Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Mount Logan Off-Road in Logan, Utah, recently acquired a new Jeep JK Wrangler Unlimited on which it installed a 2.5-inch Skyjacker suspension and LT295/70R17 Nitto Terra Grappler all-terrain tires. We borrowed it for a couple of days to see how everything works.
It works well. The LT295/70R17 Nitto Terra Grapplers are load range D (eight-ply) tires that are approximately 33.4 inches tall. Although they fit on a stock JK if you use the factory wheels, Mount Logan installed a 2.5-inch Skyjacker suspension and 1.5-inch wheel spacers to increase the track width a bit. The small amount of lift allows more articulation and uptravel.
The Terra Grapplers balanced up perfectly, requiring hardly any weight. We've found this to be the case with all Nitto tires we've ever used. They are among the truest tires available today. The Terra Grapplers are also heavier-duty than their D load range would suggest. With a maximum load of 3,195 pounds at 65 psi, the Nittos are entering load range E territory. They have strong sidewalls that will stand up to sharp rocks and sticks, but the sidewalls still bow respectably when aired down. Could they be the almost-perfect blend of strength and pliability?
The Nitto Terra Grapplers are a classic all-terrain tire. They work very well on wet and dry pavement, sand, rocks, and dirt. They don't work well in the mud. The tread blocks are siped and, while we didn't take photos of them doing so (it was too cold to get out for photos), they work very well in snow and ice conditions, supplying surprising traction in extremely slippery conditions. On the pavement, the tires exhibit little if any noise and ride very well. Mount Logan Off-Road reports braking performance improved over stock.
The JK Wrangler Unlimited was an eye opener too. We didn't go to Jeep's introduction of the new Wrangler on the Rubicon Trail, so we hadn't had a chance to drive one before now. We had heard that the 3.8L V6 was underpowered compared to the venerable 4.0L six it replaced, that it wasn't going to work off-road, etc. These turned out to be bogus complaints. While the 3.8 isn't a V8, it runs better than the 4.0L in our '06 Rubicon did - everywhere. On highway, the heavier JK Unlimited was able to hold 75 mph on cruise control through the mountains. Our '06 couldn't. In Low range, the V6 supplied plenty of torque. The JK has a drive-by-wire throttle with an accelerator pedal with a long throw. We wonder if maybe people aren't depressing the loud pedal a little ways, then complaining that there's no power. On the JK, you need to step on the pedal (go figure). Would we like a V8? You bet. Are we unhappy with the 3.8? No
The Dana 44 rearend has 32-spline axles, and the Dana 30 frontend is beefed up too. The Rubicon has 44s front and rear. The transfer cases in all JKs have been redesigned with beefed-up cases and a fixed output. Will the Rzeppa-equipped driveshafts hold up? They don't vibrate, even when the vehicle's lifted, but we wonder if they'll stand up to off-pavement pounding.
The JK was very quiet inside, something new for a Wrangler. There were no rattles or squeaks and, besides the plastic everywhere, the interior was very comfortable. The driver seat manually adjusts up and down - an improvement over the TJ where some felt they were sitting in a hole when seated behind the wheel.
We like the new JK Wrangler Unlimited so much we purchased a new Rubicon. We'll keep you updated on the build.
The Nitto Terra Grappler tires, Skyjacker 2.5-inch suspension, and Jeep JK Wrangler Unlimited opened our eyes. This isn't a radical vehicle, but it will do everything 95 percent of off-roaders need it to do. It works superbly on the pavement and competently off-road. Tires work, suspension works, vehicle works. That's very good in our book.