For many years, the rogue designers at Mopar Underground were temporarily released from their dreary Michigan-based corporate cages and given a different kind of assignment. They were set free to build whatever vehicles their overly fertile brains could dream up to show and drive during the annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. This experimentation in creativity has resulted in many impressive and well-loved vehicles, such as Nukizer, Lower Forty, Mighty FC, Flattop, and more. Even though most of these very capable Jeeps never stood a chance of ever being offered on the dealer lot, it was an exercise in imagination, which let Jeep enthusiasts know the company still had a finger on the pulse of what the real Jeep fans want and love about the brand.
This year it seems the fruitful imaginations have been stifled. Of the six Jeeps Mopar brought to Moab, three are pretty much bolt-on bandits, two have some unique fendermods to fit bigger tires, and one, well, its creamsicle paint job and bolt-on roof rack was so uninspiring we won’t even mention it here. But not everything is bad in Moparland. The company appears to have at least taken an interest in producing and stocking aftermarket off-road accessories enthusiasts want, and perhaps more importantly, at a price enthusiasts will pay. The jury is still out on whether Mopar can pull it off.
Hopefully, Mopar will hit the reset button and rethink the Moab build plans for next year. We’d hate to have to show them up with the Wrangler owned by the college girl down the street. Ultimately, we’d like to see the over-the-top Jeep builds again. While we’re waiting, here are five of the six Jeeps that Mopar put together with mostly catalog products, which you can or should be able to purchase at your local dealer soon.
Wrangler Level Red
This black-and-red accented Wrangler was dubbed Level Red, essentially because Mopar believes it’s the designation for the highest level of difficulty of an off-road trail. Frankly, we’ve never even heard the term before. The fact is, you wouldn’t catch us trying to conquer any of the Hammer trails in this rig, unless it was signed out under someone else’s name.
Anyway, the Wrangler Level Red is outfitted exclusively with components from the Jeep Performance Parts catalog, including the new 2-inch lift kit with progressive-rate coils and tuned Fox aluminum-body shocks. The front and rear crate axles are locking Dana 44s with 4.10 gears. The factory transfer case was ditched in favor of a 4:1 Rock-Trac transfer case, also sourced from the Jeep Performance Parts catalog. The Pentastar 3.6-liter engine breathes through a cold-air intake and low-restriction exhaust system. It’s mated to a factory six-speed manual transmission that helps provide a 73:1 crawl ratio.
The exterior has been hosed in Pitch Black paint and accented with a TorRed prototype graphic stripe. The front and rear bumpers were pilfered from a Rubicon 10th Anniversary model and feature prototype black aero ends and an under-bumper skidplate. Rolling stock is made up of prototype 17x8-inch beadlock-capable wheels wrapped with 35-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires. Other exterior mods include a Mopar half-door kit, a prototype Jeep Performance Parts spare tire carrier, and rock rails.
Wrangler Level Red also sports badges for each of the five trails in Moab recognized by the Jeep brand as “Badge of Honor” trails. (Through this Badge of Honor program, Jeep vehicle owners can earn special vehicle badges once they conquer any of more than 30 approved, high-profile trails across the United States.)
Inside, you’ll find Tuscany Katzkin leather seats with red stitching. Red and black trim pieces are used throughout. Additional accessories include a prototype Jeep Cargo Management System (JCMS) with a tow-strap bag and first-aid bag on the rear swing gate, all-weather floor mats, grab handles, and a lockable storage bin under the seat..
Mopar claims the Jeep Wrangler MOJO is built for the off-road enthusiast who seeks an even tougher vehicle built to tackle the most extreme trails. We thinks it’s simply an orange four-door version of Level Red.
It sports a Jeep Performance Parts 2-inch lift, locking Dana 44 front and rear axles, and a 4:1 Rock-Trac transfer case. Aside from the lift, these options almost bring it up to Rubicon spec. The factory 3.6-liter engine is topped with a cold-air intake, and exhaust flows through a low restriction system. The Pentastar V-6 is backed by the stock automatic transmission and the overall crawl ratio is 59:1.
The Bright Orange (“J” in MOJO stands for orange Jeep by the way -- ugh) exterior of Wrangler MOJO is capped by prototype Jeep Performance Parts shorty bumpers and prototype flat-top fenders that when combined with the 2-inch lift, allow for 37-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires wrapped around prototype beadlock wheels. The Mopar Rubicon X hood is decorated with prototype topographical graphics. Additional trail enhancements include rock rails, a prototype spare tire carrier, prototype LED head and fog lamps, two-tone half-doors, an under-bumper skidplate, and a prototype Jeep Performance Parts winch. Like Level Red, MOJO is festooned with a Badge of Honor plate to show the trails Wrangler MOJO has traversed.
The interior of MOJO is stripped of carpet for easy mud and dust removal. The two-tone instrument panel and console complement black Katzkin seat covers. A Mopar lockable rear cargo tray keeps valuables safe.
Wrangler Maximum Performance
Mopar says, “Wrangler Maximum Performance speaks to the hard-core enthusiasts who spend every spare minute on the trail and seek the ultimate in power and capability, so they can go where others cannot.” We think the Mopar marketing guy got a little overzealous and may have spent too many weekends behind a desk. However, we do appreciate the new Jeep Performance Parts-exclusive push-button electric-locking Dana 60 crate axles at the front and rear of the Jeep. The 4.88 axle gears combined with the 4:1 Rock-Trac transfer case provide a 70:1 crawl ratio.
A prototype Jeep Performance Parts 4-inch lift kit combined with the prototype flattop fender kit make room for 37-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires clamped to prototype eight-lug beadlock wheels. A prototype Jeep Performance Parts stinger front bumper, bumper skidplate, and Rubicon rock rails protect the Jeep. Up front, you’ll find a prototype Jeep Performance Parts winch. A prototype LED lightbar shines down from the roof of the vehicle. A prototype graphics package signifying the Moab landscape adorns the hood. Like the other Wranglers mentioned, Maximum Performance features a prototype spare tire carrier and Badge of Honor badges. Wow. That’s a lot of prototypes!
The Mopar Blue exterior color scheme meanders into the interior, highlighting the HVAC bezels, Katzkin leather seats’ embroidery, and steering-wheel accents.
Jeep Cherokee Dakar
Sadly, this was probably our favorite Jeep of those Mopar brought to Moab this year. However, we think the aftermarket off-road products for it will not sell well. The Jeep Cherokee Dakar might be the most extreme Cherokee ever, but you won’t be conquering many difficult trails with it. The Silver Steel Satin Gloss exterior skin is a color we think Jeep should offer from the factory. The Flame Red graphics and accents look well thought out and we like them. The wheel openings have been modified to fit 33-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires wrapped around Trailhawk 17-inch polished satin clearcoat wheels. The underside is protected with Jeep Performance Parts rock rails, an oil pan skidplate, front suspension skidplate, two-piece fuel tank skidder, and other underbody skidplates. Heavy-duty RCV axleshafts replace the factory CVs and halfshafts.
Cherokee Dakar likely has the only Jeep Performance Parts lift kit that will ever be built for a Cherokee, which consists of Fox adjustable coil struts. Normally, we are not fender flare fans, but we like how these prototype fender flares are styled to accommodate the larger tires. A prototype rear fascia allows for an even more aggressive departure angle and enhances the higher ride height. Cherokee Dakar’s crawl ratio is an impressive (for the vehicle) 48:1.
Inside are prototype red-stitched Katzkin black leather seat covers with machined gunmetal inserts. Interior accessories showcased from the Mopar catalog include all-weather floor mats, bright door-sill guards with the Cherokee logo, a cargo tray for storage, and the JCMS with the Trailhawk bag, as well as the prototype Moab off-road bag.
Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Trail Warrior
Really Mopar, who comes up with these names? We love the 420 lb-ft of torque the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel provides and the 44:1 crawl ratio, but we wouldn’t exactly call this Jeep a trail warrior.
Anyway, the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Trail Warrior has its own built-in lift kit, thanks to the factory-adjustable Quadra-Lift air suspension. To fit the 285/55R20 BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires mounted to prototype 20-inch cast satin-black aluminum wheels, the wheelwells and fender openings were trimmed and massaged. Mojave Sand was hosed over the exterior, which was then accessorized with satin-black accents. A prototype Mopar roof basket is mounted to the production cross rails. Jeep Performance Parts tow hooks and rock rails finish out the front, back, and sides.
The Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Trail Warrior’s interior is dressed in a black-and-tan dual-tone scheme. Gloss-black accents appear on the HVAC bezels, steering wheel, instrument panel, and other appointments. Additional Mopar accessories include all-weather floor mats, doorsills, lighted Jeep logo sills, a pedal kit, and a cargo tray.