Jeep knows its core audience well, and the brand has wisely viewed the Easter Jeep Safari as an opportunity to connect with its core audience. This is exemplified not only by Jeep’s presence here in Moab, but also by the drool-worthy concept trail rigs the brand brings out each year.
These Jeep concept vehicles are no doubt high on cool factor, but they also provide the opportunity for the company to gather valuable intel and customer feedback. One of the vehicles that may have asked the most questions, albeit very subtly, was one of the least flashy concepts of the bunch, the Wrangler Africa. The sand-colored paintjob of the Africa practically blends the Wrangler into the sandstone backdrop of Moab, and at first glance it’s easy to skip over this overland-style Wrangler and focus on the more flashy rigs like the Jeep Chief, Staff Car or Grand Cherokee Overlander. A closer look at the Africa, however, reveals there’s much at play here than meets the eye.
Under the hood of the Africa concept is a 2.8-liter diesel engine, which of course begs the question whether or not the next-gen Wrangler will offer a diesel option. It might, but chances are it won’t be this overseas motor. Looking past what’s under the hood, what makes this concept most intriguing is its extended rear cargo area and fixed-top roof. This isn’t the first time the Jeep crew has explored the idea of stretching the rear end of a JK, and Head of Jeep Design Mark Allen and his team first played with the idea on a previous Jeep concept vehicle showcased in Moab a few years ago.
“The idea came really from the J-12 truck,” Mark Allen said of the Africa’s stretched-out body. “That was the first time we really lengthened the rear frame and put the spare tire up underneath – that’s the ‘aha’ moment for it [where] we put the tire underneath it in the back. We then took the rear of the body back that same distance, about 12 inches, and then up with the roof 4 inches, and just created a much larger cargo space on the inside.”
The Jeep team has taken note in recent years of the high number of JK Unlimiteds equipped with rooftop cargo racks and other creative ways to store more gear, so the Africa looks to address this storage issue in a more creative way.
“The vehicle is still the 116-inch wheelbase, the seating package is exactly the same as the Unlimited, but we added a ton more cargo space in the back,” Allen said. “We left it as wide open in there and put just one single barn door in the back and opened all that space up.”