This is a kinda tricky question and I fear there is no easy enough solution, but I figured I'd hit SE up before giving up on it and just doing what I can.
A machine I am working on has no suspension or shocks or springs of any sort in the real machine, so you would think that when it drives over bumps, it would shake like crazy but because its tires (6 of them) are quite large they seem to absorb a lot of shock from the bumps. Part of this is because the machine is around 30k lbs and it just smashes/compresses any bumps in the ground down (This is another issue im still working on) and the other part is that the tires seem to have a lot of flex to them with a lot of air as well.
So my current task is to simulate shock absorption in physx without visibly separating the tires from the spindle/axle..
I have been messing with all kinds of NxMaterial, NxSpring, Joints, etc. and have had no luck getting this to work. The main problem is that the spindle attached to the tire is directly in the center and the axle is basically solidly attached to the chassis, so if i give it any spring or suspension travel, that spindle on the tires will move upwards or downwards, looking very odd because now its not any longer in the center of the tire. I tried giving it a higher restitution but that just makes it bouncy without any shock absorption.
Another avenue I am messing with is to actively smooth the terrain in front of the tires so that before it hits a bumpy patch, that patch is smoothed and it doesn't bounce. The only issue with this is that it is pretty expensive to do with 6 tires, high tessellation of the terrain and other complex things going on at the same time in this simulation. I am still working on this but I am hoping to mix and match a few different aspects to get the best possible outcome.
This is a bit of a complex issue so I'm not expecting anyone to have a definitive answer, just hoping someone may think of something I haven't =-)
-Side note: Yes i know PhysX 2.8.x is quite outdated but we have to stick with it for this implementation. We are in the process of going to another physics engine but it is out of scope to apply that engine to this project.