The following write-up is a portion of e-mail dialogue between Lucas Valdes (Prez & CEO of GoWesty) and two customers on the subject of which shock absorbers we believe to be the best for the VW applications. Please keep in mind that we are only expressing our opinion based on personal experience and realize that your perspective may differ. Get more info directly from BILSTEIN.
....regarding the Shocks, I was looking for a soft performance ride. I added front and rear sway bars, Carat Springs to lower the van about 1" and started with KYB's, too stiff for my taste, later changed to Boge and found the ride to be a perfect balance. Regarding the Bilsteins, I have been told that they are even stiffer than the KYB's but this have not been confirmed. Regarding the Bilstein, I would check with Lucas or Taylor over at GoWesty (I have never asked them about this). I really trust these guys, everything they have told me has been very accurate.
I have heard that the Bilsteins are the way to go as far as shocks go. I am about to change out my 20 year-old shocks, so I am interested in what you have to say about this. Thanks again."
About shocks, you are right. The KYB's are absolute junk, we have a pile of nice shiny KYB's out back we have removed from Vanagons. The Boge is an excellent quality, double-tube non-gas original replacement shock, yes. However, Bilstein's are THE BEST SHOCKS IN THE WORLD. Period. They are not too stiff and not too soft, but instead have a patented self-adjusting capability, allowing them to adjust to be comfortable on the straight smooth road, and stiffen considerably on the fly for hard cornering and rough roads.
I have had Bilstein shocks on all my cars, vans, and trucks for the last 20 years. Including my 61 Porsche 356 Cabriolet, 66 Beetle, 79 Bus camper, 81 and 82 Rabbit pick-ups, 84 Mercedes, and 91 Porsche 928. Unlike the KYB shocks which seem to have the same settings for any application (way too much compression damping, and not enough rebound), the Bilsteins are always APPROPRIATELY valved for the specific application. On my Bus and Vanagon they are very soft and comfortable. The "SPORT" Bilstein shocks on my 928 (also with sport springs), they are considerably more stiff (which is a welcomed feeling at 150+ MPH!). BILSTEINS ARE THE BOMB, plain and simple. There is not a better shock on the market, and are WAY worth the extra $. Plus, they are guaranteed for EVER. If they EVER wear out, leak, break, Bilstein will replace them FREE. And, they actually do! Over the past 40 years of working on cars and installing Bilsteins, I have come across two or three occasions where I needed to send a Bilstein back to the factory for repair or replacement, and never had a problem.