2016 Jeep Concepts - What Details Will Make It to Production?

    Jeep’s Latest Concept Vehicles

    Harry WagnerPhotographer, Writer

    Every spring most auto manufacturers unveil new models and concepts to suburbanites at the New York Auto Show. Meanwhile a dedicated team of Jeep enthusiasts led by Lead Designer Mark Allen brings a convoy of drool-worthy Jeep concepts to Moab for Easter Jeep Safari. This year they were at it again. We are amazed that they continue to raise the bar year after year. We are equally amazed that they actually hand us the keys to these concept vehicles and let a bunch of journalists drive them on the trail. After the initial shine wears off, Allen’s crew even brings the concepts back to Moab to wheel. “Of course,” Allen claimed matter-of-factly when we saw him behind the wheel of last year’s Staff Car concept, “what good is a Jeep if you cannot take it on the trail?”

    There is more at work than just a paid vacation for Jeep engineers though. The bean counters ask, “What good is a Jeep we cannot sell?” The concept vehicles that are rolled out in Moab show the wheeling community features and details that could find their way into future production vehicles and give the Jeep brand managers an idea of how these features would be received. We dusted off our crystal ball and have some predications about this year’s concepts and the features we expect to see on the Jeep dealer lot in the future.

    The Trailcat is a two-door Wrangler stuffed with a Hellcat engine under the hood. It uses coilover shocks at all four corners and Jeep Performance Parts (JPP) Dana 60 axles at each end. Don’t look for the next Wrangler to have these full-floater, eight-lug axles, but know that you can order them from Mopar and bolt them under your JK right now.

    No, we don’t expect Jeep to offer a Hellcat engine in a Wrangler (or any Hemi for that matter), but the chopped and swept-back windshield could make it to production, and rumors of a Hellcat Grand Cherokee have been all over the trail. We also expect that Jeep engineers learned a lot about cooling with the 770hp mill under the hood. We also hope to see Hemi crate engines offered from Mopar, and maybe a Hellcat crate engine, if they can keep up with demand.

    The Trailstorm isn’t as much of a concept as the other vehicles; it is more of a production JK outfitted with everything JPP offers. We appreciate that it fits 37-inch tires with only 2 inches of lift. Could the next Wrangler have even larger wheel openings?

    Jeep has been bringing pickup concepts to Moab for years, and we are getting impatient for the real thing. With no Dakota in the lineup, Jeep doesn’t have to worry about competing against another Chrysler product these days in the midsize truck market. Most of the past trucks have been regular cabs, but the 715 Crew Chief has more in common with a four-door AEV Brute, and it is common knowledge that the market is more interested in four-door trucks than two-door.

    There is a lot going on with the bed of the Crew Chief. It has military styling, uses lightweight components, and has tie-down points distributed around the perimeter. The bed also has a spray-in liner.

    Jeep has used air-actuated lockers on the TJ Rubicon, but unlike ARB they have never optioned the air source with a chuck to fill tires since the factory Rubicon lockers run on such low pressure. Onboard air is one useful tool that many Jeep owners add to their vehicles though.

    The Crew Chief had a frenched-in step behind the second set of doors for access to the bed and the roof. The doors are also taller than traditional Jeep doors and don’t use a frame. Could those features find their way into production?

    The front buckets in the Crew Chief had Katzkin covers with MOLLE (modular lightweight load-carrying equipment) attachment points for pouches to hold everything from hydration bladders to first aid kits and flashlights. We like this modular approach, which is currently offered by the aftermarket but could easily be adopted by the factory.

    The Crew Chief had huge military-inspired recovery points front and rear. You may recall that the Hummer H2 and H3 had beefy recovery points as a nod to their military roots. Perhaps we will see Jeep do the same on future production models.

    The hood latches on the Crew Chief were similar to a JK, but with a spring instead of the normal rubber. JKs are notorious for hood flutter with the stock hinges. Could these springs be found on the next Wrangler?

    The Shortcut concept pays homage to the CJ-5 with a small door opening and short overhangs. Even though it has the same wheelbase as a two-door JK, the overall length is 26 inches shorter. It is also lighter, like past concepts the Pork Chop and Stitch.

    We don’t expect to find low-back seats in production Jeeps, but we might find bright fabrics like the plaid seats in the Shortcut. This Jeep also has a spray-in bedliner instead of carpeting in the floors.

    We like the stamped Jeep emblem in the side of the Shortcut tub, just like CJs used to have. The vintage V-6 badging is a nice touch as well.

    The Shortcut had unique taillights with a Willys symbol in them. Given the number of flatfender emblems on the current Renegade, we would not be surprised to see these taillights on a production model in the future. Also note the taper in the rear tub for more clearance at the corners.

    As Toyota and GM move upscale with their midsized trucks, there is a void in the market for a true affordable mini-truck. The Comanche could fill that void, although we doubt that it would have a fabric top or diesel engine when it reaches the market.

    The front fascia on the Comanche was shortened compared to a production Renegade in order to provide a better approach angle. We would love to see this option on the off-road–oriented Trailhawk Renegade.

    The 2.0L four-cylinder diesel engine in the Comanche would be a great fuel-efficient option, but we doubt that it will ever be offered in the States. Emissions compliance is just too difficult, and the diesel option would likely be too pricy for an entry-level pickup.

    Like the Crew Chief, the bed of the Comanche had a military-inspired look with numerous tie-down points. The Comanche bed was also composite for light weight, similar to a Toyota Tacoma. This is likely similar to the bed that will be offered on a production Jeep pickup.

    The tie-down points on the Comanche and Crew Chief concepts were lightweight and simple, yet highly functional. They also bolt on for easy installation or replacement. It seems like this would be an easy item to put into production.

    The FC-150 had more in common with a previous Willys wagon concept than the Mighty FC. This is an old Jeep placed on a TJ chassis, complete with a 4.0L engine and coil-sprung suspension. It is neat, but don’t expect to find anything remotely similar at your Jeep dealership.

    The hay bale in the bed of the Forward Control is actually a cooler. Many of the concept vehicles had jerry cans or coolers in the bed, leading us to believe that we could see a line of Mopar bed accessories in the future.

    There is so much vintage cool inside the FC-150, from the old tin cup that doubles as a cupholder to the sleeping bag material used for the headliner. Don’t expect Jeep to offer any models with unfiltered cigarettes or a glovebox full of parking tickets though. We doubt those would be big sellers.

    The FC-150 rides on a TJ chassis with a Dynatrac ProRock44 front axle and a ProRock60 rear axle. Even with only 33-inch-tall tires, the gear ratio is 5.38, suggesting that this Jeep is not intended for freeway speeds. That is probably for the best considering you sit forward of the front axle.

    The Renegade Commander used wheel adapters to fit 29-inch-tall BFGoodrich All-Terrains on factory JK Rubicon rims, thanks to a 1 1/2-inch Daystar lift. The Commander had the sway bars removed for added wheel travel, and we would love to see an electronic disconnecting sway bar on Renegade Trailhawks, since Chrysler already uses this technology on the Rubicon and Power Wagon.