Each year, hundreds of off-road enthusiasts spend Easter week migrating to the mecca of their sport: Moab, Utah. Loath to miss out on a great marketing opportunity, Jeep is taking advantage and showcasing a series of concept 4x4s that show what dedicated rock hounds can do with a little aftermarketing. It's shown more than 40 concepts since 2002, and this year it's all about big tires and light weight. Its half-dozen Easter Jeep Safari concepts include an ultralight Wrangler and "the most extreme Grand Cherokee ever."
Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
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So what exactly constitutes the most extreme Grand Cherokee ever? Jeep started things off with its new EcoDiesel V6, giving the Trailhawk plenty of low-end torque and driving range. It then jacked the package up on a set of 35-inch Mickey Thompson tires hugging 17-inch Wrangler Rubicon wheels. The wheel openings are stretched out around those big tires and adorned with fender flares. The Trailhawk also includes custom front and rear skid plates, dual rear tow hooks and modified Mopar rock rails.
To make sure that no one mistakes the Trailhawk for a soccer mom's Grand Cherokee, Jeep splashed it with vibrant blood orange paint and added an SRT hood, SRT front and rear fascias with extra ground clearance, a black grille, and a black roof with one-off custom roof rails. Inside, wet boots and dirty gear are met with Mopar slush mats and a rear cargo liner.
Inspired by the Jeep Wrangler Pork Chop, an ironically named lightweight Jeep concept from the 2011 Easter Jeep Safari, the new Jeep Wrangler Stitch takes weight savings even more seriously. Jeep slashed a quarter of the base Wrangler Rubicon's 4,100-pound (1,859-kg) curb weight, knocking the Stitch down to an even 3,000 (1,360 kg).
This required more than just a few carbon fiber body parts; Jeep removed the rear seats, stereo, air conditioning, and heating components; stripped the doors off; cut out parts of the body; and modified the frame and axles for weight savings. It also installed a carbon fiber hood, chrome moly roll cage, aluminum components and 2013 SRT Viper seats. All that weight-cutting work pays off in a Wrangler that has a power-to-weight ratio comparable to the 470-hp Grand Cherokee SRT.
Like the Trailhawk, the Stitch rides on Mickey Thompson 35-inch off-road tires on 17-inch aluminum wheels. Modifications and additions include a Mopar cold-air intake, Mopar exhaust kit, custom DynaTrac Pro Rock 44 axles with 4.88 gears and ARB front and rear lockers, King shocks with pneumatic bump stops, and Tom Woods drive shafts.
No one's mistaking the radically light Stitch for a stock Wrangler, but Jeep still added plenty of distinguishing touches. The body is wrapped in a clear silver fabric designed to conceal the cut-out panels from some angles and highlight them from others. The bright yellow of the interior matches the clear yellow vinyl soft top, and a pair of Truck-Lite LED headlamps finishes off the Stitch's unique look.
If leaving chunks of the body on the factory floor seems a bit extreme, the Wrangler Slim offers a more modest lightweight Wrangler package. Weight was saved using simpler measures, such as a lightweight rear bumper and rock rails. The concept also includes a Mopar two-inch lift kit, Mopar cold-air intake, black grille, black hood decal, LED headlights and Rubicon tires. It is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 and uses a 3:73 anti-spin axle. The Rock Lobster body color is highlighted by the beauty rings that wrap the 17-inch prototype forged beadlock wheels. Inside, it has leather seat covers, a CB radio, all-weather slush mats and a hard-top headliner.
Wrangler Sand Trooper II
Apparently, the Wrangler Sand Trooper that Jeep brought to SEMA last year wasn't quite hardcore enough for Moab. The Sand Trooper II uses the same 375-hp 5.7-liter HEMI V8, but gets extra ground clearance courtesy of a set of eight-lug front and rear portal axles. The tires shrink just a little – the 40-inch tires wrapping the prototype forged beadlock wheels are down from the 42-inch rubber on the original Sand Trooper.
A full suite of Mopar exterior enhancements upgrade the Sand Trooper, including the satin black grille, front and rear half-door and window kits, front and rear off-road “Shorty” modified bumpers, a Warn winch, flat fenders, rock rails, LED off-road lights, and a Jeep Performance Parts badge. The interior boasts leather seats, locking storage, a rear back-up camera, grab handles, a trunk storage box, a Trailside winch kit and other custom touches.
Like the Mercedes G63 6x6 – or G-Class in general – the Wrangler Flattop was designed to combine a refined look and interior with a rugged, ready-for-anything build. It rides on 37-inch Mickey Thompson off-road tires and features a Mopar cold-air intake, Mopar exhaust kit, DynaTrac Pro Rock 44 front axle and Dana 60 rear axle with ARB air lockers and TeraFlex sway bars, Full-Traction control arms, and King shocks with pneumatic bump stops.
The Flattop immediately looks a little different than other Wrangler hard-tops, and that's because Jeep removed the B-pillar, creating large, continuous side windows that accentuate the look of the single-piece roof. Custom high line fender flares, Truck-Lite LED headlamps, LED taillamps and side markers, a Warn Zeon winch and TeraFlex spare tire carrier equip the metallic sandstone exterior, while copper and brown highlights stand out against it. The inside gets dark saddle Katzkin leather seating, copper accents and Mopar slush mats.
Wrangler Mopar Recon
Not the spy vehicle that its name might imply, the Mopar Recon is more of an eager, virile off-road machine. It features the muscle of a Mopar 470-hp 6.4-liter HEMI crate engine and puts it to work with the help of a five-speed automatic transmission and Dana 60 front and rear axles with 4.10 gearing. Those axles are attached to a 4.5-inch prototype lift kit, and the Recon rides on 39-inch tires held in place by prototype forged eight-lug beadlock wheels.
Mopar did some work around the exterior, which can be seen in the front and rear half-door and window kits, front and rear “Stinger” bumpers, Warn winch, high-clearance flat fenders, rock rails, Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary hood, prototype LED headlamps, a canvas soft top and a swing-away rear tire carrier. Mopar slush mats, a locking below-floor storage box, a trailside winch kit, a custom seat made from Navy blankets and Navy camouflage material, and other equipment create a unique cabin.
All the concepts will be on show at the annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, which runs from March 23 - 31.
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