It’s human nature to fear the unknown. A loud crash in the night, a rustle in a dark alley, or for Jeep purists, a new Wrangler with even more technology than the last.
The ’18 Jeep Wrangler JL was a highly anticipated platform. While fears of an independent suspension and Unitbody construction swirled online for years, the transition from the JK to the JL would be less traumatic than the Dark Web would lead you to believe.
Like with virtually every Wrangler platform before it, there’s always a vocal branch of the Jeep community that believes the all-new iteration will never live up to its predecessor. That’s one of the reasons adventures such as the Nitto Tire 2018 JL Experience garner so much attention. As was the case with the JK Experience trips before it, the JLX (as it’s called) is designed to showcase the versatility of the modern Wrangler platform. It does so by covering 1,000 miles of on- and off-road terrain. There are no trailers allowed, so every Jeep on the trip must be fully self-sufficient.
For the first annual JLX, the group would be made up largely of aftermarket manufacturers and a few invited guests. It would serve as a proving ground of sorts for not only the new JL, but for a myriad of bumpers, axles, and suspension systems now offered for it. Leading the trip would be EVO Manufacturing president and JLX founder Mel Wade. Starting in Primm, Nevada, and ending just outside of Las Vegas, the multi-state adventure would cover hundreds of miles of desert two-tracks, hit extreme rockcrawling trails, and take advantage of the amazing and uniquely Southwestern backdrop.
We were fortunate to catch a ride with the suspension pros at JKS Manufacturing and got a firsthand look at how the JL holds up in extreme terrain. Follow along as we highlight some of our favorite stops along the way and dig into what we learned about the cutting-edge Wrangler JL.
PSC Motorsports’ JL Sport rolled out of the Tribe 16 shop just a few days before the trip. The Tribe crew installed the Dynatrac ProRock XD60 and 80 combo, along with crafting the armor, a 33-gallon fuel cell, and the suspension from scratch. The hydraulic-assist steering kit, however, was a fresh-off-the-shelf system that PSC is now offering for the JL platform. This particular kit deletes the OE electronic pump for a more traditional engine-driven configuration and swaps out the aluminum steering gears for the company’s XD Big Bore box. Obviously, PSC owners Tom and Kim Allen were not afraid of pushing the limits.
The big takeaway of the trip is how impressive the Rubicon platform is right out of the box. While we wish there would have been a two-door and a 2.0L four-cylinder in the mix, it just wasn’t in the cards. Despite the new Wrangler being slightly larger than the outgoing JK, it didn’t seem to make much difference on the trail. The eight-speed transmission also seemed to be a game-changer, as few were complaining about the power on- or off-road. As is the case with the JK, the JL’s steering system struggled when the frontend was locked off-road, and with 37-inch tires in the mix. Overall, it was exciting to see how well this new platform is working, and we look forward to watching it evolve over time.