Each year Jeep offers up some kind or another of concept vehicle to show off at its Easter Safari meet in Moab, Utah. Scheduled to take place between March 24th and April 1st, we’re right on time to be treated to some of the often weird and wild re-interpretations to come out of the marque.
For 2018, Jeep perhaps went a little overboard, rolling out a total of 7 separate concept vehicles. That said, the term ‘concept’ here is used more loosely as each of these are working vehicles that are actually meant to be driven off road - something very likely to happen at the off-roading appreciation event next week.
Unsurprisingly, nearly all of these Moab-bound creations are based on the all-new Wrangler (5 out of 7), both because it’s the company's most high profile model (at least at this point) as well as it being the most capable, by far, when the going gets tough.
Also of little shock is the fact that Mopar, FCA’s oft unsung tuning division most closely linked with Jeep, has had a large role in guiding exactly how these 7 vehicles will look like and drive. Using a combination of stock parts as well as custom requisitions from third-party suppliers such as Fox Shocks and Dana, these concept 4x4s are a mishmash of the stock and custom.
Starting with the Sandstorm, this Wrangler-based concoction seeks to inject a whole lot of Baja dune sprinting into the mix. Evidenced by its significantly widened track, high articulation Dynatrac 60 axles and long travel heavy duty shocks, it certainly ticks all the right boxes to be able to tackle a gruelling off-road endurance race. Under the more bulging carbon bonnet lies a 6.4-litre HEMI V8 tuned by MOPAR, sending power to all corners via a 6-speed manual transmission.
It also features a custom interior cage that extends to the exposed rear deck that integrates into the chassis, leather-trimmed front seats and low-back racing buckets for rear passengers. There’s also an off-road GPS and a race-inspired instrument cluster.
This is the Wrangler if it became simultaneously more buff but also an anorexic. Shedding 430kg over the standard spec, it adopts a name much less goofy than the Jeep Pork Chop that was shown in Moab a few years ago (2011). Not only are most of its luxuries now removed, such as the air conditioning and stereo, but much of its steel and aluminium structure been replaced outright by carbon fibre or removed entirely, leaving its body 22-inches shorter than the standard Wrangler.
Even the seat fibres are made from a special lightweight weave that we believe to be less than optimal in terms of comfort. That matching bright blue roll cage hasn’t escaped the crash diet, with its normal metal bars being replaced by thin-walled composite tubing. Less mass should help its off-roading credentials too as power is derived from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder and features Dana 44 front and rear axles with a 4.10 gear ratio and 18-inch lightweight mono block wheels furnished in 35-inch BF Goodrich Mud Terrain rubber.
The Nacho’s exterior is certainly colour coordinated with the tortilla chip, however the rest of this Moab concept is left surprisingly restrained. The stock body has undergone only minimal alternations, the majority of which can be specified from Mopar’s own catalogue to fit any Wrangler Rubicon.
The black tube frame doors, however, are not obtainable as an add-on accessory, and the front flood illuminators are developed by Magneti-Marelli, integrating nicely with the modified bumper and Warn Winch kit. In terms of its boosted suspension, the Nacho benefits from a 2-inch height lift, gains 2.5-inch Fox off-road shocks, and accompanying 37-inch OD off-road tyres.
Jeepster is a name from the company’s past, first surfacing in 1966 as something of a hybrid of a passenger car and full on 4x4 - it might’ve been the first real attempt at a ‘crossover’ ever. Thankfully, it retains nearly nothing about how the original looked in proportion, but attempts to emulate some of its other cues.
Based on a Wrangler Rubicon, it wears a two-tone graphic theme that mirrors the the 60s Jeepster motif. The body is done in Firecracker Red while the hard top, which has been cropped by 2 inches, is finished in a contrasting Bright White.
Jeep has also added a 2-inch lift kit and 2.5-inch diameter aluminium body shocks teamed with oversized 37-inch BF Goodrich KO2 tyres on headlock-capable 17-inch wheels. Inside, the Jeepster concept features a tubular roll cage to replace the usual sports bar, black Katzkin leather, and a storage packs mounted to the tailgate for transport of gear and supplies.
Last up for the Wrangler-based Moab showcases is the J-Wagon, which is the only one among its brethren to not be a three door model. Based on the 5-door Sahara instead, the J-Wagon intends to blend premium comfort with go-anywhere ruggedness. Therefore, it’s been breathed on in various ways by Jeep Performance Parts to make it more adept at tackling both ends of that spectrum.
The chassis takes taller notch thanks to a larger wheel (17-inch) and tyre (35-inch KM3 BF Goodrich) package and outfitted with a new 5-inch LED mounts to deliver military grade outdoor illumination. In addition to that we have a ‘Brass Monkey’ exterior finish and a snorkel kit that’ll ensure the 3.6-litre naturally aspirated Pentastar V6 can operate in deep wading situations.
Inside, there’s Camel-color Katzkin leather seats with stark brown piping and plow-through inserts that mimic the triangulated grille design of the concept rock rails. Eye-level Brass Monkey trim and bezel accents on the HVAC vents, door handles and steering wheel harmonise the interior with the exterior.
Alright. So the Renegade is probably the furthest thing Jeep has in their current line-up from a ute, but apparently the real reason behind that name is some bit of cleverness because the internal development name for the crossover was BU/520.
Based on the more off-road focused Trailhawk variant, Jeep has tacked on plenty of kit from their Performance Parts catalogue onto it, and now it features unique front and rear fascias, new upper grille surround, new hood with heat extractors, wider arch flares, a roof rack, and rock rails.
Power comes from the same 2.4-litre Tigershark four-cylinder and mated to a 9-speed automatic. Substantively, the Renegade has been given a 1.5-inch suspension lift, helping off-road capabilities are increased by using 17-inch wheels with a 30-millimeter offset, wrapped in BF Goodrich T/A Baja Champion tyres.
Inside, the B-Ute features custom trimmed seats with Mineral inserts, a Carbonite finish on the shifter, speaker and vent surrounds, Piano Black inserts, a MOLLE system on the back of the front seats, and Mopar all-weather floor mats.
Jeep Wagoneer Roadtrip
Leave all your Wrangler fantasies at the door because this full-on 60s retro throwback looks absolutely beautiful. We’re already expecting the Wagoneer name to return in the form of an all-new flagship luxury SUV, and Jeep has been shuffling to launch a larger model for the Chinese market called the the Grand Commander.
There’s certainly interest in tapping this corner of the market from the American marque, returning to their roots in pioneering a space that eventually grew into the SUV market we know today. Rather than modifying a newer model to fit the old-timey look, they have lovingly restored an original Wagoneer to 21st century standards while retaining its distinct character.
It’s body is still hewn from good old steel, though its wheelbase has been stretched a further 5 inches and altered to match the additional length and wider track. Dana 44 front and rear axles with lockers are present, along with four-link suspension with coil over springs and 17-inch steel wheels wrapped in 33-inch BF Goodrich Mud-Terrains.
The interior’s charm, down to the original front and rear bench seating, has been retained. There’s even a wicker headliner if you can believe it, and most of the trim and dash have been restored with custom recreated pieces to match the original spec and aesthetic.
However, its all-wheel drive system has been updated to far more capable systems from modern Jeeps and powered, as it should be, by a HEMI V8 displacing 5.7-litres, and a four-speed automatic not dissimilar to the first torque converter ever fitted to a car of this sort - just as it pioneered over five decades ago.