Whether you’ve just purchased your first off-road vehicle or are looking to upgrade the truck or SUV already sitting in the driveway to handle tougher terrain, one of the first modifications often performed is upgrading the shocks. Those looking for premium parts are most likely considering one of two brands: Fox Racing and King Shocks.
Fox Racing and King Shocks are the two heavyweights in the off-road racing world, as well as the consumer vehicle segment, with their OE-bolt-on shock packages. In the world of high-end off-road shocks, these two names are polarizing in their followings; the comment sections on YouTube videos and Facebook posts certainly reflect the cult communities of each brand. To get the inside scoop on where one brand stands against the other, we turned to the experts at Shock Surplus for the nitty gritty on where these top performers truly stand in real-life testing.
For the past year, Shock Surplus has been running various shock packages through their 2-door Bronco, including Bilstein, Eibach, and Icon Vehicle Dynamics. So, when both the Fox Performance Elite and King shocks landed at their door in the same week, they decided to do the obvious: test both at the same time. They weren’t aiming to see which one is the best, but rather to see what both Fox and King deliver in terms of ride behavior, comfort, and performance.
“For the past year, Shock Surplus has been running various shock packages through their 2-Door Bronco, including Bilstein, Eibach, and Icon Vehicle Dynamics. So, when both the Fox Performance Elite and King shocks landed at their door in the same week, they decided to do the obvious: test both at the same time.”
According to Shock Surplus, “The Bronco is one of the — if not THE — most capable vehicles that comes off the lot today (excluding Raptor options). Even with the HOSS 1.0 shock package, the Bronco can boogey pretty good. The Bilstein ESCV HOSS 2.0 are the performance-icing on the already suitable Bronco platform.” With a solid baseline from factory, we were chomping at the bit to see how and where performance can be improved.
Coming into the comparison, the team at Shock Surplus already knew a few things. “Fox shocks prioritize control through their valving, resulting in a ‘tighter’ feel compared to other linear shocks,” said Sean Reyes of Shock Surplus. “While the specific feel may vary depending on body size and model line, Fox shocks excel in outperforming stock dampers across all aspects.”
On the other hand, “King Shocks are favorites across custom tuners, as they can deliver that pillowy feel on demand. Racers balk at the thought of a tight controlling truck,” said Reyes. “Ultimately, both brands are gunning for bottomless suspension and achieving ride control through all ranges of behavior through their own means.”
“King unquestionably reigns supreme in terms of providing a plush and comfortable ride, easily eliminating chatter at lower trail-speeds and effortlessly gliding over large obstacles at faster paces.”
To test out the shocks, the Shock Surplus team hit the California desert and put two Broncos to their paces. A 4-door Bronco had King Shocks installed while a 2-door Bronco sported a set of the Fox Performance Elite. After a couple days of pushing the two Broncos out in the wild, they came away with some solid insight. We caught up with them after the trip to learn their discoveries.
King unquestionably reigns supreme in terms of providing a plush and comfortable ride, easily eliminating chatter at lower trail-speeds and effortlessly gliding over large obstacles at faster paces. “Out of the box, not only are the Kings set up softer than the Fox, but the King Shocks also cycle noticeably more travel paired with a far superior bump stop,” shared Reyes. “Where that soft valving might normally mean they would get completely out of shape on the big stuff, those killer bump stops and the additional bump travel really helped them stay the course even when things got a little dicey.”
They were not without their faults, though, and the Shock Surplus team believes a lot of that additional comfort did come at the expense of some control or handling prowess. “The adjuster was a huge help for locking down the wiggle and certainly allowed us to get within the same league of stability as the Fox,” Reyes said. “We were at full firm when the hits were at their gnarliest.”
While not necessarily a drawback, King shocks require a slightly different approach when encountering bumps at high speeds, which may feel unnatural to some drivers. According to Shock Surplus, “The dampers are extremely soft on the left half of the damping force graph and significantly increase in damping force on the larger end. As a result, there are many hits that could easily be absorbed at higher speeds but may cause the vehicle to float or become unsettled at more moderate speeds.”
“With the low speed maxed out, you can almost drive your Bronco like a sports car, knowing it will slide before it sways, which gives you the confidence to really push it.”
Basically, this means that drivers may need to push harder to maintain control over large impacts instead of taking a more relaxed approach and risking getting stuck in a hole.
As you may have surmised from the breakdown on the King, the Fox shocks are definitely a lot firmer. If you are the type of person who prioritizes control over comfort, the Fox Performance Elite Shock might be up your alley. Shock Surplus preferred it that way.
“Although we don’t think you tune them as plush as a King, particularly at lower speeds, the Fox’s dual-speed compression adjusters might allow you to find a better compromise in ride and handling if you prefer your rig to feel razor-sharp,” said Reyes. “With the low speed maxed out, you can almost drive your Bronco like a sports car, knowing it will slide before it sways, which gives you the confidence to really push it.”
That is until you hit something hard. Reyes went on to say, “Let’s be honest, most Bronco pilots are not trying to pin fourth gear through the whoops, but if you are, you will be unpleasantly surprised with how hard the Fox’s hit when they are out of squish.”
Probably the biggest factor to this is that the Fox shocks have the longest compressed length of everything else out there. “This allows you to safely run 37-inch tires without bending tabs and ejecting flares, but also means you simply do not have a ton of bump travel.” There’s some sacrifice to the versatility, like with most things.
Reyes shared, “Where these Fox shocks really let us down are the spindly, soft, and largely useless bump stops. Where a good bump stop, like what the Kings use, provides progressive support that often keeps you from fully bottoming out, these Fox bumps feel like they are doing next to nothing.”
In other words, when a rut, rock, or anything else jumps out in front of you, your suspension is liable to run out quite abruptly. Luckily, there is an easy solution to fix this. An aftermarket bump stop can easily remedy the problem. Companies, such as Eibach and Timbren, sell various types of bump stops. “A quick swap for something a little longer, more progressive, and a little firmer would really do wonders for these Fox shocks and might even give them the crown,” said Reyes.
The Fox Performance Elite package can take the same punishment as the Kings in terms of damping and may even outlast the Kings in prolonged periods of use due to the aluminum bodies and JM92 oil, but those limits will be pushed by very few. Where the Fox feels sharp, the King feels forgiving. Where King is the desert racer, Fox provides a more versatile package to accommodate many different driving behaviors.
There’s a lot more to dive into regarding both of these shock packages, especially how each individual reservoir adjuster impacts the different ranges of ride behavior, pros and cons of material use, and how servicing the shocks contributes to shock life. Dig in further through the blog at Shock Surplus for more real-world Bronco suspension reporting. Their in-depth research will steer you towards the right shocks for your needs.
The post Fox Performance Elite vs. King Shocks: A Deep Dive into Off-Road Suspension Showdown appeared first on TREAD Magazine.