Rating the 2018 Moab Easter Jeep Concepts from Least to Most Fun

These unique concepts are too cool. But which is the most fun?

Mar. 27, 2018 By Nathan Adlen

Jeep is one of the few automakers that offers journalists the opportunity to drive its concept vehicles, offering us a glimpse at what Jeep designers are dreaming about and at the new components that Mopar and Jeep Performance Parts could possibly offer consumers.

In this case, it's the special set of Jeep concepts created for the 2018 Moab Easter Jeep Safari, an annual event where Jeep offers us a glimpse at its future through a set of one-off vehicles. In some cases, new components are flanked by experimental parts, in other cases, oddball, one-off designs are displayed to measure the public response.

Jeep set up a small off-road driving loop that consisted of soft sand, rocky paths and rocky desert roads for us to feel out each of the seven concepts. Considering the amount of variables involved in off-roading in Moab, this was a scenic and easy ride. None of the off-roading we did really challenged these Jeep prototypes, but that's not the point. This small off-road loop allowed us to get a taste of something few people can sample.

READ MORE: See All the 2017 Moab Easter Jeep Concepts

Read on for our driving impressions on each of seven prototypes Jeep brought to the 2018 Easter Jeep Safari - counting down from seven, the least exciting, to one, the concept that provided the biggest thrill.

7. Jeep J-Wagon

The Jeep J-Wagon Concept is an excellent example of what to expect from Jeep Performance Parts, but little else. It's nice to see how Jeep intends to use a special hood (which is not available - yet) with an opening that neatly accepts a snorkel. It also has a roof rack that's built to be used with the Freedom Top. Large rock-sliders and a "Brass Monkey" design motif throughout completes the somewhat luxurious concept.

Dynamically, it's a Jeep Wrangler JL Unlimited; however, it drives very smooth and the snorkel doesn't impede outward visibility. In many ways, it was the tamest off all of the prototypes. Still, it felt vault-like tight inside and the small turbo powerplant never felt out of breath. Out of all the concepts, this one feels production ready because, frankly, it actually is.

6. Jeep B-UTE

The Jeep B-Ute concept is based on a Jeep Renegade that's covered in a ton of "Halo" video game/military-like paraphernalia. The 1.5-inch lift, courtesy of spacers mounted above the coil springs, give the Jeep B-Ute concept an aggressive look. Black painted 17-inch wheels with 30mm offset surrounded by BFGoodrich T/A K02 tires round out the ruff-and-ready hardware.

The seating position feels much higher than the regular Renegade it feels like a Jeep on its tiptoes. Everything else felt and drove exactly like the vehicle it was based on. The overall package did manage to make the (normally) adorable-looking Renegade a bit manlier, and that's a win to us.

5. Jeep 4SPEED

Despite not being permitted to drive the Jeep 4SPEED concept (nobody was - we don't know why) it was a special vehicle, especially to the head of Jeep Design, Mark Allen. Over the years, Allen has produced, or been heavily involved in the production of most of these unique one-off concepts. Rarely do they repeat a theme; however, with the Jeep 4SPEED concept, Allen repeated a lightweight theme he started years ago.

The 4SPEED is the latest in a line of vehicles including the Jeep Stitch concept and the Jeep Porkchop concept. Like those, Allen removed hundreds pounds to prove his belief that, unlike so many Wrangler owners that slap hundreds of pounds of extras on their rides, a Jeep Wrangler performs much better when weight is removed. According to Allen, it vastly improves performance, economy and the overall driving experience.

The Jeep 4SPEED concept makes use of carbon fiber, lightweight metals and nearly every convenience component removed. That comes out to around a 900-lbs savings. Impressive considering its platform is already fairly light. Despite the fact that we couldnít drive it, the idea behind the 4SPEED and its great looks land it on the fifth spot on this list.

4. Jeep Jeepster

The Jeep Jeepster concept is meant to be a rolling showcase for Mopar and Jeep Performance Parts while still looking the part of a concept vehicle. Like the other concept Wrangler-based vehicles, this handsome-looking ride has a four-cylinder turbocharged engine.

Similar to the Jeep Nacho concept, the Jeepster is absolutely covered in modern-day lighting.
Looking a bit like the original 1948-1950 Willys-Overland Jeepster, the Jeep Jeepster concept's roof was chopped 2.5-inches lower with the windshield being tilted back an extra two degrees. This, combined with the red on white look and massive tires make the Jeep Jeepster concept look SEMA ready.

Unfortunately, it doesn't drive quite as awesome as it looks. A two-inch lift and massive 37-inch tires stuck underneath make the low-roofed Jeepster concept feel unwieldy on the trail. The steering is slow to respond and vague, while the engine feels taxed by the big tires, resulting in sluggish acceleration. Sadly, it was a bit of a letdown.

3. Nacho Jeep

Surprisingly, given the amount of design cues and components shared with the aforementioned Jeep Jeepster concept, the Jeep Nacho concept was impressive through and through. Equipped with a two-inch lift and 37-inch tires, the Nacho Jeep concept is yet another example of Mopar and Jeep Performance Parts showcasing their components. It stands as a reminder that Jeep produces over 200 components for the Jeep Wrangler JL.

Despite the multitude of lights, functional tube-bar doors and aftermarket-catalogue appearance, the Nacho Jeep (which got its name from the paint color of the same name) drives easily and predictably through the desert. Steering is lighter than expected and the throttle response from the turbo four is good.

2. Jeep Sandstorm

Looking at which concept treats the driver to the most frivolous fun, the Jeep Sandstorm stands above the rest. According to Jeep design, they never had a purpose-built Baja racer - until now. They hinted that something like this might be seen in a future fast off-road race.

Equipped with a 392-crate engine, the Jeep Sandstorm concept has a sweet-shifting 6-speed manual transmission. With its extended wheelbase and baja-racing-inspired suspension, the Sandstorm glides over harsh terrain and is constantly tugging at the leash to be opened up.

It has super off-road, long-travel suspension, a lengthened wheelbase and heavy-duty front and rear Dynatrac 60 axles with a 5.68 gear ratio. Getting the power to the ground are 17-inch beadlock wheels and 39.5-inch BF Goodrich Krawler tires.

This concept was, by far, the most fun when you hit the sand and punch the accelerator. The short-throw shifter and shouting HEMI work together beautifully. No rock or soft sand upset the handling of the Jeep Sandstorm concept. It felt like an animal and, despite its massive tires, it handled great.
Not only was the Sandstorm concept the party vehicle of this event, it also showed hints of the upcoming Jeep JT pickup truck. The stretched wheelbase and beefier frame may be similar to the one used on the Jeep JT.

1. Jeep Wagoneer Roadtrip

Undoubtedly, the star of the show based purely on its cool factor was the Jeep Wagoneer Roadtrip concept. Built in 1965, the Jeep Design team purchased the Wagoneer and got right to modifying and updating the vehicle. They boxed in the frame, added coil springs and linkage to the suspension and 33-inch BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain tires to 17-inch steel wheels. They also added a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 connected to a four-speed automatic transmission.

Despite being a bit of a beast to maneuver around tight bends, the Jeep Wagoneer Roadtrip concept had a sweet, easygoing ride and laughed off all obstacles. Thanks to the elongated (+ about five-inches) wheelbase, coilover suspension and 33-inch tires the Wagoneer was pleasant to drive. Even the mellowed exhaust seemed to communicate the Wagoneer's intent to be a mellow (yet capable) family hauler.

Marvel at the steel, both inside and out of this beauty. It is was one of the most immaculate examples of a resto-mod we've ever seen. It also didn't hurt that a few thoughtful touches like a stuffed fake dog, wicker headliner and 1960's traveling stickers added to the nostalgia of this beautiful machine.
This concept wa purely a look back at what made the Wagoneer so great in the first place. But these concepts always have the future in mind, and the upcoming Jeep Wagoneer will no doubt take may hints and cues from this Jeep classic. And re-building an original version can certainly be considered doing your homework to prepare for the new model.


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