Well, it was a painful 3,000 miles of stock-mobbing. Naw, I try to convince myself I hate stock but it seems this logic only applies to the heavy-duty trucks as they’re purpose built to haul making for a miserable stock ride quality. The JKU was loose – this is the best word I can muster to describe the floppy, traction filled ride piloted by constant steering wheel input. Floating down the Southern-California highways, it was an exercise in futility attempting to guide the Jeep down the road in a straight line. Every imperfection in the road influenced the direction of the vehicle and countering it seemed to over-correct leading to constant sawing of the wheel. Mind you, this front end is in perfect condition. No measurable wear on any front end component, all factory original.

Offroad, it was better. The complete lack of tuning in the factory shocks meant a supple ride was guaranteed along with the body roll and shakes that accompany a lack of compression. Traction was abundant as the rear shot out over every obstacle; lifting the rear – a symptom of too little rebound tuning. The concept Jeep had in mind when building and tuning this rig was clear; it was comfortable on the street and, in low-speed offroad situations, it came into its own. The on-highway control was sacrificed to gain articulation and low-speed offroad performance as it’s a purpose-built vehicle. It wasn’t awful on or off road – quite the opposite. The sponginess of the factory suspension is reminiscent of a large family SUV designed to float down the highway rather than be driven. The over-active steering… you get used to it. It’s apparent in driver fatigue on long drives but, after the first week or so, I was on auto-pilot and cruising without giving it another thought over my 100 mile per day commute. You’d be hard pressed to find a rig that’s this capable in the dirt and ride this soft on the road within the same price point. The good news, there’s a LOT of room for improvement.

Our goal, once the speed increased on or offroad, regain the composure of the vehicle while maintaining the supple ride and articulation of which the factory platform is capable. We ripped off the factory suspension and installed our 2.5″ Lift Commuter System. This system, which can be viewed HERE, consists of the following components:

CS-JK25LRC-F-07 2.5″ Lift – Linear Rate Coils
CS-JK25MRC-R-07 3.0″ Lift – Multi Rate Coils
CS-JKU-C20SPKG-25-07 Carli Commuter Shock Package – Fox 2.0 IFP
CS-JATB-07-F Front Adjustable Track Bar
CS-JATB-07-R Rear Adjustable Track Bar
CS-JATB-07-R-RISER Rear Adjustable Track Bar Riser
CS-JEL-07-F Front Sway Bar End Links
CS-JEL-07-R Rear Sway Bar End Links
CS-JBBLKIT-07 Extended Brake Lines, Guides and E-Brake Drop
CS-JBSF-07-SHORT Front Bump Riser, Short
CS-JBSR-07 Rear Bump Riser

The above system provides the lift, creates new “zones” of suspension travel, and corrects the suspension geometry to these zones providing all ancillary components needed to ensure functionality. The front Coils are a slightly reduced rate from factory providing 2.5″ of Suspension lift and the  Commuter Series (2.0″ Performance Series Fox Shocks) are custom tuned in-house (with Carli Specific Part Numbers) to provide the stability lacking from the factory suspension.

Correcting the front geometry to the lifted height, the Adjustable Track Bar centers the axle laterally to the frame while the Carli Sway Bar End Links relax the sway bar in it’s new ride height and stroke of travel. Bump Stop Risers specific to the Commuter and Backcountry shocks installed inside the coil ensue the shocks cycle perfectly while the Extended Stainless Brake Lines allow the shocks to reach their new bottom of the travel stroke.

Onto the rear, the 3″ Lift springs are progressive rate to ensure they’re long enough for the extended travel stroke while boasting the ability to pack the cargo area with gear. Extended travel, custom-tuned rear Commuter Shocks match the fronts to balance damping performance. The custom-tuning aspect cannot be stressed enough as it seems to be what’s most lacking from current offerings from incumbent performance suspension manufacturers in the marketplace. We spend countless hours behind the wheels of each change to ensure the shocks are perfectly dialed to the platform and any alterations we’ve made.

I digress, matching rear stainless brake lines and sway bar links facilitate the extended travel stroke the same as they do in the front. There are super-cool differences to these products vs other products available are discussed on their respective product pages. Most notably, the brake lines are provided with our routing guides keeping the extended lines out of the sway bar and tire.

The rear bump risers perfect the travel stroke while the adjustable rear track bar centers the axle. Included with the rear track bar is the riser keeping the pivot point high to flatten the bar as much as possible. The flatter the rear track bar at the center of travel (especially on this short wheelbase) the less yaw – side to side shift – you’ll feel as you’re cycling the suspension through rough terrain. Again, all changes made in an effort to maximize the ride quality AND stability and handling confidence which are often neglected in the Jeep world.

Putting all this together, the Jeep is an entirely different animal. It can now be driven the way i am used to driving vehicles. On-road, it’s planted and has almost no body roll. It’s confidence inspiring to the point of me out-driving the bald, factory tires on this rig – every corner sounds like an impending accident as it fights for traction. Articulation is unhindered; the low shaft speed performance with our signature shock tune allows impressive flex with a level cab.

Again with the tires – bald, over-inflated – now chunked – street tires aren’t the vessel to be piloting terrain to truly test the flex. There were a couple steep, off-camber spots that got a bit sketchy requiring a running start given the tire’s inability to perform to the level of the upgraded suspension. The neighborhood kids doodled a fitting mascot into the sidewall; luckily, we have some new wheels and tires on-deck that should be up to the task.

Now that I have a direct comparison, having only changed the suspension, I’ve really gotten to know this Jeep both stock and Carli equipped. The Commuter makes a HUGE difference in the ride, handling and stance. I’m not use to it, frankly. A 2.5″ lift has never been anything to drastically change the look of a vehicle in the HD Truck world but it’s really brought a nice stance to the JKU. On and offroad, i now love the ride and handling and look forward to the capability that the Wheels and Tires will add to this already incredibly capable platform.

Until next time…