If you’re at all familiar with American Expedition Vehicles (AEV), you already know what they can do for the Jeep Wrangler. Much more than simply a conversion company, AEV engineers suspension systems, exterior upgrades, interior accessories, and wheels for Jeep vehicles. It also offers its complete Hemi Builder Kit for those looking to perform a V8 swap. Now the company has waved its wand over the Ram 2500/3500 pickup truck.
The suspension underneath the AEV Ram is its own in-house design and offers some interesting mechanical details. Built exclusively for the 2500/3500 Ram truck, it features many of the engineering basics that were incorporated into the company’s well-respected JK Wrangler suspension system. The concept from its beginning on paper was to make it a dual sport system–to have excellent road manners as well as great off-road terrain handling capability. To do this, AEV worked hard to maintain the best possible suspension and steering geometry. In addition, it partnered again, as it had on its JK suspension system design, with Bilstein to create custom-tuned shocks for the AEV Ram suspension.
It would have been easy to make its own link bars and springs to achieve a suspension lift system, but that would have thrown away millions of dollars worth of research and design that the Ram brand has already put into the suspension and steering system underneath the truck. Instead, AEV retained the factory links and springs, and created a system that delivered a three-inch lift in front and a two-inch lift in the rear, while keeping the OE geometry of both the suspension and steering. Why? Because there are dozens of different coil springs for the Ram trucks and each spring is specifically designed to match the model of truck, depending upon trim level, engine choice, cab style, bed length, wheelbase, GVWR, and a handful of other specifications. There was no need to re-invent the wheel, so to speak. To design a taller spring to achieve the additional height in an aftermarket suspension system would also mean altering the on- and off-road ride quality already built into the Ram truck.
AEV used drop brackets front and rear to lower the pivot points of the link arms, brackets that brought the steering arm back up to its factory angle to avoid wear and tear on its joints at both ends from excessive angles, and used a bracket that did the same for the track bars. The drop brackets for the front and rear axle link arms not only allowed the axle to be lowered in relation to the frame, but also moved the front axle forward by an inch to provide more tire clearance. The lift was achieved by using specially designed eccentric-shaped cast aluminum lower spring spacers (they look sort of like a horse’s hoof) that allowed the suspension geometry to remain unaltered by keeping the coil properly clocked as well as correctly indexed horizontally in its factory position.
If you’re wondering how AEV fit 37-inch tires on a Ram truck with only three inches of lift underneath it, well, some very smart fender trimming and a set of proprietary flares provide just enough room for up travel without leaving a gaping hole when the truck is at rest. The Ram we drove that day was decked out in a set of AEV Salta HD wheels, inspired by those seen on international off-road race rigs. You can also get the AEV Ram with the company’s Katla wheels. Both are A356/T6 cast aluminum with valve stem recesses.
The nose of the AEV Ram was well protected by its modular Front Bumper System. Based on a 3/16-inch stamped steel superstructure, the bumper was outfitted with a top tube that accommodated a 20-inch LED light bar, heavy duty tow loops that were anchored to the frame horns, and side wings that offered multiple light options. The massive bulwark supports a winch up to 16,500-pounds capacity winch (AEV offers Warn products).
One of the most obvious enhancements was the AEV Raised Air Intake. Snaking from out of the passenger side of the front cowl, the snorkel-like UV-stable cross-linked polyethylene structure offered more than just deep-water fording capabilities. It’s designed to stay above the dust of the rig in front of the AEV Ram and away from the heat of the engine to deliver the coolest and cleanest air charge possible. To make it even better, our tester had the optional High Efficiency Dust Filtration System on top, making it look like a giant mushroom of particle trapping efficiency.
So how did it drive? Let’s start with the fact that AEV rig we drove was based on Ram’s recently re-introduced Power Wagon platform. Right of the bat, it possessed off-traction super powers such as electronic locking front and rear differentials, making the 4.10 geared axles a force to be reckoned with, especially when given a few more inches of ground and shod with a tall set of aggressive BFGoodrich Mud Terrain T/As.
Climbing even the steepest inclines we could find at Southern California’s Rowher Flats ORV Area was accomplished without trouble or spinning the tires by locking it down into four-low, with front and rear lockers active, and feeding the brawny 6.4L V8 Hemi just enough fuel to keep it chugging along, but not enough to make the tires do anything but bite into the landscape. Descent was only slightly less fun (we prefer climbing), but low gearing and the truck’s Hill Descent feature allowed us to simply point the truck down the mountain and let it do all the work, while trying to stay off the brakes unless absolutely necessary. On-road manners were, well, truck-like. Let’s face it, this is a ¾-ton pickup truck, but it’s ride quality (most likely due to the well-tuned coil spring suspension system) was posh for a nearly three-ton beast, and handling was on par with or better than other pickups its size we have navigated through suburbia.
All in all, we want more. One day was definitely not enough, and before it was over, we were asking how to get our hands on it for a full week’s test drive. You’ll know right after we do if that happens. In the mean time, we’re satisfied with the knowledge that AEV has improved on the Ram Power Wagon, a vehicle that was already a quite capable off-roader.