Out of the box, the ’18 Jeep Wrangler JL is an absolutely impressive machine. While it might not look drastically different from the outgoing JK, it’s very much so an all-new Wrangler. As with any new 4x4, we were curious how the new JL would react to a mild lift and larger tires. Would it throw the same electronic fits as the outgoing JK if the computer wasn’t calibrated? How would the new electric-over-hydraulic steering system handle larger tires?
The list of questions went on and on. To find out for ourselves, we stopped by Low Range 4x4 in Wilmington, North Carolina. There, we followed along as the crew installed a Stage 1 2.5-inch Enforcer Overland Lift from EVO Manufacturing on an ’18 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport. EVO made its name in the Jeep world with its impressive line of armor and long-travel JK suspension systems. Wasting no time, the company already has an assortment of components for the JL platform.
Paired with a set of 35-inch-tall Patagonia tires from Milestar, we were able to check out the on- and off-road performance of the JL. So, how did it all work? Read on to find out.
EVO Manufacturing offers a variety of 2.5-inch suspension kits. Stepping into the Enforcer series gets you new coil springs instead of a coil spacer. And, just as the JL comes from the factory, each EVO coil is corner specific.
For the Overland series, EVO uses front control arm drop brackets. These attach to the original control arm mounts. The concept here is to reduce the operating angle of the arms. This ultimately creates better handling and ride quality dynamics over using arms in the stock locations.
To ensure the JL’s front fenders don’t get peeled off during suspension compression, a bumpstop spacer is bolted to the axle. The longer sway bar link you see comes from the rear of the Jeep, as it’s needed to ensure the sway bar doesn’t invert while cycling.
The stock brake lines are retained with this kit, but there is a provided brake line bracket drop for up front. This kit also allows the stock shocks to be reused by adding a shock extension on the axle end. Paired with the 2.5-inch Plush Ride springs, it’s a nice way to save a little money and retain a smooth ride.
As is the case with the front, the rear uses shock mount relocation brackets. These require enlarging an existing hole and drilling a new one on the OE shock mount. EVO does offer a King shock option for those looking for a shock upgrade as well.
Wrapping up the rear kit is a new coil spring, bumpstop spacer, and longer sway bar endlink set. Since the JL has the track bar placed in a higher position compared to the previous-generation Wrangler, a track bar relocation bracket isn’t required.
In terms of lift height, the EVO springs gave this Sport a little over 2.5 inches of lift. While the Jeep is retaining the stock bumpers for now, the approach angle saw an improvement from 50 to 62 degrees. The departure angle saw a jump from 37 to 46 degrees.
Wheel backspacing is important for the JL, but with the Rubicon axles being 1.5 inches wider than all other models, there won’t be a perfect one-size-fits-all wheel spacing solution. These 17x8.5-inch lightweight cast-aluminum RT2XK | 833GB Racing Truck Series wheels from Center Line are fit with 4.75 inches of backspacing. These worked nicely to move the tire far enough away from the suspension components but retain substantial fender coverage.
This JL lives in the Southeast where mud is just part of the normal wheeling equation. To ensure it wouldn’t be stuck spinning in place, a set of LT315/70R17 Patagonia M/Ts from Milestar were installed. While the 35-inch-tall Patagonias do offer a familiar mud-terrain hum, they roll smooth on the highway and clean out effortlessly in the goo.
How It Works
First off, the eight-speed automatic behind the JL’s 3.6L V-6 is a game changer. Despite having stock gearing, the Jeep still felt as though it had plenty of power on tap. At highway speeds above 65 mph, we found the Jeep would hold Seventh gear, but rarely moved into Eighth. Steering both on-road and off wasn’t an issue, but it did feel a touch heavier.
The ride quality and handling is very close to stock, which is fine by us. If you’re going to spend more time in the dirt, we’d highly recommend getting a set of sway bar disconnects and upgrading the shocks. However, for a daily driver and occasional wheeler, this setup is great. It’s also worth noting that we did not use a programmer to recalibrate the Jeep. While this put the speedometer off slightly, we did not experience any stability control warning lights or ever find the Jeep wanting to go into the dreaded limp mode.
What Hits, What Fits
You may have noticed this Jeep has a fullsize spare mounted out back. Surprisingly, this was done with no modifications. If you want to go this route, plan on trimming the plastic bumper slightly to give the tire more clearance. The jury’s still out on how good of a long-term solution this will be, but it seems to work fine for now. The only other minor trimming needed was at the very front of the lower front bumper valance as the tires made slight contact at full turn.