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Spring Control Boxster / 996 Shock Upgrade

By Steve Grosekemper

Each time Porsche comes out with a new model it seems to defy our definition of what a sports car should be. First 356, then 911 and 914, the water pumpers soon came to claim their title, and they were on a mission. We could not ignore the accomplishments of the 924/944/968 series of cars, and then the 996 and Boxster hit our shores. When new, these cars seem to do it all and do it perfectly. Then as the drivers got some real seat time, thoughts of “What if…” started to creep into their heads. “What if…it was a little lower, a little stiffer, and a little more aggressive on the alignment settings.

Soon these cars were getting aftermarket spring kits before their first oil change. These spring lowering kits create a lower firmer ride with greatly improved grip and responsiveness. The problem with changing the spring rates only, is the inability of the stock dampener to control the newer more aggressive spring.

For the racer there are almost unlimited options for those with unlimited budgets. For those of us with more modest budgets and a desire to drive a street car that tears up the track instead of racecar that tears up the driver, I have the answer for you.

The answer comes from our friends at Bilstein. They took a look at what people were doing and noticed that there were a huge number of spring kits being installed on these cars. Then they started hearing some grumbling concerning the inadequacies of the stock shocks (also a Bilstein product) to control the new stiffer suspension.

So off to work they went trying to find a cure for the problem. Step one is to find a donor car to that can be fitted with prototype shocks and driven under a variety of conditions. This is usually a fairly easy step; and it goes something like this:

Bilstein: “Can we borrow your car for a few days to build a custom set of shocks for you?”

Porsche Owner: “OK…. sure…when would you like it?”

The result of this exchange is a set of direct replacement struts for the Boxster and 996. They are physically identical to the stock strut with the exception of valving and color (they are yellow). They come in standard H.D. (Heavy Duty) and Sport versions. The dampening is identical, with the sport versions being 10mm shorter in the rear and 20mm shorter in the front. This shorter overall length is to ensure that when short springs are installed the springs will remain compressed and locked in place.

Application and part number is as follows:

Boxster:

Heavy Duty:

Fronts    – VN7-4621

Rears     – VN3-4622

Sports:

Fronts    -VN7-4623

Rears     – VN3-4624

996:

Heavy Duty:

Fronts    – VN-7 4612

Rears     – BE5-2993

Sports:

Fronts    – VN7  – 4613

Rears     – BE5    – 2994

The price difference between the factory Porsche strut and the Bilstein strut are so insignificant that it is not even an issue when making this decision. How insignificant, you might ask? Well let’s take a look at the pricing. There are several different struts available from Porsche depending on year and suspension package. The price of the front struts range from $199 – $299 and the rears from $260 to $267. The Bilstein struts have a list price of $304 for the front and $273 for the rear. For those of you who are mathematically challenged that makes the Bilstein struts $22 more costly, that’s how insignificant.

With a little shopping one should be able to get that price down another $50-75 for the set. For springs there are a few choices. Eibach, H&R and Factory Euro Mo30; the only real difference in these sets is in the total decrease of ride height. The H&R kit lowers the car about 1.3-1.5- inches where the Eibach kit lowers the car a more conservative 1.2-inches and teh Euro Mo30 kit is even more conservative at 1.0 inches. Your choice really depends on if you have a steep driveway or you regularly forget to slow down for dips. The price for either one of these spring kits runs in the $350-450 range.

So with a little shopping you should be able to get springs and struts for about $1400. Compare this to the $3000-$6000 price tag of a set of custom racing coil-overs and things look even better. You are getting a system that installs easily and will get the average Boxster/996 performance driver as close to a perfect street/track set-up as possible.

Another bonus to this setup is it what we call set it and forget it. You will spend your time driving instead or trying to figure out the optimum shock rebound and compression settings like is the case in many of the more expensive coil over kits.