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  • First Drive: 2015 AEV Prospector Ram 2500 Diesel 4x4

First Drive: 2015 AEV Prospector Ram 2500 Diesel 4x4

Somehow, This ¾-Ton Off-Road Diesel Beast Drives Smooth Like a Stock Truck

Jan 21, 2016
Photographers: Trevor Reed, Drew Phillips
Driving a lifted diesel truck often means you have to put up with a harsh ride, bad on-road handling, poor steering, reduced braking, and the elimination of the factory traction and stability controls. The founder of American Expedition Vehicles, Dave Harriton, strives to eliminate these deficiencies with the AEV Prospector package for ’14-and-up Ram pickups with the 6.7L Cummins diesel engine. By adding on to the work done by the folks at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, AEV is able to take advantage of the factory engineering for a package that provides the lift needed for serious off-road work while delivering stable and safe performance.
The roots of AEV date back to 1991, when Dave purchased a ’91 Jeep Wrangler YJ that he stretched by 21 inches. This vehicle’s unique modification (and the off-road performance that resulted from it) led to awards and placements on the floor of the SEMA show, and the rest is history. Since that time, AEV has solidified its place as a company that can transform factory trucks into off-road beasts while maintaining the handling, stability, safety, and comfort of a relatively stock 4x4 that’s fresh off the dealer’s lot. In fact, you can buy a Ram and have it modified by AEV before you even take delivery.
Photo 2/27   |   001 2015 AEV Prospector Ram 2500 Diesel With KTM 1190 Adventure R Driving Off Road High Speed
The American Expedition Vehicles Prospector package for ’14-and-up Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups is a lot more than a “lift kit.” Instead of ditching the factory-designed parts that took thousands of hours (and millions of dollars) to develop, AEV takes advantage of this engineering. Each truck equipped with the DualSport SC Suspension System is designed so that it drives, steers, and rides just as well as a stock truck, even though it’s riding on 3 inches of lift above 37-inch off-road tires.
Photo 3/27   |   002 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel With KTM 1190 Adventure R
Photo 4/27   |   003 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel With KTM 1190 Adventure R Flatbed Rear View
The AEV Prospector system is available for ’14-and-up ¾- and 1-ton Ram trucks with a Cummins diesel or Hemi gas engine. Taking cues from the Jeep Wrangler suspension setups AEV has been producing for years, the Ram Prospector is designed to perform just as well as a stock truck, even though it’s riding over 37-inch tires. AEV Ram Prospector standard features:
AEV Premium Front Bumper
Warn Industries 16,500-pound winch
Front bumper lighting
AEV 3-inch DualSport SC suspension
AEV 17-inch alloy wheels
BFGoodrich 37-inch KM2 Mud-Terrain tires
Bed-mounted fullsize spare tire
AEV windshield banner
AEV anti-glare hood decal
AEV Prospector badge
AEV grille and tailgate badges
AEV cluster badge
Painted grille and rear bumper
Black fender flares
AEV logo headrests
AEV build plaque
AEV ProCal module

Dual-Duty Design
The Prospector package is made to suit everyone, from workers who need a lifted truck for remote off-road job sites to the retiree who wants to install a camper shell and travel the world to adventurers who need to tow a boat or fill the bed with motorcycles after a long work week. To unlock optimal off-road use without detracting from the factory performance and safety, the Prospector setup retains a number of suspension parts used on stock trucks.
Since Ram uses different spring packages for almost every variation of the 2500 and 3500 trucks, AEV takes advantage of the science behind those R&D selections. In front, factory radius arms are relocated and a billet aluminum spacer is used to move the axle forward by 1 inch. The stock springs are used along with unique coil spring spacers designed to clock the axle and keep the geometry within the design of the factory alignment, even with the added lift height.
The steering is built to reduce bumpsteer and correct the roll-center height of the front suspension with the use of a drag link, track bar, and a raised track bar tower designed by AEV. Rear coil springs are lifted with 2-inch blocks, and custom Bilstein 5100 shocks are used at all four corners. AEV worked directly with Bilstein to create shocks for the DualSport SC Suspension System that includes digressive valving for comfortable low-speed cruising along with firm performance for towing and high-speed off-road travels.
Photo 5/27   |   004 2015 AEV Prospector Ram 2500 Diesel Off Road Front View
Photo 6/27   |   005 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel AEV Badge Vision X LED Light Bar
The Prospector package comes with a painted grille and a non-glare AEV badge. An LED lightbar by Vision X that fits the unique bumper is optional.
Photo 7/27   |   006 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel 16500 Pound Warn Winch AEV Tow Hook
Hidden behind the AEV Premium Front Bumper is a 16,500-pound winch by Warn Industries.

Style and Strength
The AEV Premium Front Bumper is unique because it’s made of 3/16-inch stamped steel, which allows for the stylish curved appearance while providing maximum protection from obstacles. It includes tow hooks connected to the frame that are made of nodular cast iron (with a capacity of more than 30,000 pounds) and have a side load rating of 18,000 pounds. The bumper is also equipped with a 16,500-pound winch by Warn Industries and includes spaces for the factory fog lamps, or upgraded lamps by Vision X.
The optional Raised Air Intake (don’t call it a “snorkel”) is designed to feed cool and clean air directly to the engine by staying above the level of trail dust (along with keeping the charge dry during water fording). It can be ordered with a cyclonic pre-filter that spins while air is being sucked into the housing to fling dirt and other particles out before they can get into the intake tube. Along with working in trail ride conditions where you’re constantly driving through a cloud of dust from the lead trucks, the pre-filter helps keeps the air charge clean during long periods of idling at an active work or camp site.
Photo 8/27   |   007 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Stamped Front Bumper Fog Lamp
The stylish bumper is made from strong 3/16-inch stamped steel, which provides protection while allowing for a stylish appearance usually reserved for plastic parts. It’s designed to accept the factory fog lamps, halogen lamps by Vision X, or LED-powered Cannon lamps by Vision X (shown here).
Photo 9/27   |   008 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Front Bumper 30000 Pound Tow Hook
The tow hooks have sliders to prevent damage from obstacles and are rated to handle more than 30,000 pounds. They also have side-load ratings of 18,000 pounds.

Off-Road Adventures
Driving the AEV Prospector is much like piloting a stock truck—and that’s a compliment. The stable ride is welcome both on- and off-road, and the braking and steering response are excellent even with the increased ride height and large tires. The regular cab Ram 2500 flatbed we drove was fitted with a six-speed manual transmission and a 6.7L Cummins with stock programming, along with the standard AEV ProCal module that corrects for the tire size and other functions. The Prospector’s ride height was not overwhelming, and it was definitely welcome when we approached obstacles on the trails around the Rowher Flat Off-Highway Vehicle Area in Southern California. The truck was also very comfortable and predictable during tight U-turn maneuvers and street-style driving.
Since a KTM 1190 Adventure R motorcycle was mounted in the bed, we asked our friends at Dirt Sports + Off-Road to test out the high-tech traveling bike with a two-cylinder four-stroke engine that makes 148 hp. It uses Bosch MSC (Motorcycle Stability Control) with lean-sensitive traction control and antilock brakes to keep you and the 518-pound bike on the right path. You can see GoPro video of the ride on trucktrend.com.
Photo 10/27   |   009 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel 16500 Pound Warn Winch Bumper Mount
Photo 11/27   |   010 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Front Axle 3 Inch Lift Intercooler Fins
The front setup for the AEV DualSport SC Suspension System includes custom parts to reduce the body roll, bumpsteer, and roll steer that’s found on many suspension lifts. The kit includes a custom drag link, track bar, and a raised track bar tower, along with fins to direct air into the intercooler for the 6.7L Cummins diesel engine.
Photo 12/27   |   011 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Coil Springs Custom Bilstein Shocks
AEV works closely with Bilstein to build 5100 Series shocks specifically for the DualSport system. The digressive valving used offers good low-speed damping, with stiffness that increases along with the speed of the vehicle.
Photo 13/27   |   012 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Custom Front Suspension With Trailing Arms
The factory Ram radius arms are repositioned to move the front axle forward by 1 inch for optimal geometry with the suspension lift. This provides a more neutral impact response while allowing for clearance with 37-inch tires.
Photo 14/27   |   013 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Front Suspension Custom Coil Spacers
The DualSport suspension retains the factory springs since Ram trucks have more than 50 different combinations of front and rear coils based on the equipment packages ordered, payload, GVWR, and so on. By using 3-inch cast-aluminum spring relocation spacers, the setup takes full advantage of the factory engineering of the spring rates and frequencies, even with the additional height of the lift.
Photo 15/27   |   014 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Billet Aluminum Driveshaft Extension
A 1-inch billet aluminum spacer is included with the suspension lift to relocate the front axle for optimal performance of the steering and suspension systems.
Photo 16/27   |   015 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Flat Bed Rear View
The Ram 2500 we drove was fitted with a flatbed to demonstrate the flexibility of the platform. Whether you want a Ram fitted with a camper for overland world travels, a pickup to haul and tow toys, or a fully capable work truck, there’s a Prospector model ready for the task.
Photo 17/27   |   016 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Prospector Cummins Turo Diesel Badges
Photo 18/27   |   017 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel AEV Prospector Bull Badge
The Prospector package includes unique badging for Cummins-powered trucks along with the AEV bull badge found on the company’s other products.
Photo 19/27   |   018 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Rear Axle And Suspension
The Prospector’s DualSport SC rear suspension includes 2-inch rear coil spacers, bumpstops, a rear track bar relocation bracket, and sway bar endlinks.
Photo 20/27   |   019 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel And KTM 1190 Adventure R High Speed Off Road
We got to experience the effectiveness of AEV’s DualSport suspension at Rowher Flat Off-Highway Vehicle Area, north of Los Angeles, California. Except for the tall ride height, it’s hard to tell any differences between the suspension damping and stability of the Prospector compared to a stock Ram with a diesel engine—and that’s a very good thing.
Photo 21/27   |   020 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Cummins Engine
An AEV ProCal module is the only modification added to the factory’s 6.7L Cummins diesel engine. Along with correcting the speedometer for the 37-inch tires, the ProCal allows owners to increase idle speed during winching and recalibrate the tire pressure monitoring system for optimal performance of the stability control system.
Photo 22/27   |   021 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Raised Air Intake With Centrifugal Pre Filter
The AEV Ram Prospector is available with a raised air intake with a centrifugal pre-filter. Along with providing added height for water fording, the kit is designed to be tall enough to avoid trail dust from lead vehicles. The pre-filter also ensures clean air during extended idling during work in dusty conditions by spinning dirt to the outside of the housing so it can drop free of the intake.
Photo 23/27   |   022 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Interior Switch Gear
The Prospector we drove was equipped with a custom switch gear to operate a front locker, a rear locker, off-road lights, driving lights, reverse lights, and work lights.
Photo 24/27   |   023 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel AEV Fender Extensions
Front fender extensions designed by AEV provide protection from the wide off-road tires and match the styling of the Ram truck and the Premium Front Bumper.
Photo 25/27   |   024 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel AMP Research Powered Side Steps
Powered side steps from Amp Research are optional and make it easy to get into the lifted truck, and they tuck away for clearance during off-road adventures.
Photo 26/27   |   025 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Off Road Rock Crawling
Photo 27/27   |   026 2015 AEV Prospector Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel Rowher Flats OHV Off Road Trail And Ravens Flying
The AEV Ram Prospector provides 3 inches of lift while maintaining the factory suspension, steering, and stability controls. Our experience behind the wheel of the manual-transmission–equipped Ram 2500 included calm and collected performance both on- and off-road.

Sources

AEV
Commerce Township, MI 48390
248-926-0256
http://www.aev-conversions.com
KTM
Murrieta, CA 92563
http://www.ktm.com

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