Everyone knows that testing new products prior to releasing them on the market is a crucial stage of the developmental process. What the public may not know, is that while the R&D process may take place in-house, the majority of the time, the outsourcing of testing procedures is also a commonplace occurrence.
By giving an independent third party a pre-production component, an aftermarket manufacturer gains the ability to subject its parts to a fresh barrage of scenarios and critiques. Nowhere is this approach more crucial than in the automotive arena, where an already oversaturated marketplace and increasingly discerning customer base demand that only the very best make it to market. It’s the “Here, try this out, and let us know what you think” sort of approach to product testing, and the more reputable and specialized the third party, the better.
Last spring, when I took the $230,000, 3.5-ton Mercedes-Benz G550 4×4² off-roading, I enlisted the help of local Jeep specialists All-Terrain Outfitters. While their familiarity with the off-road park’s trails and ability to serve as lead vehicle/spotter was indeed helpful, it was the fact that they were testing a series of pre-production parts for Synergy Mfg. that day that gave me pause.
After speaking with one of ATO’s owners about the inner workings of testing and providing feedback on said products, he agreed to let me circle back around in order to get follow-up photos of the parts they were testing. With branding in place and fresh powder coating sprayed, the parts pictured here are virtually identical to what was on the vehicle during testing at the time, all but far more polished-looking and market-ready.
Shoot complete, I caught up with Chris Steimle, sales manager and all-around expert on all things Synergy Mfg. in order to get a little background on the parts being tested on the All-Terrain Outfitters Jeep JL. While he admitted that the build rests somewhere between a Stage 2 and a Stage 3 project, the wide array of various components from the brand on the ATO Jeep made it quite formidable.
According to Steimle, “The All-Terrain Outfitters Jeep has helped prototype a lot of the current products we will be offering for the JL platform.” He goes on to tell me that while there are still a few pre-production parts on the vehicle, the majority of the products are now “production quality” and have received a stamp of approval from both companies.
Here is what was discussed, along with a general rundown of what this build entails, and some specific details on the features of the components that make up the system. You will also find that there are embedded links to Synergy’s website spread throughout, for those of you who wish to dive a little deeper or get build quotes for your own Jeep.
All-Terrain Outfitters Synergy Mfg. Stage 2/Stage 3 System
Fitment: 2018+ Jeep Wrangler JL/JLU
- Lift Height: 3 inches
- Wheel Travel: TBD
- Tire Size: Up to 38 inches
Front lower adjustable control arms (Almost identical to Synergy Mfg. JK control arms, but for the JL)
Front upper adjustable control arms (Almost identical to Synergy Mfg. JK control arms, but for the JL)
Rear lower fixed length control arms (Same control arms as JK, and will be included as adjustable arms in Synergy’s JL kits)
Rear upper adjustable control arms (Same control arms as JK)
Front 3-inch coil springs with new lower isolators
Rear 3-inch coil springs
Front/rear adjustable bump stop spacer kits
Rear lower shock mounts
Front sway bar links
Rear sway bar links
Front track bar
Rear track bar
- All of Synergy’s adjustable control arms make dialing in caster and pinion angle a breeze thanks to their integrated double adjuster assemblies, which allow control arm length to be adjusted on the vehicle. Heavy duty DOM tubing allows these components to be both a strong yet lightweight product. These control arms also include Synergy’s very own Dual Durometer Bushings (DDB), a maintenance free design that specializes in providing performance, flex, longevity, and ride quality.
- Multi-rate, progressively wound coil springs increase lift height to three inches over stock. Both front and rear coil springs are all new and have been designed specifically for the JL platform. Looking to retain OEM reliability, each coil spring receives unique lengths at each corner of the vehicle in order to compensate for weight distribution. Each coil spring block height has also been designed to accommodate bump stop spacing, lift height, and tire size. Labeled as an industry first, the closed and ground lower ends of the front coil springs ensure perfect fitment within the included front lower coil spring isolators, which means that your coil springs are now guaranteed to resist bowing and have a lifetime guarantee against sagging/breakage.
- Front and rear adjustable bump stop spacer kits are included to provide the necessary clearance required for larger tires. Bump stop spacing is adjustable from two to four inches via one-inch incremental adjustments, and do not require the removal of hardware.
- Rear lower shock relocation brackets allow for more ground clearance while optimizing wheel travel.
- Extended front and rear sway bar links allow full articulation of the suspension at the taller lift height.
- Front track bar consists of a massive, heavy-duty 1.5x.250-inch wall DOM tubing structure, and allows the integrated double adjustment of track bar length on the vehicle. The double adjuster itself has been moved to the frame side of the bar to allow a traditional hex style nut to replace the pin style used on previous Synergy track bars. Meanwhile, a new forging has been used on the axle side of the bar for easy fitment, thus alleviating any need to modify the stock track bar bracket. This portion of the kit also includes oversized Dual Durometer Bushings (DDB), all of which now have updated spherical inner sleeves that minimize lateral deflection of the bushing. It is also worth noting that this setup is compatible with Synergy HD steering components.
- Rear track features a very similar design to the front, in turn giving you equal amounts of ruggedness and reliability, along with the same easy fitment options.
That said, it is also worth noting that there’s a reason why Synergy Mfg. and its Synergy Suspension Systems is named such. The brand has long been known for taking a “synergistic approach” to parts development. Simply put: The combined effect of the components is greater than the sum of the individual parts. This means that the overall performance of the system is without question the most important factor, as every component is painstakingly designed and tested to work symbiotically with its counterparts.
Synergy Suspension Systems are complete systems for a vehicle that include all of the necessary products to balance lift and looks with performance and reliability. Every single system includes industry-leading shock solutions, regardless as to whether they may be shock relocation brackets for the continued use of stock shocks in the brand’s “Starter System,” or one of Synergy’s tuned shock packages, which aims at balancing affordability with unrivaled performance.
“Coil springs and shocks are two of the largest determining factors in ride quality, and a mismatched system will never perform to its true potential,” Steimle said. “All Synergy-tuned shocks are matched to the coil springs and application to provide the best ride and performance possible.”
At the time of my shoot leading up to the reveal at SEMA 2018, the vehicle was running placeholder Fox shocks for the time being. So although the ATO Jeep may not be sporting Synergy shocks in these photos, Steimle said that these crucial components were indeed coming soon, now that in-house testing was almost complete. This meant that if all went well, the shocks will be released in the spring of 2019.
“We’ve gone through a ton of spring revisions to get them perfect,” Steimle explained. And although ATO has only run two of these sets, we were told that the ones currently on the vehicle were very close to what production pieces will look like when they hit the market.
Steimle said that while Synergy has yet to offer its own specialty shocks for the Jeep Wrangler platform, previous collaborations with industry partners (like Fox) allowed off-the-shelf offerings to become compatible with their systems. However, overwhelming buyer interest in the JL platform has given Synergy Mfg. reason to create its own shock offerings, tuned specifically for mating with its coil springs. Although Synergy Mfg. will not be making these shocks from scratch in-house, Steimle tells us that they will be branded as licensed Synergy Mfg. products by a well-respected company in the industry.
With the beta testing phase officially in the rearview mirror, we turned toward the fact that this build rested somewhere between a Stage 2 and a Stage 3. According to Steimle, the ATO Jeep JL will be a full Stage 3 build once the vehicle gets converted to a high-steer setup, complete with front and rear track bar relocation brackets. There also is the need for those specially tuned shocks, as well as the replacement of a handful of remaining prototype parts; all of them work flawlessly, but are not “showroom ready.”
Turning toward All-Terrain Outfitters for their take on these products and the build, co-owner, Dustin Hobbie, provided us with some closing thoughts.
Hobbie stated that over the years, both companies benefited from this “synergistic” relationship. Synergy Mfg. has long been known for its dedication to making quality parts, and Hobbie admits that even when in pre-production form, many of the components they have tested over the years have fit various builds beautifully. That’s not to say that there haven’t been any issues along the way, where parts get sent back to the drawing board for a complete overhaul. But that’s also why shops like All-Terrain Outfitters work with brands like Synergy Mfg., because in the end everyone benefits from this sort of relationship.