LIGHT Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are the most popular choice for most 4x4ers looking to mount aftermarket 4x4 lights to their vehicles. Sure, there are a splattering of HID and halogens still available, but, for better or worse, LEDs lead the way once the sun dips its rays below the horizon.
We’ve gathered the cream of the crop of large LED round driving lights to cast their beams on our 350m test bed, to see which lights shine brightest, widest and farthest.
We’ve asked each supplier for a pair of spot and spread (if available); although, some companies only offer a ‘combo’ or ‘combination’ beam rather than two separate beam patterns. Indeed, some only offer a pencil or a spread beam, or plastic diffuser covers; so, where needed, we’ve shone all alternatives of each light.
LED driving lights have well and truly come of age; they’re able to cast a wide and long beam of light to cater for any driving condition, and they’re no longer regarded as a ‘wide or spread beam only’ light source with little long-distance penetration, as some can outshine some HIDs.
Other than (potential) superb light outputs, there are a few other benefits of running with LED lighting. While they can excel in lower current draw, some light packages pack a punch with the amount of current they purge from the electrical system (that’s not really a problem with most vehicle electrical systems).
LED JARGON: Explained
LED lights also have no warm-up time, they have a massive life expectancy (around 50,000 hours) and they can offer a great spread in both horizontal and the vertical planes. Waterproof, vibration resistant and durability also sees the LED driving light as one of the better choices in the aftermarket.
LEDs are also making huge gains in technology. In time, their CRI numbers will climb to be equivalent (or close) to halogen lighting, essentially providing improved image quality in the complete colour spectrum.
Why not LED?
COLOUR temperature and CRI (colour rendering index) of LEDs is often discussed; with supposed scientific claims that the bright white light of an LED is not ideal for human eyes and causes loss of image detail – browns, reds and similar darker colours – at night, which can partially compromise your vision. That’s not good, considering most of the animals involved in roadway accidents are in that colour range. Reflections from signs are terrible with LEDs, but so are reflections caused by bright HID and bright halogen lights.
LEDs also return less contrast of the scenery as compared to halogens, and any damaged LED driving light is essentially binned rather than repaired – unlike halogens, which generally only see blown bulbs and are easily replaced.
4x4 gear: Halogen v HID v LED driving lights
PRIOR to bagging or heaping praise on any of these lights, keep in mind each photo is with a single driving light and with no high or low beams switched on.
Any light that seems patchy or lacks wide-angled vision in the short distance could well be made up for with your vehicle’s high beams, depending on how good they are. That said, the photos you see here allow you to compare all lights on equal grounds, without low or high beams detracting from the driving light itself.
There are a heap of great lights included in this test; in fact, every single light here is worthy of fitting to your 4x4 in one way or another. To take out top honours, though, a winning LED requires not just a good light output (spread for short- to mid-range, as well as a long-range useable spot beam) but also clever design features and be easy to use (fitment and aiming). Price and what’s included in the kit are also important considerations.
The lower-priced lights – Big Red and Thunder offerings – provide great performance for their thrifty cost, with Thunder getting the nod for being brighter with a great short-distance spread; even though the Big Red casts a slightly wider spread.
At the pointy end of both performance and dollars, the NARVA 215, Great White Attack, ARB Intensity AR32, Ultra Vision Nitro 140 Maxx and Lightforce Genesis offer brilliant light outputs, with excellent spot and spread beam patterns.
However, the Lightforce LED’s clip-on cover diffuses its outputs to lessen its brilliance; whereas the NARVA 215, Nitro 140 Maxx, Intensity and Great White offer different light bodies (spread, combo or pencil) without relying on separate covers. All these lights offer brilliant performance and it’s hard to separate them.
The USA-sourced KC HiLiTES LED’s very narrow pencil-like beam draws little amperage, but the useable light of this style of beam is of little use on highways, byways, dirt tracks and low range off-road trails. Unless you’re off-road racing or travelling at warp speed all the time, it’s simply wasted when trying to see more than 1200m (claimed) in a concentrated straight line. Let’s delve deeper and take a closer look at the individual lights.
4x4 gear: How to install 4x4 driving lights
AFN LED 100W
RRP: $485 per light
ARB 32 Intensity
*This comparison was done prior to the release of ARB's new and improved AR32 V2.
RRP: $786 per light
Big Red 220 High Power
RRP: $399 per light
Bushranger Night Hawk VLI
RRP: $447.50 per light
Great White Attack 220
RRP: $599 per light
KC HiLites Carbon Pod
RRP: $692.50 per light
Lightforce Genesis 210
RRP: $669 per light
RRP: $629 per light
Thunder 30 LED
RRP: $299 per light
Ultra Vision Nitro 140 Maxx
RRP: $695 per light
LED DRIVING LIGHT TEST: Results
LED DRIVING LIGHT TEST: The Winner