Old Man Emu Xterra Suspension System Review

The Review

Installation

The installation was easy enough and done in an afternoon in my driveway with basic hand tools. A huge help was having Nisstech assemble the front coil overs before shipping them to me. Without that I would have needed a spring compressor and probably a trip to the “stealership” parts counter for some new hardware.

A fair amount of elbow grease (and penetrating lube) was required… so while not for the faint of heart, this by no means isn’t something anyone with a mechanical mind and determination can’t do on their own.

Looks & Background

With an ARB bull bar and winch on the front, and loaded expo box in the back I managed just shy of two-inches of lift. I actually installed the Dakar leafs about a year ago and mated them with the Bilstein 5100s all the way around. That combo was great and also scored about 2″ of lift until I added the bumper and winch. The lift up front disappeared under the new weight and handling suffered significantly. The front would cycle, dip and dodge through every bump in the road.

My fix was to add Timbren SES bump stops up front and remove the front sway bar. That actually helped the handling a lot. The front-end had more flex and the over-worked coil overs got some help from the Timbrens. I did not however, re-gain my lost lift and had the new issue of lacking up-travel created by the Timbrens. Which brings us to today…

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ARB Bull Bar with fog light kit, Warn VR-10,000-s, 48″ Cast Hi-Lift, 4′ Fire Stik

With two days in the desert and another two in the mountains since install, it’s definitely nice to have the height back (my sliders are much happier now). On the handling note…

On Road

I read mixed reviews online before dumping the Bils for the OME shocks. Some said the Bils were stiffer, others said the OME. My experience is night and day.

The Bilsteins, while stiffer than stock, are Cadillac soft compared to the Old Man Emu Nitrocharger Sports. The ride borders on harsh and makes the short wheel based Xterra ride a lot like an F-350. Not unbearable (actually, it’s a welcomed change… keep reading), it’s a very noticeable difference. Especially on the corrugated freeways in SoCal.

So while a lot stiffer — the huge gain is in handling. Sebastian, with no sway bars (front or rear), all that extra weight, handles as well as any crossover I’ve driven. It’s solid in the corners and keeps all the wheels on the ground even with very aggressive driving. On the Bils, I could get the ABS or VSC to kick-in without much effort at all around corners or windy roads. I’d be hard pressed to make that happen before rolling the Xterra on the OME system. I can’t emphasize enough how much more stable and secure it feels… it’s an entirely different vehicle (even over stock with sway bars).

Update November 2016

After six months the front springs have softened. The ride has improved but, the front-sway bar had to be reinstalled. While you can drive without, the body roll is fairly excessive. And unsafe with loads on the roof. Otherwise, everything stated in the original post holds true.

Off-road and Hauling

Sebastian is a bit of a pig when we head out for a weekend adventure. On top of the goodies mounted to the outside, there’s me, the wife, dog and all our creature comforts inside. The F-350-like-ride tones down to an F-150-like-ride when there’s all that gear inside. That’s not surprising. What is surprising is that we don’t even lose an inch in stance when completely loaded and gased when compared to empty.

The OME coil overs are just slightly longer than the stock coil overs (still no CBC). And the 2608 HD coils are the same spring rate as the lighter 2607 LD coils. They’re simply 10mm longer, which creates more pre-load and reduces the impact of weight on ride height. And why that works great on-road, it means you get top-out off-road. Nothing awful, but something to be aware of. That said, the stiffness that allows you to run without a front sway bar and thus reap the benefits of truly independent suspension far out weigh the top-out issue.

You can almost see the top of the passenger tire, and the driver tire is stuffed. Truly independent front suspension.
You can almost see the top of the passenger tire, and the driver tire is stuffed. Truly independent front suspension.

The rear shocks are significantly longer than stock (and the Bils) and man does that make a difference for flex. For the first three days of our four days off-road I thought it was impossible to get a wheel off the ground. I finally did… but it took some pretty significant ruts to make it happen.

Lytle Creek, CA 04/2016
Lytle Creek, CA 04/2016

The ride off-road is improved. Part of me feels like it’s harsh… but so were the Bils. Aired down the ride is actually pretty good. And like the on-road drive the tires stay glued to the ground.

The most interesting change I’ve noticed is on wash boarded roads. Stock my teeth would chatter. With the Bils my teeth chattered less aggressively. With the OME it just feels bumpy. No longer does it sound like I’m talking through a fan when driving down those sandy, washed out roads around Joshua Tree.

So like the on-road review, while not without its faults, the off-road and hauling characteristics are another welcomed improvement.

Pros

  • Stability
  • Load handling
  • Lift
  • Flex
  • Ride over wash boarded roads

Cons

  • On road ride

System Components

Front

  • OME Nitrocharger Sport Struts
  • OME Heavy Duty (2608) Coils
OME HD (608) Coils on OME Nitrocharger Sport Struts
OME HD (608) Coils on OME Nitrocharger Sport Struts

*Assembled by Nisstech which includes new top mounts, coil spring isolators, bushings, and hardware

Rear

  • OME Nitrocharger Sport Shocks
  • OME Dakar MD Leaf Pack
  • OME Bushing Kit for OEM Shackles

    OME Nitrocharger Sport Shocks and Timbren SES Bump Stops.
    OME Nitrocharger Sport Shocks and Timbren SES Bump Stops.

*Not part of the review or kit, but Timbren SES bump stops and Nissetch adjustable shackles were also installed in the rear

Miles Since Installation

782* (~100 off-road)

*Dakar Leafs and bushing were actually installed about 20,000 miles ago