Last year, Mopar SkunkWerks brought us a number of vehicles, including the very cool JT pickup based on the JK Wrangler Unlimited. This year, while SkunkWerks changed its name to Mopar Underground, the concept vehicles were outstanding and prove that Chrysler is still at the cutting edge of OE off-highway technology.
The Jeep J8 "Sarge" is one of those vehicles, and we had an opportunity to put it through its paces in Moab. While the Sarge is a Mopar Underground vehicle, it stands apart from the rest because it was modified very little. It's very close to the production Jeep J8, manufactured in a Chrysler joint-venture facility in Cairo, Egypt, and slated for use by the Egyptian military.
The J8 is a beefed-up military version of the Jeep JK Unlimited platform built as a noncombat military support vehicle. With a 116-inch wheelbase, the J8 is available in either two- or four-door configurations. J8-only structural upgrades in the body and chassis combine to increase the GVWR rating to 7,400 pounds. With the increased GVWR, the J8 can be configured as a light troop carrier, ambulance, or cargo truck.
Under the hood (bonnet) is a VM 2.8L four-cylinder turbodiesel that produces 158 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The Command-Trac transfer case has both high and 2.72:1 low-range gearing. Although 158 hp doesn't sound like much, the J8 works. It works on the highway, in the dirt, in the rocks, and surprisingly, in the sand. The little 2.8 diesel has plenty of torque and motivates the J8 well through the dunes, an important feature for the Mideastern service the J8 will be seeing.
The frontend is a Dana 44 with open differential and large disc brakes. The Dana 60 rearend is the same one we'll be able to get from Mopar/Jeep Performance and has a Trac-Lok limited-slip differential. You old Jeepers don't groan. This Trac-Lok actually works and helps the J8 to get over some pretty gnarly and technical obstacles. There's a four-link coil suspension up front and heavy-duty leaf packs in the rear. Exclusive J8-only 17x8 steel wheels sport a 5-on-5.5 bolt pattern, not the 5-on-5 U.S.-spec JK pattern.Other features unique to the J8 are heavy-duty steel bumpers, each equipped with two forged mil-spec helicopter hooks rated at 1.5-ton GVWR each; a hood-mounted air-intake snorkel; dual battery boxes in the bed; and heavy-duty spring hood latches.
Mopar Underground massaged the J8 and turned it into the Sarge by painting it flat green (not OD Green, as has been reported elsewhere) and adding 1.25-inch Superlift front coil spacers, a custom cargo top, and 35x12.50R17LT BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2 tires.
The J8 is all good. Now the bad. There are currently no plans to offer the J8 for retail sale in North America. The people at Jeep know there will be a tremendous market for a J8 in mufti. They just need to be convinced to get it certified for sale here and then get it to dealers. The J8 Sarge is a very capable vehicle. We know you want one. So do we.