Saturday, December 29, 2012

Extreme Barbie Jeep Racing

And now for something completely different - Extreme Barbie Jeep Racing from RockBouncer:

Moab Tour 2012 with Indiancars and American Expedition Vehicles

Indiancars seems to be the French equivalent to American Expedition Vehicles with their tasteful, well-engineered Jeep conversions such as the modernized Jeep Honcho (Omaha) pictured above.  This appears to have been created from a Mopar JK-8 pickup conversion kit, further upfitted with AEV suspension and bumpers, and then customized with Indiancars' own body accessories.  They also perform HEMI conversions for those who want to liquify their rear tires, as well as less radical Wrangler customization.

AEV recently posted a video of their 2012 Moab Tour with the Indiancars crew and the JK Brute Double Cab Wrangler pickups:

Moab, Utah is definitely on my "bucket list" to visit one day.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Truck Trend's In-Depth Look at the 10th Anniversary Rubicon

I've written about the 2013 10th Anniversary Rubicon Edition of the Jeep Wrangler JK before, but more and more information keeps coming out on this world's-best factory-equipped 4x4.  Truck Trend Magazine has published perhaps the most in-depth review of this new special-edition Jeep in their April 2013 issue.  You can find it reprinted here on their website along with a huge collection of high-resolution photos of the Rubicon on the Rubicon.

Truck Trend's author Trevor Reed was definitely impressed with the Jeep's capabilities, as well as the majesty of the Rubicon Trail.  He wrote:
The jeep named for the off-roading heaven known as the rubicon trail is getting ready to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Back in 2003, it seemed impossible that a company would be willing to take the chance on building a special edition for rock-crawling with a 4.0:1 low-range transfer case and locking axles. Jeep took that leap of faith, and it's been a success ever since.
To celebrate a decade of fulfilling factory-built fun, Jeep is building a special 10th Anniversary Edition of its Rubicon models. In addition to all the standard features that made it a hit, such as the ultra low-range gearbox, electronic locking front and rear solid axles, and electronic front anti-roll bar disconnect, the special edition comes with additional items that are both functional and fashionable.

Editors were impressed that the Rubicons' offroad abilities surpassed even their high expectations:
The constant obstacles of the Rubicon Trail are no joke, but thanks to spotting help from trail guides associated with Jeep Jamboree USA, and the capability inherent in the low-geared Jeeps, the drama was limited to the scraping of skidplates and rock sliders with some clunks -- not surprising -- as the trucks dropped off rocks while we plodded along the trail.
. . .
The four-doors may have had a more challenging time than our short Jeep, but no one got stuck, broke parts, or caused damage to body panels. The expected scratches on some of the trucks' plastic fender flares were about the only changes other than a coating of trail dust at the end of the day.

But what surprised them most was its on-road refinement, given its focused intent on offroad abilities:
It was a lot smoother than one might expect from a dual solid-axle truck that performed off-road acrobatics earlier that same day. You might assume a truck with live axles front and rear and large chunky tires would be a handful at highway speeds, but Jeep has done a great job of tuning the suspension. The Jeep Rubicon's powerful engine and predictable handling make it a comfortable daily driver that can get you to the trail and back -- and the 10th Anniversary Rubicon lets you do it in a unique style you can't get with any other model.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Is Winch Line Acceptable for Towing?

Expedition Overland recently blogged about an eye-opening incident in which proper use of their recovery winch became an issue.  WARN even shared this story on their Facebook page because this is such an important lesson.

After the trailer nearly pushed their Land Cruiser off the side of the trail due to slippery circumstances, another 4wheeler offered to help right the vehicle by hooking the Land Cruiser's winch line to his truck's bumper and pulling.

A recovery winch is plenty strong to extract a vehicle, but it is not intended to be used as a tow device.  The shock-load forces that travel through tow straps to the recovery points on your vehicle are many times greater than the steady-state forces that a winch exerts during a proper recovery.  The winch drum's brake is not designed to absorb forces beyond the winch's rating and could result in damage to your expensive winch.

WARN's own advice:
WARN: When you introduce a quick, sudden load to a winch, that's called a "shock load." Imagine taking a piece of rope in both hands, then quickly pulling it taught-that's a shock load. Shock loading is very stressful on a winch's internals. Proper winching gradually places a load on the winch, which is how it is designed to be used. You should never use a winch rope for towing due to shock loading. While you may have the best intentions of gradually introducing the load while attempting to tow a vehicle, the vast majority of the time it doesn't happen that way, and the winch will receive shock loads. Always use a proper tow strap for towing. For those attempting a recovery with a strap, be sure to have the proper unit as well. Recovery straps will have a bit of elasticity to them that allow for that rubber-band effect that aids in recovery. Tow straps do not have that elasticity.

I have a WARN M8000-S winch on my own Jeep's WARN Stubby Rockcrawler Bumper.  The winch itself is rated for an 8,000lb. line pull, and the synthetic WARN Spydura synthetic winch line is designed for a 10,000lb. winch, but I use an inexpensive Smittybilt recovery strap rated for 30,000lb. pulls when I'm towing vehicle-to-vehicle.  The WARN front bumper has two ultra-strong recovery points to attach D-ring clevis shackles included in the WARN recovery kit.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Jeep Wrangler "Power Within" Commercial

Here's another great Jeep Wrangler commercial:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

TeraFlex Tech: Choosing a Lift for Your Jeep

Teraflex has put together a great video to help Jeep owners determine the right suspension lift for their Jeep Wrangler JKs.  There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right setup, including tire fitment, ground clearance, performance on various types of terrain, budget, and even just physical appearance.  This video outlines the various considerations that go into sorting out the broad selection of suspension options.  Other than an idiotic comment about Suzuki Samurais at the 9:12 mark, it is a very well-done video:

Choosing the right suspension is a topic I've discussed before, and while I did not find that Teraflex's options were right for my own Jeep, the information they share in their video will be very helpful in determining what's right for yours.  Other Teraflex videos in their series are also worth viewing, such as the one I included in a previous post about choosing the right size tires.

AutoWeek Drives the Jeep Mighty FC Concept

I've written about the Jeep Mighty FC Concept before, and the rest of the automotive press continues to ravely review this fun, unique concept truck that has taken the automotive world by storm.

AutoWeek Magazine has produced a video of their ride and drive in the Mighty FC.  You can watch the video that accompanies their drive review article here on their website.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jeep Wrangler Moab Wins 2013 Four Wheeler of the Year

Four Wheeler Magazine's annual Four Wheeler of the Year award is hotly contested among 4x4 manufacturers because the winner boasts major bragging rights since Four Wheeler is the definitive authority on unbiased 4WD information.  To be eligible for inclusion in the test, the editors state the following:
The purpose of our 39-year-old Four Wheeler of the Year competition is to test and rate all-new or substantially-revised sport utility vehicles. The goal of this test is to assist you in your SUV buying decision, or at the very least, keep you up to speed on what's new in the SUV world and how that newness works. To be eligible, each vehicle must also have a two-speed transfer case, a production run of at least 1,500 vehicles available in the U.S., and be on sale by January 15, 2013.
It's unfortunate that most of the SUV market has abandoned their roots as true off-road-capable vehicles, and have rather focused on churning out glorified AWD station wagons with rugged-looking bodies.  Thus, only Jeep produced any new or substantially-revised vehicles that qualified for the 2013 Four Wheeler of the Year comparison: the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk and the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Moab.

I've already written about the Moab Edition of the Wrangler, and while it does not have all of the offroad capabilities of the Rubicon (which is now celebrating its 10th anniversary) it is still a nice big step above the standard Wranglers because of its uprated steel bumpers, more offroad-oriented tires, and most importantly, its available rear differential locker.

In almost all offroad terrain, a proper pair of solid axles will put independent suspension to shame.  Jeep has spent over 70 years refining the onroad ride and handling of their open-top solid-axle 4x4 to the point that it gives up little to the independent front and rear suspension in the Grand Cherokee and its other competitors.  The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is still a decent offroad machine, but in Four Wheeler's own words:
In the end, the Moab dominated the Trail Performance category of scoring, which helped give it the win over the very capable Trailhawk. If you're looking for a vehicle you can comfortably commute in all week and then wheel on the weekend, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Moab would serve you well. Strong power, an array of comfort features, and good fuel mileage make it easy to drive daily. The flexible suspension, grippy tires, and locking rear diff help make it easy to wheel. It's a well-rounded machine with incredible off-road capabilities, and it's our 2013 Four Wheeler of the Year.

Of course, if you're looking for the most capable 4x4 straight from the dealership, the indisputable leader is the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.

Four Wheeler's Ultimate Factory 4x4 Shootout

Four Wheeler Magazine's annual Four Wheeler of the Year award is a heavily contested bragging right because Four Wheeler's test emphasizes real-world offroad capability in addition to day-to-day utility over brand cachĂ© or the number of cupholders.  It is an honest-to-goodness comparison of the contenders' hardware and capability, but the competition is only open to new or significantly improved vehicles.  This has made it hard to determine how all of the currently-available new vehicles directly compare.  In Four Wheeler's own words:
With every Four Wheeler of the Year competition comes the inevitable deluge of mail from our readers asking how we selected the vehicles we did and why we don’t test every 4x4 on the market. Because OTY is setup to only evaluate those vehicles that are all new or significantly revised, we decided a new shootout was in order.
To answer our OTY critics, we partnered with our friends at and invited every current 4x4 offered with a factory off-road package to Michigan to battle head-to-head for off-road package supremacy. This test would focus primarily on wheeling, with none of the scoring taking in to account how smooth of a highway ride these rigs offer, whether they have heated seats, or which truck has the best stereo. No sir, this shootout is solely about function on the trail.
These new criteria to test the best new vehicles in their most-upfitted offroad packages produced seven entries, of which four were pickup trucks and three were SUVs:
  • Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
  • Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
  • Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
  • Nissan Xterra PRO-4X
  • Ram Power Wagon
  • Toyota 4Runner Trail
  • Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series.
The seven contenders
This is a great cross-section of the 4WD market, and every single truck on this list has serious off-road abilities.  The only vehicles that I think are missing from this list are the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra (General Motors declined the invitation to participate), the Toyota FJ Cruiser (which is equipped nearly identically to the 4Runner in this test, and which has already been demonstrated as inferior to the Jeep Wrangler in the 2007 Four Wheeler of the Year competition) and the Mercedes-Benz G-class Geländewagen (which was recently compared to the Wrangler).

The Power Wagon and the Raptor gave the Rubicon some serious competition, but the Jeep came out the winner while costing over $10,000 less than either.  Admittedly, each of these vehicles is best-suited to very different needs, but in all-around performance the Jeep was found to be the most well-rounded and offroad-capable truck you can buy.

The best 4x4 you can buy
You owe it to yourself to read the entire article, but an excerpt on the Jeep's win as 2013's Ultimate Factory 4x4 is reprinted below:

It took a week of grueling off-pavement testing, but once again it was Jeep’s Wrangler that proved which company is king when it comes to making the best factory 4x4. Reading like an enthusiast’s wish list, the Rubicon is equipped with solid axles, coil springs, monotube shocks, front and rear electric lockers, and an electronic disconnecting front sway bar, which allows the flexy Wrangler to make quick work of any trail and at a price that was the second lowest in the test.
The 285hp 3.6L V-6 had no issue motivating the Wrangler up our hillclimb, but like the solid-axle Power Wagon, it did suffer from some axlehop, just nothing as violent as we saw in the big Ram. As a side note, the 3.6L absolutely screams, however all that high-rpm power comes at the expense of low-end torque, which is one of the few areas that could be improved on the Wrangler. Thankfully the manual transmission’s gears are spaced nicely, so finding the proper gear was never an issue. It also helped having a manual on the hill descent where an incredible 73.1:1 crawl ratio negated the need for an HDC system.
Using a zigzag line, the uber-maneuverable Wrangler easily conquered the stairsteps, picking off one ledge at a time. The short 95.4-inch wheelbase could sometime feel a little wonky for those who just got out of the 149-inch Power Wagon, but the adjustment was easy and the stability of the Wrangler was impressive for its short length.
When it came time to tame the rock garden, there wasn’t a vehicle more at home. The compliant suspension conformed to the boulder path and the low gearing allowed the Wrangler to just mosey along. Thanks to ground clearance, good skidplating, and rock rails, you never had to worry about placing the Wrangler perfectly. It has a margin of error built in that no other factory 4x4 can match.
During our testing, we rarely felt any electronic nannies try to take control away from the driver. The Wrangler is a driver’s machine and it is impossible to get behind the wheel and not have fun. If you’ve ever driven a Wrangler on the trail, you understand and if you haven’t, you’ll never know what you are missing.
With an unmatched mix of standard features, affordable price, and overall capability, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon comes out the winner of our first-ever off-road package shootout, making it the Ultimate Factory 4x4.

Hot: Price, maneuverable, go-anywhere capability
Not: Limited cargo room, light on low-end torque
Our Take: The best factory 4x4 available

Monday, December 10, 2012

AutoWeek Drives the New Jeep Wrangler JK Moab

After an initial preview article, Autoweek Magazine has published a video review of the 2013 Jeep Wrangler Moab after a ride & drive media event at Jeep's proving grounds:

The Moab Edition is a bit more than simply a sticker & trim package, as it is essentially a more offroad-equipped Sahara model; it is available with upgraded front and rear bumpers from American Expedition Vehicles, Mopar rock rails, slightly more aggressive all-terrain tires, and an available rear differential locker.  It is not a dedicated offroad machine like the Rubicon model is, but it's a nice step up from a standard mallcrawler Sport, X, or Sahara models.

Will this be a one-year-only uprated model like the 2011 Jeep Wrangler Mojave, or will this be a standard production model that stands the test of time like the Rubicon which is now celebrating its 10th anniversary?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

10th Anniversary Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

2013 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition
It's hard to believe that we're already celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the introduction of the most capable Jeep model ever built: the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.  Jeep first created the TJ Rubicon model in 2003, and continued to improve the model over the years.  It was such a success, they made a Rubicon edition of the JK Wrangler from 2007 to present.  To celebrate this decade-long milestone (and as a friendly jab to the ribs of all the naysayers who insisted that a hardcore offroad version would never succeed) Jeep is releasing a special 10th Anniversary Limited Edition of the Rubicon this Spring.

Available as a 2-door Rubicon and a 4-door Rubicon Unlimited, the 10th Anniversary package upgrades over the standard Rubicon edition include slightly wider BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2 265/70R17 tires, heavier-duty front and rear bumpers, Mopar rock rails, red seats and tow hooks, a ventilated hood, and commemorative plaques, badges, and embroidery scattered throughout.  Much more than just a sticker package, the Anniversary Edition's uprated tires and winch-capable front bumper with removable end caps for additional offroad clearance are appreciated upgrades that really ought to be included on all Rubicon models.

Jeep outlines the 10th Anniversary Edition's upgrades on their blog.  The automotive media have really taken a liking to the 10th Anniversary Edition.  You can find articles written by Expedition Portal, Autoblog (twice), Car and Driver, The Car Connection, MotorAuthority, allpar, gizmag, Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Cars, Examiner, Kelley Blue Book, The Torque Report, World Car Fans, and countless others.

I'm not a fan of the gaudy red seats and tow hooks, but I appreciate the commemorative badges and the unique RUBICON hood decals.  I wish that Jeep would offer a factory-equipped version of the Rubicon with a 3-inch suspension lift and 35-inch tires, but today's litigious society would never allow them to get away with such a "dangerously tall" vehicle.  Oh well; the Jeep aftermarket industry is there to take over where the lawyers and judges cut Jeep's engineers off.

*** UPDATE 12/21/2013 ***

Motor Trend's YouTube video series IGNITION shot an in-depth review of the 10th Anniversary Rubicon on the Rubicon Trail.  As expected, the Jeep impressed with its world-class, benchmark-setting capabilities: