CUS­TOM: MOPAR JEEP JK WRAN­GLER

Gen­uine off-road ac­ces­sories di­rect from the show­room.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

IN AN era where car com­pa­nies are serv­ing up spe­cial-edi­tion mod­els with sticker packs, black wheels and be­spoke floor mats, wouldn’t 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 there’s lit­tle else com­ing out of new car show­rooms with any true factory off-road cred.

Jeep’s 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 – 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 – 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/ Jeep’s MOPAR brand is a factory ac­ces­sories busi­ness, and the prod­uct doesn’t 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 – hell, you can even buy a Hemi V8 crate en­gine ready to in­stall. Things aren’t 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 that’s 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 – and fit­ment won’t af­fect your new ve­hi­cle war­ranty, ei­ther.

The MOPAR gear avail­able in Aus­tralia is also de­signed to be le­gal on your Jeep. You won’t 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. It’s no mon­ster truck like some of the Wran­gler cus­toms you’ll find on these pages, but it’s a sen­si­ble build us­ing the factory of­fer­ings. Tick all of these ac­ces­sories in­di­vid­u­ally and you’ll 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 don’t need all of them.

THE BEST BITS

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.

BET­TER SUS­PEN­SION AND TYRES GO A LONG WAY TO MAK­ING A GOOD THING BET­TER

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 they’re 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 you’re spend­ing hours be­hind the wheel in tough con­di­tions, the im­proved ride and han­dling from qual­ity shocks can’t 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 didn’t cope so well with the heavy mud and clay we en­coun­tered on our day out – 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 aren’t 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

THE RU­BI­CON IS THE BEST SHOW­ROOM OFF-ROAD VE­HI­CLE YOU CAN BUY

sills, we pre­fer the Ru­bi­con’s 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 we’ve pre­vi­ously suf­fered from in a Wran­gler when driv­ing through close scrub.

THE BEST GETS BET­TER

BET­TER 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!

WORDS MATT RAUDONIKIS PHO­TOS NATHAN JA­COBS

All up our test car has more than $15K worth of MOPAR kit.

Fox Rac­ing shocks and a two-inch lift make a good pack­age bet­ter.

Leather for the seats is the only change to the Wran­gler’s cabin.

The taller 285/70 LT, Valera-branded tyres and 50mm-raised coil springs come in handy on deeply rut­ted tracks.

MOPAR bumpers front and rear aid ground clear­ance as well as ap­proach and de­par­ture an­gles.

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