Bilstein B8 Sprint shock absorbers Test

March 10, 2012 in Technical

Bilstein B8 Shock Absorbers

After driving 1767 kilometers with the Bilstein B8 Sprint shock absorbers installed on my 9-5 Sedan (2009) together with the original aero springs I felt that I’ve gotten a pretty good feel for them.

I have to say that I didn’t know what to expect from them. I’ve heard mixed things about previous products but no one I knew had a car with the shock absorbers installed that I could test drive.

First impression was that they were a lot stiffer than the normal aero shock-absorbers previously mounted. Of course the once that came off had rolled over 119’000 km so, they were not up to the level they used to be. However having driven several Aero’s it was instantly clear that the B8’s were one step up from the Aero struts in terms of handling. Bumps in the road are of course felt a bit more and the B8’s are not as comfortable as the standard Aero struts however I still wouldn’t describe them as uncomfortable in any way, it’s more of a thing to get used to. I have tested them with two different sets of wheels, both of them are 17″ and with 225×50 (winter) tires as well as 235×40 (summer). I use the car to commute between Växjö and Gothenburg in Sweden, a 220 km drive (one way) and it didn’t take too long until I didn’t even react to the stiffer suspension. Right now it feels like it really belongs in the car and going for something softer now would probably feel strange.

One thing I’ve noticed while driving on the highway was that the car got a lot less sensitive to wind which was a very positive aspect while driving at high speed along the coast lines, I felt a lot more relaxed while driving the car with the stiffer suspension. Given that I commute fairly long distances to work the car now allows me to arrive even more relaxed. I’m really looking forward to the ultimate test which will take place this summer as we load the car a lot and drive down to SPA in Belgium for Int-Saab 2012. I’m pretty eager to get the car out on the autobahn. I’m pretty sure that Bilstein had that kind of driving in mind as they developed these shock absorbers.

Saab 9-5 Griffin Aero (2009)

By then the car will be fitted with the Hirsch Springs as well which should make for a very nice combination =)

Overall the Bilstein B8’s are great for people who want better handling, more stiff suspension but for those who want a pure replacement for an aero suspension and really place high value in comfort, this is perhaps not the thing you should go for!

+ Better handling
+ Easier to drive on the highway
+ More fun to drive on smaller roads
+ Able to take more weight in the baggage compartment
– Not as comfortable as the Aero suspension


16 responses to Bilstein B8 Sprint shock absorbers Test

  1. SUHRT runs all cars with Bilstein Shocks. The 99’s with Sellholm’s Rally Springs (Ola Strömberg settings ) makes a 30 year old car to behave just like a modern car even better. 99 has double wishbone design up front and a Scania strength rear axel. We get the shocks from Forza in Alingsas.

  2. I have been using Bilsteins ever since I climbed out of my crib and they were on my million mile SPG. The US sponsorship has been marvelous and they gave me a full set for my 2007 9-5 Aero when the OEM Sachs went. In the US we call them Heavy Duty and I find the handling, cornering and comfort exceptional. Likewise I have them on my 2001 Viggen but with convertible springs on the rear of my hardtop. What a combo!

    • Peter, it appears that Heavy Duty Bilsteins are B6’s as opposed to the B8 Sport. Based on your experience, the HD’s may be a better compromise between handling and ride compared to the B8’s while still offering a sportier setup than the standard equipment.

  3. Only good things to say about Bilstein B4’s. Makes the car (a heavy nosed NG 9-3 diesel in this case) corner even better without making the ride any rougher. Have had them for years and still working great.
    The day the shocks were changed I drove a winding road back home from the mechanic I though, how are all the the Audi’s moving so slow today 😉

  4. I’m very happy with my factory Saab struts (2004 9-5 wagon) but I’ve had Bilsteins in the past and love them. I have also put KYB aftermarket shocks on various cars I’ve owned and they are good too—-though not up to Bilstein standards for balancing ride and handling. Question: With normal driving or even gentle driving—-how many miles can one expect to get on factory Saab struts? I had an ’88 Peugeot with almost 100,000 miles on it and the original shocks were performing like new. Wondering how long the Saab’s last?

    • For the people I know that are driving Saab’s, the factory struts started to degrade after about 80’000 km’s and they are almost considered bad after 100’000 km’s. The non-sport version holds up better than the aero version.

    • Angelo, one thing is for sure, the ones in your 9-5 will last a lot longer than the ones in that econobox you want SAAB to build. Just kidding,

  5. Tim, I understand that the 2.3t version of the 9-5 is a bit “softer” than the Aero, so the bilsteins should improve the handling (albeit, not up to the level of the Aero with bilsteins) but not result in a ride as harsh as what you experienced. The bilsteins may be a practical way for us 2.3t owners to get improved handling (perhaps more like that of the standard Aero) without having a ride as harsh as the Aero with bilsteins.

    • Hi 3cyl. Even though it is a 2,3t Biopower the car is still equipped as an Aero with the Aero suspension built in from the factory. We found that out when we removed the old struts.

      • Tim, in the U.S., both the 2.3t and the Aero of the last version of the OG 9-5’s were rated at 260hp, but I recall that one of the differences was supposedly the suspension as per the following: “The Aero benefits from a lower chassis (10mm), firmer springs and more aggressive shock absorbers.” I assume the U.S. Aero has the same suspension as your car and that my 2.3t has something else, that would benefit from the Bilsteins without as much harshness due to the supposedly softer springs.

  6. My standard struts and shocks were spent by 100,000kms (’99 9-5S 2.3t). I’ve had a set of these Bilsteins since then and had the struts rebuilt at 150,000kms. I should share a few lessons learned:
    ● In a sedan the front struts are way to hard (If you want comfort, buy a limo). And eventually came close to seizing up. At the rebuild I had them made a bit softer. By how much I don’t know (guess about 25%-40% softer). Additionally, the stops prevent full travel. These have been halved in length.
    ● Because these units are rebuildable, I recommend having them altered to the above prior to installation. You will start experiencing expensive steering and chassis component failure otherwise, demonstrated by additional noises from the front end.
    ● Standard springs are fine, as are the the rear set of shocks, but as a side effect the units are about 9mm shorter in ride height. I’ve also had additional rear bushes changed to remove the excessive inner rear tyre wear (see for a Vectra-B).
    ● My mechanic has these Bilsteins in his ’01 9-5 Aero Estate (I’m sure he’ll comment seperately). The rears are a different spec to mine and have done the same as my front struts. The Aeros run shorter springs for standard 10mm lower ride height anyway. Expect increased inner tyre wear all round. My front tyres are OK so far, but Aero owners also may want to seek out some camber bolts for the lower strut mounting.
    ● At strut rebuild I had a loaner set of standard struts fitted until they were ready to be refitted. The mileage on the loaner units was unknown, but I remember driving home getting the feeling of how incredibly unstable and dangerous they felt. Including a beach ball bounce.

    I’m nearly at 159,000kms, and the car is totally transformed by the non-standard Bilsteins. Good for another 100,000kms on the front. Handling, braking etc is radically better. I could not be happier, despite potentially including other trick parts at a later date.

    • Gary, thanks for that usefull information. Do you think that adjustable Koni’s are worth considering as they would seem to represent an easier upgrade compared to altering the new Bilsteins?.

      • Honestly, I do not know 3cyl. Price of new Bilsteins were on a par with what was being charged for factory items at the time. Have you compared the Konis? Labor for installation is roughly the same. Because of that element it is a matter of weighing up whether rebuildable or disposable works for you. In this instance they are already paying for themselves as rebuilds are very cheap and customizable. The only disappointment is why they have to be so hard in the first place for something matched to the car type. Any reports about how Konis handle by comparison?

        • I did a quick check and prices are in the same range. I have a couple of friends who have had good results with Koni’s, but their cars are not SAABs. I had a mid 80’s 900S 2 door (no hatch) that came from SAAB with Bilsteins and sport suspension. That car handled much better than another mid 80’s 900 S (4 door) that I owned at the same time and the Bilsteins were durable, but that may not be relevant as it is ancient history.

          Your point about the Bilsteins being rebuildable is important to me as I have found that SAAB’s hold up well . I either keep them several years and/or pass them on to family members, so they invariably are around for over 10 years and a lot of miles.

          Thanks again for sharing your experience.

  7. Hi Tim
    Thank you for your review. We have a 95 Aero which has abbott racing springs and Bilstein B6 (sport) dampers, and to soften the ride we have just tried Eibach springs – which are just awful.
    I am interested in the dampers you have chosen as the B8 is the Sprint damper which is normally for lowered springs like Hirsch or H&R, was this your idea?
    Also, how does you car steer and track with the Stock Aero springs and the B8 dampers is it stable and precise or does it still have the stock Aero vagueness?
    Also does the car still pitch and roll in the corners or is that now improved?
    I would appreciate your feedback, thank you John