It's been more than 30 years since a V-8 was offered in a small Jeep, but the JK Wrangler Renegade is a strong argument that that should change. Harkening back to those glory days, this new Renegade was built with a 6.4-liter Hemi, rated to make 476 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, backed up with a six-speed manual from a Ram HD. Jeep tells us the engine swap was relatively easy, with cooling the most important and challenging issue. To that end, Mopar provided a heat-dissipating hood, and also donated several accent accessories and a bikini top. Along with the stronger motor came stronger DynaTrac Dana 44 front and Dana 60 rear axles, a set of ARB locking diffs, and 4.10:1 gearing. This Renegade also fits 35-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires under the fenders, made possible by an AEV 4-inch suspension lift. Other improvements include a Warn 9.5 CTi winch, a Mopar-sourced interior upgrade kit, and a retro-inspired black and gold paint job. The strength of this vehicle clearly comes from the motor, which gives this little 4x4 an amazing power-to-weight ratio. And the noise it makes when flogged over sand dunes is one you can feel.
LIBERTY OUTLAND ZEBRA
As much as this export-only Liberty (called Cherokee outside the U.S.) wants to blend into the African plains, this one will stand out wherever it goes. Meant to be more of an adventurer's platform, the Outland uses the VM Motori Italian-sourced 2.8-liter I-4 and sports all sorts of ARB accessories, including roof rack, rear air locker, air compressor, awning, rock rails, refrigerator, and an Old Man Emu 3-inch suspension lift. This last modification allowed the Cherokee to fit larger Mickey Thompson MTZ tires. Mopar fit the vehicle with extra skidplating, front and rear tow hooks, a rear cargo liner, and a sports pedal dress-up kit. The turbodiesel is pretty old, and even though it sells quite well overseas, it's likely to benefit from a complete overhaul soon, given that Fiat has strong turbodiesel roots and big plans for future Jeeps. While driving this little beauty, we were reminded what great low-rpm grunt the little diesel offers, especially when pulling a vehicle up and over steep rocks. Regardless of fuel prices, we'd still love to see something like this for sale here. From what we're hearing, the Liberty is not likely to survive the next go-round of lineup changes; it's more likely to be completely replaced by a new, more modern model. Let's hope it has a turbodiesel option.