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Suspension thoughts - Bilstein B6 vs ALPINA OEM

 
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Charles
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 1:06 pm    Post subject: Suspension thoughts - Bilstein B6 vs ALPINA OEM Reply with quote

Yesterday I had the car up on the ramp at Phil's to change the rear shocks. This was because I was getting axle tramp from the NSR and had concluded that the Bilstein B6s were starting to get tired after almost 100k miles.

After a slight detour to change the centre prop shaft bearing (from an E46 330d by the way) which had failed because the rear gearbox mounts had failed and hence why I was getting a knocking sound on pick-up to about 25mph, we realised that we had a pair of Bilsteins that were definitely past their best but still had some life in them fitted to the car and a pair of ALPINA OEM shocks that were sitting on the bench and weren't returnable.

In my mind, the decision was simple - change them over - so we did Very Happy

Now for those of you with short memories, 100k miles ago was the time when I was having a full engine rebuild, the original shocks definitely needed changing and I simply couldn't afford the additional 500 over and above the cost of a set of Bilsteins. So, with a heavy heart, I went non-OEM for the first time in my life with the car.

Of course, new shocks will always feel great compared to tired old ones and because shocks fade progressively, it's difficult to remember back to what it was like before. However, I was very pleased with the Bilsteins to start with but over the last 5 years I have had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that the back end of the car felt a lot tighter, the ride was a lot harsher than I remembered it to be and this was not something that I fully enjoyed.

Jump forward 5 years to yesterday and there I was about to get into my car of 13 years and 276k miles, with rear shocks that ALPINA designed, engineered and intended for the B3S Touring.

So, was it good, I hear you ask? Well, it was certainly different. The OEM shocks have a gentler response rate than the Bilsteins and you might think that this would cause the back end to wallow over lumps and bumps. But, to be honest, they just smoothed them over less harshly and made the whole ride so much more enjoyable. Both rear corners felt fully connected to the ride and cornering was just as fun as before, if not more so, because I wasn't gritting my teeth for another thump and bang from the harsher Bilsteins.

It will be interesting to see how they cope tomorrow afternoon as I return home from school on the M4. For those who know the road between J12 and J13, there is a particular section where the road goes over a number of bridges in quick succession and there are pronounced rises and falls as you pass over the start and finish points of said bridges. For the last five years, I have inwardly grimaced as I approached this point at my typical commuting speed, knowing that the car will remain stable but the jolting isn't what I want.

It's interesting what you grow used to. The original shocks were so tired that anything would have been better but as I have lived with the Bilsteins for quite a while now, I realise that I have been compromising the ride that I want and which my car originally came with. Perhaps this is a reflection of the fact that I travel significantly more miles in a year than most ALPINA owners and so my usage and requirements are likely to be quite different to those who take their cars out for occasional blasts on the A and B roads (no disrespect meant or intended).

I recognise that I am basing this post on about 2 hours of motoring with the new shocks but first impressions count and I pride myself on the "seat of my pants" being right. However, I am fast reaching the conclusion that whilst the Bilsteins are a good option at almost half the price, they are compromised in terms of what they offer compared to what ALPINA designed, engineered and intended.

I hope to update this over the next few weeks to provide a fuller assessment and analysis but, in the meantime, I hope that it is of interest.

PS For sale, one pair of previously-loved Bilstein B6 shock absorbers - will suit an E46 B3 Touring or similar. POA
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scalesg
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh...

I have convinced myself over the last few months that when the time comes to get mine replaced I will go for Bilstein as people use them instead as they are almost as good and save money too!!

Then you wrote this!! Laughing
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Charles
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

scalesg wrote:
Oh...

I have convinced myself over the last few months that when the time comes to get mine replaced I will go for Bilstein as people use them instead as they are almost as good and save money too!!

Then you wrote this!! Laughing

Sorry Embarassed

Seriously though, the Bilsteins are very good shocks and are a compelling (and let's not deny it, cheaper) option. However, in my opinion and based on almost 100k miles, they deliver a harsher/firmer performance than OEM, which I have come to realise is not what I enjoy, given the extended mileage and nature of driving that I do in my car.
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Charles
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B3S Touring (49/116) - been to the moon and now on the way back!
Renault Grand Espace - not mine but the wife's!
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MCB
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have recently fitted B6/B8 Bilsteins with Alpina springs to the E36 Touring and are more than happy with the results. So is my wallet Wink

Funny enough though. Our original Alpina dampers were not in that bad a condition!
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nealpina
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have no issues with whatever suspension anyone places on their ALPINA whether it is do with cost or they want a change.

I had several arguments on the forum with someone who changed their suspension to B6, (and wanted to convert to a manual gearbox). My argument was not to do with they changed to non ALPINA suspension, but it took the essence of ALPINA away. Another argument they had was that the B6 was newer technology - fair point, but for that era, ALPINA suspension was designed to work with that car (and that is the feeling I want - to feel I am driving a car from that era). Also if I drive a newer ALPINA the suspension always feels the same to that to my B3 or B10

Their last post, their signature said M3 SMG
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rc944
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PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2016 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

charles this is really useful thanks. ive long held a belief that once you change the suspension, engine or exhaust in a meaningful way away from what it left the factory with then you lose a lot of what makes these things special. luckily ive not been faced with any big bills yet but should i ever need to replace the shocks and springs on mine then ill know that spending a few extra pennies on the oe stuff will be worth it
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Charles
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PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2016 8:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just home from school and was able to test the shocks on a variety of surfaces. The M4 test was delightful - the bridge joints on that section are particularly vicious and the car rode them beautifully. A smooth rise and fall without the jarring I would have got from the Bilsteins.

The occasional pothole was dealt with easily, again without the added firmness of the Bilsteins that I now realise had made the whole ride so much firmer than I wanted or what ALPINA engineered originally.

Of course, we all have our preferences and as I said before, the Bilsteins are excellent items but not of my liking having now returned to OEM.
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Charles
Teacher of Chemistry and driver of ALPINAs - not necessarily in that order Wink
B3S Touring (49/116) - been to the moon and now on the way back!
Renault Grand Espace - not mine but the wife's!
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simon13
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PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2016 10:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Having gone through the bilstein catalogue the B6 isn't what bilstein recommend for the B3S they say the B8 spring damper is the one to use

My bro in law had B6 put in his B3s saloon and it ruined it imo way to hard a ride
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