Having covered the Army with past vehicles such as the Jeep Nukizer 715, this year, Jeep and Mopar gave the Navy a nod at their 11th annual concept-fest outside Moab, with one of the Mopar units painted Battleship Gray and a concept sporting the name Flattop.
During Easter Jeep Safari, Mopar and Jeep have shown nearly 40 concept vehicles and a host of parts exercises. For 2013, they brought three from each division for a peek at what they're considering for both vehicles and parts. With more than 70 million vehicles on roads worldwide, Mopar sells plenty of parts, but it's the Jeep Performance Parts (hereafter JPP) line that appeals to the hard-core element in Moab. These aren't the chrome exhaust tips or baby strollers, but more useful stuff like suspension systems and engine upgrades. As with most manufacturer-associated parts, Mopar and JPP pieces aren't cheap, but the integration is often superior, as is any warranty coverage. The Mopar-equipped vehicles here do double-duty as parts development mules and marketing test-beds, and they're drivable.
Slim is closer to stock than any of this year's fleet, essentially a Wrangler Sport with mostly bolt-on parts. It's also the only time we've heard a Jeep spokesman expressing enthusiasm about a headliner with improved acoustics -- because Slim actually has one.
Running gear is Wrangler plus a Mopar cold-air intake, 4.0:1 transfer case, limited-slip 3.73:1 in back, and lightweight rock rails, rear bumper, and modified 10th Anniversary front bumper with outer lips that meet the fenders for better aero. Slim sports a prototype 2-inch Mopar suspension lift that is all spring and shock -- no spacers -- to handle 35s on prototype JPP forged beadlock wheels and Rock Lobster beauty rings. Cosmetic upgrades include Katzkin leather seats and Rock Lobster paint, with LED headlamps. Its CB and a locking gas cap add function. It drives very much like a Rubicon, but rides better. While we weren't given time in it on the pavement, we expect it works well there for all but enthusiastic corner carving.
Wrangler Sand Trooper II
A revision of the Hemi-powered Sand Trooper shown at SEMA last year, the sequel/remake uses a 375-hp Hemi, portal axles, and eight-lug JPP forged wheels with 40-inch Super Swampers.
Given that substantial base, STII also carries plenty of Mopar bits: black grille, hood lock, half-door and window kits all around, front and rear third-generation "Shorty" modified bumpers, Warn winch, flat fenders, rock rails, vented hood, LED off-road lights (you can see them in the fenders), and headlamps, Rubicon 10th Anniversary swing-away rear tire carrier, trailer-tow hitch receiver, black tail-lamp guards, locking fuel door, and a Jeep Performance Parts badge. The truck-wide, truck-heavy STII also carries myriad locking storage areas, grab handles, leather seats, and a rearview camera.
Wrangler Mopar Recon
Sized like a boat and therefore painted Battleship Gray, the Recon would be welcomed by any sailor, thanks to a 470-hp, 6.4-liter crate Hemi and a bottle opener built into the rear bumper. Its Dana 60s with eight-lug ends carry 4.10:1 gears and electric lockers, and there are JPP forged wheels and 39s. The 4.5-inch long-arm suspension system with tall coils and Fox shocks is a prototype, but offers good travel and articulation.
Mopar calls the bumpers Stingers; they're modified Rubicon 10th units with a Warn winch tucked in front. The Recon also gets the half-door/window kit, big-clearance flat fenders, rock rails, Rubicon 10th Anniversary hood and spare-tire carrier, LED headlamps, canvas soft top, body and taillight guards, and JPP badges. The locking fuel door is almost redundant with the thirst of a 6.4 Hemi driving 39s.
Inside, the upholstery is ocean horizon camo with bolsters in a rough Navy blanket fabric. Cabin trim highlights are bright green, like that on a monochrome radar display, and the one time we got it out of the green-dot zone on the bottom third of the tach, the ECO light came on. Go figure. With limited top and door coverage, the Mopar side visors could come in handy; other accessories include locking subfloor storage, grab handles, thick mats, and door-sill guards, because most will stumble or trip climbing to that altitude.
Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Concept II
You wouldn't think SRT would be the place to turn for off-highway Jeep stuff, but the Trailhawk concept, in wild poppy-orange with black roof and trim, sports an SRT hood and fascias that have been modified for "ground clearance," but we think they meant they were modified to improve approach and departure angles.
Open a rear door and you can see how much wheel and Sawzall wheel work was done to make 35s fit with only 1.5-inch spacers added to the steel-spring suspension. Wrangler Rubicon wheels carry the Mickey Thompsons under custom fender flares, with plenty of skidplating, dual rear tow hooks, and massaged Mopar rock rails.
The Trailhawk Concept runs the EcoDiesel V-6 with buckets of torque. Even with the stock running gear, the crawl ratio is better than 44:1 so it manages to turn the 35s; we'd honestly be more worried about slowing it down on a fast dry wash than getting going. A Banks pipe helps it sound more menacing. For comparison, the next day we took a stock-right down to the pressures in the Michelin all-season tires -- Grand Cherokee diesel through Elephant Hill without tweaking any bodywork or breaking anything. We could have used the Trailhawk's thick Mopar floor and cargo mats.