Hi-Lift's Adventure Proven JL
Out of the box, you would be hard-pressed to find a more off-road capable SUV than the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. This has proven to be even more true with the 2018 and newer JL platform. While we’ve featured plenty of heavily modified JL’s over the years, we’ve also been around just as many mild builds that get the job done quite well. A great example of this build-what-you-need approach can be found with a company-owned vehicle that we’ve spent a good bit of time around.
It’s a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon that’s owned and wheeled by the crew at Hi-Lift. While most of you are probably familiar with the brand known for “The Original Power Tool’’ you may not know that the company is full of off-road enthusiasts. Sure, they originally picked up the JL to create a new line of Jack mounts and accessories. However, it didn’t take long before the team had committed themselves to partake in some serious trail adventures.
One of the biggest being a Nitto Tire JL Experience. A trip known to push drivers and vehicles to the limit. With that being the case, Hi-Lift set out to build a Jeep that would optimize what was already there from the factory. Upgrading the JL in just a few key areas, the company has been able to not only prove out it’s new product line of JL-specific upgrades, but in a way, showcase just how capable the JL is with a few key modifications.
One of the weak points on the JL platform is the factory front axle. Helping to address some of the shortcomings are RCV Performance axleshafts along with a full axle truss from Artec. The steering also got a major boost by way of a Steer Smarts tie-rod and draglink set.
You don’t need much lift to run a 37-inch-tall tire on the JL Rubicon. This is primarily thanks to large wheelwell opening and the highline fenders that come standard on the Rubicon edition. Helping provide extra ground clearance and suspension travel is a 2.5-inch lift from Skyjacker. Paired with Skyjackers M95 shocks, the Jeep has a nice balance of performance and stability both on-road and off.
A proven setup that we see time and time again is the 37x12.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler tire combined with a beadlock wheel. For the Hi-Lift JL, it’s running a Raceline Monster series beadlock with a custom red finish. While there’s no question that this combo has some serious trail scars, it’s been absolutely trouble-free over all of the Jeeps adventures. As one of the most rugged and reliable mud-terrain radials on the market, the Trail Grappler continues to be a staple for those chasing serious off-road adventure, but don’t want to sacrifice on-road comfort.
To ensure the back of JL stays protected and hauls the full-size spare required for trips such as the Nitto Tire JL Experience, the Jeep was upgraded with a Vanguard rear bumper from JCR. This tire-carrier bumper combo takes the load carrying duties of the spare tire away from the tailgate and transfers them to the rear bumper. A popular and somewhat necessary upgrade for those chasing more extreme off-road adventures.
While the white paint of the Jeep hides the trail scars nicely, one peek underneath and you’ll see that this is no typical show rig. Thankfully, the damaged parts beneath the vehicle are all built for battle. From the EVO Mfg full underbelly skidplate system to the bolt-on JCR rocker guards, Hi-Lift made sure the critical areas of the JL were protected on the trail. After all, it’s much easier to get a new skidplate re-coated than replace a cracked oil pan on the trail.
Up front, you’ll find a JCR Crusader Series front bumper paired with a Warn Zeon 10-S winch. The recovery-tool was fit with the popular Factory 55 Flatlink. Adding a little extra shine on the trail are an assortment of LED lights from Rigid Industries.
The inside of the JL is fairly conservative with only a few factory upgrades such as the 8.4-inch touch screen. One handy feature that was added to the dash was the 67 Designs phone mount.
Attached to the back of the factory sport cage was Hi-Lift’s Trail Trak system. This clever setup allows you to attach a 48-inch Hi-Lift Jack vertically inside the vehicle. Holding the Power Tank and Rotopax are the Universal Mounting Hubs that work exclusively with the Trail Trak system. We like that the Trail Trak essentially takes advantage of unused space and does so in a safe way that doesn’t rob from the cargo area.
Of course, a Hi-Lift Jeep wouldn’t be complete without one of the company's longest running Jeep accessories, the Jack mount for the hood. This hinge-mounted setup shown here is securing one of Hi-Lift’s 48-inch X-Treme Jacks, a tool we’ve had many great years of use and experience with.
Aside from a little software update from HP Tuners, the powertrain on this JL remains largely untouched. Though we concede that the 3.6L makes good power, the eight-speed automatic is the hero in this equation as it allows the Jeep to still be extremely versatile on-road and off, despite the fact the original 4.10 differential gears remain in place. With so many trips under it’s belt, it’s nice to see a Jeep build that proves that you don’t necessarily need an over-the-top build to tackle amazing adventures.
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