Long Term 5,000-Mile Review of the Ironman 4X4 America Stage 2 Foam Cell Pro Lift Kit for the 3rd Gen Tacoma
For the first 12,000 miles I put on my Tacoma, I had to live with the subpar performance of the stock TRD Off-Road Bilstein suspension. At the time, I felt like my shiny new Tacoma could go anywhere and do anything.
To an extent, I was right! But after a while, I found off-roading to be uncomfortable and I actually woke up sore the morning after difficult trails. Let’s be honest… your body, your passengers, and your truck all deserve better than the <2” Bilstein shocks. Especially if you’re planning on putting your truck to work on more than just the pavement and standard fire roads.
I’ll admit, at first, I was a bit unsure about this lift kit. There are several popular suspension setups and not many people, at least not that I saw on social media, are running Ironman suspension products.
Spoiler alert… This setup ultimately blew me away and I was left with a newfound respect for Ironman 4X4. While this review is on a 3rd Gen Tacoma, the 2nd Gen Tacoma kit is essentially the same and you can expect pretty much identical performance.
Factory Bilstein Suspension vs. Ironman Suspension
Ironman 4×4 makes an innovative and completely unique foam cell shock, where instead of using gas-emulsion, a porous piece of high-density foam is used for dampening. This means the shock body contains more oil, dampens impacts more efficiently, the shock runs cooler, and lasts much, much longer. Above, you can see the difference between the factory Bilstein suspension and the new Ironman one. Huge difference.
I was skeptical that this type of shock made a difference, but with nearly 5,000 miles on my new suspension, I’m a firm believer in this technology. Here’s a recap of my last, and so far, the best, 5,000 miles in my Tacoma. Let’s hit all the points you might be thinking about, and hopefully, answer any questions you may have.
If you’ve never heard about Ironman, I also covered a company highlight. You can learn a little more about the brand and its offerings. Check that article out here.
- (Front) 2.5″ Lift – Performance Load (0-110 lbs of additional load)
- (Rear) 2.5″ Lift – Performance Load (0-440 lbs of additional load)
Find It Online
- Ironman 4X4 2005+ Toyota Tacoma Stage 2 Foam Cell Suspension Kit: Check Price
Find Individual Parts
- Front Strut
- Front Coil Springs
- Pro-Forge UCA
- Sway Bar Spacer Kit
- Rear Leaf Springs
- Rear Shock
- Drive Shaft Center Bearing Spacer Kit
Before reviewing this complete suspension kit, I must note again how impressed I was with the quality and the completeness of this kit. It included everything I needed to lift my truck:
- driveline spacers
- sway bar relocation kit
- extra hardware
…it was all there.
No other complete, ready-to-go kit I’ve seen on the market includes all of the parts needed to safely lift your Tacoma, and the peace of mind I felt not having to hunt down all of the parts to build a complete kit was significant. There’s nothing worse than having to waste time making sure your kit is complete, just to be missing a vital component come install day. Being able to purchase everything you need with only a couple of clicks makes lifting your Tacoma that much easier. No more confusion.
The installation process took around 16 hours from beginning to end while also taking photos. For more information on the install process, check out my full install and initial review for this kit on my 3rd Gen Tacoma.
Everything fit and worked perfectly on the first try and it has continued to impress me ever since the first mile.
I was worried the larger shocks and springs up front would affect the feel of the steering, making the truck feel unresponsive or disconnected, maybe even too stiff. I was happy to find out that the opposite effect occurred — the truck felt more planted and stable than ever and it soaks up the roughest roads with ease.
Cornering is easier and the truck feels planted, and with the added benefit of less body roll, the truck feels lighter. Even with oversized all-terrain tires, controlling the side-to-side movement and body roll of the truck is all but effortless. I look forward to winding mountain roads more than ever.
With the added stiffness of the heavy-duty leaf springs, the truck rides slightly higher in the back, and the rear end is prone to shimmying around. This is mainly due to the fact that I don’t carry too much gear regularly and that the leaf springs are meant for up to 440 lbs of extra weight.
I would recommend consistently running some weight in the bed with this setup. It can easily handle a bed rack, tent, spare tire carrier or even a rear bumper. These added accessories will improve the suspension cycling and the overall performance of the rear end. If you think your setup will weigh more than 440 lbs, there’s a Constant Load option available.
This kit from Ironman 4×4 isn’t a traditional kit. It serves a very unique purpose, and in my experience, better than the other competitors.
If you are someone who focuses more on overlanding, long-distance traveling, light off-roading, and pavement driving, this is the kit for you. This kit is purpose-built to handle long hours of punishment and maintain on-road drivability while being durable and reliable regardless of what you subject it to.
This kit is not designed for the hardcore rock crawler or dedicated high-speed off-road racer. These shocks are built differently from other manufacturers like King and Icon for a reason; don’t expect racing shock performance out of this kit. I’m sure the kit could handle a good amount of abuse, but the point is that the kit is designed with a purpose and specific application in mind.
I’ve been in vehicles with both King and Icon setups, other truck suspensions feel much different than my Ironman suspension. They tend to be much bouncier, rougher at slow speeds, and worse on the road than the Ironman kit, because they aren’t tuned specifically for long distances on the pavement.
At the end of the day, flashier setups that you see online might catch your eye, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for your build and potential usage. Especially if you do a lot of miles on the asphalt.
Tested on Multiple Terrains & Environments
In my 5,000 miles of testing, I saw temperatures as high as 108 degrees and as low as 10 degrees. I conquered Jeep trails, cruised down dirt roads, plowed through sand and mud, and even the occasional snowdrift.
I hit small jumps, large rocks, and tight turns at speeds that were faster than they should have been. I took a few long road trips on winding mountain roads, and drove my truck daily, to and from work. I definitely used this suspension kit in a variety of conditions, at one point, hard enough to knock one of my retrofitted halos loose.
In those 5,000 miles, not once did I regret installing this kit. The massive front shocks eat up obstacles all day long, and it takes over an hour of hard abuse to notice any fading. The rear shocks and leaf springs keep my back tires planted on the road, making the ride smoother and giving me more reliable traction. Even after long wheeling trips, the drive home is controlled, and comfortable.
I have very few complaints about this kit, but no product is perfect. Upon receiving the kit, the enclosed direction papers were lacking in some key areas and could have used more information and a few more pictures.
Ironman more than makes up for this though, as they have a detailed installation video on their YouTube channel and website that covers the entire process. Their customer service is also incredibly helpful and responsive.
The rear heavy-duty leaf pack raised my bed well over 3″ and the advertised lift is around the 2.5” figure. While it will eventually sit a bit more level once I add on the weight of a tent and rear bumper, it was higher than I expected it to be and my stock brake lines barely have enough length for the suspension to cycle completely. Something to keep in mind. It would be wise to get some extended brake lines.
The front shocks also settle quite a bit once you work them in, and I saw a loss of around .5-.75″ after they settled. They will need to be readjusted to get the advertised height of 2.5” of lift, but this is to be expected with every brand and size of coilover.
The only other genuine complaint I have is the lack of color options. The classic green and black color scheme Ironman uses is stylish and is definitely part of their branding strategy. I have no problem rocking it. Other builds may require a specific color palette or something more neutral.
However, the lack of customization might turn some people off. Of course, you can pay to get your shocks and coils powder-coated elsewhere if you’re serious about matching colors, but offering them in a small variety of colors might help drive a few additional sales.
If you are considering building an overlanding/camping Tacoma, if you travel long distances on paved roads, or if you want more comfort and capability on moderate off-road challenges, this is the kit for you.
Even if you’re hitting the occasional difficult trail, this kit gives you the articulation and stability you need to conquer tough obstacles. Not many kits in this price range can match the durability, build quality, capabilities, and completeness of this kit. I firmly believe these shocks will outlast my next three sets of tires, and they’ve completely changed how I view and experience trail riding.
Ironman products continue to surprise me, and I have to say, they definitely exceeded my expectations.
So glad I came across this review. This review has nailed my decision to make the Iron Man purchase. Everything in this review is exactly what I am looking to achieve in my 2019 Tacoma. Adam what size tires and wheels are you rolling with on the Tacoma in the pictures of this review? I went with 285/70/17 tires on 17×9 wheels with a -12 offset. Just looking at the suspension lift kit which I feel comfortable now with the Iron Man 2.5” lift kit. Excited to get the lift kit, wheels and tires on my truck. Thanks
It’s great to hear the review was helpful! After I installed this suspension kit I upgraded to 285/75/16 Toyo Open Country AT3’s on 16×8 Method 701’s with 0 offset. After a proper alignment to get that 4 degrees of positive caster, I only had to do a little plastic trimming to get them to fit nicely. I’ve had no issues so far, and will probably go with an even larger tire size in the near future.
Your truck looks great in the pictures in the review. I am concerned that I will have to do cab mount cutting with my set up. Any suggestions is greatly appreciated to avoid having to do that but I already have the tires and wheels.
thanks for replying back.
Wish I saw this article early….I look at Ironman stage 2 last year and almost order them and the prices were rising…so I went with Bilstein 6112. & 5160…had to order many other parts, like uca, spacers, etc..
Ironman stage two has almost everything you need…they say Ironman is the only ones who sells a complete kit….and is matching to its own set ups…. stock rims fit too…
Every body else has so many add on’s ,to make a complete kit…(sure more options..? But ,may come mis-match?
All ironman suspension is currently 30% buy now if interested.
The completeness of the Ironman kit was one of the most impressive parts of the entire experience. Including all the spacers, relocation brackets, and hardware made the installation that much more stress free. Ironman frequently has sales on their Stage 2 kits, maybe you’d be able to pick one up at a discount!
When you purchase the front suspension pre-assembled, do they come preset at the 2.5″ or do you have to adjust them to get the 2.5″?
The coilovers are shipped set at 2.5″ of lift, but some minor adjustments may need to be made to get your desired fitment. Very shortly after I installed this kit, I upgraded tire sizes, and needed to get the front suspension adjusted another .5″ to get the amount of lift I preferred. Hope that helps!
Looks great. Thanks for the right up. I have been looking at these lately and can’t decide yet. Looks like we live pretty close (in Montana). Thanks again
Thank you for the compliments! I’ve recently left Montana but visit frequently. Everywhere I’ve gone, the Stage 2 kit has treated me well, even after around 15,000 miles. I especially like the leaf springs – I’ve noticed no squeaking, rusting, or sagging at all. They have frequent sales as well, you might be able to catch them at a discount this holiday season!
I think for the value, especially since they run solid sales quite often (15-25% off), it’s a tough price to beat with how complete the kit is. I haven’t personally heard anything bad about these kits from anyone who is running them either.
Basically just what I’ve experienced myself. Compression, roll and rebound are all greatly improved. Even though I carry 100 or so pounds of recovery gear, 5 gallons of water under a mid height ARE shell on a consistent basis and removed # 3 and 5 leafs, it’s still a 3.25 inch lift. Pre assembly was a slight problem as one bolt rubbed the fuel tank and had to be removed. At some point I’ll drop the spring and reinstall it properly however with 2 missing leafs I’m not worried about the rest of the pack popping free of the fingers.… Read more »
Great review! I appreciate you taking the time to help others. I have the Eibach kit now, Stage 1, and will likely swap out for this kit. Do you know if Ironman will build the front strut/coil assembly? Also, they give the option of a 2.5” or 3” lift for the front, is this a different coil, or a difference in where the locking coil base is set? I will likely give them a call to confirm as well, but appreciate your feedback. Thanks again.
Sorry for getting back to you so late. Thank you for the compliments! Ironman will infact pre-built the front coilover assembly for you and include this in the price. They also have a great informational video on their YouTube channel detailing how to build this assembly yourself.
Also, they offer three front spring types – 2.5″ 0-110lb, 3″ 0-110lb, and 2.5″ 110-240lb. I would highly recommend opting for the 3″ coil if you run no weight up front and the 2.5″ 110-240lb coil if you run anything extra upfront at all. It makes a huge difference!
Ha, no worries brother. I was able to get a hold of them and get an order in. Great people and lots of help. After a little shipping delay on my rear shocks, I have all the parts and will be installing today! I’m rewatching the Ironman install video and going over your install notes now. I can’t wait to experience this kit for myself.
2012 TRD OR – When looking for a ‘proper’ suspension/lift kit, my installer absolutely recommended IronMan — their preferred manufacturer. I got it installed Oct’20 and have since been to Sedona AZ, Joshua Tree, Big Bend, and a local ORV park near Austin TX. This package is awesome! I went with the ‘standard’ package (TOY066KPS2) to go along with KO2s and CBI skid plates. IronMan not only has awesome products, their customer service is outstanding – Bubba spent plenty of time talking/chatting me through this package and my 5″ universal ditch lights (installed after photo). Hands down, the BEST!
Gareth, thanks for that detailed response. We’ve had nothing but positive things to say about them either. We appreciate you sharing. Glad you’re enjoying your Ironman products and experience. Hopefully, comments like this reinforce the way our users and potential Ironman customers feel about running their products!