Like the swallows winging back to Capistrano-or the buzzards making their annual return to Hinckley, Ohio-Jeep enthusiasts have been descending on Moab, Utah every Easter for 47 years, and for the past 12 of those years a team from Jeep headquarters has been on hand to join the fun, to demonstrate factory solidarity with the hardest of hard core owners, and to show off new products and concepts.
Officially, it's the Moab Easter Jeep Safari, and it provides the manufacturer with a unique test market-some 8,000 to 10,000 Jeep fanatics, none of them shy about providing feedback on proposed future wares.
The company's menu for the event usually consists of three Wranglers, still the most iconic and elemental of all Jeeps, plus three other nameplates. The 2014 array follows that plan, the Wrangler trio accompanied by a pair of new Cherokees, making their Moab debut, as well as a Grand Cherokee diesel.
All the Jeeps are enhanced with a variety of Jeep Performance Parts and bolt-ons from Mopar, Chrysler's in-house accessory supermarket. Some of the equipment is available now, some will soon be in the catalogues, and some was conjured up to test market potential. Thumbnails follow.
Jeep Wrangler Level Red
A Level Red off-road trail is as tough as it gets, and the hardware on this Wrangler is conceived to tackle any terrain that's even remotely navigable. Although red trim, red upholstery stitching, and red roll cage padding add eye candy, the key elements on this Wrangler are serious go-anywhere equipment: Dana 44 axles front and rear with a 4:10 ratio, a Rock-Trac 4:1 transfer case, a 2-inch lift kit, and a skid plate beneath the front bumper, all from Jeep Performance parts. The 17 x 8-inch beadlock wheels are prototypes, wearing knobby 35-inch BFGoodrich mud tires. A 3.6-liter V6 engine sends power to the wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.
Jeep Wrangler MOJO
The middle two letters of this four-door Wrangler stand for Orange Jeep, a color that would be visible from low earth orbit. Like the Level Red, this Jeep is rigged for rugged going with Dana locking axles fore and aft, a 4:1 Rock-Trac transfer case, a 2-inch lift kit, and 37-inch BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires. The MOJO's V6 has been massaged with a cold-air intake and low-restriction exhaust system, underbody skid plates, rocker panel rock rails, and a Jeep Performance Parts prototype spare tire carrier. The carrier swings out to reveal a lockable underfloor storage bin. The half doors are by Mopar, and like the other two Wranglers, the MOJO's hefty front bumper carries a powerful electric winch. An interesting cosmetic element-not contemplated for sale-is the topo map graphics adorning this Wrangler. Although the MOJO will be tackling the red rock terrain around Moab, the topography depicted on its hood is from the area around Chrysler's headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
Jeep Wrangler Maximum Performance
In addition to its Mopar Blue paint job, the Max Performance Wrangler differs from its stablemates with the only all steel body. It also sports front and rear Dana 60 locking axles activated by a pushbutton, 4.88:1 gearing, a 4:1 Rock-Trac transfer case, and a 4-inch lift kit with long travel Fox shock absorbers. The flat-topped fenders are prototypes, as is the powerful LED light rack. The unusual "Stinger" front bumper and skid plate is designed to prevent forward end-over-end disasters in extreme terrain. The bumper also mounts a new prototype water resistant WARN electric winch. The prototype eight-lug beadlock wheels wear 37-inch BFG rubber, and the blue accents are carried into the interior. Like the other Wranglers, the Blue Max seats are clad in Katzkin leather with embroidered Jeep logos.
Jeep Cherokee Adventurer
Making its first appearance in the Moab Easter parade, this 4WD Cherokee wears Jeep's Trail Rated badge, its off-road capability enhanced by several underbody skid plates as well as rock rails protecting the rocker panels. The prototype 17-inch wheels are mounted with BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, and the matte black prototype roof rack is a refinement of one Mopar displayed at last year's SEMA show. Other Mopar extras include a Jeep Cargo Management system with Trailhawk and Moab stowage bags, bright door sill guards with Cherokee logos, perforated Katzkin black leather seats with sand-colored stitching, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and sand-colored accents on the dashboard, instrument bezels, and door-mounted switches.
Jeep Cherokee Dakar
Jeep calls the Dakar "the most extreme Cherokee ever," an assertion fortified by a 3-inch lift kit, coil-over suspension widened track, front suspension and oil pan skid plates, and approach/departure angles of 32 and 39 degrees, improvements of 4 and 6 degrees, respectively. Fat prototype fender flares, secured by rivets, shelter 33-inch BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires. Interior enhancements are similar to those in the Cherokee Adventurer, brightened by red graphics and trim.
Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Trail Warrior
The Grand Cherokee is no stranger to the Moab Easter frolic, but this one is different. Propelled by Chrysler's 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel, it's the first compression ignition Jeep to join the factory entourage in Moab, bringing 420 pound-feet of torque to the party and a towing capacity of 7400 pounds. Rolling on 20-inch prototype wheels with BFG all-terrain tires, the Warrior gets 15 inches of ground clearance with its Quadra-Lift air suspension system. Black accents set off the Mojave Sand exterior, and carry through to the lightly accessorized interior.
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