When we did our LED driving light comparison test last year we were all surprised when the Night Hawks from Bushranger 4x4 Gear came up on top. Nothing against the Bushranger brand but these lights were a relative unknown up against some of the biggest brands in the country.
Fast forward to when we had the AFN bar fitted to our Ranger and we were keen to get a pair of Night Hawks on there to see how they perform in the real world. We were also very interested in Bushranger’s VLI wiring system which allows the driver to control the intensity of the lights via an adjustment dial with seven power settings. The VLI harness was not used in the original light comparison test.
The VLI is an electronically switched harness that removes the need for any relays in the system, instead using transistors for switching. It provides a simple plug-and-play harness that automatically senses the vehicle polarity for positive or negatively switched high-beam circuits, removing the need for any rewiring that can otherwise be required for some vehicles.
The VLI harness comes with a dial, instead of a conventional switch, that offers seven different power settings for the lights. The system also has a soft-start fire-up so that it allows your eyes to adjust to the lights when you switch them on.
I have to admit that I thought the adjustable power setting for the lights would be a bit of a gimmick. I mean, doesn’t everybody want their lights at maximum brightness all of the time? To the contrary, I found having the adjustment to be very useful and found myself running the lights in lower power settings more often than expected.
Project Ranger: 4x4 Australia's Ranger cops a pair of Night Hawks
For example, modern LED and HID driving lights seem to be forever getting more powerful and in some situations, too powerful. I find that when driving on country roads that still have road signs on them, the reflection back at you from the signs is almost worse than an oncoming car.
This is worse on a winding mountain road where you still want the extra vision afforded by the lights, but there are more signs indicating curves, corners and turns. Setting the VLI dial in the third or fourth power setting on these roads reduces the glare blasting back to the driver off signs but still gives the advantage of better lighting.
Another time I found it better to reduce the power of the Night Hawks was on country roads where I was getting more than occasional oncoming traffic that required dipping the beams.
4x4 gear: LED driving light comparison
Even with the ‘soft start’ feature of the system, the difference between the light thrown by the Night Hawks and the admittedly poor standard Ford main beams is significant, leaving the driver in darkness for the few seconds it takes for your eyes to adjust to the lower light when dipping the beams. Running the Night Hawks in the lower power settings reduces this difference while again still giving improved vision ahead. And it’s easy to turn the VLI power-dial up when the oncoming traffic road conditions allow for it.
The Night Hawks pump out plenty of light. They are a nine-inch light utilising 37 Osram LEDs per light for a total of 175-watts each. They run a mild 5700K light temperature which makes them easier on the driver’s eyes, but still the variable output of the VLI makes it easier again.
The lights are constructed in a sturdy, finned aluminium housing that offers optimal cooling and the 4mm steel mounting bracket keeps them secure on your bumper and allows for sufficient adjustment.
4x4 gear: Halogen v HID v LED driving lights
When used with the Bushranger VLI wiring harness, the installation is as easy as can be, with the only drawback being that the VLI power-dial is bigger than a regular switch and you need to find somewhere to mount it. We tucked it up under the HVAC controls where it was out of sight but still relatively easy for the driver to access with his or her left hand.
The Night Hawks come with a pair of polycarbonate protective covers that give you a choice of spread and spot beams. We played around with them and found we preferred to run without the covers on at all, as they did get a lot of dust in behind them and required daily cleaning to get the best performance out of the lights.
This problem isn’t limited to the Bushranger covers, but all covers on lights. That said, replacing a cracked plastic cover is a lot cheaper than replacing an expensive LED light should it get struck by a stone.
With their solid construction, excellent performance, innovative adjustable output and the simple plug-and-play VLI wiring system, we reckon the Bushranger Night Hawks were worthy winners of our comparison and certainly among the best LED lights available for your fourby.
Available from: bushranger.com.au & ARB stores
RRP: Lights $447.50 each; VLI harness $89
We Say: Powerful light with an innovative and simple system.