This Truck Might Just Make You Feel Like a Superhero: AEV Dodge Ram Prospector XL
If there’s one vehicle that should have a form-follows-function approach, it’s a truck. The workhorse of four-wheeled creatures – if it isn’t useful, then what is it? So when a company goes the extra mile to ensure their build improves upon a truck’s real-use capabilities it gets our attention. And that’s exactly what AEV has been doing for 20 years. In the case of the AEV Ram Prospector XL, form follows function and then packs an extra punch of engineering and awesomeness for good measure. So much so, that it feels you can do almost anything when driving it… basically, like a superhero.
20 Years of American Expedition Vehicles
Sparked by surprise of the low quality products he found available for his Jeep back in college, Dave Harriton realized there would be a market for higher-quality, better-engineered aftermarket components and AEV began. “We just couldn’t find the quality we wanted in the components we were looking for,” says Harriton. “So we started making our own.”
Making such well thought out and tested components quickly led them into relationship with Jeep/Chrysler/Dodge and specialty build projects were sent their way. By 2006, they’d won their fourth Design Excellence Award from Jeep at SEMA and by 2010 were launching a program to bring AEV turn-key manufactured vehicles directly to Jeep dealerships. In 2015 that led to the Prospector XL being released.
Based on a Cummins Ram 2500 4x4, the Prospector XL is the ultimate vehicle combining terrific daily-use functionality with maximum adventure-ready qualities. A key feature setting apart the “XL” from the regular Prospector model is its 40” tires, so showing up to the test drive I was expecting a truck I had to jump up into. But that wasn’t the case here. I came to find out that along with high quality manufacturing, AEV is also all about maintaining a stock-like ride quality, handling and servicing. They do this by starting from scratch and engineering parts that are OE or better.
Engineering the AEV Dodge Ram Prospector XL
“When we started looking at the Ram it was a real logical progression,” says Harriton. “We wanted it to drive like stock and the ethos of the suspension was ‘Don’t ruin the truck’.” While a typical truck on 40s would have about 8” lift, the Prospector ended up pulling it off with just 3” lift in the front and 2” in the rear. “It all started with the steering,” says Harriton. Relocating the steering connection to the top instead of on the bottom of the drag link enabled them to keep proper steering geometry all while making more room for those massive tires.
With the steering set and the lift established at 3”, there’s still an issue fitting 40s in at that height. AEV does it by moving the axle forward, all the while relocating the spring back to its stock position and utilizing the OEM spring. “Typical aftermarket would just be a new spring, a new shock and maybe some brackets. This is a whole different mentality,” explains Harriton. Retaining the original spring and changing the axle, track bar, and steering geometry are key factors that keep the AEV Prospector riding like a stock Dodge Ram. Of course, there’s also the fact that they’ve raised the roll-center about 5” and worked with Bilstein to create a shock that handles correctly with the Prospector’s larger, heavier tire.
Aside from ride height, AEV Prospectors come with a ton of other bonuses. A limited-edition AEV 20th Anniversary Ram Prospector XL is being offered at present, which is the model featured here. It’s AEV Premium Front Bumper, like everything else on this truck, is more than meets the eye. Stamped from 4mm-thick steel, similar to how an OEM would produce it, with reinforcement and engineering to enable it to withstand any load the truck could see. Fitted with a Warn winch and Vision X lights, the Anniversary edition comes coated in a premium e-coat paint rather than normal black powdercoat. This bumper is a far cry from those bulky ones made with a hand brake.
So How Does It Drive?
For someone who’s more used to driving classic cars, you’d think an off-road-capable diesel on 40s might be uncomfortable to drive - but I was right at home behind the wheel. More than anything, this truck made me feel like I could go anywhere and do anything. It had the driving manners of a stock truck on the highway, but the capabilities of so much more.
Putting the AEV Prospector XL through the paces at Hungry Valley’s off-road proving grounds made me begin to dream about all the places I could get, and things I could do. Confidently navigating steep terrain and sections requiring extreme articulation, I can’t think of much terrain this truck couldn’t navigate. It’s part of the reason why AEV regularly takes overlanding trips all the way to Artic with the Prospectors.
While AEV products can be purchased separately, a Prospector is hand-built by AEV and sold directly through Dodge dealerships. Pricing for the AEV 20th Anniversary Prospector XL starts at $30,957 above the out-the-door price on a 2017 Cummins Ram 2500 4x4 with the Big Horn or Laramie trim package, which will land you somewhere near $85,000 based on current MSRP.
Although some car enthusiasts favor a built-not-bought approach, there are many positives that come from buying a modified car directly from the manufacturer. Not only are AEV vehicles covered by a warranty, they can be financed into the car’s loan and are fully serviceable. Home-built cars can be difficult to find parts for and sometimes are nearly impossible for technicians to service. And warranty? Good luck. Not to mention having the peace of mind knowing that all of the components work together properly.
Farther Than the Norm
The more I found out about all the engineering, testing and thought that goes into each and every part AEV makes, the more I was impressed. “We sweat every little detail,” says Harriton. “You could take any component on there and I could talk to you for a day about what went into making that little piece.” The tow hook for example, it’s been corrosion tested, physically tested in all directions, and sized so you can’t put a shackle on it that’s not rated for the truck’s capacity. AEV geeks out on the little details – and that’s just how I want the people making my aftermarket parts to be.
2017 AEV 20th Anniversary Ram Prospector XL Details
|ENGINE||6.7L Cummins Turbodiesel|
|FRONT AXLE||AAM 9.25”, AEV Differential Cover, 4.30 gears|
|REAR AXLE||AAM 11.5”, AEV Differential Cover, 4.30 gears|
|SUSPENSION||AEV 3-inch DualSport suspension system including: OE springs with 3-inch cast-aluminum spacers, radius-arm brackets that retain the front arms and relocate the axle one inch farther forward, billet aluminum driveshaft spacers, AEV track bar and raised tower mount, remote-reservoir Bilstein 5160 shocks with AEV-specific valving; rear 2-inch spring spacers, track-bar relocation bracket, swaybar end links, bumpstop spacers|
|TIRES/WHEELS||40x13.50R17 on 17x10 cast-aluminum Satin Bronze AEV Katla wheels|
|STEERING||AEV High Steer Kit, AEV Hydraulic Assist Kit|
|LIGHTING||Bumper-mounted 20-inch Vision X LED bar, Vision X foglights|
|ACCESSORIES||Warn 16.5ti winch, AEV Raised Air Intake, AEV Bed Rack, AEV Premium Front Bumper (Satin Onyx Finish), AEV HighMark Fender Flares, AEV Heat Reduction Hood, AEV Auxiliary Switch Pod, Fold-Down Steps, Body Side Decal, 20th Anniversary Badging|
Find a dealer or get more info at aev-conversions.com.