More Than Just Air Lockers: A Look at ARB for the Expedition and Adventure Off-Roader
For 30 years, ARB has designed and manufactured 4WD equipment for the off-road and overland driver, building a reputation of quality, innovation, and practicality. In early February, I had the opportunity to tour the new ARB facility and spend a few hours reviewing the company's new product offerings with Chris Wood, ARB's sales manager. After the facility tour, I took delivery of ARB's generation four 4Runner for testing and evaluation, including a series of adventures in Idaho, Utah, California, and Arizona.
The ARB team moved into its new facility in Renton, Washington, in early 2006 with the goal of having more inventory space, more efficient material handling, and dedicated research and development offices. The result is impressive, with rows full of Air Lockers, Old Man Emu springs, IPF lights, new recovery equipment, and racks of bumpers. All of this effort is intended to provide faster shipping to ARB's distributors and a larger available inventory of its expanding product line.
Chris Wood spent the morning providing me with a detailed review of ARB's newest products, including HID and extreme-duty lighting, the new Xjack, recovery bags, Dakar springs, and rear bumpers. ARB is working hard to address the needs of the expedition market. After several hours of reviewing all of the great gear, Chris handed over the keys to the 4Runner, and I was on my way east and into the snowpacked Cascade Mountain Range.
Moving through Seattle's traffic was easy with the 4Runner's 4.7L V8 responding quickly to throttle input, and the four-wheel disc brakes ensuring safe stops. Continuing east, I gained elevation and left the city behind, winding through Interstate 90 en route to Oregon. The deep snow of the Cascades provided the first opportunity to test the Toyota's full-time 4WD system and traction control. The ARB 4Runner has numerous traction options available, including full-time 4WD with the center differential unlocked, 4-Hi with the center differential locked (CDL), 4-Lo with or without CDL, factory traction control, or either the front or rear differentials locked with Air Lockers. These options provided excellent driver control in all environments.
The first challenge for the 4Runner was a rocky trail in western Idaho, which included large boulders, several waterfalls, and a series of earthen and rock ledges. This allowed me to test the Old Man Emu suspension, 265/70R17 BFGoodrich All-Terrains, Air Lockers, and the ARB side rails. The only limit I found to the trail performance was the lack of transmission protection and somewhat limited departure angle. The vehicle is not intended to be a rockcrawler, but it performed well in that environment. The combination of locking differentials and traction control meant grip was never an issue, and the Bull Bar and side rails protected the sheetmetal. On the moderate trails, the Old Man Emu suspension was most impressive, with spot-on valving and spring rates controlling the heavy chassis and limiting pitch/roll and providing balanced articulation.