Photo by Melissa Spiering
As you might expect, driving this particular Wrangler Unlimited on the highway takes some getting used to. It's noisy at speed with the V-8 at full song, and visibility is marginal with the soft top and rear spare carrier obscuring the rear view. Mileage is spectacularly poor--somewhere around 11 mpg. However, unlike some Jeeps we've been in, it stays in its lane at higher speeds, actually rides comfortably, and has good enough seats to stay in the saddle until the tank is empty. Highway mileage is about the same as a lot of tow vehicles, so driving to an event would make sense. And once there, brother, you're in business.
The term "unstoppable" is never actually true, but it would take an insanely steep, rocky trail to stymie this rig. With a 9500-pound winch, lockers at both ends, dual batteries, full-size spare readily accessible, and a suspension that can put tires on top of boulders, we would expect to make steady progress wherever we pointed it, one way or another.
Tires are 37-inch Goodyear Wrangler MT/R, mounted on 17-inch Race Line beadlock wheels. Hu
We did have a chance to do some moderately challenging 'wheeling in the California State OHV area at Gorman, where we took a few photos of the 2008 JK in its element. It's not always easy to drive someone else's Jeep, especially when it's been heavily modified, and we were out there alone, with no tools, hustling to beat an incoming storm. So we took it easy. Still, there are a few pretty good obstacles at Gorman, including a narrow rock sluice, a couple of very steep hill climbs, and a deeply rutted unauthorized uphill route so dug out that usually one tire ends up five feet in the air. This JK walked all of it in 2WD, on ground clearance and rear locker alone. We never pulled the pins on the anti-roll bar links, never turned the front hubs to "lock," and never took so much as one psi out of the tires. We just never needed it. Wherever we went, all four tires stayed on the ground. So we know it will take some extreme terrain before you get to back-up-and-try-a-different-line territory.
While we were there, we blasted about a bit on the deserted dirt roads, and that was fun, but this rig is not a racer or a pre-runner--much more of a go-slow-but-never-stop rock crusher. Here are a few of the particulars:
37x12.50R17LT load range D Goodyear Wrangler MT/R on 17-inch cast alloy Race Line wheels, beadlocked, with manual hubs. With these tires, ground clearance is in the neighborhood of 18 inches at the front diff and 14 inches at the rear shock mounts.