In this KYB Excel-G review I’ll be assessing the performance of the Excel-G, in isolation, as a standard replacement damper. I’ll also compare the Excel-G to a set of Bilstein B8 sport dampers to see what the differences are and to see if the Bilstein B8 are worth the extra money over the KYB Excel-G.
In a nutshell
- As a stock replacement damper I think the KYB Excel-G are a bit too soft.
- Bilstein B8/B6 sport dampers are worth the extra cost.
The Car Setup
H&R lowering springs lowered the car by 35mm.
The car is a MK1 Ford Focus (a car noted by Chris Harris for it’s sweet handling)
The KYB Excel-G dampers and the Bilstein B8 dampers were used with a set of, fresh lowering springs from H&R.
The roads where the testing takes place are quite poor. Motorways/freeways can be broken up and feature many low frequency undulations.
A & B roads (country roads) can also have broken road surfaces.
Roads in the city centre are the same. There are a lot of broken roads surfaces.
Scoring – KYB Excel-G Review
To come out with a winner I will score the Excel-G as a stock replacement damper, in isolation and separately, I will score the KYB Excel-G against the Bilstein B8.
I will score following categories to assess and compare the dampers.
General Build Quality
What do they look like out of the box? Are there any obvious differences between the Bilstein and the KYB?
How easy are the dampers to install? Do they need any special care when installing?
What is the ride like in town, on motorways ie high speeds and on country roads?
How well is the body of the car controlled?
Quick Direction Changes
How to the dampers cope with quick direction changes?
Are there any differences?
Cornering (Front End Grip/Handling Balance)
How much roll is there, are bumps a problem during hard cornering?
Relative to the competition, are the dampers good value? And relative to the performance they give, are the dampers good value?
Scores – KYB Excel-G Review
Out of ten
|KYB Excel-G (as a replacement damper)||KYB Excel-G vs….||Bilstein B8|
|Comfort Slow Speed||8||8||6|
|Comfort High Speed||7||6||8|
|Quick Direction Changes||7||6||9|
In isolation the KYB Excel-G seem well made, perfectly acceptable. It would have been nice to have more fitting hardware and/or better quality fitting hardware and this is why they don’t score higher than a 7.
Against the Bilstein B8 the KYB score is a bit lower because Bilstein really show a higher level of quality. Everything seems that bit beefier. This makes the Excel-G look less impressive which is why they score less.
Documented here, the installation of the rear dampers was a bit of a challenge with the Excel-G. No problems with the Bilstein B8. It would be virtually impossible to have the same issues with the B8 because of their design.
The front dampers of the Bilstein, specifically where the lower bolt is placed is very well done. The inner mounting bracket that goes inside the knuckle, guides you to the correct position. It’s so well placed that it could negate the need for a wheel alignment.
On the KYB there is a lot more room for error. If you want a ton of camber adjustment this might be better but if you just want a normal amount of camber the KYB are definitely harder to install versus the Bilstein B8, at least on this car. I think most people will require wheel alignment after fitting the KYB. Not so with the B8. Again, at least on this car.
For that reason the KYB score only a 5 where the Bilstein B8 score 9.
Comfort – Low Speed
So sharp bumps, driving around town. No question, this is the area where the Excel-G eh, excel. Fantastic magic carpet ride.
The Excel-G score 8 isolation and 8 versus the B8. Bumps especially at low speed is where the compromise has been made with the B8 and you can feel. Not bad by any stretch it’s just the Excel-G show me what is possible comfort wise, if comfort is high on your priority list for a damper.
Comfort – High Speed
At high speed I think the main things I encounter are low frequency undulations.
With the Excel-G, at high speed, I am conscious of the amount the suspension is moving to deal with the undulation and how long the suspension takes to stop moving.
Sharp bumps are dealt with no problem but undulations are a bit exaggerated. Sure there is always a compromise between comfort and control but I think the Excel-G are a bit too soft. They cater a bit too much to ride comfort.
In isolation the Excel-G score a 7. When I tried the B8 I see that its possible to increase the control without negatively effecting comfort on high speed undulations and actually, increasing stiffness actually makes for a better ride because the motions are less.
Against the B8 the Excel-G lose a point. The B8 score an 8. The damping is superbly judged.
Braking and Acceleration
Nothing really out of the ordinary here. The Excel-G do as I would expect.
In isolation, the Excel-G score a 7. Compared to the B8 they lose a point. With the B8 I realise how much dive under braking the B8 are limiting. The car is much flatter.
High Speed Direction Changes
In isolation the Excel-G seem good. They perform as I would expect a standard replacement damper to perform ie this is not their forte.
A score of 7 in isolation but again, they lose a point when compared to the B8 because the B8 shows me how much performance is in the car if the dampers can control the body more.
99% of the time I couldn’t really see any difference between the two dampers.
The Excel-G score an 8. The Bilstein B8 score a 9, I think because the cornering limits are higher which puts more force through the steering wheel which gives more feedback.
In isolation the Excel-G are good. There is more body roll but the balance seems fine. Corner exit under power seems particularly satisfying as you can feel the rear outside corner squatting and gripping.
Again a 7 for the KYB. The amount of body rolls stop them scoring higher, but in comparison to the B8 they lose a point because the balance is adjustable on the throttle with the B8.
I think there is too much body movement with the Excel-G to be as comfortable adjusting the cornering balance with the throttle as I am with the B8. Throttle adjustable cornering attitude is really nice!
A real high point with the Excel-G. Once the suspension as weighted up, any bumps I encounter during the corner are soaked up like nothing. Bumpy roads are absolutely no issue for the Excel-G. If you live in a place with particularly bumpy roads there is something to say for having a nice compliant suspension.
Against the B8 they hold their score and the B8 score one point less. Sure the B8 have slightly more issues with mid corner bumps but because you have the confidence to go faster I won’t mark them down more.
Versus original equipment replacement dampers, KYB are not the most expensive and they are not the cheapest. For the level of performance they give, for a stock replacement damper I give them a 8.
Against the B8, purely on a price, the Excel-G score a 10, they are around half the price of the B8. The B8 score only score a 5 because I am comparing their cost to stock replacement dampers.
KYB Excel-G Review – Wrap Up
For a standard replacement damper the KYB are fine. They are not a bad damper at all. For the average driver there will be no complaints.
But you are reading Drive Tune so you want performance.
Are the Bilstein B8 sport dampers worth the premium over the KYB Excel-G?
In my opinion, absolutely. I think the B8 will also probably last longer than the KYB. Factor in the almost perfect balance between comfort and performance of the B8 and I have no hesitation recommending the B8 over the Excel-G for any performance focused driver, even though they are over double the price.
But you want a stock replacement damper, do I recommend the KYB Excel-G?
In a word no.
I think they are a bit too soft, even for a standard damper.
I have used Sachs Super Touring years ago and I thought they where excellent. I’d be tempted to go with these dampers instead of the Excel-G. I think they will be slightly firmer and for sure I do not believe they will be softer.
Another alternative would be the Bilstein B4. I have no personal experience of the B4s but I have the same thoughts as with the Sachs.
Also, I think the construction of the Sachs and the Bilstein will be a cut above the KYB, I believe.