highly enough about these shocks, how well they perform, and the bang for your buck they provide. If you are looking to spend about $1,000 on suspension for your 4Runner then you most definitely should consider the 6112/5160 setup. I will even go so far as to say that the 6112/5160 setup is the best suspension you can get for around $1,000…hands down. Many other companies do not offer a 60mm piston option for this price point…which is a big deal.
I think the 6112/5160 setup on a 4Runner is pretty solid. I noticed much better road manners, larger bumps were dampened tremendously better, and I didn’t ever experience shock fade on longer, higher speed trails. This setup truly was a remarkable upgrade from the factory suspension. The amount of control that I gained, especially over large terrain and or at higher speeds was tremendous. I also noticed a substantial increase in handling when towing a trailer. These shocks are great! Yes, you do feel a little more terrain and receive more input at lower speeds, but I do not think it is very bad at all.
So, you might be wondering, why would you want to upgrade if the 6112/5160 setup was so great?
I decided recently that I plan on keeping my 4Runner for quite a while…as in I plan on running it until it won’t run anymore. I’ve put a lot of work into my 4Runner and I wanted to make it the best. As such, I wanted to put the best suspension I could find on it and really make my 4Runner better than anything you could purchase off the dealer lot. While I really liked my 6112/5160 setup, I wanted to see if I could find a setup that would provide even better dampening on larger inputs and higher speeds, offer some adjustability to dampening, and provide me with the versatility that I want. This was a lot to ask, but I was ultimately led to the Bilstein B8 8112 and 8100 setup.
Bilstein B8 8112 Shocks
The 8112 shocks are the top-of-the-line shocks that you can get for a 5th Gen 4Runner from Bilstein, and debatably any manufacturer. The front shocks consist of a 60mm digressive main piston with position sensitive dampening and a remote reservoir. What does this mean? Essentially, the 8112s have three compression zones and two rebound zones, with each zone serving a particular purpose. In many ways, it is like the 8112 has three shocks inside of one. The stages of compression are detailed out below:
- 1st Stage – The first stage of dampening is simply the main 60mm digressive piston traveling through the oil column under normal driving conditions. This zone is most commonly utilized, as it is where your shock pistons will be the majority of the time.
- 2nd Stage – The second stage consists of the jounce cut-off (JCO) secondary piston. The JCO secondary piston serves as increased dampening for the times when you have larger suspension inputs and your main 60mm digressive pistons could use a little help. Dampening forces are increased with the JCO piston, as the JCO engages with the internal telescoping compression stop.
- 3rd Stage – The third stage is the internal telescoping 2-stage compression stop (aka bump stop). This really is a remarkable feature to have in a shock, as you would typically require an external hydraulic bump stop. Not with the 8112s! This third stage is for the most extreme suspension inputs. On a stock 4Runner, the shocks are single stage, non-position sensitive. The 8112s 60mm main digressive piston will utilize the JCO secondary piston under harder than normal inputs, and then the internal bump stop will be utilized under the harshest of inputs.
All of the above stages provide exponential dampening to allow for great comfort under normal driving conditions (1st stage of dampening) but allow you to also remain in control and comfortable under large suspension inputs (that engage the 2nd and 3rd stage of the shocks).
In addition, you are getting tremendous capability with a 60mm piston and a remote reservoir!! This…is….a…lot…of oil capacity to help your shocks stay cool and perform consistently over long off-road drives.
What does all this mean?
What Does All This Mean?
This might seem like a lot of information, but what does it mean? Essentially, you are getting a shock that can handle a huge variety of situations. If you are daily driving on the road, you will probably just utilize the main 60mm digressive piston. If you happen to hit a large pothole or valley gutter in the road, the secondary piston will engage, providing more dampening and comfort. Without the second stage of compression, you would experience a harsher input as the shock shaft velocity would not slow down fast enough.
While off-road and only under significant suspension input, you might engage the third stage of compression to provide smooth dampening instead of a jarring introduction to the factory bump stops.
On the rebound side of things, you gain a lot of control too. After large inputs from a pothole or valley gutter, your spring is going to be under intense pressure. Potentially at a fully compressed state if you happen to hit your bump stop. As such, a normal shock will not have enough rebound dampening to provide a smooth, comfortable rebound cycle and your tires will accelerate too fast downwards and create an uncontrolled, harsh bucking feeling.
With the 8112s, the main 60mm digressive piston will provide initial dampening, and if needed the secondary rebound piston will engage to further increase dampening on higher velocity rebound cycles. All of this provides ultimate comfort and more control.
In summary, you are able to utilize much more of the allowable travel in an effective manner in comparison to other shocks. As I previously mentioned, you can think of the front shocks as almost having three different shocks in one because of the different pistons the shock has. This is amazing!
In the rear you have the 8100 adjustable bypass shocks…let’s dive into them and bypass technology.
What is Bypass Technology?
Now that you have an idea of the different stages in the front shocks, I’d like to dive just a little bit deeper into the technology behind the performance of the rear shocks. Particularly, the bypass shock technology since we haven’t discussed this much.
The rear 8100 shocks have two bypass tubes: one for compression bypass and one for rebound bypass.
If you have ever watched desert racing such as the Baja 1000, you might have heard the terminology of bypass shocks. What does this mean?
Typically, a shock consists of a main piston. All shock fluid must pass through this main piston during suspension travel. In hand, the piston and shock fluid traveling through the piston provide dampening. Bypass shocks operate a little differently though.
When your vehicle is in the normal driving zone (an easy way to visualize this is simply the ride height of your vehicle, plus or minus 1-2” of suspension travel for compression or rebound) you will be in the bypass zones of the 8100 shocks. Instead of all the shock fluid being forced through the main piston, a portion of fluid can bypass the piston and travel through a compression or rebound bypass tube.
In the case of the 8100s, these are externally mounted bypass tubes. There are shocks that provide internal bypass channels, but typically, this results in a smaller piston since the shock body has to be much larger to accommodate the internal bypasses too. This isn’t the case with the 8100s, as the external bypasses allow you to have an extremely large piston.
The bypass tubes allow you to have small bump sensitivity and comfort when you are in normal driving scenarios but have increased dampening when you hit a larger bump. The piston passes the bypass zone, and now all shock fluid must travel through the main piston.
In hand, this allows for a little more comfort within the normal suspension zone of the shock while still providing control through harsh terrain.
Bypass shocks are a very high-level component, and while there are some other companies that offer bypass shocks for a 5th Gen 4Runner, the 8100s are one of the few external bypass shocks for the 4Runner. Most are internal bypass with a smaller main piston.
Having the capability to adjust how much fluid is bypassed is a really nice feature as well. You can adjust both the compression and the rebound bypass. This allows you to dial in your settings based upon your wants and needs.
The rear shocks are a hit out of the park… I think they are phenomenal. The adjustability really is key here. If you want a firmer or softer rear shock, you can adjust to better suit your liking. This is the beauty of the 8100s. They are an awesome shock right out of the box, but you can adjust them for even better performance depending on your particular setup and driving style.
How Does it Feel in the Real World?
I know what you are thinking, how do these shocks perform? The B8 8112 and 8100 are very impressive on paper, but what matters is how they actually perform. What is the performance in comparison to the 6112/5160 setup? What about in comparison to the factory shocks?
First, it is important to note that the way something “feels” is very subjective. Some drivers might interpret a comfortable ride as something that is soft and absorbs small bumps. Other drivers might define comfortable as limiting body roll, nose dive, and provide a “tighter” response around corners. Secondly, the way something “feels”, especially when it comes to shock performance is very dependent on what speed you are traveling at, the terrain you are going through, and how much extra weight you are carrying.
There is a lot to discuss, so let’s dive into some scenarios!
On-Road (Smooth to Lightly Textured Pavement)
Most owners will have their vehicle on-road the vast majority of the time. On-road, the B8 8112 and 8100 handle exceptionally well. I think these shocks provide great control, reduced body roll, reduced nose dive, and an overall improvement in the responsiveness of the vehicle. If you want more control on-road than the factory shocks, or even the 6112/5160 setup, I believe the 8112/8100 setup does just that.
Now, slightly textured pavement is interesting. There is a misconception that higher-end shocks provide better comfort over all terrains. In general, higher-end shocks will provide more dampening and better comfort through some terrain, but this doesn’t necessarily result in a more comfortable ride over all terrains. As I previously mentioned, suspension is a bit of a give-and-take game. Some terrain might actually feel harsher because the shock is designed for a specific purpose.
For example, higher end shocks such as the ones offered by Bilstein, Fox, King, and Icon will all have a tendency to transmit smaller bumps and feedback more than factory shocks, but soak up medium to larger bumps much better (especially at higher speeds). Why is this? These higher-end shocks (sometimes referred to as “race shocks”) provide more dampening, particularly for higher input / higher speed scenarios, which more often than not results in less sensitivity for smaller bumps.
In my opinion, it will be hard to find shocks that absorb normal daily driving bumps that you will encounter on the road better than the factory shocks, especially since the factory front springs have a lesser spring rate that allows for better small bump sensitivity. However, there are several shocks that provide much better dampening and comfort for medium to larger bumps while not sacrificing daily driving comfort much.
All this said, the 8112 and 8100 shocks provide excellent handling on-road – substantially better than factory shocks. It should be noted that I have felt smaller bumps more than the factory suspension, and about equally to slightly more than the 6112/5160 setup. However, Bilstein has some amazing technology at play with the position sensitive front shocks to help out.
Bilstein really has a great product with the 8112 front shocks, as having position sensitive front shocks allows you to not over dampen smaller bumps while still providing enough dampening for larger bumps off-road. In addition, the rear 8100 bypass shocks allow for more optimized dampening in the “normal drive zone” of the shocks, while having the capability to dampen larger bumps when the 60mm piston is outside of the bypass zones. Pretty cool!
On-Road (Speed Bumps, Potholes, Rougher Pavement)
Even on pavement you will encounter some substantial bumps, such as speed bumps through a parking lot, potholes in the road (sometimes on the highway), and pavement that is rugged and unlevel. How do the 8112 and 8100 shocks handle?
In general, they handle much better than factory shocks, providing excellent dampening over high velocity inputs, such as going over a speed bump at a higher speed than typical. Other obstacles such as potholes or rough pavement are dominated by the 8112 and 8100 shocks. In my opinion, the 6112/5160 setup and the 8112/8100 setup are the clear winners over rougher pavement in comparison to the factory shocks.
However, if you are just looking at the performance of the shocks over rough on-road pavement, I’d say the winner would be the 6112/5160 setup. The 8112/8100 setup is still a little firm for these smaller bumps in comparison to the 5112/5160 setup, but it is very close! This is of course my opinion and you might think otherwise.
Gravel and Dirt Roads
Gravel roads can be very deceiving in judging how good a suspension system is. First off, there are very smooth gravel roads, and then there are washed out gravel roads with whoops, washboards, and large ruts. On relatively smooth gravely roads you might experience a little more feedback in comparison to factory suspension. However, rougher gravel roads are annihilated by the 8112/8100 setup…and I mean annihilated!
I can now carry my 4Runner with great speed through large whoops and bumps. While I could go through much rougher terrain than the factory shocks with my 6112/5160 setup, the 8112/8100 can carry even more speed and is more forgiving for the times you hit an unexpected large bump, deep rut, or drop off in front of you.
You really reap the benefits of the 8112/8100 setup over high speed, rougher gravel roads. These shocks are designed for applications such as this.
While most of my time is moderate to light trails or high speed desert-like terrain when I go off-road, every once and a while I do go through some technical sections. Sections that require 4-wheel drive low, rear locker engaged, and ATRAC on.
Some folks might claim that suspension isn’t a big factor if you can crawl at a low enough speed with enough control. While there is a bit of validity to this, you will experience a slip and a bit of uncontrollability at some point…no matter how skillful of a driver you are. During these times, your suspension is crucial!
One, you will experience a far less harsh experience. Two, you might just save yourself some bodywork if your suspension can dampen the blow enough.
I’ve been very pleased with the 8112/8100 setup on technical sections. You have a lot of forgiveness if you do slip up, but you are also very comfortable due to the position sensitive dampening on the front shocks and the bypass technology in the rear shocks.
These are great shocks to have when you are going through technical sections.
You might not be purchasing high-end shocks exclusively for towing, but it is always good to know how they handle with increased loads. I’ve found that the B8 8112/8100 are an excellent setup for towing.
The increased dampening, large oil capacity, and adjustable bypass rear shocks allow for a compliant and controlled ride. Typically, the factory shocks on a 4Runner just do not provide enough dampening and control when you are pulling a load. Large inputs are uncontrolled, as you can bottom out on the bump stop and the rebound dampening is not sufficient, so you end up bouncing up and down.
The 8112/8100 setup provides great control, which is just what you want when towing. I have a trailer that is about 2,000 lb. and another that is about 3,500 lb. Neither trailer is too much for these shocks. I know 3,500 lb. might not be a lot of weight for a big 2500 diesel truck, but it is quite a substantial load for a 4Runner designed for going all-terrain. The 8112/8100s handle towing beautifully.
In general, the 8112/8100 provides incredible handling on-road at higher speeds. You will have less body roll, less nose dive, and better overall responsiveness. You will feel smaller bumps and terrain a bit, but you gain a lot of control. As I previously mentioned, it is very important to understand what you need in your suspension system. If you are only traveling at lower speeds (less than 30-40 mph) and lighter terrain, I think the 6112/5160 setup is the better application overall.
High speed, increased load, higher input terrain is a clear indicator that you would be well suited going with the 8112/8100 setup. They are a great shock setup for gaining control on-road and provide ample ability at higher speeds off-road. However, you might be better suited with the 6112/5160 setup if you plan on traveling at somewhat slower speeds off-road and want to maintain a little more on-road comfort.
The 8112/8100 setup does an incredible job of providing dampening for smaller inputs, and especially for medium to larger inputs; however, the smaller bumps are simply felt a little bit more than factory shocks and even the 6112/5160 setup I used to have.
I think the 8112/8100 setup is a great application for those of you wanting to carry increased load and/or traveling at higher speeds while still providing enough dampening through larger input terrain. You will still have a comfortable ride on-road and through light terrain, and you will especially have a comfortable ride through rough terrain all things considered.
What Would I Change?
The rear 8100 shocks are phenomenal. Since this is a review of high-end shocks, I will be picky and note two things that I believe could be improved on the rear 8100s. The first is something that I have heard rumor of Bilstein already working on. The way you adjust the rear bypasses isn’t difficult, but it isn’t easy either. It requires some tools and isn’t very fast to complete. I think a simple adjustment knob would be an easy fix here.
Second (and this is just being really picky / looking for something to suggest), the 8100s could potentially have one more bypass tube to offer a little more adjustability. I think they are really good as they are but having two bypass channels (two for compression and two for rebound) would really give the end user a lot of versatility / fine tuning.
The front 8112 shocks are really good as well, but I have one significant area that I think could be improved – adjustability. Nearly any shock within this price range is going to have front adjustable compression. Some even have adjustable rebound. Bilstein did an incredible job tuning these shocks, and the position sensitive front dampening really is remarkable; however, you can’t adjust these shocks. Bilstein does have some technology at play that I’m not aware of any other company utilizing (at least for 4Runner shocks), and it works really well.
For me, I’d like to have adjustability though, as I would like to have a slightly softer ride for when I am daily driving and then have the capability to firm things up a bit if I know I’m going on a weekend trip off-road. You can’t do this with the 8112s. Once again, I do think Bilstein did an amazing job with tuning these for the 4Runner and handling a large variety of terrain, but adjustable front shocks is a key improvement that I think Bilstein could make in the future.
Many other competing shocks in this price range will allow you to adjust compression, dual speed compression, or compression and rebound. This really is a big feature as you can fine tune the shocks to your liking. To be overly honest, the 8112/8100 setup is probably overkill for what I do. They are really designed for high speed applications. While I do travel at higher speeds on desert roads, I typically slow down quite a bit through rougher sections and never travel above 45 mph through smoother sections. As such, I’ve found that while the 8112s do an incredible job throughout all terrains, they transmit a little more feedback than the 6112/5160 I used to have.
Lastly, the design of the front 8112s can produce an audible clicking sound when the main piston engages the secondary piston. Bilstein mentioned this in the installation manual they provide (which is super detailed and easy to follow). Being a stickler for small things, I tend to notice this clicking sound. It isn’t bad at all, and not very frequent, but it can take a bit to get used to.
Suspension is a never ending moving target. Your needs on-road are different than when you are off-road and vice versa. Changing your payload plays a huge factor, and of course, different terrain plays a big factor too. The Bilstein 8112/8100 setup aims to provide great on-road control, and increased control and dampening at higher speed / larger input terrain. The position sensitive dampening in the front shocks and the bypass rear shocks do a great job of soaking up smaller bumps too so you can maintain a comfortable ride in your daily driver.
These shocks are very impressive! They are very high performance, built by Bilstein and carry their reputation for durability and dependability, and they can take on a lot of terrain.
The 8112/8100s are superb out of the box. They are debatably one of the best suspension systems you can currently install on a 5th Gen 4Runner. If Bilstein adds adjustment knobs on the rear 8100s and adjustability to the front 8112s, I think these shocks could hands down be the best overall.
If you want a suspension setup that can really soak up big bumps at high speeds, this is the setup for you! I recommend the 8112/8100 setup for users that have increased pay loads, want to travel at higher speeds while off-road, and want a rugged suspension that can handle a beating…because the 8112/8100 excels at all of these aspects!