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The People Make the Difference at BILSTEIN

State-of-the-art technologies and measuring programs are fundamental to suspension development, but despite the resultant flow of data, the shock absorbers still have to pass the acid test under real road conditions. This is the only way to achieve the unique BILSTEIN driving experience. That is why all high-performance shocks, as well as sport and coilover suspensions from BILSTEIN are put through a comprehensive test program. And this is precisely where people become a factor in the equation. With the experienced BILSTEIN engineers behind the wheel, even the tiniest irregularities in the shock absorber adjustment can be recognized. In addition to the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the test and trial stretch in the German town of Papenburg offers the ideal conditions.

At the ATP test area in Papenburg, BILSTEIN engineers under the supervision of Klaus Lepenies conduct tests five days a week on vehicles of many different types to ensure well-balanced road behaviour. The key to ensuring safety, comfort and the typical BILSTEIN handling lies in finding the most precise coordination of the shock absorbers and springs. A variety of tracks and a fully equipped BILSTEIN test centre form the ideal basis for the work of the BILSTEIN crew. “Of course test drives are expensive and elaborate,” says Lepenies, “but there are no machines or other test systems that equal human perception and the decades of experience of an engineer. Only thus we can guarantee top BILSTEIN quality”.

The four W questions

Every test drive starts with the same four questions. What image does the vehicle have? What is the shock absorber’s purpose of application? What target group is being addressed? What is the shock absorber buyer expecting? The buyer of a BILSTEIN Clubsport suspension for a genuine sports car will have different expectations than the owner of a compact class car, who is interested in a BILSTEIN B6.

BILSTEIN backs individuality

“With our performance products at the highest level, which we develop individually for every vehicle, we have a unique selling point in the market,” explains Lepenies. “Our BILSTEIN philosophy and much effort flow into every shock absorber we test”. The list of different test conditions is long and includes such features as high-speed ovals with steep curves with a gradient of up to 50 percent, a driving dynamic surface, handling circuit, brake measuring stretch, wet handling track and bad weather section, all of which make a tester’s heart beat faster”.

Meticulousness and patience are required

For the engineers, comprehensive testing means hard work and utmost concentration. Reproducible results are the objective of the repetitive processes and standardised tests. The shock absorbers have to be installed, removed and modified again and again in the search for the ideal adjustment. “This takes a lot of meticulousness and patience”, Lepenies explains. The work that has to be done in addition to the test drives is extensive: documentation, perfect installation, TÜV-relevant technical inspection topics, ride heights, characteristics and many more – a working day in Papenburg is over in a flash. Every year, BILSTEIN testers check shock absorbers for roughly 100 vehicles. “We have to put everything we have into it when we get into a car. All of our senses must be wide awake,” emphasizes Lepenies. “We pick up every change in the driving noise with our ears and we perceive the smallest vibrations with our hands and feet. How the whole body responds during the test drive is ultimately what decides on the optimum driving feeling of our shock absorbers”.

Determining vehicle-specific needs

Of course BILSTEIN doesn’t just start testing at random, it determines the demands on replacement shocks for each vehicle in advance. “In addition to a certain gut feeling that develops over the years, reports from the sales department are just as important as direct feedback from the customer,“ explains Lepenies. “There is no discussion with volume models, however, because we develop and test the suitable replacement shocks anyway”. The BILSTEIN test drives, which usually last for roughly five days per shock absorber prototype, serve the purpose of finding an individual setup for every product and every car type. Accordingly, the product range, which is based on the above-mentioned tests, is as diversified as customers’ wishes. Despite this, the BILSTEIN test engineers dedicate the same amount of attention in every suspension. Having passed the entire test programme and having exhausted all sources of possible improvement, the products can finally bear the name BILSTEIN with pride.

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chome L Sygrou 246 & Davaki
Kalithea , .17672
cphone  +30 210 9531690-5
cfax  +30 210 9531696-7
cmail  info@electra-hellas.gr

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