Being in the aftermarket automotive parts business with a focus on Rancho shocks and suspension, it’s not uncommon to hear customers ask, “What’s the difference between the Rancho RS9000XL, Rancho RSX Reflex, and Rancho RS5000 shocks?” All three are reputable products from a company that helped pioneer the off-road industry, yet each is built for different uses and driving experiences. The Rancho RS line of shocks are geared toward the Jeep, truck, and SUV markets especially if the vehicle will be used in off-road conditions.
At the entry level is the Rancho RS5000 shock absorber. The RS5000 shock is a premium (almost general-purpose) shock often installed as a better-than-factory replacement for vehicles with worn out shocks or upgraded suspensions. It’s also recommended for the budget-minded consumer. The RS5000 is designed to provide comfort and control across the driving spectrum from street to mild off-road. The result of this is a ride quality that’s often bumpier than what the factory shocks provided because firm shocks are ideal for off-road driving and this comes at the sacrifice of some street comfort.
An upgrade from the RS5000 is the RSX Reflex shock. The uniqueness of this shock is the incorporation of an automatic “impact-sensing” valve that opens and closes depending on how quickly the piston is forced in or out. This provides a broader range of comfort and control across the driving spectrum from street to aggressive off-road. The greatest aspect of the RSX is that each shock is engineered specifically for the vehicle for which it will be installed. This provides optimal performance in concert with the vehicle’s weight. The downside of the RSX is that it’s a “light(er)-truck” shock and therefore not available for heavy-duty (HD) and super-duty (SD) trucks and larger SUVs (at least not at this time). This isn’t to say that it can’t handle heavy off-road use, because it can. It just can’t handle the excess weight of certain full-size vehicles.
An upgrade from both the RS5000 and RSX Reflex is the RS9000XL. The RS9000XL shock features a manually-tuned valve system that allows the driver complete control of the softness or firmness of the piston movement. This provides the broadest range of comfort and control across the driving spectrum from street to extreme off-road. Ride quality can be set soft for highway driving, medium for city/urban driving, and firm for off-road driving and even towing. There are nine possible settings so a quality ride can be had by even the pickiest driver (or their passengers). In addition to manual tuning, an auxiliary remote control unit is available that allows the shocks to be adjusted at the touch of a button while the vehicle is parked or in motion. The RS9000XL was designed with today’s bigger trucks in mind so in addition to the typical 2-1/8″ and 2-3/8″ body diameters found on most shocks, the RS9000XL is also available with a 2-3/4″ body for select full-size applications.
When choosing your Rancho shocks, you’ll need to consider your budget and what kind of driving they’ll be used for. As expected, RS5000 cost the least, RSX cost approximately 40-50% more, and RS9000XL cost approximately 40-50% more than that. If you’re looking to save money or merely replace your old, worn out shocks, the RS5000’s will work adequately. If you’re still on a budget, but want a ride superior to what an RS5000 offers, then the RSX Reflex is recommended. If budget is not an issue, or if you want the best shock available without getting into the “extreme” off-road shocks, then the RS9000XL is recommended.