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Product Review - Kore Performance Suspension Kit and Toyo Open Country Mud Terrains
By Lance Clifford

Back in August 2004, I bought a house up in the Sierra-Nevada mountains in the middle of the forest. Our new place has a few acres, and is above the snow line. Being a new home owner, my wife and I went to work on our property doing all kinds of stuff. We put our 2003 Dodge Ram to work hauling trash, brush, firewood, etc. Our Dodge has been an invaluable tool around the house. Once winter rolled around and the snow began to fall, our Dodge would be our only means of transportation since our Honda Accord doesn't do so well in the snow. Since we live off the beaten path, our road does not get plowed.

The driveway that denied the Dodge..

When our first big snow storm of the year hit, we got about 2 feet of snow. That morning I wiped the snow off the windshield, and piled the kids into the truck, and headed for the bus stop. I put the Dodge in 4 low and began the climb up the driveway. I got about halfway up the driveway, and came to a stop. The stock Michelin tires just buried themselves in the snow. I backed down the driveway, and aired my tires down to about 20 psi, and gave it another shot. I made it a little further, but still not quite. After several more attempts, I finally got out of my driveway. I made it out to the main road and headed to town. Of course with my tires being aired down to 20 psi (remember, this is a 7,000lb truck!) it was an interesting ride to town, to say the least! I was safe to say I was disappointed in my truck's snow performance.

The Honda ain't going nowhere!

I knew if I was going to survive the hard winter months without getting stuck in my own driveway, I had to do something to my truck to make it more off road/snow capable. The solution was obvious - bigger tires with a better tread design were needed. However since I utilize my truck everyday as a TRUCK, I didn't want to just slap some generic "lift kit" and big tires and call it done. I needed to do it right, so as to not compromise my truck's hauling and handling characteristics. I also do a large amount of towing with my truck, so I didn't want to lift it to the moon. After doing some research and talking to my good pal Tim "Desertbull" Sanchez, I decided to give Kent Kroeker from KORE Performance (formerly T-Rex Engineering) a call. Kent specializes in suspension kits exclusively for Dodge trucks. Notice I didn't say "lift kit" I said suspension kit. There really is a difference! I told Kent what I do with my truck, and what I was looking to do with my truck. He suggested the KORE race kit - their top of the line, no holds barred suspension kit. I decided to log onto his website and check out the different kits before I made my decision.

 

The following is taken from KORE's website -

All KORE suspension systems come with KORE’s proprietary hot-wound, progressive coil springs. These are not the same coil springs that lift kit companies sell. These soft-riding coils are made of very thick material. For example, a pair of our diesel coils weighs almost 64 pounds! We designed the “set” height for our coils to correspond with their “solid” height. KORE coil springs become solid or “coil bind” far below what your Ram’s suspension permits; that’s why we guarantee them for life. We also offer four different spring rates, one for 2500 Hemi Rams, one for the 2500 and 3500 diesel-equipped Rams and one for diesel Rams with heavy winch bumpers. This way KORE can custom-tune your ride to fit the weight of your truck.

For the rear, our suspension systems use a proprietary “Mini-Pak.” This is not an “add-a-leaf” that simply adds lift by making the rear leaf packs stiff. Our Mini-Pak is a four leaf spring pack that replaces your factory overload leaf with a soft-riding, yet progressive leaf pack, custom-tuned to enable your suspension to work properly. Mini-Paks are smooth on the little bumps yet also permit you to haul heavy loads. KORE Mini-Paks are guaranteed for life.

Also included with every system are heavy duty, soft-durometer poly bump stops for the front and zinc-plated U-bolts for the rear.

Each system provides:

  • 2.5 inches of lift in front and some in the rear
  • More ground clearance
  • 50% more available wheel travel to absorb large impacts
  • Much higher speeds when the pavement ends
  • Increased stability while hauling and towing
  • A more comfortable road ride
  • Levels of control you never thought possible
  • Protection for your truck’s chassis and drivetrain
  • Fitment of 35x12.5 inch off-road tires
  • Easy installation with no cutting, welding or fabricating
  • Lifetime performance

KORE RACE SYSTEM COMPONENTS
The KORE “Race” system uses 2.5” Fox remote-reservoir racing shocks. This system is a no-compromise, fully-integrated, ultra-high-performance suspension system, purpose-built for maximum off-road performance. The KORE 2.5” Fox shock is specially-designed and valved for Dodge trucks. KORE designed this system for high-speed off road use. It's big and bad and awesome. Men who spend a lot of time in the dirt love this system, but it works great on the highway as well.

KORE CHASE SYSTEM COMPONENTS
The KORE “Chase” system uses the renowned Bilstein 7100 Series remote-reservoir race shock with digressive pistons and special, proprietary valving. It is called the “Chase” system because a Dodge Ram so equipped can perform the multiple functions of a Baja chase vehicle. From heavy towing to long-distance washboard, this system provides dramatically increased control and smoothness in all conditions. Our Chase system is best for people who need an excellent, general purpose suspension for hauling loads, heavy towing, long distance highway travel, and serious off-road, such as exploring trails, hunting etc. This system also addresses freeway expansion joint bounce as much as possible.

KORE PACE SYSTEM COMPONENTS
KORE offers pace-setting performance with the “Pace” suspension system. This system includes the same long-travel coil springs and mini paks found in the Race and Chase systems. With this system you get four long-travel, zinc-plated, nitrogen-charged, mono-tube Bilstein 5100 shocks designed specifically for your Ram. The entire Pace system is guaranteed for life!

It was clear to me that the "Race System" was the kit for me. Tim "Desertbull" Sanchez has been running this kit on his Dodge Ram for several years now, and has flogged it through the Baja desert countless times without a single problem. I called Kent back and told him to send over the Race kit. He asked me if I had picked out rims and tires yet. I knew I wanted to run 35" Toyo Open Country Mud Terrains (which is what KORE recommends) because they are an "E" load tire. While I had decided on the tires, I hadn't picked out a set of rims yet. Kent told me that he worked with Weld Wheels to develop a rim with that has the factory Dodge offset and works with the Toyo tires I wanted. This rim is a one piece forged aluminum 18 x 8.5" rim with OE Dodge backspacing. Because the rim has OE backspacing your wheel-bearings and steering components won’t wear out prematurely and your tires won't stick out of the fender wells. Did I mention these rims look bad ass? So along with the race kit, Kent sent over his KORE/Weld rims. Man, my truck is gonna look sweet!

img_5506.jpg About a week later the UPS man showed up with the goods. I eagerly went through the boxes and drooled on the massive fox remote reservoir shocks. These things are massive compared to the puny OE shocks! After looking over my truck, and looking at all the parts in the kit, I went against Kent's advice to do the installation myself. I am fairly mechanically inclined, but I just hate the idea of tearing apart my daily driver in my driveway. I called up C&R Motorsports and asked Bob if he could pencil me in. When I told him what I had, he eagerly told me to bring it over in the morning, as he was interested in seeing what the KORE kit was all about.

I showed up bright and early at C&R Motorsports and Bob and crew got to work right away. They pulled the Dodge onto their vehicle lift, and began to raise the truck. The truck raised about 2 inches, and wouldn't go any further. This truck is HEAVY! After removing a few things out of the bed, and removing the tires and wheels from the truck, the lift creaked and groaned its way up, and it was time to tear the truck apart.  

 

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Once the wheels were removed, the first step was to remove the OE coil springs.
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First AJ cuts out the inner fender well a little to get everything to fit right.
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With the Piers twin turbos in the engine compartment, there was little to no room to work from above.
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AJ carefully slips the Fox shocks through the coil spring mount, and into place. These Fox shocks are special 2.5" diameter Fox Pro-series shocks that KORE designed just for the Dodge Rams. These shocks offer 10" of wheel travel!
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The next step is to install the new trick aluminum upper shock mounts. These things are a work of art!
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With the shock mount bolted into place, the shocks are positioned up into their mount. The lower isn't mounted yet, because we still need to install the new coils.
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AJ bolts the shock to the upper shock mount
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The shocks came charge with nitrogen from the factory. AJ had to bleed the nitrogen out so he could compress them into place.
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AJ wrestles the super heavy duty KORE coils into place.
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The coil is slipped into its lower bucket.
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Bolting things back together.
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The coil is bolted to the upper mount.
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Now it's time to mount the reservoirs. Kore recommends drilling two 3/16" holes into the frame, and use the supplied self tapping screws. However we elected to weld on the shock reservoir mounts to the frame.
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Because I have the Piers twin turbo kit, I have an aftermarket air filter which sits very low in the engine compartment. Because of this, we didn't mount my reservoirs in the recommended location where they can be visible from the outside.
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With the inner fender bolted back into place, the reservoirs are hidden.
If you're not running twin turbos, you can cut out your inner fender a little more to expose the reservoirs as KORE recommends. Here is a shot of how the reservoirs are supposed to be mounted.
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Now it's time for the rear suspension. Bob removes the OE u-bolts and springs.
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The OE center pin is removed, along with the bottom overload leaf from the OE pack. The overload is replaced with the KORE supplied Mini Pak springs and center pins.
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Bob clamps the springs together to get the center pin lined up.
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Bob installs the new KORE u-bolts and tightens them down good and tight.
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The OE whimpy shocks are removed.
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The new Fox shocks are bolted into place.
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Before Bob mounts the reservoirs into their final resting place under the bed, he recharges them with 200psi of nitrogen.
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A shot of the reservoirs in their final place - tucked up under the bed.
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Can't see much from the wheel well.
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AJ bolts the bling-bling rims and tires on the truck.
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Man she looks sexy with her new suspension and shoes!

Driving Impressions
The truck looks simply awesome. Not big and dumb looking, but tough, and capable looking. It is noticeably taller when climbing into the vehicle, and when loading stuff into the bed, but it is manageable without being annoying. So how does it work?

My first test was on the drive home from C&R Motorsports to my house in the forest. The road to my house is super twisty, with several 11% grades. I could not believe how well the truck handled on the curves. The truck actually handled better than it did from the factory. It had less body roll, and the new Toyos gripped the pavement like glue. I was blown away, as I didn't expect to have better pavement performance. The ride over the small bumps in the road were about the same as the factory ride was - unlike the many kidney pounding lift kitted trucks I've rode in. Another worthy note was how quiet the Toyos were given there aggressive tread.

Test number two came with the next snow storm. This time we got buried in 3 1/2 feet of white stuff. I was skeptical that the truck would be able to plow through that much snow up the driveway, but with minimal tire slip the truck made it effortlessly up the driveway, and out to the main road. I was ecstatic! This was worth the money spent alone. I no longer had to worry if I could make it in and out of my home. I had the opportunity to tow several of my stuck neighbors out of the snow without a problem. This truck was simply amazing in the snow compared to stock!

Our next test involved a little deeper snow. I went up to Crystal Basin where there was about 8-10 feet of snow. Could the 7,000lb Dodge float on top of 10 feet of snow? I aired the tires down to 20psi, and gave it a shot. The truck went about 20 feet, and began to sink into the bottomless snow. I backed back out my ruts, and aired down to 15psi. At this point, the tires looked like they were almost flat! I gave it another shot, and the truck creeped along, and floated fairly well through the deep snow. I drove all around, but I had to be careful not to do anything stupid or the truck would want to dig down. I had the best results crawling along in 4 low. If I tried to go much faster, the truck just wanted to sink. I slowly crawled my way to the top of a large ski resort looking mountain, and decided to have a little fun. Once at the top, I pointed the big beast downhill and hammered down. The twin turbos spooled up, and I went racing down the mountain. I blasted over a snow berm and came to a stop at the bottom. The truck soaked up all the bumps with ease, and felt like I was riding in a Cadillac on the Interstate. Too much fun...

Our next test takes us to Johnson Valley OHV Park (The Hammers). Johnson Valley is located in the heart of the Mojave Desert, so the KORE suspension should be right at home in this terrain. We went out looking for some good roads with some washboards and whoops, and wondered what in the hell we were getting ready to do with my $40,000 daily driver. So against my better judgment, I put the hammer down and hit the rutted up whoop infested road at high speed. The truck amazingly soaked up the bumps with ease. I was able to bottom the truck out a few times on some really hard whoops, but the KORE bump stops soaked them up fairly well.

All in all I am amazed at the transformation the suspension kit, tires and wheels made to my truck. It transformed it from a pavement pounding, off road incapable truck to a desert racing snow plowing machine.

Amendment - Just the other day I received some upgrades for my KORE kit. I got some trick limit straps and billet sway bar drop brackets. Kent says the drop down brackets should provide more wheel articulation and additional travel. I'll get these new goodies put on soon and let you all know how they work.

Contact
KORE LLC
P.O. BOX 2628
Valley Center CA 92082
Telephone 760.749.8687
http://koreperformance.com

Toyo Tires
http://www.toyo.com