Testing Rugged Ridge’s Kilroy Jeep Wrangler Didn’t Go As Planned: First Drive
The day had started like any other day. I did my normal routine, and when I was finally finished with my work, I loaded up the Rugged Ridge Jeep Kilroy with myself, my wife, and our two dogs for an off-roading adventure...or so I thought. After setting up some cameras to catch a dog’s point of view, we set out for our local off-road recreation area. The dogs were situated in the back, and since this was their first time in the Jeep, they were absolutely loving the open top. A few local off-road enthusiasts stopped us with questions about Kilroy and about my job as I got the cameras ready. Then, we headed off on the dirt road that leads to a vast complex of off-road trails. The trails in question have steep climbs, rocky outcroppings, and some rugged backcountry. The perfect place to test this off-road tuned Jeep. But before we even got to the trailhead, a sickening sound stopped us in our tracks. RELATED: Check Out Photos of the Brilliant Looking Jeep Chief Concept
What is a Kilroy Jeep Wrangler?
But before we get into the specifics of what went wrong, I want to go into the details of exactly what this car is. For those of you that might not be so well-informed in the matter. It's a Jeep Wrangler, obviously, but unlike a standard factory Wrangler, Jeep specialists Rugged Ridge went above and beyond in tuning this lovely looking 4x4.
The fascia is more aggressive, it's fitted with new 37-inch tires, a four-inch lift, a roll bar, and a host of exterior enhancements from top to bottom. And if you're wondering about the name—Kilroy was a term used in World War II where soldiers would graffiti the phrase "Kilroy was here" on the sides of buildings. It's got some cool nods to that on the exterior design.
But back to the issue at hand.
Parts, Broken; Spirits, Intact
It wasn’t a clunk, or even fluids spouting out of the engine. Rather, the Jeep made a sound similar to that of a bone snapping, which made us all jump. I stopped the Jeep, head in my palms, with my wife asking, “what the heck was that?”
I stepped out of the Jeep, crouched down, and saw that the driveshaft had sheared at the U-joint near the transfer case. We weren't going anywhere.
Neither of our phones had any signal and mine was losing battery. My brain immediately went into "How do I get us out of this?" mode. I thought about using the dog’s leashes to band the driveshaft together, but quickly nixed that idea. Then I thought about walking out of the recreation area to find a signal, but I really didn’t want to leave my wife and our dogs all alone.
I made the choice to walk a little down the road, and after about five minutes, already out of sight of the Jeep, I finally got a signal. I called the PR company, who then contacted a towing company that could hook us up…in four to five hours. Suffice it to say, we were stuck.
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After walking back to the Jeep, I relayed the information to my wife, tried to soothe my dogs, who had began whimpering, and started once again trying to figure out what I could do to help the situation along. I hopped back under the Jeep, and went about trying to figure out how to take the driveshaft off. As long as I kept it in 4WD, I should at least have front-wheel drive. I didn’t need the rear wheels powered, so how could I get it off?
It was at that moment that a man named Mark came by and asked if we needed help. I told him yes, but only if you have a toolbox. He replied, “Yeah, I’ve got some tools!” We both climbed under the Jeep, and within five minutes, we had the driveshaft out. With the Jeep now working, sort of, we headed home. A few hours later, the tow truck came and our Jeep story was at an end.
It's a sad story indeed, but before this all happened, we did get to spend some quality time with Rugged Ridge's Jeep Wrangler.
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The Good, The Bad, And The Need For Stronger Parts
Before the breakdown, we had Kilroy for a few days, and during that time, we really were enjoying it. We took it to Global Rallycross, to the mall, and to the same off-road park mentioned before. It was there that we found out this off-road kitted Jeep could handle quite a bit of terrain, although not all of it.
Jeeps are known for their rugged capabilities, they aren’t known for their power. Adding massive tires and bigger gears essentially saps all of it from the engine and gives Kilroy a rather slow and lumbering feel. Any hill or incline needs to be in a gear lower than you think.
It additionally needs either a better fuel pump, or a baffled oil pan, because when encountering an incline greater than 45-degrees, the engine starves out and stalls. This becomes a rather butt-clenching experience when you have a cliff on both sides, and you begin to roll backwards.
Parts break. It’s just a matter of when and where. Where this part broke sucked for us, but we were thankfully able to rectify it within a short period of time. These sorts of things come with the nature of off-roading. Because of the challenging terrain, more stress is put onto every single part, every nut and bolt of the Jeep. Things will break, and I hesitate to look at this experience negatively.
Where I can find fault is in the Rugged Ridge Jeeps lack of power, and the engine starving at the most inopportune times. Fix those, and you have the most capable off-road vehicle outside of a bighorn sheep. Hopefully we can spend some more time in the the Kilroy Jeep in the future and really put it through its paces.
Engine: 3.6 Liter V6
Tires: BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain T/A
Price (for parts): $11,523.99
The looks definitely make you stand out
The tires will grab on to everything and keep you planted
It has a snorkel
Sincere lack of power due to bigger wheels and extra weight
Engine starves and stalls on steep inclines
Rattles to a maddening level when going over rough rocks and dirt
Photo Credit: Jonathon Klein for BoldRide