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A quick spin with Bilstein off-road trucks proves suspension matters


On a test track near the Bilstein headquarters in Hamilton, Ohio, we climbed into a Ford Raptor in order to be thrown back and forth with ease showing just how much suspension tuning matters for your safety as well as keeping you from getting sick in the cabin.

This experience was part of a visit to the supplier’s office, and we not only got to see those operations but also got to spend time with Bilstein engineers who explained and quite literally showed what their suspension tuning does for a vehicle like the Ram TRX.

Bilstein played a key role in working with Ram to build the TRX and through their advanced, dual valve BlackHawk e2 shocks. These shocks are part of an adaptive ride control setup able to electronically adapt to different drive modes.

While these shocks proved their worth jumping the truck and playing in the mud, it is really amazing how quickly the dampers can change the Ford Raptor’s ride as well as how the different drive modes are not gimmick buttons. They do actually change the way the truck rides.

Inside the production facility, Bilstein is bursting at the seams with growth and it is apparent through not only the dozens of semi trailers waiting to be loaded, but also by literally seeing Bilstein employees work on yet another expansion plan for the warehouse.

Since 2011, the company has expanded numerous times adding 30,000 sq ft to the warehouse in one expansion and more recently a 156,000 sq ft logistics center expansion. They have spent millions in the Hamilton, Ohio, area and employ hundreds of people for 24/7 operations.

Of particular interest in their operations is the use of robots and “co-bots.” The robots work like you’d assume doing regimented, repeating tasks without home involvement.

The co-bots work with humans in a collaborative effort to produce components. These co-bots aren’t in a caged work environment, unlike robots, and will not harm the human worker.

Why use the co-bots and not just human employees? Bilstein actually has many job openings currently and their CEO Drew Guthridge pointed out to us the hiring situation would be even more pressing if the co-bots didn’t shoulder the load.

After a day with numerous Bilstein employees and seeing their operation, it is hard pressed to not walk away impressed by their facility.

The bottom line

Suppliers are becoming more prominent parts of new vehicles like the Ram TRX, which proudly kept the Bilstein name on the shocks instead of putting a white label on them. With this becoming more of a trend, it is important to understand what quality and reliability standards these suppliers adhere to and trips like this one are vitally important to do so.

Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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