Jeep is not only a legendary brand; it is a “thing” unto its own -- you wouldn’t understand. Many still drive Jeeps despite having had a Subaru Forester in their driveway for years. Jeep transcends brands much the way Coke is synonymous with cola.
This kind of influence does not happen overnight. However, in Jeep’s case, it didn’t take long for its aura to grow especially when the original Willys not only helped the war effort, but also spawned a new type of vehicle.
Without diving into Jeep’s colourful past and history, it is possible to say that there are a number of models that have made a mark on the brand over the last seven-plus decades. Iterations were aplenty, some very popular, others unloved but all without fail have created a following of Jeep lore lovers.
Some of my personal preferences include the Jeepster, the Grand Wagoneer, the CJ and my No.1 favourite: the Comanche. The enthusiasm behind the brand is huge and its potential worldwide is equally large. Mister Marchionne said so himself at the 2015 edition of the Detroit Auto Show, and little ol’ me totally agrees with him.
Thing is, Jeep is underexploited, quite the opposite of what is going on at MINI at this very moment for example. Jeep could realistically double its portfolio (to 12 from 6) and be profitable. The return of the Grand Wagoneer is but one example. I’m convinced there are thousands of people out there willing to dish out $70k+ (and more) on a luxuriously appointed trail-rated Jeep.
I’m serious. In my mind, and that of many others, Jeep has more clout than a number of so-called luxury makes. A $100k Escalade fighter with a Willys sticker on the corner of the windshield? I believe!
By the same token, I’m equally certain that there are countless consumers who would be happy (and eager) to purchase almost anything new or reborn sporting the 7-slat grille. This past March, Jeep unleashed (their words) seven concepts that made everyone remotely interested in Jeep salivate. I promise you that should they decide to build any of the true concepts from the last 5 years, a riot would ensue.
Last June, I headed out to Chelsea, MI, for FCA’s annual full line event. Much of what I drove is under embargo so y’all will have to wait until September for some 2016 product driving impressions. In the meantime, here are a few details on the Jeep concepts. By the way, the first one on the list was not there, but I’m throwing it in because it’s freakin’ cool.
J-12: This vehicle is nothing more than your basic pickup. It won’t tow a billion pounds, won’t haul the contents of the White House; it’s a weekend fishing trip truck. Its front-end styling is a throwback to the original Cherokee to boot.
Chief: This concept is shockingly attractive. The Chief is also inspired by the original Cherokee, and that is brilliant. Think of it as the “truck” retro-modern interpretation of a classic, like the current Dodge Challenger. Do want.
Staff Car: You are a ranking officer in the military service and what vehicle are you shuttled about in the ‘70s? A door-less minimally dressed and equipped Jeep.
Wrangler Africa: Like its name suggests, the Africa is the ultimate tool for getting lost in the wilderness or the desert. This thing is powered by a 2.8L diesel engine for max torque and range.
Grand Cherokee Overlander: This Grand Cherokee is sick! It’s nothing short of a Jeep builder’s dream with an air suspension, winch, 3.0L diesel engine and a hard-shell rooftop tent. Another go-anywhere-for-however-long vehicle.
Renegade Desert Hawk: The Renegade is one cool little ute. It’s a favourite at Auto123.com as is, but gets even more love with its selection of MOPAR and Jeep performance parts.
Cherokee Canyon Trail: Looks aside, I’m over them now, the Cherokee wins the wild card with its exterior colour scheme, extra undercarriage armour, and go off-road traction bits. The cabin is covered in Katzkin covers for more class.
Wrangler Red Rock Responder: Fear not! Even if you get stuck in the middle of nowhere in your modified Wrangler, the Triple R is designed to conquer the harshest of terrains and save your bacon.