Updated: Jan 20
On the previous blog post, I shared how I was lucky enough to spend time with the crew at Dixie 4-Wheel Drive in Moab, Utah, take six bone-stock Jeep Wranglers and install six different lift kits so we could se how they performed and share the results with you.
In this post, I'll let you know how the different lift kits performed both on and off the road and then I'll let you know which one was the best.
As you read on, keep in mind all of the kits were tested on 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicons, all with a 3.6 liter engines, and the performance may not translate exactly to other models.
When we set out to do this comparison, I was a little concerned that I wouldn't be able tell the difference from one Jeep and lift kit to the next. But I didn't need to worry because I absolutely could tell the difference between them.
Here’s a quick recap of the six lift kits we used in this comparison:
Rock Krawler 3.5” X-Factor “No Limits” Mid Arm System (Retail: $3876)
Rock Jock Pro Edition 4” Suspension Lift w/ Fox Shocks (Retail: $3914 – excludes shocks at $676 – total: $4590)
American Expedition Vehicles 2.5” Dualsport RT Suspension (Retail: $1379)
Icon Vehicle Dynamics 2.5” Stage 1 Suspension Lift (Retail: $1222)
Dynatrac Endurosport 2” Suspension Lift Kit (Retail: $1199)
Opinions about On & Off-Road Performance
On the road, driving this Jeep was a great experience but the ride was slightly firmer than the others in this test. Not harsh by any means but definitely more firm than the others. At high speeds and going around corners, this Jeep and lift kit combo handled better than the others in this comparison and I actually preferred it over the stock suspension. The steering maintained a good, solid feel and really enjoyed driving it.
Off-road, though, that "slight" firmness I mentioned when testing the performance on the road was immediately noticeable. It handled well on smooth sections of the trail but when increasing the speed over rocky terrain and long washboard roads, there was an obvious increase in stiffness that I could have done without.
On certain sections of the trail, I had to slow down much more than I did with the other Jeeps due to the firmness of the ride. I think this goes back to how AEV designed this kit. if the Jeep we installed it on had been outfitted with steel bumpers, a winch, and expedition gear, it might have felt a little smoother. In all fairness thought, adding weight to any of the Jeeps in this comparison would have had a similar effect.
On the rocks, going slow, the AEV handled well. The suspension articulation was just enough to make choosing your line on the rocks easily done with confidence.
Overall, the AEV kit was excellent on-road, and overall off-road performance was good.
Out of all the suspensions I tested, the Dynatrac lift kit felt the closest to stock on the road. I honestly believe if I had done a blind test, driving a stock Jeep and then the one outfitted with the Dynatrac kit, I wouldn't have known the difference. Driving this jeep at highway speeds on some bumpy back roads and cornering never made me feel like I was driving anything other than a stock Jeep.
I suppose it really comes down to what you want from a suspension on the road. Do you want it to feel firmer and more stable than stock? Softer than stock? Or do you want it to feel like it did prior to installing the lift kit? If you want the latter, then you should know that the Dynatrac spring rates and shock tuning nailed it.
I was surprised at just how well this Dynatrac suspension did off-road. Getting up to speed on some washboard sections of trail and crossing over bumpy and rocky sections was effortless. I found myself hitting the gas a little bit more than with some of the others lift kits in the comparison because the suspension did such a great job of absorbing the bumps and keeping the Jeep settled.
If I was going to be spending a lot of time on some long treks through rough terrain, this suspension would be one of my top choices.
The Dynatrac suspension felt good going over rocks but, because the lift was the lowest of all the Jeeps we compared, choosing your tire placement did take more consideration than some of the other kits. There were a couple of times where we just kissed the frame on the rock.
All in all, I give the Dynatrac suspension high marks for on-road handling, and I would totally be comfortable driving it on long, off-road adventures.
Although this is a 2.5” kit, it measured the second tallest out of all the Jeeps in this entire comparison, with only the Rock Jock lift kit coming in taller.
On the road, the comfort of the ride was slightly firmer than stock, but not stiff. Cruising down the backroads was a pleasure and my only critique is when I was at highway speeds and hit a bump, the Jeep felt a little more unsettled than the other Jeeps in this comparison. It wasn’t dramatic, but it was slightly noticeable. That might be because the Icon lift is so high and it could benefit from some geometry correction brackets or the adjustable control arms that are offered in their stage 2 kit to help correct that caster.
Off-road, the Icon suspension felt good. The shocks did a great job of absorbing the bumps on the washboard trail sections and while it was a little firm over the rough, rocky obstacles, the increased ground clearance and suspension articulation made it effortless to crawl over the rocks.
This lift kit is Icon’s most basic suspension package and, personally, I would opt for their stage 2 or stage 3 system, which offers a better geometry correction right out of the box.
If you’re looking for a firmer on-road ride with some great ground clearance to get you through those challenging obstacles at a low price point, the Icon stage 1 kit is a good option.
When I got the Jeep outfitted with the Rock Jock lift kit out on the road, I quickly noticed a difference with the anti-rock sway bars. The ride is softer and there is just a slight bit more body roll than normal. It’s not excessive but when I climbed in from one Jeep to the next, I could definitely tell a difference. The ride down the back roads was comfortable but I would prefer a slightly tighter setup for long highway trips.
Off-road, the Rock Jock suspension was effortless at going over brought terrain and navigating large rocks at slow speeds. This kit had the most ground clearance of all the Jeeps in this comparison and it made choosing your line over the rocks easily done.
At high speeds on the trail and over washboard roads, I found myself easing up on the gas a little bit more than I did on some of the other Jeeps and I wish there had been a little more stability through some of those sections.
At the end of the day, this kit is a comfortable on-road ride and can readily make easy work out of hardcore trails. This kit is perfect for someone using their Jeep primarily for seeking out those most challenging trails.
The Rock Krawler lift kit really surprised me on the pavement. Because this setup is so tall, I expected it to be a little soft on the road but this was not the case. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it handled both at low and high speeds on the road.
The steering felt great and was not heavy like you would expect from a taller lift system like this. The suspension felt balanced around turns and I would be perfectly happy taking this Jeep on a long road trip to go seek out some of those far away, hidden trails.
Off-road at high speeds, the suspension was tight but a little on the firm side. I had to slow down through sections I had been able to move through a little faster in the other Jeeps we compared. But, put this Jeep on some big obstacles, and off you go. The suspension articulation made easy work out of everything I threw at it during the entire test.
All in all, the Rock Krawler setup had extremely well-behaved road manners and hardcore, rock-crushing capabilities.
The Teraflex kit was the only suspension out of all the ones we reviewed that came with adjustable shocks. We put the shocks to their softest setting and left them there for the entire comparison.
On the road, the Teraflex kit was a pleasure to drive. It was just as comfortable on the back roads as it was on the freeway. It was slightly softer than the stock suspension but it still handled extremely well.
Off-road, the suspension was dialed-in perfectly. Hitting the washboards at high speeds, rolling over rough terrain, and hitting the gas on some of the wide-open sections was effortless. The Jeep felt so settled at high speeds and on the trail that I never felt out of control.
On the rocks, this kit performed great. While this suspension lift didn’t have the highest clearance or the most articulation in the group, it didn’t feel like it was missing anything. Crawling up and down the rocks was a breeze.
I mentioned that we set the shocks to their softest setting and left them there for the entire test. This was because I never felt the need to firm up the ride. Adding some steel bumpers, a winch, some gear in the back, and perhaps making some adjustments might improve the ride but it definitely wasn’t needed.
The Teraflex Sport ST3 setup paired with these Falcon shocks was a true pleasure to drive both on and off-road.
Ease of Installation
AEV had great instructions and the install was very quick. I love the fact that there was no drilling or cutting because everything just laid right into place. The AEV is a great system.
I honestly couldn't pick one over the other because the install for both the Dynatrac and Icon kits were a snap. For both, it was really just a matter of swapping out some shocks, springs, and sway bar end links. They were super easy to do and anybody working on this install with a buddy or two can get this done in the span of an afternoon.
Runner Up: Dynatrac Endurosport 2” Suspension Lift Kit
The Dynatrac kit felt so close to stock and handled great on the road. I loved how it drove and I meant it when I said I don't think I could have told the difference between driving this Jeep and a stock one on the road.