When Jeep handed the keys of all the 2015 concept Jeeps over to test drivers at their annual Easter Jeep Safari (EJS), there were no guarantees. But we knew what to expect: star ratings.
Located in Moab, Utah, the EJS is an opportunity for Jeep lovers everywhere to meet up, talk Jeep, and get to do something no other car company ever lets them do – drive concept vehicles.
Head of Jeep Design Mark Allen and his team produced seven vehicles they brought to Moab, including the Wrangler Africa, Grand Cherokee Overlander, and the new Jeep Chief. They used the opportunity to showcase tons of ideas the Jeep community has long been asking for (Jeep pickup, anyone?).
The Wrangler Africa is an overland explorer with a fixed top on an Unlimited JK platform, powered by – guess what! – a 2.8-liter diesel engine, a model currently unavailable in the States. The Wrangler Africa also has a new and improved large storage rack on the roof and the Rubicon X front bumpers feature two additional auxiliary lights for added visibility. But the demand this concept answers is the oft-heard “We need more space!” It’s much roomier than the previous JKU, even while retaining the original 116-inch wheelbase. The spare tire is tucked underneath the bed instead of on the tailgate, giving it more room in the back. And with the rooftop 4 inches higher, there’s plenty of room to grow.
The Grand Cherokee Overlander’s near-silent 3.0-liter VM Mitori diesel makes for a sanctimoniously smooth ride, remaining planted with a solid grab on the road. This is the first time Jeep has used air (instead of steel) springs for suspension on the current-generation Grand – and it works. The team also opened up the wheel wells for larger 32-inch BFGoodrich T/A KO tires. A bigger front fascia accommodates a fully functioning winch and new integrated auxiliary lights. There’s also an LED lightbar mounted over the front windshield.
But the best part of the Overlander is what keeps you, well, over the land: a pop-up tent on the roof. It can sleep two adults for on-the-go camping – without the hassle of, you know, actual camping.
The Wrangler Red Rock Responder is Jeep’s response to multiple cries of “Build us a Jeep pickup!” Yep, we heard you. You may soon see a Jeep pickup on the lines.
But the Jeep Chief was the fan favorite, built on the four-door JK platform with exceptional craftsmanship. From wood details to shift knobs to rooftop, it’s absolutely impeccable. Designers chose a Hawaiian surf vibe of hibiscus prints and tiki statue knobs for the shifter. The hood and front end echo old Nukizer and J-12 concepts, while the 20-slot razor grille is a throwback to the 1970s full-size Cherokee. The Chief is two inches shorter than previous models, decked out with Jeep Performance Parts’ 2-inch lift with Fox shocks, Rubicon rock rails, and Dana 44s with lockers. 17-inch slotted mag wheels are fitted with aggressive 37-inch BFGoodrich KM2s. A 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine links up to a six-speed manual transmission for one remarkable ride.
So which of these would you like to test drive? Even though many of these concepts may not make it to market, the Jeep models we have here at Mancari’s are still just as exciting. Come take one for a spin!