Wednesday, November 21, 2012

AEV JK Brute on Adam Carolla's CarCast


Adam Carolla's CarCast recently interviewed David Harrington from American Expedition Vehicles to discuss their Brute Double Cab pickup that's based on the Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Rubicon.  In addition to the obvious pickup conversion, the vehicle also sports a broad selection of AEV's upgraded parts, including suspension, wheels, and bumpers.


I've written about this pickup before, but it's always worth another look!



Monday, November 19, 2012

Jeep Wrangler Wins 2012 SEMA Hottest 4x4 SUV Award


2012 marks the third straight year that the Jeep Wrangler has won SEMA's Hottest 4x4 SUV AwardThe SEMA Award winners represent the models that industry experts—the SEMA Show exhibitors—most often feature in their booths as the hottest rides for the enthusiast market.  No other 4x4 SUV came close to the number of Jeep Wranglers that the aftermarket industry supports.




Thursday, November 15, 2012

Who Hates 4x4s in Utah?


Four Wheeler Magazine has published a blog entry covering the anti-access faux-environmentalists' recent push to get OHV users locked out of 1,400,000 more acres of public lands in Utah.  BlueRibbon Coalition first shared this announcement with the 4x4 community, and since then many other news sources have reported on the letter to President Obama in which these groups are trying to lock you out of the 4-wheeling mecca known as Moab.

As usual, the anti-access groups' reasoning is full of lies.  For instance:
Federal land use plans inappropriately open scenic and undeveloped land to drilling and mining and fail to address exploding off-road vehicle use that is damaging riparian areas, cultural sites, soils and solitude.
Not only are OHV users not damaging the land or cultural sites, but motorized use has not been exploding - quite to the contrary, over 50% of public rights-of-way have recently been stolen from the public and closed down by the Bureau of Land Management's latest travel management plan.  The key point in the robbers' statement though is SOLITUDE - they're obviously trying to get these public lands closed to all but their own elitist community; they aren't willing to share public lands and recreational opportunities with the rest of the public.  They gloss over the fact that OHV users are Nature-lovers too, a group who does more to help BLM and Forest Service officials with environmental protection projects than any others.  Shouldn't every American be allowed to responsibly recreate in the backcountry areas they love?

This is organized theft and is UNAMERICAN.


Americans for Responsible Recreational Access and their numerous partners have sent this letter to President Obama in response to this attempted theft.  ARRA has a tool on their website to help you compose and send a letter of your own to the President - please do so!

Change.org has a petition that you can sign to show your support for public access to these public lands.

The White House website has another petition that you can sign.

Utah's delegation has also sent a letter to President Obama in opposition to the proposed land grab. 

So what else can you do to help in the fight to keep these public lands open to the public?  First and foremost, join and financially support BlueRibbon Coalition and Utah's Shared Access Alliance since they're the ones who spend time and money fighting in court against these land closures on your behalf.  Secondly, DO NOT SUPPORT the companies who endorse this letter and are actively trying to lock you out of your public lands (note that many of them ironically cater to mechanized recreation, such as Patagonia, North Face, Teva, Jansport, Red Wing Shoes, Camelbak, Outdoor Research, New Belgium Brewing, and Burton Snowboards:


*** UPDATE 11/20/2012 ***
BlueRibbon Coalition has published an update on this debacle with some additional important information.  Well worth reading!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Jeep Plans to Offer Turbodiesel Grand Cherokee Again


News that a turbodiesel engine for the WK2 Grand Cherokee is rekindling hope that the JK Wrangler (or its successor) may also be made available with a diesel option.  Automotive News' blog entry Will Jeep lovers blaze a new trail for diesel? updates us on Fiat/Chrysler/Jeep's plans to try offering diesel powertrains again.

Jeep has offered turbodiesel engines in the American market in the KJ Liberty and WK Grand Cherokee, managing to easily sell out of every one they produced.  Demand has always been greater than supply, which has boosted the resale values of these Jeeps well above their gasoline engine counterparts.  Diesels have always been a narrow niche in the United States thanks to the dirty, poor performance of the cars and trucks that introduced us to diesels.  However, with the recent surge in popularity with the modern clean diesels offered in Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, and Volkswagen's cars and SUVs - and the ongoing demand for turbodiesel-powered Dodge, Chevrolet, GMC, and Ford pickups, the success of diesel Jeeps seems assured.

To quote the article:
Chrysler Group's go-anywhere brand will answer these petitions early next year when it begins selling Jeep Grand Cherokees in North America outfitted with a highly regarded 3.0-liter diesel engine currently used in Europe. . . . Make no mistake, Chrysler will use its diesel-powered Grand Cherokee next year as a test. If consumers flock to it, Chrysler will offer diesel engines on other models, including the vehicle that most cries out for diesel's many benefits -- the Jeep Wrangler. But if consumers are put off by diesel's premium price at the pump, the automaker is likely to put diesel engines in the United States back on the shelf for a few more years.
The VM Motori 2.8-liter turbodiesel that is fitted into export-market Jeep Wrangler JKs does not meet American EPA standards or the more stringent CARB emissions standards that several states have adopted.  Diesel conversions have been performed on JKs with limited success.  Enthusiasts are clamoring for a factory-installed turbodiesel in the Jeep Wrangler.  Let's hope Jeep delivers.

*** 12/05/2012 UPDATE
Ward's Auto has published an article with some additional information on Jeep's future plans, including the diesel options for the Grand Cherokee and other models. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jeep Wrangler JK8 Pickup with a 392 Hemi


The aftermarket industry keeps developing more and more performance enhancements for the Jeep Wrangler JK platform.  Jalopnik and MSNBC give us a peek at VWerks' Steel Bender Jeep packed with parts that improve its looks and performance both on-road and off.  The primary mods include a pickup conversion and a 392 Hemi V8 producing 465 horsepower!

I've written about VWerks and JK pickup conversions before, but this one is undoubtedly worth drooling over again!

Ten Best Used Overland Vehicles


Expedition Portal and Jalopnik have published an article covering the ten best used vehicles for backcountry exploration.  The author, Scott Brady from Overland Journal, based these opinions on five primary categories: Capability, Capacity, Durability, Reliability, and Value.  Naturally, the Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Rubicon is ranked at the top of his list.

Although my backcountry exploration focuses more heavily on rockcrawling capability, I took the same factors into consideration when I made my own decision to buy a Wrangler versus any other vehicle on the market.  My experience with various Land Cruisers, Grand Cherokees, Samurais, Sidekicks, pickups, and other SUVs led me to decide on the Rubicon for my needs, and so far I am completely satisfied that I made the right decision.

The entire article is well worth reading, but the following excerpt explains why the Wrangler belongs on the list:
The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JK was a game-changer for Jeep as an overland vehicle. These vehicles have proven to be reliable, supremely capable and easily modifiable. More so than any other vehicle on this list, you could take a stock Jeep Rubicon Unlimited and drive nearly any road, anywhere in the world, without modification. From the Rubicon Trail to the jungles in Guatemala (I have done both with them). They are simple, robust and have considerable interior storage space. They are also available on most continents now, including South America, Australia and Africa, so service infrastructure is improving. However, the Jeep Wrangler is a bit harsh and unrefined, so driver fatigue will be higher and NVH will take its toll on longer road sections.

Pros:
  1. Class-leading capability
  2. Simple design and highly modifiable
  3. Ready for a round-the-world, right from the factory (Rubicon trim)
Cons:
  1. Rough and tumble nature results in more driver fatigue
  2. Limited payload (about 1,000 pounds)
  3. Difficult to mount roof loads
Summary: Jeep surprised us all with this runaway hit. It is the real deal.
Editor's Field Experience: Editor has owned or long-term tested a half-dozen variants of the JK Unlimited.  One was owned for two years and driven the length of Mexico and Central America to the Darien Gap.  Current fleet includes the long-term test Overland JK.  Overland Journal had an 18 month long-term test JK.  We have yet to experience a single warranty claim with any of these vehicles.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Inside Look at AEV


Regular readers will recall that I chose American Expedition Vehicles' 3.5-inch DualSport suspension for my own Jeep.  A lot of factors went into that decision, but I can sum it up by citing their engineering and build quality that are second to none.  Their high-dollar turnkey vehicles are out of reach for most, but individual pieces such as their suspension kits and bumpers are reasonably priced for even the average Jeep owner like me.

Here's a video that gives us a look at the people and the technology behind their products:


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

7 Steps to Increase the Jeep Wrangler JK's Power and Mileage


JP Magazine publishes some of the best Jeep tech articles in the industry.  Since the JK Wrangler is not known for being a powerhouse and many owners have saddled what mediocre power their 3.8-liter V6 can muster with an automatic transmission, big tires, improper gearing, and lots of heavy bolt-on accessories, Christian Hazel's article covering bolt-on performance accessories is appreciated.

You should really read the article for yourself, but here is a rundown of the 7 steps they took to revive their trusty JK's performance:

1)  Baseline measurement
2)  Oil Change, Fresh Air Filter, Clean Crankcase
3)  Cold Air Intake
4)  Performance Exhaust
5)  Throttle Body Spacer
6)  Headers & Ignition
7)  Engine Tuner 

Their initial measurement, a 1-mile uphill acceleration, resulted in a trap speed of 59mph.  After all these mods were performed, their 1-mile uphill trap speed increased to 68mph.  On top of that, they measured a gain in fuel economy from 16.1mpg to 17.6mpg.

Of course, if performance is of importance to you, a manual transmission is a much better option than an automatic.  If you've lifted your Jeep to fit bigger tires, your biggest performance boost will come from a deeper set of ring & pinion gears.  The following gear ratio charts can help you pick the appropriate ratio to extract the most from your Jeep:

Click to zoom in
You can see how terribly mismatched the automatic transmission's gearing is to the tire size even in factory-original configuration.  My manual-transmission Rubicon's original gearing is better-matched to my 35-inch tires than a bone-stock Rubicon with an automatic transmission is to its original 32-inch tires!  This is why it's usually automatic-equipped Jeep owners who complain about their "gutless" engines, not the manual-transmission owners.  All the engine performance mods in the world can't fully compensate for incorrect gear ratios.

The Appeal of 4WD Ownership


I'm sure most of the readers of this blog understand the appeal of 4WD ownership, and I've written about this sport's appeal before, but many others (especially the anti-access faux-environmentalists) have no idea what 4wheeling is all about.  Andrew White from 4xForum offers a fabulous introduction to the reason why we enjoy owning a 4wd vehicle:


There's a lot more to the 4wheeling experience than those who have never experienced it could ever understand.  You don't even need a serious 4x4 to get out into the backcountry and enjoy motorized recreation - most trails are totally accessible by any standard-clearance car.  Don't let yourself be locked down in the city or the suburbs - get outdoors and enjoy Nature while you still can!


Jeep Wrangler JK-based Campers

The latest of several Jeep Wrangler JK campers

The Jeep Wrangler JK is nothing if not versatile.  What other vehicle can serve as a comfortable daily driver and successfully traverse the Rubicon Trail right out of the box?  There are countless companies that have found ways to further extend the capabilities of the JK platform, but perhaps the most imaginative are those that convert it into a miniature RV.

Rooftop tents like the ARB Simpson III have been gaining popularity over the last decade and there are many companies offering them today.  They are relatively quick and easy to remove and reasonably affordable, but they do not provide room to stand up inside or store much gear since they're little more than a double mattress with a fabric cover.

ARB Simpson III rooftop tent
AutoHome's hard-shell rooftop tent
The EarthRoamer XV-JP was the first cabover camper style semi-permanent setup for the Jeep Wrangler.  It was a hardtop-replacement unit with a giant fold-open rooftop tent with standing room, a small bench seat, a sink, a toilet, and other conveniences.  Sadly, the manufacturer discontinued development and sales.

EarthRoamer XV-JP

Thankfully, Ursa Minor Vehicles (J30 & J180) and Adventure Trailers (JK Habitat) have teamed up to offer a much less expensive, lower profile, and lighter weight hardtop-replacement camper option.

Ursa Minor J30
Ursa Minor J180
Adventure Trailers JK Habitat
If this is still a bit too basic for you, a new alternative that's closer in concept to the EarthRoamer is the new Action Camper by Thaler Design that has generated a lot of buzz recently.  Your Jeep will weigh 440lbs. more with this cabover camper installed, but that will be offset by a wallet that's lighter by roughly $53,000 (not counting the Jeep).


Action Camper cab-over camper

Another option would be offroad-capable camper trailer, of which there are dozens to choose from.  I happen to own a Lifetime Tent Trailer which I tow behind my own JK on challenging trails with only a few customizations to increase ground clearance by way of larger tires, but even Jeep's Mopar division offers camp trailers designed specifically for your Jeep.


Mopar Jeep Camper Trailer

Friday, November 2, 2012

SEMA 2012 Jeeps


The SEMA show always has the most extravagant show vehicles and the latest products from the automotive aftermarket industry.  The Jeep Wrangler JK was quite possibly the most popular vehicle in the show, due to the popularity and ease with which it is modified by its owners.

Expedition Portal published a great collection of photos of 2012 SEMA Jeeps: