IN AN era where car companies are serving up special-edition models with sticker packs, black wheels and bespoke floor mats, wouldnít it be nice if some of the kit they fitted actually made your 4x4 better off-road? If the US-market F-150 Raptor is anything to go by, then the rumoured Ford Ranger Raptor has potential to deliver on this front, but thereís little else coming out of new car showrooms with any true factory off-road cred.
Jeepís JK Wrangler Rubicon is without doubt the best showroom-stock off-roader you can buy today. Better than average ground clearance, live axles front and rear, locked diffs front and rear, extra-low gearing, a front swaybar disconnect, and more aftermarket accessories than you could ever fit to just one car Ė it all combines to make it a killer off-road combo.
Clever car companies like Jeep have the massive aftermarket industry in its sights. It wants some of the millions of dollars enthusiasts are spending on their rigs to customise them to their individual requirements and tastes.
This is in part why manufacturers offer these dress-up option kits Ė to give buyers something special in their new vehicle.
Trust Jeep to be the company to bring you factory accessories that not only look different, but make your car better off-road. Chrysler/ Jeepís MOPAR brand is a factory accessories business, and the product doesnít end with seat covers, stickers and fluffy dice. In the USA, MOPAR will offer you long-arm suspension
kits with up to four inches of lift, heavy duty Dana crate axles, rock rails, front and rear bars, winches, and beadlock wheels Ė hell, you can even buy a Hemi V8 crate engine ready to install. Things arenít so liberal here in Australia, but the local arm of Jeep does offer a limited range of MOPAR products, and some of them will make your Jeep better off-road.
With such an enormous range of Jeep gear available from the aftermarket, why would you want to buy the MOPAR stuff which might seem a bit tame in comparison to some of the wild gear thatís out there? Being the factory brand, MOPAR accessories are factory backed, so if you get it fitted by your Jeep dealer it will be covered under your Jeep warranty. If you have any problems with it down the track, you just need to take it back to your Jeep dealer and it should be covered Ė and fitment wonít affect your new vehicle warranty, either.
The MOPAR gear available in Australia is also designed to be legal on your Jeep. You wonít find those four-inch lifts or beadlocks in the local catalogue, but there is still some great gear to improve your ride while keeping it on the right side of authorities.
To showcase some of the MOPAR kit available here, Jeep Australia kitted up this 2017 JKU Rubicon with a swag of it. Itís no monster truck like some of the Wrangler customs youíll find on these pages, but itís a sensible build using the factory offerings. Tick all of these accessories individually and youíll be adding more than $15K to the price of your new Wrangler, however, some of them can be packaged up to reduce the cost and, of course, you donít need all of them.
ASIDE from the leather seats and dress-up parts, the gear that really grabbed our attention on this car was the Fox Racing shocks with two-inch lift, and the 285/70-17 LT tyres. Basic suspension and tyre upgrades will make your 4x4 better off-road, and no other car manufacturer in Australia will offer this stuff.
Fox Racing shocks are top-shelf, and the brand can be found beneath leading Dakar, Baja and Finke off-road racing trucks. The shocks used here are a far cry from those massive bypass racing units, but theyíre far better than any OE shock absorber. They are bolt-in replacements for the OE Jeep shocks and work wonders to better control the Wrangler over rough terrain. When driving a stock Wrangler on corrugated gravel roads, you can feel the weight of the live axles oscillating under the chassis as the stock shocks struggle to control the unsprung weight. The Fox shocks do a much better job of this, delivering a more controlled and relaxed drive at speed over rough and corrugated ground.
When youíre spending hours behind the wheel in tough conditions, the improved ride and handling from quality shocks canít be over valued, as they make driving safer and more relaxed. Also, it will be more reliable and less prone to failure under tough conditions.
The 50mm-taller coil springs work with the taller 285/70 tyres to give added ground clearance, which came in handy on the deeply rutted tracks we drove on. The Valera-branded tyres feature a very conservative all-terrain pattern, as expected for a factory offering where quiet tyres matter. They didnít cope so well with the heavy mud and clay we encountered on our day out Ė front and rear diff locks will only get you so far when the tyres have no grip on the ground.
Further helping with ground clearance are front and rear MOPAR bumpers. These arenít the big, heavy duty, outback-style bars like many Aussie tourers will have, but they improve approach and departure angles. And, being steel, they are more durable than the plastic OE bars. Plus, they look a whole lot better and give you somewhere to mount extra lights. Tubular side steps protect the bodywork from damage; although, they are big and protrude out a long way to muddy your jeans. Instead, to protect the
sills, we prefer the Rubiconís solid yet slimmer factory rock rails.
The auxiliary lighting uses quality Hella halogen lights mounted on a bar affixed to the windscreen surround. You could just as easily mount LED lights or an LED bar up on it. We also like that the bar protects the A-pillars from tree damage, something weíve previously suffered from in a Wrangler when driving through close scrub.
suspension, tyres and ground clearance go a long way to making a good thing better, in terms of the Wrangler. As we said, the Rubicon is the best showroom off-road vehicle you can buy.
Having the ability to make these simple improvements using factory-backed accessories from quality suppliers would be reassuring for many enthusiasts who are unsure about which way to turn in the aftermarket maze. If only our local regulations would allow us some of the real good stuff from the MOPAR catalogue!
Front off-road bar: $2963.54 Rear off-road bar: $1814.36 Licence plate compliance kit: $299.72 Black grille: $651.11 Tubular side steps: $748.84 Windscreen-mount light bar: $536.11 Off-road lights: $636.95 Two-inch lift (Fox Racing shocks): $3964.60 Satin black tail light guard kit: $273.58 Tow bar: $531.78 Leather kit: $1687.50 17-inch Black Ops wheels: $1976.56 Tyre-pressure sensors: $476.36 285/70R-17 LT Valera all-terrain tyres: $1060 Authentic Jeep badge: $29.12 Roof Rack kit: $266.96 TOTAL: $15,280.15