Evolution of performance: The new aftermarket coilover suspension systems
Automotive-sector | Leading OEMs such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW and sports car icons such as Porsche and Maserati place their trust in damper know-how from thyssenkrupp Bilstein. With the new EVO Performance Line the Ennepetal-based company has expanded its high-performance range of coilover suspension systems for the aftermarket. We took a look at what makes the new high-performance products stand out.
You may not see them directly but dampers make a significant contribution to road holding and ride comfort. Without knowing it, every driver feels the performance of these products. Car dampers are real hidden champions. They work away in the background, hidden beneath the body panels, yet they have a massive influence on the safety and comfort of a vehicle. Constant developments over the last two decades have turned dampers into real high-tech components.
This is confirmed by Martin Flick who, as Head of Motorsport, is responsible for the particularly sporty dampers produced by the suspension specialists at thyssenkrupp Bilstein in Ennepetal. He barely breaks a smile at mention of the familiar prejudice, rarely meant seriously, that car dampers are just a simple piece of technology which do nothing more than move a bit of oil backwards and forwards through small holes.
“Nowadays dampers can of course do a lot more,“ he says. “Above all OE development is a real innovation driver. We have active systems in which the valves are controlled by the intelligent system electronics of the vehicle: Cameras scan the road to identify uneven areas in advance, while sensors provide detailed information about body movement and acceleration to the control unit, which activates the valves for each wheel separately. They can respond to the damping force requirements several hundred times per second, depending on the driving situation.” This is a technology that thyssenkrupp Bilstein has developed for various premium OEMs. And similar developments have taken place in the aftermarket sector. “OE development plays an important role when it comes to new parts and systems, and these innovations are also taken over into aftermarket products,” says Martin Flick.
The suspension specialists from Ennepetal also used corresponding synergy effects in their new generation of state-of-the-art coilover suspension systems for the performance aftermarket: Late 2019 saw the premiere of the new “EVO Performance Line” from BILSTEIN following two years of intensive development. “Detail solutions from OE development and our decades of experience in international motorsport fed into the development of our new coilover suspension system range,” says the engineer.
EVO Performance Line benefits from decades of experience in motorsport
The range extends from coilover suspension systems for sporty drivers and tuning fans to systems for occasional trips to the racetrack, which can be set to enable compression and rebound damping, to professional motorsport systems. The new suspension systems represent a significant step forward technically and this is particularly clear at the top end of the product range with the “EVO R” racing suspension. The systems include complex milled connecting parts and a wide variety of adjustment options, and use aluminum instead of steel for the damper tubes. This adds real value as every gram counts in motorsport.
“Based on the principle “whatever works best”, we decided we would be highly flexible and always pick the best valve technology needed for a suspension system. Depending on the purpose of a specific suspension system or what system was already installed in the car during production, we can use monotube or twintube systems. For example we developed an electronically activated EVO coilover suspension system for the new Porsche 911 (992) that only we can produce,” says Martin Flick proudly.
Strategy tailored to specialists
Christoph Henkel, who as Head of Aftermarket is responsible for sales, product management and marketing, says that not only technical changes were made, but also strategic ones: “We want to be closer to customers and experts. That’s why we always go where the requirements arise and we can offer added value as a strong partner: to performance workshops and end customers. That also enables us to gain first-hand customer feedback which we can then take into account – responding to this is our strength.”
Significant advance and striking appearance
The new BILSTEIN EVO coilover suspension systems also exceed the expectations of the demanding target group when it comes to appearance: The developers broke new ground here by working with young product designers. The initial designs were created in collaboration with students at the University of Wuppertal. Many of these ideas were developed further by the BILSTEIN engineers in Ennepetal and were actually used in the production versions. With the classy new matt black look featuring subtle color highlights thyssenkrupp Bilstein has created a timeless new design that clearly stands out from competitor products. As a result the new BILSTEN coilover suspension systems score highly with the car tuner target group, which places particular importance on a striking appearance.
Ultimately, however, driving dynamics remain the key criterion for evaluating performance suspension systems. “The suspensions on many mass-produced vehicles are a compromise between comfort and sporty characteristics. We can resolve this by applying our experience and developing suspension systems explicitly for different target groups,” says Christoph Henkel.
He refers to the target group of track day drivers as an example. “The majority of mass-produced vehicles simply aren’t designed for track days. And that’s where we come in. Whether its adjustable dampers, different spring rates, adjustments to camber angle and the use of metal bearings instead of rubber and metal parts: we can retrofit all this with our performance suspension systems to make vehicles demonstrably faster without any significant sacrifices in comfort.”
“Everyday practicality always ensured”
Despite the focus on performance, BILSTEIN attaches importance to comfort and a high level of everyday practicality. “Our TÜV-approved suspension systems are tested on the racetrack and on normal roads, in cities and in test centers,” says Henkel. “This ensures you get a suspension system with no compromises.” The perfect balance between maximum performance and outstanding drivability has always been a particular strength of the suspension systems from thyssenkrupp Bilstein.
The increased durability of the new systems was achieved largely through a new, extremely resilient design, while special paint and the zinc-nickel coating used also make a contribution. As a result they are highly corrosion-resistant and meet the stability requirements of leading auto OEMs.
Even though dampers continue to work out of sight: a good suspension system will always ensure a great driving experience!