We drive Jeep’s wild Easter concepts

We hit the Easter Jeep Safari for some seat time in the latest batch of seven-slot concepts.

2021 Easter Jeep Safari concepts

IF YOU are not into Jeeps, well, we feel sorry for you. But we love ’em, and when Jeep and Mopar show up at the Easter Jeep Safari (EJS) with their current corral of creations, we are first in line to take ’em for a spin.

Each of the rigs this year hit the trail with a unique spin, ranging from a roaming football tailgater and overland camper, to a retro-modern Commando and the first fully electric Wrangler.

EJS: Bronco crashes the Easter party

If COVID put the kibosh on your plans for attending EJS, no worries, we’re bringing it to you.

MAGNETO

LET’S start with the Jeep we thought we’d never see: a zero-emission fully electric Wrangler Rubicon. Our first impressions were, “this is a little weird,” as it sounded like a high-performance golf cart. You also couldn’t tell if the engine was running. But when I pressed the clutch and shifted it in gear – yes, it has a six-speed manual and two-speed transfer case – I realised Magneto is probably one of the most high-tech Jeeps ever built.

Its axial flux motor draws juice from four lithium-ion battery packs dispersed throughout the vehicle (a combined reserve of 70 kW/h), and generates 213kW and 370Nm – nearly identical to the stock 3.6-litre Pentastar V6. Power curve calibrations were designed to match its internal-combustion counterpart, but being electric it won’t stall at 300 or even 25rpm. Try this with a petrol manual.

Batteries and control modules are environmentally sealed, allowing for a fording depth of 762mm, and skid plates protect the full underbelly. An inverter converts DC to AC power for the motor, while the radio, lighting, nav system, and other 12-volt accessories are powered by a separate battery, as are the 10kW heater and Warn winch.

In technical terrain the Magneto crawled with the best of them, but there was a learning curve. The two-inch JPP suspension and KM3 Mud-Terrains did what they should, but without combustion chambers there is zero compression braking. If when ascending a ledge you let up on the accelerator – Freudian slip there – without applying the brake, backwards you roll.

While we won’t see an EV Wrangler in showrooms in the near future, Jeep executives said technology is advancing quickly, and a Magneto-based production model is on the horizon. By the way, Magneto will do 0-97km/h in an electrifying 6.8 seconds!

ORANGE PEELZ

THIS capable lad lands in the trail-ready category. The base platform is a two-door Rubicon, but it received a facelift with heaps of JPP accessories and one-off concept goodies. We first noted the custom half-doors and side graphics. But rather than one-offs, both will soon be found in the JPP catalogue.

Climbing behind the wheel, the carroty orange peelz tint flowed across the dash and throughout the interior. Ample light poured in from above via the removable glass Freedom Top and rear side panels. Protecting us from getting a mouth full of bugs was a new chip-resistant windshield made from Corning Gorilla Glass.

Under the bonnet is a 3.6-litre Pentastar petrol V6, which receives fresh air from a cold-air intake system. It’s not a HEMI, but has proven itself as a reliable powerplant and its 213kW is more than enough for the average bloke. A set of LED driving lights complement each A-pillar, and High-Top fenders protect upper sheet metal from damage.

Fox shocks mated to a two-inch lift keep the 37-inch BFGoodrich KM3s and beadlock wheels on the ground. You might notice the hood appears to be a one-off creation, but it too will soon be available from JPP, as will the “Willys” themed latches.

OFF-ROAD WEAPON? Wrangler 4xe

We also liked the new centre-mounted brake light and reinforced swing gate, which will accommodate the weight of a larger spare. Body protection and recovery gear is right out of the Rubicon’s lineup, and includes steel bumpers, modified rock rails, and a Warn 8000-pound winch. Lastly is the cat-back dual-tip exhaust system, another new offering from JPP. On the trail, Orange Peelz was simply fun to drive It’s a Jeep, right!

FAROUT

LAST year Jeep teased us with Farout, brethren to the 2018 Gladiator Wayout. It embodies the ethos of independent backcountry travel, and does it in style. Up top is AT Overland Equipment’s Habitat, a voluminous abode that flips open to provide room for an entire family to sleep in comfort.

Down below, the bed was fitted with wood floors, custom cabinetry, and warm LED track lighting throughout. Mindful of having a proper gally, a National Luna fridge-freezer and Partner Steel stove is accessed via a Goose Gear slide-out system.

Farout rides on a two-inch JPP suspension with Fox shocks, and 37-inch Falken Wildpeak MTs fitted to alloy wheels put the rubber to the trail. Rock rails and bumpers, the front cradling a Warn 12,000 winch and a pair of IPF LED auxiliary lights, are modified Rubicon units.

Above the cab is a rack for additional storage, and under the bonnet is a third-gen 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V6 that generates 194kW and 599Nm.

Combined with the 70-litre fuel cell, even with the additional weight of the buildout, we’d expect 560km of backcountry range. If the sun was setting low on the Simpson Desert, Farout would be the ideal platform for popping up the tent and settling down around the campfire.

TOP DOG

MOPAR’S Gladiator-based Top Dog gets is moniker from the electric hot dog grill mounted outback, and is set up for the outdoor adventure lifestyle.

Up top are a pair of Trek mountain bikes and dual Rhino racks for additional gear, while JPP/Rigid LED work lights provide illumination when the sun goes down.

The OE bed was removed and replaced with a custom PCOR utility box. Inside we find the aforementioned hot dog grill, along with storage compartments, an electronics panel and inverter, and 12-volt refrigerator. Pullout drawers and power options abound, and LED track lighting will keep you from burning your snags.

Recovery gear includes a 12,000-pound Warn winch up front and an 8,000-pound unit in the rear, both of which are wrapped in Spydura synthetic rope. Mounted to starboard are a pair of MaxTrax traction boards, and inside is JPP’s new recovery kit.

A walkaround reveals a Rubicon front bumper, customised rock sliders and High-Top fenders, and a spare jerry can. Top Dog hits the trail on BFGoodrich KM3 and beadlock-capable wheels, and a JPP/Fox suspension keeps you on track.

Lastly is a raised air intake system complemented by Mopar’s new A-pillar light brackets and driving lights. We’re more comfortable behind a steering wheel than a set of handlebars, but if we decide to pedal our way to Perth, Top Dog would be a great support vehicle.

RED BARE

WE WERE told that Red Bare was the inspiration of Jeep Vice President Jim Morrison, and by the Canadian maple leaves subtly tucked in here and there, we believe it … ay?

Crafted from a Gladiator JT, its charter is to be a hard-working truck for folks that like an open-air feel. Half doors all around and the removable soft top quickly transform Red Bare into a warm-weather convertible.

The firecracker red and matte-black colour scheme runs throughout, including Canadian-style flannel on the dash, instrument panel, and Katzkin leather seats. The heart of this beast is a 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V6 mill, which will provide solid fuel economy and range in the field.

With the exception of 4.88:1 ring and pinion gears, which provide a 91:1 final crawl ratio, the running gear is all Rubicon – Gen III axles, e-lockers fore and aft, TorqueFlite 8HP75 eight-speed transmission, and Rok-Trac transfer case.

The hood and cowl inserts are off of the Gladiator Mojave menu, and armour includes JPP Sand Slider side rails, steel bumpers, and a Warn winch. Behind the cab is a custom rack system and bed cover, and other goodies include BFG KM3s on alloy wheels. With all this torque, low-range gearing, and a 3000kg towing capacity, you’ll be able to move just about anything around the back forty.

JEEPSTER BEACH

WE finally come to our favourite from this year’s crop of concepts, the Jeepster Beach.

Paying respect to the beloved Commando, this retro-modern sand rod inspires the surfer dude in all of us. Its red leather interior, Hawaiian leis, old-school decals, and Mr. Tiki overseeing operations, takes us back to a simpler time when a slab of coldies, a long board, and your sweetie at your side was all that mattered.

What began life as a 1968 C-101 Commando, was brilliantly blended with a 2020 Wrangler Rubicon. The body was customised, but a wealth of details have been left intact to retain the Jeepster’s vintage persona. Chrome bumpers, rear gate, front grill, hood, and old-school latches are all Commando to the casual observer. Even the half doors, wind wings, and hand-crank windows. But peeking inside, the Rubicon locker switch, gauges, and Uconnect screen reveal what lay beneath the sheet metal.

Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-banger rated at 201kW…perfect for getting down the beach when the tide is coming in. The eight-speed automatic follows tradition, as the Commando was the first compact SUV with a slush box transmission. A 4.0:1 transfer case distributes power to Dana 44 axles, and Falken 35-inch Wildpeak MTs will provide plenty of floatation when things get dicey.

Like retro? Check out the badging on the wheels and fenders. And don’t worry about dragging sand in on your feet … the Jeepster is sans carpet. Just grab a hose and wash her down. So climb in, toss responsibility to the wind, and throw your hands up.

The Jeepster Beach was designed for fun in the sun, and the only thing between your straw hat and the heavens will be a custom chrome roll bar. Catch a wave and hang ten bro!

 

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