There are aftermarket suspension systems that deliver all the goods (improved wheel travel, handling, and ride, for example), but come with a larger than average price tag. With a reputation that precedes it, Carli Suspension is one such company known for offering some of the best suspension lifts money can buy. We recently stopped by Flynn’s Shop in Alexander, Illinois, to get the lowdown on Carli’s Backcountry 2.0 system, which was being installed on a Cummins-powered ’12 Ram 2500.
Advertised as a 3-inch lift kit with progressive-rate coil springs, an adjustable track bar, and front and rear Fox 2.0 remote-reservoir shocks, the Backcountry kit looks promising on paper. Out in the real world—and with the optional high-clearance control arms, torsion sway bar, dual steering stabilizers, and full Deaver spring pack on board—it’s damned impressive. Not only did the 3-inch Carli system produce one of the best riding, steering, and handling 3/4-ton Rams we’ve ever ridden in, it provided more than ample clearance for a set of 35-inch Nitto Ridge Grapplers mounted on 20x9-inch BMF Novakanes. Tag along for an in-depth look at the high-quality components that make up the Carli Backcountry 2.0 kit.
Carli Suspension’s Backcountry 2.0 system adds three inches of front lift height to ’10-’13 Ram 2500-model trucks and comes standard with progressive-rate coil springs, Fox 2.0 remote-reservoir shocks (front and rear), limit straps, and an adjustable track bar. Additional options that made their way into this install included Carli’s torsion sway bar; replacement full rear leaf spring packs (for a 1-inch gain in ride height); high-clearance extended control arms; and a high mount, opposing steering stabilizer kit. As configured, the Backcountry 2.0 kit in this article retails for $5,655 at time of print.
The guys at Flynn’s Shop got started by installing Carli Suspension’s differential guard, an item that provides both added protection for the front ring-and-pinion and a mounting bracket for the opposing dual steering stabilizer system. The 1/4-inch-thick differential guard bolts over the factory diff cover using the seven supplied M10 bolts (torqued to 25 lb-ft), and its installation also requires that the factory stabilizer clamp be relocated to the passenger side of the tie rod center bar.
Slightly longer than the factory units, Carli Suspension’s high-clearance extended control arms increase articulation. On top of that, the Carli units are considerably beefier than the OEM components. Fabricated from 1/4-inch-thick wall steel, they’re internally gusseted and welded for superior strength. And because the control arms are both passenger/driver-side and upper/lower-specific, Carli labels them accordingly to ease the installation process. We’ll note that during installation, the guys at Flynn’s had to loosen, lower, and slide the turbo downpipe rearward in order to access the frame side bolt for the passenger-side upper control arm.
Instead of incorporating rubber bushings in its control arms, the Carli units utilize fully sealed, greasable spherical joints that are completely rebuildable. The use of a spherical bearing eliminates the kinetic chatter associated with the factory rubber joints, increases articulation, and takes all the play out of the axle, yielding a smoother ride.
While the primary purpose of Carli’s high-clearance extended length control arms is to re-center the front axle, they also ensure clearance isn’t an issue with tires as large as 37 inches in diameter. Notched recesses rule out tire rub during instances of lock-to-lock turning. And, even though this truck’s owner went with 35s for the time being, it’s nice to know that room for growth exists should he decide to step up to 37s in the future.
Not only was the installation of Carli’s progressive-rate coil springs a two-man job, but it required that the top control arm bolts be left uninstalled, temporarily. With the coil springs being approximately three inches taller than the factory versions, it wasn’t enough to simply droop the front axle. Leaving the top control arm bolts (at the axle) uninstalled allowed the axle to be tilted downward enough to finagle the new coil springs into place. Additionally, the shocks had to be positioned inside the coil springs (and the remote reservoirs fed through the shock towers) during this process.
The coil springs included in Carli Suspension’s Backcountry 2.0 kit are shot-peened and preset specifically for this application (’10-’13 Ram 2500 diesels and ’10-’12 Ram 3500 diesels, respectively). Each coil is spaced differently, which results in the coil springs having a variable spring rate that lends itself to off-road agility, and a plush ride on the street. Contained within each coil spring sits a Fox 2.0 remote-reservoir shock absorber. The Carli-tuned Fox units feature extruded 6061-T6 aluminum bodies and reservoirs, with hard anodizing for utmost corrosion resistance. The guys at Flynn’s mounted the reservoirs parallel along the top of the framerail, in front of the shock and coil spring.
Opting for Carli Suspension’s torsion sway bar means replacing the entire factory sway bar assembly with one that allows the front suspension to move freely without giving up any control—and it improves ride quality substantially. The torsion sway bar is supported by laser-cut, powdercoated drop brackets that incorporate zero-give Delrin bushings and mount via Grade 8 hardware.
A pair of heavy-duty, 17-4 stainless steel end links secure the torsion sway bar drop brackets to the lower coil spring bucket on the axle and are adjustable via jam nuts. For the 3-inch Backcountry 2.0 lift, the end links needed to measure 6 inches, eye to eye. The end link bodies themselves are longer than factory in order to reset the sway bar engagement points.
As with any suspension lift, the track bar is a very important piece of the puzzle. Once installed, the extra three inches of lift result in the axle being shifted toward the driver side up to a 3/4-inch and back toward the cab as much as a 1/2-inch. Carli Suspension’s fully adjustable track bar is designed to push the axle back toward the passenger side of the truck and provide a stronger link with less deflection. Per Carli Suspension’s instructions, the folks at Flynn’s configured the track bar to measure 39 1/8-inches from the center of the Heim joint to the center of the uniball, before installing it.
The icing on the cake in this particular install was the addition of Carli’s high mount opposing steering stabilizer system. Designed for the T-style steering linkage, the system all but eliminates the bumpsteer associated with late model Rams and can be fine-tuned to accommodate virtually any tire configuration. The top stabilizer makes use of a billet clamp that attaches to the drag link, the bottom stabilizer fastens to the differential guard bracket (installed earlier in this article), and both stabilizers are nitrogen-filled and pre-charged to 200 psi.
Three rear leaf-spring options exist for Carli Suspension’s Backcountry 2.0 system: an add-a-pack that replaces the lower overload spring, a full spring pack, and a heavy-duty full spring pack. All spring packs are built by Deaver Spring to Carli’s specifications. This particular customer elected to run the full spring pack, which Carli claims softens the rigid-feeling rear suspension while adding an inch of ride height, minimizes axlewrap and hop, and is capable of allowing for 15 inches of suspension travel. The diesel-specific full spring packs utilize durable urethane bushings and steel crush sleeves.