Baja Designs Squadron XL LED Lighting Review

Mar. 18, 2014 By Jaime Hernandez

We’re fans of Baja Designs’ off-road lighting, so when we learned that the Mad Scientist was introducing a new off-road LED light that would rival high powered HIDs, it really piqued our interest. Up until this point, LED lighting has come up short in delivering far-reaching light needed for high-speed motorsports or off-road travel. In fact, HID has been the preferred choice of off-road racers and enthusiasts for over a decade—that’s until now.

The Mad Scientist from Baja Designs showing us their latest LED creations at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

The new Baja Designs Squadron XL revolutionizes off-road LED lighting by delivering the same distance of an 8-inch HID, while offering a much smoother light spread. Baja Designs knows this for a fact, as they also manufacture a very well respected HID off-road race light called “La Paz.”

Baja Designs Squadron XL LED light shown with Driving Combo hard-coated polycarbonate lens.

The Baja Designs Squadron XL emits a powerful 4300 lumens of light using four Cree XM-L2 T6 Bin LEDs at 5000K (daylight color temperature), while only using 42 watts. It is also more efficient compared to an 8-inch HID.

To help increase the life of their LEDs, Baja Designs uses internal CopperDrive technology, which consists of a copper core circuit board and thermal gap pad.  This is a huge advantage over cheap LED lights flooding the market. They go a step further by engineering functional thermal fins on the back of the Squadron XL. The built-in heat sink helps dissipate heat much faster, when compared to a flat surface.

Some additional features include:

• ClearView - Multi Form Optics
• Optional Dim Mode (50%)
• Reverse Battery & Transient Voltage Suppressor (TVS) Protection
• IP69K Certified (Submersible to 9 feet)
• IK10 Compliant (Mechanical Impact Testing)
• Vibration Rating: 7.7Grms
• Operating Temperature: -40 Celsius to +80 Celsius
• Exceeds MIL-STD810G Requirements for Low/High Temperature & Humidity Test
• Limited Lifetime Warranty

The design and features of the Baja Designs Squadron XL were so impressive we decided to order up a set for our off-road adventure rig.

We finally got a set of Baja Designs Squadron XLs installed on our trail rig early this year. We’ve been putting them through the paces of real life, testing them on different terrains and seeing how compatible they are with a daily driven 4-Wheel Drive. So far they have more than exceeded our expectations.

Below is an overview of the simple installation process for converting your off-road vehicle from halogen or HID lights into Baja Designs Squadron XL LED lights.

Finding a good location to mount the Squadron XL is the first step. Their relatively small size make them ideal for mounting on a winch bumper, A-pillar bracket or cage. Their measured height is 4.44” (w/bracket 4.82”), depth is 3.66” (w/bracket 4.44”). The Squadron XL is a great candidate for replacing old off-road lights already in place. We were able to fit ours directly onto a 4x4 winch bumper, originally designed for round off-road lights.

The Squadron XL comes with stainless-steel fasteners and mount, which makes the installation easy and straightforward. We used existing metal tabs already welded onto our front winch bumper. They can also be mounted onto any flat metal surface by simply drilling holes. With two wrenches spinning, the new Baja Designs off-road LED lights were mounted in less than 10 minutes.

Once we found a home for the Squadron XLs and had them securely mounted, wiring would be our next challenge. Baja Designs sells a complete harness specifically made for the Squadron XL LED light that takes the guesswork out of installation. It includes a Toggle switch for On/Off and a Momentary button for dim mode, along with the necessary fuses and relays to make it safe and functional. The wiring harness features high-quality construction and is ready for race or play.

For those looking to either make their own 12v wiring harness or use an existing auxiliary lighting harness already in place, Baja Designs includes the required Delphi-style pin connector plug. All you have to do is snip, strip and clip three wires (one power, two ground). Assembly of the weather pack 3-pin connector plug has a process. Here’s a helpful article with step-by-step process if you’ve never done it:

We modified our existing off-road light wiring loom using Baja Designs’ 3-pin connectors. Once our plugs were set, it was simply a matter of snapping the female and male connectors together and testing our toggle.

On the Squadron XL light wiring, Baja Designs includes an innovative new technology that solves one of the biggest problems that plagues LED lights--water in the light. Baja Designs’ MoistureBlock cord completely stops water from wicking its way up the cord and into the lights.

After testing our lights, we noticed they were pointing high and needed some vertical adjustment. The Baja Designs Squadron XL can easily be dialed in by loosening a single top bolt on each side of the light bracket. The Squadron XL then swivels vertically, allowing up to 15 degrees of adjustment.

Baja Designs includes three interchangeable lenses that can be easily swapped or serviced by owner using a simple hex key (Allen wrench). Lens patterns included: High Speed Spot, Driving Combo, Wide Cornering. For now, we chose to run the Driving/Combo lens, as most of our off-road driving is on 4x4 trails at lower speeds, well below 100 MPH.

The lighting zone plot above shows the different patterns each Baja Designs optic configuration can offer. Running a combination of lights and different lenses helps put the light where the driver needs it most. Baja Designs offers one of the most user-friendly tunable lights on the market—part of their uService mission.

The Baja Designs Squadron XL has an optional dim mode that puts out 50% of the light. A good use for it is safety daylight running lights on the trail.

We really like the overall design, look and functionality of the Baja Designs Squadron XL. Its application is limitless—from Jeep, Truck and 4x4 applications to powersports. The optional Squadron XL round design also adds a nice touch for those traditional off-roaders having a difficult time going square. They also function exceptionally well on the trail.

The Baja Designs Squadron XL is a nice alternative to an LED light bar and a big improvement over our old halogen off-road lights. Its distinctive aluminum housing makes it an easy swap for most 4x4 vehicles already equipped with round units. These smaller and sleeker LED lights have definitely helped modernize the lighting and looks of the vehicle. We recently attended the Tierra Del Sol (TDS) Desert Safari and had a lot of interest from people we met on the trail.

The wider, farther and taller light put out by the Squadron XL is also well received. They have proven handy in lighting our path when exploring canyons, washes and mountains in our quest for adventure—many times going late into the night. The Squadron XL packs a lot of light for such a small package, weighing in at only 2.45lbs. Using a Baja Designs High Speed lens, the Squadron XL has a range of 630+ feet. With our driving/combo lens, we’re just over 450 feet.

Some other things we really like about the Squadron XL are its solid construction and craftsmanship. One can tell a great deal of thought and engineering went into making this light. The technology becomes even more apparent when compared to crude LED light bars or light pods that can’t be tuned to deliver precise lighting, or that fail after prolonged bouncing on rough terrain.

Having a good set of off-road lights is important, you never know what you may encounter at night.  We came across this impressive metal sculpture by Ricardo Braceda near Anza-Borrego, CA.

This is our third set of Baja Designs installed on different vehicles over the years, and we have yet to have one fail. They are so overbuilt for motorsports use, that when they find a home on a four-wheel drive Jeep, truck or SUV—they outpace most off-road lights on the dirt and deliver years of durability well worth its weight in coin.

If you can’t afford to be left in the dark, Baja Designs is the answer.

Baja Designs
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