Monday, May 25, 2015

Tire Tech: Tire Puncture Resistance

There are numerous benefits to airing down your tires when driving off-road.  As I've written about before, the obvious improvements that every 4wheeler knows are ride quality and traction.  What fewer people realize is that tires are more resistant to punctures at lower pressures.

Cooper Tires teamed up with Australian 4WD Action Magazine to demonstrate the dramatic difference that tires of all types realize at various pressures.  To accompany the article, they produced a video that illustrates the testing procedure and its eye-opening results:

Obviously, a tire with heavy-duty construction will be more puncture resistant than a light-duty tire, but owners of all pneumatic tires benefit from proper inflation pressures.  I continue to be impressed with the ease (and more importantly, the accuracy) of the Staun Tyre Deflators I use.  I find that I'm much more likely to air down when it's so quick and convenient to use these deflators.  They have never failed to shut off at their exact pre-set pressure.

Just don't forget to air up again before hitting the highway!  There are countless compressors that are available for the offroader, from the inexpensive but decent MV-50 to converted York engine-driven compressors, but the best combination of cost, power, and simplicity is the Puma Compressor.  I've been using this for nearly a decade, and its combination of a fast compressor and a 1.5-gallon pressure tank allows me to very quickly inflate all four 35" tires (plus my two trailer tires!) faster than anyone else in my 4wheeling group can typically inflate two.  Additionally, the blast of air that's provided by the pressure tank is sufficient to reseat a blow bead.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Next Wrangler Will be Partially Aluminum

Automotive News and Car and Driver are reporting the latest update from FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne on the future of the Jeep Wrangler JK's replacement.  Regular readers will recall that I have discussed the construction material and assembly location quite a few times already.  Marchionne's comments indicate that the Wrangler's going exactly the direction for which everyone's hoping:
There will be a large portion of that vehicle that will be aluminum. It will not be all aluminum.  We've run the numbers and we've simulated mileage and the impact.  Because of the difference in cost -- not just of the material but the actual assembly process -- I think we can do almost as well without doing it all-aluminum.  I think we can get very close.
This likely means a steel ladder frame and body tub, while the fenders, hood, doors, tailgate, roll cage, windshield frame, and other add-on body parts will be made from aluminum.  Reading between the lines, Marchionne is stating that this combination of alloys will provide the best cost/benefit ratio, as the Wrangler is a low- to midrange vehicle that is both in dire need of improved fuel economy and the retention of its benchmark-setting offroad performance.  The definitive Jeep must meet certain government-mandated requirements without compromising its appeal to the core enthusiast market, or else the "Wrangler magic" will be lost and the vehicle's reputation and desirability will suffer tremendously.

Much to the relief of patriotic Jeep brand fans and the people of the Toledo Assembly Plant, this will also likely mean that Toledo, Ohio will continue to be the home of the Wrangler.

Jeep has been hinting at a "lightweighting" of the Wrangler for years, most conspicuously with the 2013 concept Wrangler Stitch that they exhibited at the Moab Easter Jeep Safari.  This was a follow-up and expansion to the 2011 concept Wrangler Pork Chop that was exhibited two years prior at the Jeep Safari.  These concepts prove that a lightweight Wrangler can certainly still meet the performance benchmarks of a proper Wrangler.

2013 Wrangler Stitch
2011 Wrangler Pork Chop

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Jeep Wrangler Excels in Frontal Crash Tests

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) implements much tougher crash tests than the standards that the federal government requires automobiles to meet.  One of the toughest is the small-overlap frontal crash test, in which only 25% of the vehicle's front-end collides with an immovable barrier while moving at 40mph.  In a recent test of medium-size SUVs, the IIHS found that the Wrangler Unlimited is among the top-performing midsize SUVs:

The IIHS describes this crash test as follows:
The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver's side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.

The test is more difficult than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the longstanding IIHS moderate overlap test. That's because, in a small overlap test, the main structures of the vehicle's front-end crush zone are bypassed, making it hard for the vehicle to manage crash energy. The occupant compartment can collapse as a result.
Although the Wrangler's removable doors and roof are frowned upon by the IIHS for limiting occupant protection in side-impact and rollover accidents versus thick, fixed alternatives, this did not affect the vehicle's ability to excel in this common collision:

The strength of the Wrangler's chassis plays a key role in its ability to limit structure deformation and intrusion into the occupant area.  The wide, overbuilt frame rails deflect the Jeep away from the object and slows the rate at which energy is dissipated, which in turn lessens the impact on the occupants and lessens the severity of the vehicle's deformation.  The Wrangler performs better than most vehicles in spite of its lack of side-curtain airbags.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hendrick Commando: Military Wrangler JK

The United States military has a long history of utilizing proven civilian vehicle designs and upfitting them for military use.  While the original CJ (Civilian Jeep) was based on a military vehicle, and today's Wrangler is little more than an evolution of those first Jeeps.  All has come full circle, it seems, with the Hendrick Dynamics Commando returning the civilian Jeep to military duty. has published an interesting and in-depth article on the development of the Hendrick Commando.  The vehicle has a lot of unique features designed to let the Jeep fit the big empty slot between the HMMWV (Humvee) and the militarized UTV (side-by-side) in terms of both size and capability.  From utilizing a 2.8-liter CRD diesel for foreign-market JKs (modified to run standard JP8 military jet fuel) to upfitting with lift/tie-down points, a stout roll cage, a winch, and gun mounts, Jeep was a big help in making this COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) vehicle a military reality:
First off, Jeep was a big partner in it with us; they really do take their support of the military and their heritage seriously, so when we reached out to them that we needed diesel-engine Jeeps here in the US they made that possible out of Toledo, Ohio.  It’s kind of wild – it’s the same factory that was building military Jeeps starting back in 1941, that same place is putting out military Jeeps for that program, which is pretty neat, so Jeep was a big help.  -Marshall Carlson, GM of Hendrick Dynamics
For more pictures of the Hendricks Commando exhibition at the 2015 Moab Easter Jeep Safari, head on over to's story.
It’s a really great success story, the vehicle has performed flawlessly with no issues at all.  Really good feedback. It started with [the military] really reaching out to industry to solve a problem that traditional defense contractors weren’t able to figure out.  -Marshall Carlson, GM of Hendrick Dynamics

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Jeep Beach 2015 and a New World Record

Jeep Beach 2015 landed in the record books (quite literally - it set a new Guiness Record for the Largest Parade of Jeeps, totaling 1,846) as thousands of Jeep owners decended on Daytona Beach, Florida for the annual event.  A video showing the impressive number of Jeeps can be viewed below:

A parade won't draw this many people from every corner of our country, however.  The rest of the event included mingling with other Jeep owners, meeting representatives from dozens upon dozens of Jeep aftermarket parts companies, and driving on man-made obstacles inside the Daytona International Speedway.

Even the easier non-rockcrawling obstacles resulted in some scrapes and bruises.  The following videos show the importance of knowing your vehicle's breakover and departure angles:

And of course Jeep Beach would be incomplete without getting some sand on the tires during the obligatory drive down Daytona Beach itself:

Jeep Beach is a lot different than the typical Jamboree-, Trek-, or Safari-style offroading event we're used to out West, but the Mid Florida Jeep Club has developed this unique and fun event to rival any others in popularity.  Even 4wheelers who never attend Jeep Beach benefit from this event, as the Club makes huge donations to the BlueRibbon Coalition for use in the fight to keep public lands open to the public.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Thrillcraft: Junk Science and Elitist Propaganda

As a nature-lover who enjoys backcountry exploration primarily in a Jeep, I'm far more concerned than most people with the health and protection of the environment.  Most OHV users, whether they drive 4x4s, ride motorcycles, ATVs, mountain bikes, kayaks, hang gliders, JetSkis, snowmobiles, or simply drive their Prius down a dirt road to a picnic area, are also true environmentalists.  The following video, produced by elitist anti-access faux-environmentalists, is a shameful propaganda piece that shows the true colors of the extremist "environmental" organizations.

Exaggerated claims, out-of-context references, junk science, and outright lies make up the bulk of the video and the book they are trying to sell: Thrillcraft: The Environmental Consequences of Motorized Recreation.  While fully exploiting their fabricated stereotype of the hillbilly OHV land abuser to make their point, the editor and publishers of the book just so happen to perfectly fit the "armchair environmentalist" stereotype: rich liberal San Francisco elitist urbanites.  The quotes from the front page of their website summarizes their despicable claims:  "Thrillcraft threaten our national heritage" and "It's time to take back our lands!"

The Jeeping Experience

Jeep produced a great video shot at the 2015 Easter Jeep Safari at Moab, Utah explaining the Jeeping Experience.  The video illustrates the comeraderie of Jeepers; how this vehicle brings together people of all different backgrounds from all across America (and the world!) into an immediate friendship that comes from a shared love of our vehicles and of Mother Nature.  Anti-OHV organizations may paint an ugly picture of Jeepers, but this video shows who we really are:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Jeep Reveals Another Round of Awesome Concepts at Easter Jeep Safari

Every year, Jeep and Mopar unveil a collection of concept vehicles at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah.  The offroad community and media anxious await the reveal of these vehicles, with some years showcasing more exciting vehicles than others.  After last year's uninspired offerings (so bland that I didn't even bother to cover the story) the team at FCA really upped the ante for 2015 - the best collection since 2012.  You can find my coverage of the concepts for 2013, and 2012 by following the links.

Jeep loves retro, and this year's Jeep Chief modernizes their 1970's heritage.  Built on a 4-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited platform, the Chief is a reinterpretation of the classic Cherokee Chief with a focus on the laid-back Hawaiian beach vibe., Jalopnik, and Car and Driver published their own reviews of the Chief, and judging by the world's response, Jeep has created a real hit.

Even more retro is the Jeep Staff Car, which pays homage to the original World War 2 Willys Jeeps.  The open-air top, minimalist interior, blackout lights, tools, and NDT military tires all show the modern-day Jeep's direct link to its military ancestors. and Car and Driver gave it a very favorable review.

The Jeep Wrangler Red Rock Responder is clearly inspired by Discount Tire Direct's famous RESQ1 backcountry support vehicle.  The extended wheelbase and service bed carry tools and parts for remote vehicular rescue.  37-inch tires make up for the long wheelbase's breakover angle, while Dana 60 axles provide an appreciable increase in strength to stand up to the weight and leverage.

My favorite of the bunch, however, is the Jeep Wrangler Africa.  The closest to production of all the concepts, the Africa expands on the Wrangler's capabilities by pushing it into a niche occupied in other parts of the world by the Land Rover Defender 110/130 and 70-series Toyota Land Cruiser.  With a 12-inch stretch to the body, a raised roof, and a fixed hardtop, the Africa is the perfect expedition vehicle.  A 2.8-liter turbodiesel engine is the icing on the cake. and Jalopnik give it rave reviews.

Jeep produced three other concept vehicles based on the Grand Cherokee, the Renegade, and the Cherokee.  These were all upfitted stock vehicles rather than true "concept vehicles" and are outside the scope of this Wrangler-centric blog.  You can read about these and the above-pictured Jeeps at Expedition Portal, Autoblog, Four Wheeler, and  Four Wheeler put together an awesome photo gallery of all the vehicles.  For more information on the Mopar Performance Parts exhibited on these vehicles, visit's article.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Environmentalists at Moab's Easter Jeep Safari

Self-proclaimed "environmentalists" such as the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance enjoy demonizing OHV users at every opportunity, but at the 2015 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah a large group of real environmentalists took time out of their vacations to pour some hard manual labor into a trail restoration project.  Four Wheeler Magazine covered the Tread Lightly! Restoration For Recreation project with a thorough background and several photos of the project.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

UAW Confident Jeep Wrangler will Remain in Toledo

The Detroit News is reporting that United Auto Workers Local 12 President Bruce Baumhower is expecting that Toledo, Ohio will retain production of the next-generation Jeep Wrangler.  I've reported several times before on Toledo's fight to remain the home of the Wrangler, and it sounds like the community's efforts will pay off.  From the article,
Baumhower, whose local represents workers at Toledo Assembly Complex, home of the Wrangler, said Toledo and Ohio officials have presented “a very attractive package that answers all of (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Sergio Marchionne’s) concerns.” He believes that will lead the company to keep production of the Wrangler in Toledo.

“I think the proactive approach that we’ve taken over on the shop floor and in our local government, I think it’s going to work out for us,” he told reporters Wednesday on the sidelines of the UAW Special Convention in Detroit.
Why does it matter to Jeep owners or the factory workers whether the Toledo Assembly Complex is the site of the Wrangler's production?
“It’s a certain pride,” said UAW Local 12 delegate Samantha Price, who works on Wrangler assembly. “We tell people we work at Jeep, we don’t say we work for Fiat or Chrysler. Everybody knows Jeep in Toledo, and all around the world, really.”
America is proud of its Jeeps, and the people of Toledo are honored to assemble this most patriotic of brands.  Read the article for more details on this latest development.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Next-Gen Jeep Wrangler to Offer EcoDiesel and 8-Speed

An anonymous source from within FCA has reported to Autoblog that the next-generation Jeep Wrangler will answer the Jeep community's prayers by offering the same 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 that is found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500.

Additionally, the source is also claiming that the Wrangler will receive the 8-speed automatic that is making its way behind most of FCA's large rear-wheel-drive vehicles.  While I will always prefer a 3-pedal manual transmission, the jump in performance that was seen from the early JK's 4-speed auto to the current 5-speed auto should be repeated with the upgrade to the 8-speed.

As we get closer to the next-generation Wrangler's reveal, it's becoming increasingly apparent that Jeep's engineers and bean counters are not content with emasculating the Wrangler.  Upgrades to every aspect of the vehicle, along with retention of its iconic pair of heavy-duty solid axles, will ensure that the Wrangler continues to be the pinnacle of off-road performance and capability.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Consumer Reports Continues Disparaging the Jeep Wrangler

AutoGuide is reporting that Consumer Reports magazine's latest auto issue is continuing its annual tradition of disparaging the Jeep Wrangler.  In their list of the Five Worst New Cars for 2015, they rank the Wrangler JK at the top (or would that be the bottom?)

I've addressed their unfounded claims in depth twice before, but it's worth revisiting as a reminder that automotive and 4x4 experts are much better sources of vehicular information than an appliance magazine.  When I need to know how well toasters rate, I might check out CR.  But I'm certainly not going to consider the opinion of such a consistently uninformed source - and especially not one that seems to have a personal vendetta against such an incredibly popular vehicle.

After all, if the Wrangler really is as awful as Consumer Reports claims it is, why would it be so revered?  I'll never understand why so many people consider CR's word to be gospel.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Yahoo Travel Disparages Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park, photo courtesy of Yahoo Travel

Death Valley is apparently a "love it or hate it" National Park, because Yahoo Travel has ranked it as one of America's Five Worst National Parks.  From the article:

Death Valley, California and Nevada

Here’s an idea: heat a pan full of sand to about 200 degrees, then pour it on your head. Congratulations, you’ve just simulated a visit to Death Valley National Park.

This is a place that actually boasts about once having 43 consecutive days of temperatures above 120 degrees. One Yahoo editor visited, and became so delusional from the heat that he imagined he enjoyed the trip. When it’s not hot, it’s bitterly cold in Death Valley, so at least you can get some variety in your misery. “Oh, it has pretty rocks and mountains,” say some. You where else has colorful rocks? Literally every single other national park, and you might actually enjoy visiting them.

Online Review: “I have to say this is the ugliest place I have ever seen…I paid $20 for nothing but rock and salt.”

Fun fact: Everyone who visits the park dies.

It almost sounds as though the author has never actually visted Death Valley, or else his visit was limited to the paved roads in the valleys during the heat of the summer.  As I illustrated in my own trip report from Death Valley, there is much to love in the desert that you can't experience anywhere else.  Death Valley expert "Death Valley Jim" expressed his sentiments on his Facebook page; the comments from his followers are an entertaining read.  Suffice it to say, the information provided by Yahoo Travel is poor advice.

Death Valley National Park, February 2014

Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but if Yahoo Travel's editors are this narrow-minded and research-limited, I can't recommend them as a reliable source of travel information for the outdoors enthusiast.  Even if Yahoo's article is merely tongue-in-cheek humor, the implication that tax dollars should not be funding this park because the editor didn't enjoy his visit is deplorable.  As one of the only National Parks that permits backcountry vehicular recreation, Death Valley is a most treasured natural resource.

When first researching Death Valley before my own trip, I studied these offroad guidebooks: Guide to Southern California Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails and California Desert Byways: 68 of California's Best Backcountry Drives and California Trails Desert Region.  I own all of them and can attest to how much information they contain, which really helped enhanced our enjoyment of the area.  Plus, as an added benefit, each of these books also covers numerous other trails outside of Death Valley and can help you enjoy years of backcountry exploration:

Eagle Scout Demonstrates True Environmentalism

Boy Scout volunteers preserve public land

Land-Use champion Don Amador (Western Representative for BlueRibbon Coalition) published a report on Boy Scout Sean Griffith's inspiring Eagle Project.  The Scout planned, directed, and led 21 Scouts, adults, family members and friends in a project to protect an archeological site in the Mi-Wok Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest; the Camp Clavey Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) area was burnt in 2013's Rim Fire and the Forest Service's resources are spread too thin to properly address every needy area.

All too often, we see instances of the USFS and BLM mismanaging our public lands.  Sean's Eagle Project has done more than simply preserve and protect a highly-valued multiple-use area of a National Forest; it serves as a shining example of how our public land management agencies should continue moving toward partnerships with outdoor recreation clubs and individuals who have offered to donate their time and efforts for the health of our natural resources.  In contrast to the efforts of the anti-access "environmentalist" organizations, the simplification of the government's bureaucratic obstacles that stand in the way of pro-access volunteers benefits all land users and our natural resources.  Public lands should be preserved for the public, rather than from the public:

Sean's completed Eagle Project

Why Jeep is the Most Relevant Brand

Yahoo Autos has an interesting take on the Jeep brand after their recent on/off-road introduction to the new Renegade.  The author reflects on the Jeep brand as a whole, and how it stands apart from every other auto manufacturer in terms of overall vehicular capability and the public's perception of the Jeep brand lifestyle.  While praising all of Jeep's top offerings, he particularly likes the "awesome and totally covetable Wrangler."  The final verdict?  That Jeep is the most relevant brand in the automotive industry.  From the article:
If you really want something to shout "surf’s up, man," then choose the real sweetheart of the Jeep lineup, the Wrangler. If you want four-door sunshine, select the Wrangler Unlimited. To us, nothing screams outdoors like a Jeep with a soft top, so throw the surfboard in the back, and away you go...all the way up to the 'Bu to catch some cool waves, brah. We’d also opt for the top of the range Rubicon version, in a black on black configuration with a hard shell top.
Seriously though, the Wrangler Unlimited gives you Mercedes Benz G63 looks at less than a quarter of the price. Imagine having surf, sun, sand, and looking good in the outdoors on a major budget. Who could ask for anything more?
Most of the public's perception of any given brand is established by its users' core enthusiast base.  Jeep represents many things to many people, but the benchmark of adventurous outdoor spirit that is set by the Wrangler carries over into Jeep's other offerings more than any other competitor's 4x4s.  Jeep's long history of ruggedness symbolizes the American spirit more than any other vehicle.  This is a key reason why it's imperative that the next-generation Wrangler carry on its fundamental off-road capabilities at all costs.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Toledo Continues to Fight for Jeep Wrangler Production

Jeep's Toledo North Assembly Plant has been fighting hard to continue being the home of the iconic Jeep Wrangler when the next generation of the vehicle goes into production.  The State of Ohio, the City of Toledo, and countless individuals have been a part of this common goal, but perhaps none as fervently as Toledo's Mayor D. Michael Collins.  With his unfortunate death earlier this month, many have feared that among other repercussions, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' upper management might go ahead with plans to move the Wrangler's production to another facility.

The latest reports are indicating that Toledo is still fighting hard to keep their beloved Jeep Wrangler. The City of Toledo's Director of Development, Matt Sapara, seems to have taken over Mayor Collins' reigns; he has delivered to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles an outline of a development plan that would give FCA the ability to buy an extra 100 acres to expand the factory.  This is to help accommodate FCA's targeted output of 300,000 to 350,000 next-generation Wranglers, up from the 240,000 the factory can make now.

North America's Top-5 Overland Vehicles

Expedition Portal, the online presence for Overland Journal, analyzed all new 2015 4x4s available in North America for their suitability as an overland-style vehicle.  This includes factors such as offroad capabilities, strength and durability, size, load capacity, and aftermarket support.  While overlanding does not necessarily require utmost offroad prowess, it is an important factor since more capable vehicles can safely access additional trails than less-capable vehicles can.  Overall, however, an overland-style vehicle must be well-rounded and perform well at many tasks, not just one.

Of 2015's Top Five Overland Vehicles for North America, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited is predictably the most offroad-capable vehicle.  From the article:
This list would be incomplete without the inclusion of Jeep’s pinnacle vehicle, the cornerstone of the entire Jeep brand. The Wrangler is an icon of off-roading and to many, a platform without peer. The 3.6-liter 6-cylinder 24-valve VTT engine when paired to the 6-speed manual provides a visceral driving experience that is increasingly rare these days. The Rock-Trac 4WD system with 4:1 low gearing, Dana 44 front axles and electronic sway bar disconnects make this the best 4×4 in its class––by far, not to steal a tagline from Land Rover.

Although the Wrangler is commonly used as a daily driver, and does admirably on the blacktop, it is purpose built for off pavement use. Once in the backcountry, its colors really shine. The Achilles heal to the Unlimited Rubicon however, is the abysmal load carrying capacity. Should your adventures fill all four seats, each occupant will have to pack lightly to stay under the 1,000 pound payload allowance. Not just light, but really light. Despite Jeep’s efforts to soften the interior space and fit it with more creature comforts and features, it is still an austere space befitting the “Jeep thing” vibe. That is not intended to be a pejorative as many owners are drawn to that spartan design as a hallmark of the Jeep ethos.
Not found on this list, but certainly worthy of inclusion due to its nearly Jeep-level offroad capabilities and its superior load-carrying capacity, is the Ram Power Wagon.  A slide-in cabover camper would make for a true backcountry home-away-from-home.  The Ford Raptor, while unsuitable for a cabover, could certainly be used with a lighter-weight bed shell or trailer without compromising its desert-tuned suspension.  Read the full article here and share your thoughts below!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wrangler Willys Wheeler: A Grown-Up Boy's Toy

Industry trade magazine Automotive Design & Production has reviewed the 2015 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler.  The introductory statement could be said about any Jeep Wrangler:
The thing about the Wrangler Willys Wheeler: It is a toy for a grown-up boy.
And that's why the Jeep brand, and in particular the Wrangler, has such a strong enthusiast following - it's not just another anonymous cookie-cutter sedan or SUV.  Rather, it's a Tonka Truck for young-at-heart adults.  It's a vehicle that's intended to allow outdoorsy weekend adventure, but which also brings a smile to its owner's face even during the weekday commute.

While the Willys Wheeler may not be the special uprated Rubicon edition, it is designed as a tribute to Jeep brand's history with its name, its styling, and its decals paying homage to the earliest Willys-Overland CJs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Next-Gen Wrangler Will Keep its Solid Axles

In what will come as a tremendous relief to Jeep fans, Automotive News is reporting that the next generation of the Wrangler coming in 2017 will retain its solid axle suspension front and rear.  Car and Driver Magazine shared the report, which generated the usual flood of interesting reader comments.

The article is correct in pointing out that the solid axles are as definitive of the Wrangler as its iconic grille.  While the loss of solid axles under the Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, and every other Jeep vehicle has been controversial and bemoaned by the core offroad market, it has been a begrudgingly acceptable change in order to keep the Jeep SUVs competitive with Range Rovers, Land Rovers, and other 4x4 icons that have adopted car-based independent suspension.

Conversely, the Wrangler simply would not be a Wrangler without a proper pair of solid axles; it is the brand's halo vehicle.  The prestige of the Jeep brand and all Jeep vehicles is carried on the Wrangler's shoulders; if the Wrangler lost its offroad prowess by downgrading to street-biased suspension, the Jeep reputation would be forever tarnished.  If the core 4x4 market loses respect for the definitive Jeep, the general public would soon follow.

The surprising sales successes of the JK Wrangler as well as other offroad-biased vehicles (Ford Raptor and Mercedes Geländewagen) has likely contributed to Fiat/Chrysler Automobiles' decision to retain the Wrangler's offroad capability at a (very slight) expense to on-road comfort and handling.  So popular is the Jeep Wrangler, GMC is reportedly looking to build a competitor.  There is a big market for genuine offroad vehicles, so any vehicle that is biased toward offroad performance is bound to be a sales success if its design isn't botched (see the Hummer brand for an example of how not to design a vehicle for the offroad crowd).

Compromising the Wrangler's defining features is a sure path to failure.  If FCA can retain the Wrangler's legendary ruggedness and capability while improving its fuel economy, the redesign will be a win/win situation for everyone involved: Jeep will retain its reputation and enthusiast market, gain additional sales to the mallcrawler crowd, and also appease the government with its mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

DeadMau5 Wrangler Rubicon

Canadian electronica DJ DeadMau5, a.k.a. Joel Zimmerman, has decided to add a gaudy Jeep Wrangler Rubicon to his stable of supercars.

The custom 6.4L SRT Jeep was built by Divine 1 Customs for Deadmau5.  They produced a video showing the digital rendering of the Jeep before starting the build.  The entire rendering start to finish is way too long to show, so it's been compressed into a time-lapse video:

A Jeep is certainly more appropriate for Canadian roads than a Ferrari or McLaren, but this Jeep looks to be built more for appearance than actual functionality.  He's particularly proud of the excessive number of LED light bars, but the oversize rims and digital camo really push it over the top.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

GMC Considering a Wrangler Competitor?

Autoblog is reporting on a Wall Street Journal article that states General Motors has been soliciting feedback from their GMC dealers regarding their interest in a Wrangler competitor.  With the Wrangler's ever-increasing popularity, it's no wonder why GM wants a piece of that pie.  This would be a big step forward in the capability of anything they have to offer.

I've written before about the few competitors that the Wrangler has in the United States, and what led me to choose a Jeep over any other option.  I've also shown how much stiffer the Wrangler's competition is in foreign countries, where the appreciation for real 4x4s is still recognized by auto manufacturers.  Ford's recent purchase of Brazil's Troller brand gives them an opportunity (if they're smart) to market the awesome T4 in the United States as a true Wrangler competitor.
Ford Troller T4
GM must finally be realizing that the market for real offroad vehicles is underserved.  Admittedly, they used to own the Hummer brand, but they ran it into the ground in their pre-bankruptcy incompetence due to their mistake of designing and marketing the vehicles to the wishy-washy faux-by-four mallcrawler crowd rather than the brand-loyal enthusiasts in the offroad market.  Jeep flourished where Hummer failed miserably.  With the popularity of Jeep's vehicles (not to mention the Ford Raptor) along with new competitors such as Toyota's TRD Pro versions of its Tacoma, 4Runner, and Tundra, GM is left looking a bit emasculated with nothing more than IFS lowrider pickups and bloated soccer-mom SUVs.

Hummer's 2008 HX Concept

Without the Hummer brand, GM's next best option is to build their offroad-oriented 4x4 for their GMC Truck brand.  If they want to make it a serious competitor to the Wrangler, they're going to have to focus on offroad ability first and foremost.  It's very easy to make a proper 4x4: just follow the Wrangler's basic recipe of a stout ladder frame, flexy suspension, heavy-duty solid axles, and a low-range transfer case.  There are a million ways to screw it up, however: for instance, the Hummer H2 with its tough-looking body and merely a Chevy Tahoe chassis.  Hopefully GM will learn from its past mistakes and actually produce a vehicle that people want to buy.

***UPDATE 2/6/2015***

Car and Driver Magazine has offered their own input on the concept of a GMC competitor to the Jeep Wrangler and produced their own artist's conception of how the vehicle could look:

They offered a brainstorm that the vehicle could be based on the GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado platform, which would likely mean that the vehicle would be equipped with independent front suspension.  Although the I4 and V6 gas motors used in the Canyon/Colorado are great engines, and the upcoming diesel is sure to be a hit, the vehicle simply would not be a proper competitor to the Wrangler without a proper pair of solid axles.  The resulting vehicle would be more of a Toyota FJ Cruiser and Nissan Xterra competitor rather than a Wrangler competitor.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Hybrid Wrangler a Possibility?

A lot of fuss has been made regarding the new generation JL Jeep Wrangler that is under development for the 2017 model year.  Everything from suspension design to diesel power to aluminum construction to even the factory in which it will be assembled.  The latest gossip is reporting that the Wrangler could get a hybrid option.  Although suspension (solid axle versus independent) is a more critical feature for offroad performance, Jeepers have still expressed strong aversion to a hybrid powertrain.  Hybrid cars have certain popular connatations, but I view hybrids as actually falling into three main categories:

Weird Al stereotypes the Prius owner