One of the hottest SUV platforms for buildups is the Jeep Cherokee XJ. Produced from 1984 to 2001, these solid front-axle rigs are simple, plentiful, and inexpensive. They're just screaming to be modified and wheeled.
Naturally, one of the hottest mods is a suspension lift. Long-arm kits are very popular, and there are a number of these kits on the market. Rough Country Suspension Systems has just jumped in the long-arm fray by unveiling a trio of brand-new, very competitively priced kits for the XJ. They now offer a 41/2-inch kit with rear add-a-leaf and shackles (MSRP $1,099.95), a 41/2-inch kit with full rear spring packs (MSRP $1,199.95), and a 61/2-inch kit with full rear spring packs (MSRP $1,249.95).
We recently traveled to Rough Country's headquarters in Dyersburg, Tennessee, to install the 41/2-inch kit with full rear spring pack. This kit was developed using 32x11.50-15 tires on 15x8-inch aftermarket wheels with 33/4-inch backspacing. If you have extra bolt-on equipment like a winch and/or aftermarket front bumper, Rough Country offers optional polyurethane coil-spring isolator pads that help compensate for the added weight, and they boost ride height by 3/4 inch.
When we asked Rough Country what their goals were with this kit, they responded by saying, "Our goal was to bring an XJ long-arm kit to the market that incorporated a great design, strong components, and a market-leading price."
As you can see below, the Rough Country long-arm kit for the XJ did exactly what one would expect, and it dramatically improved suspension flex. On a 20-degree ramp we saw a 79-point improvement in the XJ's RTI score from stock to modified, and a 326-point improvement in modified form with the sway bar disconnected. That's a 16.7- and 68.8-percent improvement, respectively.
The height afforded by the suspension and larger tires translated to a 23-percent improvement in approach angle and a 31.3-percent improvement in departure angle. These are very welcome numbers when a rock ledge is in your path.
On the road, the XJ felt stable and controlled, with no weird bumpsteer after the install, albeit with a slightly stiffer ride as one would expect. On the rocks, the XJ crawled confidently, and there were no unhappy sounds audible as the suspension articulated.
The install itself was what we expected. Rough Country says this kit takes a professional mechanic about six to eight hours to install. This time should hold true for the 61/2-inch kit as well.
When it's all said and done, the Rough Country kit delivers, and it does so at an attractive price point.
Stock (28.3x8.90-15 Goodyear Wrangler RT/S tires)
RTI (in traveled): 48 RTI score: 474
Front/rear bumper to ground (in): 14/18
*Approach/departure angle (deg): 44/32
Modified (31x10.50-15 Dick Cepek F-C II tires)
RTI (in traveled): 56 (sway bar connected), 81 (sway bar disconnected)
RTI score: 553 (sway bar connected), 800 (sway bar disconnected)
Front/rear bumper to ground (in): 203/4/25
*Approach/departure angle (deg): 54/42
*Measured in a direct line from the tires, not including rear trailer hitch