Head of SRT, Viper, Mopar and Motorsports Design Mark Trostle, spoke to Off-Road.com about the enhancements made on the Dakar, and he explained that oftentimes concepts found on these vehicles will see production if they are well-recevied by the media and the public.
“We’re done this unique fender flare treatment on here,” Trostle says of the Dakar. “[It’s] something we would love to put in our Jeep Performance Parts catalog provided we get great feedback and our customers tell us this is something they’d like to see from us.”
For some added peace of mind on rocky trails, more Jeep Performance Parts were installed on the Dakar that include integrated rock rails for side rail protection, a two-piece underbody, front suspension, oil pan and fuel tank skid plates. For added ability for approaching and exiting obstacles, the front fascia was redesigned to reduce the approach angle 4 degrees (improved from 29.8 to 33.8), while the rear fascia was redesigned to reduce departure angle by 6 degrees (improved from 32.1 to 38.1).
The Silver Steel satin gloss paint with Flame Red accents gives the Dakar a striking appearance, and designers were sure to include the Flame Red accents on the wheels, grille and interior as well. Other Jeep Performance Parts found inside include all-weather floor mats, bright door sill-guards, a JPP non-skid cargo mat in the rear along with the Jeep Cargo Management System (JCMS).
Having had the chance to drive a regular Trailhawk Cherokee during the day, it was a stark contrast when hopping in the Dakar. The Dakar’s taller stance immediately makes it feel more trail-capable, and when tackling rocky slopes and ledges it never hung up on any rocks. There’s no doubt the Dakar is the most trail-ready Cherokee we’ve driven. Although it is only fitted with the 3.2-liter V6 stock motor, the Jeep/Mopar crew did make a tweak to the exhaust that made the Dakar purr with delight when the gas was applied.
When driving it in 4×4 High on loose, sandy roads, the Dakar nameplate quickly comes into focus, as the concept vehicle feels more like a sporty rally car in turns. The suspension feels solid yet not overly stiff in the corners, and the Dakar is much more capable of soaking up the bumps when at speed thanks to its Fox coilovers. It’s a blast to drive in 4×4 High and Low, depending upon whatever trail encountered.
The Jeep Cherokee Dakar concept is a thoughtfully crafted vehicle that’s just plain fun to drive. The Jeep and Mopar team crafted a vehicle with considerably more clearance for trails while still maintaining a low center of gravity – which is part of the reason it’s so fun to rally around turns. We’re impressed with the Dakar, and our only hope is that the fender flares see production or that the Trailhawk gets some of these added off-road upgrades on future models.
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