Front Runner Slimline II Roof Rack: Longterm Owner’s Review


I’ve owned a Front Runner Slimline II roof rack for two years and battle-tested it across the back roads of West Africa. It has carried sacks of grain, bikes, Pelican cases, and more across many rugged miles. I think I’m now able to offer a proper real-world opinion for others who are considering this roof rack.

I’ve been generally quite pleased with the Front Runner Slimline II. It’s a solid product, but there are still a few things you should know before buying this roof rack.

Quick Facts

Slimline II and Pelican case

The Front Runner Slimline II often makes the shortlist of the most respected 4×4 roof racks on the market today. It is especially popular among overland enthusiasts featuring a heavy-duty modular platform design with a low-profile yet rugged look. The T-slotted slats and rails make bolt-on mods super easy to install.

  • Modular platform design: Widths and lengths vary depending on the vehicle
  • Self-assembly required: The rack ships as a flat pack and is bolted together
  • Foot mounts: Front Runner provides vehicle-specific mounts
  • Material: Black powder-coated aluminum slats and rails
  • Weight: ~100lbs(Example: 4 door Jeep Wrangler)
  • Horizontal slats with T-slot rail mounts

Pricing

In general, you can expect to pay around $1800-2000 for a full-size SUV rack. 3/4 size racks are closer to $1300. FrontRunner’s prices are very similar to their competitors.

Of course, each vehicle fitment will vary by the size of the rack, wind fairing design, and foot design.

You can check pricing for your specific vehicle here

Reasons to Consider a Slimline II

Slimline II accessories
Credit: Front Runner

  1. Competitive price: costs around the same price as major competitors like ARB, Rhino, and Easy Awn.
  2. Clean, yet strong low-profile design
  3. Well proven design
  4. Super durable-designed for serious 4×4 use
  5. Easily modified– upgrade over time. A mod can be bolted on with simple M8 screws.
  6. Fitment for most 4x4s: North American and international models are supported, and custom fitment is available through customer service.
  7. Solid parts and customer support
  8. Massive accessory lineup

Reasons to Skip the Slimline II

  1. Overkill for smaller vehicles: The Slimline II is designed primarily for 4x4s
  2. Fuel savings: This is a full-size rack, it will affect your fuel economy at highway speeds
  3. If prefer lengthways slats instead of widthways ones- this is preferential but an important consideration
  4. You need an absolutely flat platform rack– the top of the Slimline II’s side rails sit about an inch higher than the slats.
  5. Requires assembly: The Slimline II ships in a flat pack.

Fitment

FrontRunner offers purpose-built fitments on a massive range worldwide of vehicles. You will be very hard-pressed not to find your SUV on their list. Even if you don’t, just send an email over to them and Front Runner is super helpful at putting together the right setup for you.

Style & Functionality

Loading Front Runner Slimline II

I still haven’t gotten used to the “nice rack” comments from folks. But, yes, the Slimline II does accent my Mitsubishi Pajero nicely. The Slimline II will definitely give your vehicle the hardcore “overland” look without the added height of expedition rails or basket racks.

In terms of functionality, it’s hard to match the versatility of a platform rack with T-slot mounts. Some of the more popular accessories are rooftop tents, solar panels, light bars, and awnings.

Unlike most roof racks, you can also add or remove the horizontal slats to accommodate a sun roof, or create a solid floor-like viewing platform for things like photography. The customization possibilities are pretty much endless. All you need is an 8mm bolt to attach whatever you want.

My Experience:

I like the looks of the Slimline II. It’s definitely geared for 4x4s and would be too much “rack” for the likes of a Subaru or smaller SUV. I particularly like the versatility that the T-slots.

If you just plan on using ratchet straps for your cargo, I’d highly recommend getting a bunch of tie-down rings to hook into. You can install them on the slats and side rails as needed and easily slide them around needed.

Quality & Durability

The overall quality of this roof rack is very good. However, since the Slimline II requires assembly, a lot depends on the competence of the person putting the rack together! Extra care needs to be taken to properly torque down the screws and re-check them. Once the rack is well set up, it is essentially maintenance-free.

My Experience:

A well-used Slimline II demonstrates moderate wear on the powder coating.
Slimline II powder coating
My Slimline II shows minor powder coat wear after several years of use.

The overall quality of the Front Runner Slimline II is very good. However, after four years of regular use, a powder coating is beginning to wear off on a number of the cross slats. There is also some minor bubbling under the powder coating on the leading edge of the rack.

Aside from minor aesthetic wear and tear items, nothing has failed on the rack and it continues to perform perfectly.

Wind Noise?

Slimline II highway noise

It is virtually impossible to eliminate wind noise from roof racks. Every model of vehicle has a unique profile which means significant differences in noise even between two different vehicles fitted with the same rack. This is why the Slimline II is shipped with vehicle-specific wind fairings to minimize noise for your setup.

Front Runner Racks have been criticized for wind noise. This was not the case for my vehicle. From studying forums most wind noise issues can be corrected.

In many cases, the owners simply did not install or forgot to adjust the supplied wind deflectors correctly. In very rare cases the shape of the vehicle causes the T-slots in the cross bars to generate noise. Front Runner offers accessory rubber beading strips to correct this. If wind noise is still an issue Front Runner offers larger wind fairings accessories too.

My Experience

I don’t notice any significant wind noise with my Mitsubishi Pajero. The wind deflector that came with my rack was well-adjusted. I am interested to hear the difference after I mount a Front Runner rack to my 70 Series Land Cruiser rebuild. I’ll update you on that.

Load Capacity

According to Front Runner, the Slimline II can structurally carry up to 660 lbs- far more than what most vehicle roofs are designed to carry. So do your research to know how much weight you can safely put up top. Never exceed your roof’s “dynamic load” capacity.

My Experience

A 250lb guy once clambered up on my rack to help tie down the load. I cringed as a single slat flexed down a full inch under his entire weight but to my amazement, the slat rebounded right back up into position afterward. After witnessing this I’m fully convinced that the Front Runner Slimline II can handle much more weight than my rig could ever(or should ever) carry.

Modular Design

The SlimLine II is a super versatile platform. It is designed in such a way that you can shorten the rack or add extra slats to make a solid platform. Converting it from a platform rack to basket rack only requires bolting on an expedition rail kit. Being able to add or or remove expedition rails really adds versatility that is not possible with traditional basket racks.

Accessories and Mods

credit: Front Runner

For me, the most compelling reason to buy a Front Runner Slimline II’s is that it is among the most modifiable roof racks in the world. You can mount virtually anything to this rack thanks to the T-slots that run along the top and bottom of every slat and rail.

Front Runner offers a ton of accessories like lights, rooftop tents, awnings, and MaxTrax mounts, but DIYers can just as easily mount whatever they want with a few M8 bolts, washers, and homemade brackets.

My Experience

Front Runner tie down ring
Tie-down rings for Slimline II

The first accessory I would recommend for the Slimline II would be a bunch of tie down rings. I bought six. Insert and slide a ring to the desired location on a slat or rail, then tighten it down securely by hand. There is no need for tools, and it can be done on the fly as needed. It is super handy for odd-shaped loads such as firewood.

Front Runner SlimLine II review

I’ve mounted third-party accessories to this rack as well, like the Pelican Cargo case system(which I reviewed here) with quick-release mounts. Before ordering a third-party accessory keep in mind that Front Runner racks have lateral slats that run width-ways not lengthways. Some third-party brackets only mount 90 degrees to the slats. In my case, it worked perfectly, but if I had used the same Pelican case system on a rack with lengthways slats, I would have had fewer practical places to mount the cases.

Customer Service

I don’t usually include this in my reviews, but I felt I should mention how helpful and prompt Front Runner was when I had a question about refitting my Slimline II from my Pajero to my rebuilt Land Cruiser. Hennes over at Front Runner took his time asking for measurements and photos.

It turned out my Pajero rack was a little to narrow to move it over to the Land Cruiser. However, I’m much more pleased that I got the right answer from a competent person which is a rarity these days. So, thanks Hennes! I look forward to mounting a new Slimline II to my LC soon!

Weight

The weight of a Front Runner Slimline II will vary depending on the vehicle model but a typical full-length SlimLine II does not weigh more than 100 lbs. The aluminum frame offers the best weight-to-strength ratio for rugged 4×4 applications. If you go with the optional expedition rail system you would be adding another 20 lbs or so.

Conclusion

The Slimline II is a solid “Buy” in my book.

In my opinion, the Front Runner Slimline II ranks among the best 4×4 roof racks in the world. It is very rugged and easily modified with non-proprietary accessories. It makes an excellent base for 4×4 enthusiasts planning to build out their rig over time. Front Runner also offers the widest vehicle fitment range that I’ve seen worldwide. Their parts support is excellent and I’ve personally had very helpful experiences with their customer service.

For more on other excellent 4×4 roof racks check out this post.

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Don Longworth

Don was born and raised in sub-saharan Africa. Now based in Canada, his extensive experience in non-profit work has served him well over multiple deployments in Africa. Don's experiences have made him a practical "to-the-point" type person. He is a no-frills, low-key guy who appreciates quality and simplicity.

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