A $70 upgrade to Sylvania’s Silverstar ZXE bulbs adds safety and looks to any ride
For about $70, it’s possible to overhaul the exterior lighting signature of one’s vehicle while adding extra confidence and peace of mind during nighttime travels and inclement weather.
The Review: Silverstar ZXE
Options are numerous and compelling when it comes to aftermarket vehicle lighting, especially for a commonly-customized vehicle like the Jeep Wrangler. With the intention of increasing the after-dark lighting performance and looks of an otherwise-stock 2015 model, this writeup focuses on Sylvania’s new ZXE drop-in headlight bulbs, which promise the whitest light possible, and higher output than factory halogen bulbs, thanks to proprietary xenon halogen gas technology and improved peripheral illumination. You can see our before and after pictures at the bottom of the story.
Your writer isn’t a frequent product reviewer, though as a fan and advocate of high-performance lighting as a safety feature, I decided that my recent experience with the new ZXE bulbs was worth sharing.
A nighttime drive and photography were carried out with the vehicle’s low-beams activated, and fog-lamps switched off, to gauge the performance of the Wrangler’s factory headlamps. The results were largely average: brightness and illumination just ahead of the vehicle was adequate, the colour was yellow, and further from the vehicle, illumination became patchy and uneven. Peripheral illumination, via light cast into the culverts and tree-line beside dark roads, was fairly weak.
High beam performance was similar, with the entire pattern and colour of the beams simply moved further up the road, with thicker light present slightly farther ahead of the vehicle, but the same diminishing of performance and consistency into the distance.
The installation of the Silverstar ZXE bulbs to a Jeep Wrangler is straightforward and stress-free, and simply requires removal of a few clips and screws to dismount the front grille and headlight assemblies. Factory bulbs twist out, the ZXE’s easily taking their spot. Install will vary vehicle to vehicle, so be sure to look up the headlight bulb change procedure for your ride before your purchase. Youtube is helpful, here.
With the new ZXE bulbs installed, the nighttime drive was repeated on the same route, with photography taken in the same location and with identical camera settings for consistency. See the photos for a closer look, noting that the results are considerably more dramatic when seen in person.
The difference was apparent after just seconds at the wheel: the vehicle’s owner, Bill Cullens, commented straight away that lighting from his original bulbs never reached as far up the road, while driving down a residential street. The light output was notably cleaner too: crisp, white and vivid in comparison to the dull yellow colour from the factory bulbs.
Photography and further analysis revealed some interesting points. First, the peripheral lighting performance with the ZXE bulbs was a notable improvement, with more light available beside the vehicle and into the treeline and culverts. Where the factory bulbs cast a little bit of weak light to the sides of the Wrangler, the ZXE units cast more, brighter, cleaner light towards the roadside, adding confidence while driving on empty dark roads.
Low and high-beam illumination don’t appear to reach any further up the road than the factory bulbs, though the consistency of the beam pattern is better, with stronger light, right until the edge of the effective illumination range. Put another way, the ZXE bulbs demonstrate strong, thick, crisp light from just in front of the test vehicle to the end of their reach, compared to the factory bulbs, which demonstrated considerable lighting deterioration as the distance from the vehicle increased.
Simply, the ZXE bulbs, in this application, provide more light, more evenly, over more of the illuminated area.
More light was also noted immediately in front of the Wrangler, where the factory bulbs left a notable dark spot. “This is great if I’m off-roading in the dark” Cullens mentioned. “There’s brighter, clearer light closer to the front of the Jeep, where I’d normally use the fog-lights, but now the headlights do a better job of lighting up what’s directly in front of me on the trail, so I don’t have to get out and check.
A final note: with the new bulbs installed, the Jeep’s lighting signature looks more distinctive and sharp after dark, with the white light adding a touch of upscale flare. Best of all, the light output is totally OEM in appearance, and unlikely to get unwanted attention from your local police force, should they be cracking down on aftermarket lighting upgrades. Sylvania notes that the ZXE bulbs are 100 percent street-legal and DOT approved.
The verdict? In this application, the ZXE bulbs should prove a simple and cost-effective upgrade to the look of the vehicle, and moreso, to the performance of its lighting system. More light, farther away means more time to detect and respond to threats up the road. Plus, with a notable increase in peripheral lighting, the ZXE bulbs will provide added confidence and safety during nighttime drives. Finally, the whiter, brighter and more crisp lighting output will help reduce eye fatigue and squinting on long drives.
Note that conventional headlights dim over time, up to 10 percent per year, and that the test vehicle was only a few months old. Translation? Replacing older factory bulbs with upgrade bulbs like the ZXE’s could offer more dramatic improvements on older vehicles. Also, note that the headlight housings on the test vehicles were in perfect shape, and that older, hazy, pitted or damaged headlight housings and lenses should be repaired, reconditioned or replaced ahead of a bulb upgrade for maximum results. Your writer has sourced affordable headlight housing replacements from sites like www.rockauto.com at reasonable prices for numerous rides.
Sylvania Silverstar ZXE bulbs are available now, with pricing around $70.
Check out the before and after results below– taken with identical camera settings on the same stretch of road. The camera only captures part of the story– and the results are more dramatic in real life. Still– the extended brightness throughout the lighting range is easily visible.