Testing 5 Shock Setups (Shock Value Conclusion)

Testing 5 Shock Setups (Shock Value Conclusion)

We just tested five setups completely blind and we didn’t know at all which ones we were testing when we did it. Now we do. And now we get to wrap it all up because some of the results were definitely surprising. We weren’t expecting them at all. I might even say some of the results were shocking.

The five sets of shocks that we tested:

  1. Fox 2.5
  2. Elka 2.5
  3. Icon 2.5
  4. Bilstein 8100
  5. King 2.5

The Worst

I was blown away. That’s the first thing I couldn’t believe is honestly how bad the Foxes are. They are the worst by far which never in a million years I would have bet on. They were the worst. They were in a category altogether.

The Biggest Shocker

Surprisingly, the Icon IFP, without the remote reservoir, is fine. I don’t sell much Icon but I think I’m going to have to start. I mean, it’s interesting but this is why we did it because we never would have sold Icons if we could avoid it but here we are eating our own words. I was completely wrong about them. I owe them an apology. It was killer for an IFP coilover. I don’t know what more you want out of it. There’s more to be had but if you go with one of the better of the two options we found, the difference starts to get really small at the top end. 

Differences We Noticed

I think some of the differences we did find were putting all these shocks on the exact same truck. Every single one’s a different length and body. The Icon is the longest of the bunch and the Bilstein is the shortest. The Bilsteins were the best performing ones. They’re all OEM fit 2.5 replacements. They’re supposed to be direct bolt-in replacements for stock shocks with stock travel so it’s weird. You figure you’d go to bump and that’s the length of the shock you can fit but apparently these guys have different ideas. 

The shaft travel and body size on the Bilsteins are different from the Icons—an inch and a half difference in body. That’s substantial. Is it going to bottom out then, at least an inch and a half sooner? 

Out of all the shocks, the Kings did leak a little bit of oil on one of the rear shocks which is not exactly what you’re hoping for with a brand new set of shocks—especially when you’ve driven for only two hours. 

We also found that if we took the Elkas apart, there’s some seal hydraulic noise happening inside one side. I would quantify it as seal squelch. 


In order of ride quality on the road—I would recommend the Kings for number one. I don’t understand why the Bilsteins are so soft. I’ve never had that with any other 8100 series platform, even other Tacoma ones I’ve done. I haven’t installed the new Gray ZoneControl Shocks and I wonder if they revalved it for the new part numbers because it is very soft on-road. A little too soft, in my opinion, which is the opposite of what Bilstein does for everything else. When we were driving these ones on the road, they had the most body roll of any of them. To the point that it’s too much—and we can handle a lot of body roll.

The Elkas, the Icons, and the Kings all have very similar on-road characteristics and I think they’re all pretty good. The Kings might have edged them out a little bit and then the Fox was like driving on rails. The thing didn’t move at all through the corners but then it also didn’t move at all when you hit a bump so your back was getting wrecked. 

The craziest thing is that we thought that they’re all tuned for the same truck so it’s going to be pretty hard to tell them apart and in reality, they were all so different from each other. 


For off-road, we figured out that the 8100s are the best but it isn’t really a fair comparison because 8100s are a five zone internal bypass-style coilover. They’re not actually bypassing the main piston—they’re working with the main pistons so you get that full-size main piston. It’s like having an air bump inside of the coilover but you can feel it engaged. They were very clunky off-road, where you could hear and feel everytime they engaged but the off-road performance was better than everybody else. They didn’t clang on top out. They just did their job.

The Elkas topped out the hardest. The Kings did as well, but they were similar to the Icons and the Foxes in that regard. We thought that the Foxes would have been one of the top brands but in reality they were really bad. Maybe there was something wrong with the ones we used because I know that everybody with this shock setup in their Tacomas will say that their Foxes are great. 

Long-term Durability

As far as long term durability is concerned, this test was pretty short term and we were testing them out in the desert. Up where we’re from in Canada, we have a ton of salt on the roads and lots of rain so shocks definitely rust more than other places. We find the Elkas and the Icons, with their aluminum body, won’t rust at all. Actually, the Foxes have a new aluminum body series which is cool. It’s definitely something to consider if you’re in a salty environment but you might be making some trade-offs in longer term durability with an aluminum body. Maybe they wear out from the inside quicker so it’s hard to say at this point.


The other difference we found is that some of the hardware is weird on the top hats. This is just a Grade 8 yellow zinc bolt and then it looks like black phosphorus, which is an oxide and supposed to be fairly good. The stem mounts are a little odd. You’ve got a Nylock, the double nut system on the Icons, and then you have a Stover nut on the Bilstein. Then a Nylock on the King. It’s interesting that every single company uses a different system. The weirdest is the Icons with the lock nut. I haven’t seen that on a shock before.

Overall, this set of Icons were good and it’s very odd that the Icons are much longer than the rest. I think with this one, without extending your bump stops, you’re going to be smashing into that shock body. I wonder if that will affect longevity.

Elka is the only one that’s using a generic top hat so the top hat in this has a bunch of different holes and I’m assuming that that’s for different vehicles. They also have some holes going through the side that go through the other threads and it doesn’t seem really great to me. It seems like they’re trying to cut some costs which is fair from a business perspective but every other brand here has a top hat that’s designed specifically for the Tacoma. I think that’s a point for all the other companies.

It’s interesting that the reservoir size for all of these are completely different. None of them are the same length. You would think that with a shock like this that all the companies would arrive at the same thing. You would expect them to be the same length which they aren’t. Then the reservoirs and the shaft sizes are different sizes as well. 


This was a crazy experiment. I’m so glad that we were able to do this and hopefully you get some value out of it. It blew my mind. See all the shocks that we’ve tested out and get a feel for where your money is going in a performance suspension setup.

Catch you guys on the trail!

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