LIGHTING UP MY LIFE
Narva recently launched its Ultima 215 LED driving lights with a focus on transport as well as recreation. Matt Wood puts a pair to the test
RECENTLY, OWNER//DRIVER managing editor Greg Bush and I found ourselves contemplating a couple of boxes sitting on his desk. Inside them were a pair of new Narva Ultima 215 LED driving lights. It was clear that we were going to need to hook them up to something to try them out.
We could’ve engineered a way of installing them on Bushy’s wife’s Hyundai Getz, but I reckoned that adding nearly six kilos of driving lights to the front bumper may have had a detrimental effect on driving dynamics. Would’ve looked cool though!
I don’t have a spare prime mover lying around, however I do have access to an old Land Rover which turned out to be the best option for seeing just how much these babies light up the night. Given the appalling performance of the stock headlights on the Landy, the old girl needs all the help it can get in the lighting department.
Narva is touting these lights as being just the ticket for four-by and transport applications. Funnily enough, four-by owners everywhere these days seem pretty keen to cover the front of their vehicles with multiple lights and light bars. Which does kind of make me wonder just how much off-roading these people actually do at night?
Trucking however requires better than average lighting. Between Australia’s kamikaze wildlife and the somewhat questionable state some of our road network, having a daylight view down the road in the wee hours of the morning is invaluable.
The Interweb is packed with cheap LED light bar and driving light options. And, for the most part, if
you’re just wanting to make your 4x4 look a bit more macho or you like blinding errant motorists when required, then these cheapies may suffice. But if you actually use them for their intended purpose, then quality lights really are worth the extra dosh.
While the amount of light created and the spread of the beam is important, durability is the biggest advantage of going for a premium light. High-powered spotties create a lot of heat, especially when they’re on for extended periods of time; quality lights tend to evacuate heat better than the cheapies.
The other thing to take into account is the durability of the housings and mounting brackets. Driving lights cop a pounding on rough roads and are constantly out in the elements, you need something that is not only going to stay bolted to your bullbar but is also going to cope with a constant barrage of heat, dust, rain, spray, and maybe even the occasional dose of kangaroo guts.
Which brings me to the Narva Ultima 215s. They’re a pretty hefty light; each one weighs in at 2.8kg. They measure 215mm in diameter (I know, it’s obvious from the name) and need 235mm of vertical space to be mounted. Given their size, they are pretty shallow space wise with a depth of 112mm.
The housings are made from diecast aluminium and the mounts are stainless steel with three mounting bolt holes. The light housing also features a Nitto breather vent in the back, which prevents dust and water getting inside the light while still allowing it to vent.
Narva claims that a pair of 215s put out one LUX of light at a distance of 900 metres. Each light uses 33 separate 5-Watt LEDs to create 10,500 lumens.
The hybrid beam pattern is meant to provide a good usable balance between spread and distance, which makes them a pretty good option for a prime mover as you get the performance without having to have multiple light sources.
The LEDs are covered by a fiveyear warranty.
I tend to be a bit of a butcher when it comes to wiring, so I elected to get the guys at the TJM Hendra store in Brisbane to install the wiring loom properly. Young Ash, the resident sparky, waded through all the manky Land Rover wiring to install the ‘Extreme Duty’ plug-and-play wiring harness and relays. I might also add that he managed to do it with a lot less swearing than I would have. And unlike my last attempt, nothing caught fire.
A bit of welding was needed to get some mounting tabs on the bullbar as the light size meant that the lights wouldn’t fit between the crossbars of the bullbar. Adjusting the angle of the lights is pretty easy. It’s simply a matter of loosening the pivot mount handle and tightening again, no mucking about with spanners or screwdrivers.
A clip-on protector keeps the lens safe from flying rocks and sand blasting.
The 215s also have a running light feature that illuminates when the park lights are switched on, which is a nice, little safety bonus.
Once the lights were installed, I have to admit they certainly looked the part. My off-road credibility soared; I just needed a big beard, a book of road kill recipes and a bush hat to top off the look.
As you’d expect, once out in the bush they work exceptionally well. I don’t have a tape measure long enough to tell you if the range estimates are accurate, but a couple of sets of these on the front of a prime mover should be more than enough to pick out any potential hazards lurking in the darkness. The light quality and clarity is exceptional.
However, while performance is important, it’s the build quality and potential durability that caught my eye. These things are very well-made. The Landy uses an Isuzu 4BD1 engine to haul itself around, which admittedly is a tough old donk and it will no doubt run forever.
The downside of the 4BD1 is that it thrashes about in the engine bay trying to eat its own engine mounts. The rubber suspension mounting system of the Narva 215s does an awesome job of soaking up any vibrations. The beam stays rock steady, even if my teeth were rattling.
Impressions are that these lights are a pretty tough item. Performance is also impressive, however the standout with these lights really revolves around build quality. As for durability, if anything was going to break them, that old Landy will!
“… if anything was going to break them, that old Landy will!”
Narva’s new Ultima LED 215 driving lights look the goods for transport applications
These are big lights, so a little welding was required to fit some mounting tabs
Ash, TJM Hendra’s resident sparkie delves deep into the dark realms of Land Rover wiring
Clearly the Land Rover headlights are crap, but the 215s make a difference for high-beam work. Build quality is what stands out the most
A ‘light pipe’ acts as a running light when the vehicle park lights or low beams are on. The light bar below the lights is from Narva’s Big Red budget range
Okay, so it’s not the Strzelecki Track, but I’m sure you get the idea. It’s a hybrid approach to provide both depth and width to the beam