Exlcusive Off-Road insider on what new, featuring the Jeep Wrangler TJL, Link-X Stability System, SEMA Best New Off-Road Product Award, and More!
New Jeep Wrangler TJ Variant?
While it was designed with military applications in mind, the new Wrangler TJL offers Jeep enthusiasts a sneak peek into possible variations of the current Wrangler. The Wrangler TJL, scheduled to enter production this year, is a product of the Arab American Vehicles (AAV) facility in Cairo, Egypt. The AAV is a joint venture between DaimlerChrysler and the Egyptian government. DaimlerChrysler holds a 49 percent share in the company, which was founded in 1977 with the purpose of assembling Jeep vehicles in Egypt. AAV has been building a version of the XJ Cherokee since 1992 and is currently building the Jeep Liberty for sale in Egypt.
The Wrangler TJL was designed at the request of the Egyptian Armed Forces, which contracted AAV to build 1,000 copies of the Wrangler-based 4x4. What makes the TJL so interesting to USA Jeep enthusiasts is that it illustrates that DaimlerChrysler is looking at unique ways to expand the current Wrangler design, which is in its final years of production.
The desire to extend the appeal of the Wrangler platform was also illustrated last year at Camp Jeep, where two extended-wheelbase Wranglers were on display. It has been reported by newspapers in Jeep's hometown of Toledo, Ohio, that the Wrangler plant is being reconfigured to build a new, as-yet-un-named Wrangler-based Jeep, and all signs point to a Stretch Wrangler, possibly a pickup version reminiscent of the Jeep Scrambler American Motors sold from 1981 to 1985. The AAV Wrangler TJL, with its 115-inch wheelbase and 174-inch overall length, may be a harbinger of a future Wrangler product; we'll keep you posted on any updated information we receive. Richard Truesdale
Truckin Suspension Wins SEMA Best New Off-Road Product AwardAs a footnote to our SEMA Show coverage last month (March), we now salute Truckin Suspension as the winner of SEMA's Best New Off Road Product. Designed, manufactured, and sold by Truckin Suspension of Mesa, Arizona, the Super Duty Lift Hanger Kit allows a Super Duty 4x4 to be lifted 4 inches while retaining the OE springs, thus delivering smooth, original-type ride characteristics and a tall ride height without the use of expensive aftermarket spring packs. Kudos to Joe Morrow and Ian McCollum of Truckin Suspension for its efforts.
Wagner Engineering's Revolutionary Link-X Stability SystemThere's certainly no shortage of forward-thinking engineers in the automotive world, and each engineer seems to have a clever or unique take on how to deal with the task of advancing the handling characteristics and basic suspension design of the lowly (compared to exotically suspended performance cars) pickup truck. Case in point: Wagner Engineering, a Wallingford, Connecticut-based company whose 30-year-old founder, J. Todd Wagner, is responsible for penning a suspension design that's unlike any you've ever seen. Inspired by the handling problems associated with the high center of gravity inherent on trucks and SUVs, Wagner reasoned that an alternative to traditional parallel upper and lower suspension links could be engineered.
To understand the concept of Wagner's suspension design, we need to look at the fundamental elements of an upper and lower A-arm suspension. With an A-arm design, each tire and wheel is connected to the chassis with two components: a spring and A-shaped links. Functionally, the springs are responsible for handling the vehicle's reaction to vertical motion, while the links position the wheels and tires in relation to the road surface. One of the interesting aspects of the Link-X design are the changes to the A-arms' function. In a standard A-arm setup, the links don't truly stabilize the suspension, in regards to lateral roll, when cornering. Traditionally, an antiroll bar is attached between the A-arms to control lateral sway. With the Link-X system, the A-arms are installed in such a way as to provide suspension geometry that makes the use of add-on antisway bars unnecessary. In fact, the Link-X arms provide up to 65 percent of the lateral stability that's typically required for a vehicle to handle properly while cornering.
The key to the Link-X design lies in the criss-crossed A-arms, which impact a balancing torque when in a lateral load. The Link-X suspension's upper control arm mounts to the frame below the lower control arm. When cornering forces are present (which effectively causes the outside wheel and tire to roll in the same plane as the body and chassis), the geometry of the control arms force the chassis to oppose lateral roll. The point at which the upper and lower links cross and their attachment location on the frame determine the amount of roll stiffness.
Wagner Engineering claims that tests with the Link-X Stability System installed on a Ford Expedition resulted in vast improvements during a standard double-lane-change test, where the big SUV's speed increased from 57 mph (with the OE antisway bar) to 62 mph with the Link-X system.Joel Mollis