$670: Universal Pull Top 92726 ($250), Rapid Traverse Foot Pack 480R ($200), AeroBlade ARB60 ($180), 2 Locking Cylinders ($40)
What we Thought:
> Installation: We were eager to install Thule's "roof mounted ski carrier" on a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee and immediately filled up the truck for a staff ski day. Finally, we were about to solve an eternal problem: how to pack everyone's gear, their skis and have enough personal space to stay sane. Ultimately, that solution is the biggest selling point for a roof rack, especially if you frequently have 3+ skiers in your car. But before we could get too excited about the impromptu trip, there was the small matter of installation.
It seemed easy enough: attach the sleek AeroBlade crossbars to the Rapid Traverse feet, use the Speedlink hardware to mount the Universal Pull Top to the setup and off we go. If you're like the poor sap of an editor who is writing this review, you probably only put a new rack together every decade. With so many different combinations of cars and SUVs, Thule has something that will work for just about everyone. But you'll have a few varying accessories and measurements to make it all come together on your particular vehicle. Following the instructions to those accessories is where it gets a bit challenging, akin to infamous projects from IKEA (both companies are Swedish, after all).
Caution and diligence are in order during the installation, as the last thing you want is 12 skis-turned-projectiles hurling off your roof at 70 mph due to your own inattention back in the garage. So plan to spend an afternoon getting the assembly down. The good news is you only have to do it once.
No existing roof rails were required for our setup: Thule has an attachment or configuration for just about every vehicle, no matter if it has factory attachments. Ours had metal and rubber feet (for lack of a better word) that grip the outside edges of the roof while the doors are open. Tighten the pressure from each side, and you have a firmly mounted rack. To see which options will work on your car, check out Thule's configurator.
Large buttons allow easier opening of the ski rack, even when wearing gloves.
Copyright: Nick Jones
> Performance: Sliding skis on and off is easy enough with a clever mechanism that will slide the open rack toward you so you can load up to six pairs of skis or as many as four snowboards. Slide the rack back toward center, and it's locked and loaded for a trip up the mountain.
A Thule selling point is the Speedlink hardware, which requires only a few hand cranks to mount or remove the ski-specific carrier from the roof rails. This will let you easily swap out your ski setup for your bike/kayak carrier when the seasons change. Speedlink also allows you to use the ski carrier with just about any factory crossbars that are already on your vehicle. The only downside of this convenient hardware is that it makes the winter setup look bulkier and more high profile than our previous Thule racks.
Wind noise is very minimal, especially on vehicles without a sunroof. Incidentally, we first tested this on a 2014 Grand Cherokee (pictured) with no sunroof and then on a newly acquired 2015 Grand Cherokee with a sunroof. On the newer vehicle, the addition of the sunroof allowed more wind noise to enter the cabin, though it was not offensive. The aluminum AeroBlade crossbars are tailored for noise reduction, with special texturing to reduce whining (both outside and inside the car).
AeroBlade bars are designed to reduce wind noise. The aluminum bars are rated to 800 lbs of force.
Copyright: Nick Jones
> Overall Observations: Once the initial installation and setup was complete, this rack delivered exactly what Thule promises. The AeroBlade crossbars are a sleek addition from previous rack models, with a slim design and complementary appeal. This is a great basis for all-season activities, though the attractiveness of the crossbars are somewhat offset by the bulkiness of the ski carrier's Speedlink attachments. However, this is a beefy, six ski carrier, so that size is just part of the package.
When our impromptu trip up and down I-70 was complete, our rack was filthy with free road salt, compliments of the highway department. Removing it and cleaning it up was a breeze, and it sits patiently in our garage for the next group trip to the mountains.