Think LA and your first automobile vision is probably a bright-red Ferrari being navigated by a Hollywood big wig. While there was plenty of support for that stereotype at the LA Auto Show, Jeep had a different take on the local scene. It urged men of means to skip the pretty sports cars in favor of Jeep specials designed to escape the metropolis and chew up California's sand, rock, snow and dirt.
Debuted at the LA show, the Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition is an homage to the original Willys CJs of the World War II era. More like the originals and less like the watered-down SUV of 2013, the Willys has its sights on mud and dirt. It comes complete with a Dana 44 rear axle with Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential and 3.73 gears, rock rails, and a new Jeep Trail Rated Kit with D-Ring, tow strap and gloves. Those upgrades complement the Command-Trac 4x4 part-time, two-speed transfer case with 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio when grappling difficult terrain.
The Wrangler Willys gets its special look from a gloss black grille, gloss black front and rear bumper appliques, and "4 Wheel Drive" and "Willys" exterior decals. It stands tall on gloss black, 17-inch aluminum wheels rolled up in BF Goodrich KM Mud Terrain LT255/75R17 tires. A Sunrider soft top with deep-tint rear windows, and classic Jeep half doors are available as an option.
The Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition is powered by the standard 285-hp Pentastar V6 engine and will start at US$25,795 for the two-door and $29,595 for the four-door Unlimited when it becomes available early next year.
The new Jeep Cherokee doesn't appear to be the most off-road-savvy vehicle to ever bear the "Cherokee" name, but the Trail Carver pushes it closer. Originally revealed at the SEMA Show earlier this month, the Trail Carver "is for trail addicts seeking a vehicle with the capabilities to handle the rugged off-road while projecting a unique, customized and luxurious look on the streets."
Based on the Cherokee Trailhawk 4x4 package, the Trail Carver gets aggressive off-road tires and rock rails. A Mopar cold-air intake and cat-back exhaust add an unspecified number of ponies to the output of the 3.2-liter V6 engine. The slicked-back mohawk on top is a concept roof basket from Mopar. Crush Orange highlights pop against the Auburn Pearl exterior, and topographical map graphics on the hood and roof give the Carver a "travel anywhere" look.
Inside, the Jeep Cargo Management Receiver System keeps the Carver prepared for highway and backroad emergencies with attached Mopar roadside emergency kit, Trailhawk bag and first-aid kit. The rest of the interior is rather luxurious thanks to leather appointments, integrated Wi-Fi and a wireless smartphone charger.
Unfortunately, even a utilitarian badge like Jeep isn't above covering its vehicles with tacky aesthetics that belong on an Ed Hardy shirt. Lacking the off-road performance upgrades of the two aforementioned packages, the Dragon Edition is the Jeep equivalent of a couple of dragon tattoos around the torso, legs and arms. Jeep brought a Dragon concept to last year's Beijing auto show and displayed it in LA to mark the Dragon Edition's 2014 model year launch in the US.
"Our loyal Jeep enthusiasts asked us to build this unique Wrangler, and we are delivering exactly what they've asked for," Jeep president and CEO Mike Manley said in a press release in September. "The new 2014 Jeep Wrangler Dragon Edition boasts a stunning, unique, upscale design with styling cues that make it unlike any Wrangler ever seen before."
That design includes a black body and three-piece hard-top broken by Bronze Satin Gloss trim and a large, charcoal dragon decal slithering across the hood and down the driver side. Other exterior touches include gloss-black appliques on the front and rear bumpers, a Mopar fuel door and a dragon decal on the spare tire cover. The Dragon Edition rides on 18-inch, matte black wheels with Satin Bronze detailing.
The black, bronze and fire-breather theme continues inside, where black Nappa leather is accented with bronze trim and dragon graphics. Based on the Wrangler Sahara package, the Dragon Edition starts at $36,095.
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