Vital Stats

Engine:
3.6L V6
Power:
285 HP / 260 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
8.0 Seconds (est.)
Drivetrain:
Four-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,600 LBS (est.)
Seating:
2

After their rented 2007 Hummer H3 failed them during the brutal Rallye Aicha des Gazelles in Morocco, Amy Lerner and her sister Tricia Reina were on a quest to find the most capable production off-roader for their next competition - they chose a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Their next mission was to find a company with the competence to configure it to win. After poring over Internet forums and perusing countless magazines for an outfitter who could meet their demanding requirements, they sent their bright orange JK ("Crush" is the official color) to American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) for some modifications.

The Michigan-based team at AEV kept the Jeep's 3.6-liter V6 and automatic transmission stock, but replaced the hood with a tall AEV Heat Reduction Hood and added an AEV Snorkel Kit for water crossings (it serves double-duty as its raised height helps to keep the air intake out of the kicked-up dust on the trail). Front and rear off-road bumpers were bolted in place, and AEV skid plates were added to provide additional undercarriage protection. A pair of IPF-900 off-road lights improve visibility, while a 10.2-gallon AEV Fuel Caddy (located behind the exterior spare) added some range. The suspension was upgraded with a 3.5-inch lift kit with Bilstein remote reservoir shocks, and 35-inch Falken Wildpeak A/T tires (LT285/70R17) were mounted at all four corners on AEV's beadlock wheels.

Team Lerner Reina returned to Morocco to finish the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles last year. In September, they traveled to Western Australia's outback to race in the extreme Australasian Safari, where their AEV Wrangler was the only production-based vehicle to finish. They were the fastest female team, and the winner of Production Class A1.2. A win in the Dakar Challenge earned them a spot in the 2014 Dakar Rally.

We caught up with Amy Lerner in Southern California, days after the team's dirt-covered Jeep was uncrated after its journey back to the States. And rather than admire the truck stationary, we headed up to the Rowher Flats off-road area north of the LA Basin to play in the dirt.

Driving Notes

  • The team chose the four-door Unlimited model, instead of the shorter wheelbase (and more maneuverable) two-door, because they needed the additional interior space for hundreds of pounds of gear and spares, including a second backup wheel/tire combo. A mesh cage just aft of the front seats kept the team separate from loose items, and the beefy aftermarket roll bar may be unbolted and removed for civilian duty.
  • Safety took priority in the passenger cabin. As a result, both Amy and Tricia ride in Sparco bucket seats, mounted on sliders, with RPM five-point harnesses. Nearly all of the stock controls (and air conditioning) have been retained, but a few new switches have been installed for the auxiliary lighting. Terra Trip 303 GPS-based rally computers mounted on the passenger dash provided precise distance, speed and timing information.
  • The all-aluminum 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 was new for 2012, and it provided a nice boost in power over the old iron-block 3.8-liter, but the larger wheel/tire package and heavy modifications mean the modified JK doesn't feel light on its feet. Thankfully, most off-roading is done at lower speeds, where the Rubicon's low-range transfer case makes high-end power a moot point.
  • On the rutted and bumpy trails, which masked everything short of a wheel falling off, we really couldn't notice a big different in terms of vehicle driving dynamics between the stock Rubicon and the AEV race version. The most significant upgrade is with the suspension, which adds helpful ground clearance to clear obstacles and improves the vehicle's break-over height.
  • Most of our time was spent on wide dirt roads, hardly challenging. We could't find a drop of water or mud to play in, but we did point the AEV Jeep up a few steep grades and bound over ruts that would rip the undercarriage off lesser vehicles. With 4WD Low engaged, there was wheel spin on the dry surface, but it climbed like a goat.
  • One interesting modification is the heavy steel cable running from the left front corner of the hood to the top of the windshield pillar (it is visible in this image). Low branches will hit the wire and ride up and over the glass, preventing breakage. The plastic snorkel protects the glass on the passenger side.
  • Team Lerner Reina is still pushing its AEV modified Wrangler Rubicon. The sisters are looking at the Rally Diabolico in Mexico in April, and the Rallye du Maroc in Morocco in October, as this year's events. We'll update their progress.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 25 Comments
      Stuka87
      • 9 Months Ago
      If its an auto, it would be a 5sp not a 6sp. Only 6sp available is the manual. The tires are 33's. 315/70R17 would be 35's. But its a great rig.
      Julio B
      • 9 Months Ago
      Pure awesomeness! I'll show this to my wife and see if she'll drive my 2012 Wrangler off road instead of just riding along.
      speed12sil
      • 9 Months Ago
      How the heck is it okay for them to use a RENTED H3 to participate in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles??
      CPF
      • 9 Months Ago
      I love reading positive stories on Jeep considering everything Consumer reports does is slam them. I have my black 2014 JK Rubicon X ordered I can't wait. I have always loved Jeeps ever since my very 1st a 1976 Jeep CJ5.
      crangit
      • 9 Months Ago
      WTF? How can you say they "won" anything? Did the author even look at the final results? There were only TWO vehicles competing in the "A1.2" class, and they finished more than 12 hours off the pace of the race winner, a Toyota Hilux. Why is this even news?
        Jeepowner
        • 9 Months Ago
        @crangit
        • 100% Safari Finisher - Their AEV Wrangler was the ONLY production vehicle to finish 100% of the Safari • Fastest Safari Female - Amy Lerner • Winner Production Class A1.2 • Winner Overall Safari Production - Their AEV Wrangler had the best performance of ANY production vehicle entered in the Safari • Winner of the Dakar Challenge - This earned Team Lerner Reina an entry spot in the 2014 Dakar Rally Oh and they were role models for girls who want to compete in these male dominated motorsports. This isn't nascar, they did have a lot of success here and raised a lot of money for charity even if they wont be on the box of Wheaties anytime soon, I am impressed.
          Jeepowner
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Jeepowner
          Nothing I posted is false and my owning a Jeep has nothing to do with my view. The results http://www.rallyresults.com.au/safari2013/Final_Auto.pdf and press releases prove it all. I pulled the bullets from the AEV congratulations page. The bullets are 100% verifiable. So what if they were 1 of 2 in their class. Many in racing classes did not even finish. They also qualified for Dakar in this race... have you heard of Dakar? If you aren't impressed why write about it? You just want to rain on some impressive and interesting peoples parade. Its kind of pathetic and myopic. They race for a charity. Look it up, Girl Effect Fund.
          crangit
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Jeepowner
          False. Where did you pull these bullets from? Again, it's obvious no one bothered to check facts. The final classification list on the official website shows *only one other* A1.2 class vehicle, an FJ Cruiser, and it *is* listed with a total completion time. Wow, they beat an FJ that was poorly-prepped, poorly-driven, or just ran into bad luck. Again, they themselves were 12 HOURS off the pace and didn't even finish in the top 10 overall! They finished 11 out of 15 in the Autos group. That's not competitive by ANY standard. How is that a win for anything or anyone? Do they also win a prize just for showing up? I fail to see how mediocre performance is something young women should aspire to. What a turkey of a story this is. "Best performance of ANY production vehicle"....LOL. There were only 2 production (A1.2) vehicles entered, total! If it was written with the headline, "All-Female Team Finishes 11th, Beats an FJ Cruiser in Obscure, Minor League Rally to Inspire Girls Around the World", I'd be OK with it. But I suppose I'm wasting my breath, you're obviously a Jeep fanboi, and I'm sure you're the kind of person who gives their kids a gold star every time they poop. Sally forth.
        Michael Harley
        • 9 Months Ago
        @crangit
        Thanks, Jeepowner. - Mike
      ckm
      • 9 Months Ago
      I wonder how they can afford to do this? Trustafundians? Rich husbands? Just the logistics of entering a long offroad event like Rallye Aicha des Gazelles requires a huge budget. And if they are 'raising money for charity' it also suggests they have another source of funding. I suspect there is quite a lot more to this story than Autoblog has bothered to dig up. Basically this is just their PR firm feeding the story....
        Jeepowner
        • 9 Months Ago
        @ckm
        Yeah, must be rich trustafundians? No? Well they are women, so obviously not from their own income, must be husbands? Ohhh, not that? Then it must be the wealthy elite funding these here womens. Your line of thinking is incredulous. I'm becoming increasingly tired people like you have a mouth piece to spout this BS from. Its embarrassing both from a male point of view and as a human being. Maybe they funded it through hard work, friends, AEV and all the other sponsors on their page? Just a thought. Occams razor and all that... but by all means, end the speculating and start your investigation.
        ckm
        • 9 Months Ago
        @ckm
        I should note that my first thought on their source of funds is that they did well in a tech exit (e.g. Facebook, Google, Twiter or even a smaller startup exit), but reading their bios mentioned nothing about that, which suggests a 'friends and family' source of $$$ - rich F&F at that.
          AnalogJesse
          • 9 Months Ago
          @ckm
          Or maybe they just have a better job than you. I know that it hurts to hear that some people are significantly more successful than you are, while still being hard workers.
          AUTOerotic
          • 9 Months Ago
          @ckm
          Ya totally a tech startup... that makes sense.
      AnalogJesse
      • 9 Months Ago
      Driving with a bare roll cage and no helmet? That's asking for trouble.
        Michael Harley
        • 9 Months Ago
        @AnalogJesse
        I agree with you. However, we were at "photography speed" (no animals, or humans, were in danger while writing the story). - Mike
      Teddy Bayr
      • 9 Months Ago
      35-inch Falken Wildpeak A/T tires (LT285/70R17) more like 33 inch, eh?
      Rotation
      • 9 Months Ago
      I thought snorkels didn't work on gas engines because the ignition systems didn't like being submersed. Am I wrong on this, did Mopar protect this engine somehow?
        Jeepowner
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Rotation
        The only danger is long term submersion and intaking water into your engine. The snorkel takes care of the intake and you never are in water more than a few seconds when fording streams.
        jtav2002
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Rotation
        Just from owning Toyota trucks as of late, I recall several Tacomas on the forums that have them.
      • 9 Months Ago
      [blocked]
      N.O.
      • 9 Months Ago
      That looks badass!
      Avinash Machado
      • 9 Months Ago
      Handsome beast.
    • Load More Comments