What’s the deal with AEV’s new Recruit?

With the recent retirement of the Brute Double Cab, we knew it was only a matter of time before AEV’s engineers unveiled a new line of vehicle accessories. The only question was, what would they be for? Well, we finally received our answer the other week; the RAM 1500. It’s called the Recruit, and for all intents and purposes it’s a smaller version of the RAM 2500 based Prospector. Both feature a similarly styled AEV heat reduction hood, nearly identical front bumpers, dual sport suspension, and a host of other signature goodies like new gauge clusters and replacement emblems. Heck, with the exception of the updated wheels and overall size, you would be hard pressed to tell them apart. Unsurprisingly, this generated a lot of buzz through the automotive world, but while other sites were busy copy and pasting the press release, I couldn’t help but feel they missed something. Why in the hell was it more expensive than the $12,940 Prospector package?

Yup, you read that right. The new Recruit comes in at $2,010 more than its older brother at a baseline of $14,950. Instead of just accepting this price and moving on, I reached out to AEV with a few questions on what made their new 1500 package worth the extra dough, and here’s what I found out.

Suspension

The biggest boost in price came from the suspension system. When lifting a solid axle vehicle like the 2500, most things are fairly straight forward. When you want to lift an independent front suspension 4″ however, the process is a lot more complex.  The first components used in the 1500 dual sport package are military grade A206 T4 cast aluminum steering knuckles, which reduce the un-sprung weight. These were an industry first, so AEV was forced to do a lot of testing and development.

Then the real trickery began. Many of you may have noticed in other articles that a 4 mm thick stamped steel skid plate is used to protect the vitals of the vehicle and improve ground clearance. This was already an additional option that the prospector does not include, but this bash plate does more than just shield your oil pan. AEV removed the front axle center from the engine mounts and made it chassis mounted via bushings to the skid plate. “This avoids the inner CV plunge-limited travel restriction that is otherwise needed due to the torque-roll of the engine mounted front-axle. An effect that becomes much worse if  the axle is just spaced down from engine.”

They also moved the front hubs forward 8 mm for improved front tire clearance without fender trimming, and adjusted the rear OE suspension to preserve the pinion angle and geometry without drop brackets, which would have decreased clearance and reduce anti-squat. Despite all these changes, AEV managed to preserve the stock steering and and front suspension geometry, while compensating for the additional 4″ of lift.

Accessories

While the bulk of the price increase lay in the suspension and skid plate, there were a few additional factors to be accounted for. The base 2500 prospector package assumes the use of a Tradesman black grill, however the 1500 requires a grille and headlight filler panel replacement. This swap allows AEV to install their heat reduction hood, which completes the HD front end transformation.

The four inches of lift on the IFS also necessitates the use of 20″ aluminum wheels. This alone is somewhat of a blow for the Recruit, but the larger wheels also cost more than the 17″ models used on the prospector, which is really hitting below the belt for buyers. Fortunately, we hear rumors from within of an 18″ wheel in the works, along with a modification package to allow for a safe and reliable fitment.

The last price bump for the 1500 over the 2500 came in the lighting. While the Prospector utilizes factory fog lights, the 1500 fog lamps are not compatible with the AEV front bumper, so Vision X driving lights will be included as standard on every Recruit.

So why buy a Recruit over a Prospector?

So for the additional $2,000 buyers receive new skid plates, lighting, a grill, and one serious suspension overhaul, plus all the goodies you get on the 2500, but is that enough of a reason to buy the Recruit over the Prospector? Maybe not, but the RAM 1500 does hold a few undeniable advantages over its big brother.

For starters, the total price of a new Recruit will almost certainly be lower. The baseline tradesman 4×4’s in each line are comparably priced at the moment thanks to some hefty discounts on the 2500, but as you step up into higher trim packages the price gap begins to widen. For example, a four door Ecodiesel 4×4 tradesman will run you about $39,860 before rebates. The 2500 in a similar spec will cost over $49,000 before rebates, or 45,000 after the $4,000 bonus cash. Upgrade to the Laramie diesel in both models however, and you’re looking at $45,000 for a 1500, and $58,000 for a 2500. That difference will nearly pay for your new Recruit package.

But assuming their pricing was exactly the same, there are still other advantages. Take the 1500’s size for example. On the road the RAM 1500 and 2500 aren’t vastly different. Their widths are similar, heights are identical, and the turning radius is comparable, but on the trail every inch counts. The 1500 has a 9″ shorter wheel base, and is 8.5″ shorter in total length. I have little doubt that in our upcoming tests that will be enough to let the Recruit sneak by obstacles the 2500 can’t clear.

Even if you rarely operate on tight trails, and price has no sway over you, the Recruit holds one final crucial advantage over the Prospector: fuel economy. The new Ecodiesel 1500 is reported to get up to 29 mpg on the highway, but we’ve seen claims ranging up to 31 mpg. Assuming they truly land in the 26 mpg range though, that gives owners a 676 mile range on the standard 26 gallon fuel tank. The 2500 by comparison is not so friendly to your wallet or your range of travel. After searching for quite some time for the official figure, I realized the EPA doesn’t even bother rating the 2500 diesel. Fortunately online sources have combined the returned fuel economy of many different 6.7L 2500’s, and it seems they usually return an average of around 14.5 to 15 mpg. With numbers like that we would guess that it would see about 18 mpg on the highway, giving it a maximum range of 558 miles. (This is an educated guess, so real world owners please chime in!) While the actual numbers may vary, it’s safe to say that the new Recruit will certainly be cheaper to operate, and will provide a greater range on the road and the trail. That’s a big win for overlanders.

So even with the $2,000 price bump, it seems that the new RAM Recruit could usurp the Prospector on many people’s wish list. It bridges the gap between the Jeep JK and Ram 2500 platforms, providing the perfect combination of size, payload, and comfort for many North American travelers. Knowing AEV there will be many more product releases to come, but in the mean time we’ve included a break down of all the standard features and current options below. Overall we’re excited about this latest offering from AEV, and you can expect a review on our home page in the next few months.

Standard Features

  • AEV Premium Front Bumper
  • AEV Heat Reduction Hood
  • AEV Hood Decal
  • Vision X Halogen Driving Lights
  • AEV DualSport Suspension
  • 20″ AEV Wheels (4)
  • 35″ BFGoodrich All Terrain Tires (4)
  • AEV Windshield Banner
  • AEV Recruit Badging
  • AEV Instrument Cluster Badging
  • Black HD Grill
  • Black Rear Bumper
  • Black Fender Flares
  • AEV Logo Headrests (Front)
  • AEV Build Plaque
  • Non-Winch Cover Plate
  • Headlamp Filler Panels
  • Black Powerwagon Flares
  • AEV Warranty

Additional Options

  • Vision X 30″ Xmitter Prime LED Light Bar $1,875.00
  • Vision X 50w LED Light Cannon Auxiliary Lights $1,175.00
  • Warn Zeon 10-S Winch $1,331.00
  • AMP Rear Bumper Step $315.00
  • Raised Air Intake with Ram Air $1,040.00
  • Raised Air Intake with Pre-Filter $1,150.00
  • Rear Vision System – Mirror Display $899.00
  • Rear Vision System – Radio Display $799.00
  • AEV Standard Leather $1,800.00
  • AEV F1 Leather $3,500.00
  • Mopar Tube Side Steps $540.00
  • AMP Research Side Steps $1,550.00
  • 35″ BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain Tires $80.00
  • Front Splash Guards $65.00
  • Rear Splash Guards $65.00
  • 35″ Full-Size All Terrain Spare w/ AEV Bed-Mount System $874.00
  • 35″ Full-Size Mud Terrain Spare w/ AEV Bed-Mount System $894.00
  • AEV Tonneau Cover 6’4″ Rambox $775.00
  • AEV Tonneau Cover 6’4″ Standard Bed $650.00
  • AEV Tonneau Cover 5’7″ Standard Bed $650.00

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chris didn’t receive a real taste of the outdoors until moving to Prescott, Arizona, in 2009. While working on his business degree, he learned to fly and spent his weekends exploring the Arizona desert and high country. It was there that he fell in love with backcountry travel and four-wheel drive vehicles, eventually leading him to Overland Journal and Expedition Portal. After several years of honing his skills in writing, photography, and off-road driving, Chris now works for the company full time as Expedition Portal's Managing Editor.