May 28, 2023

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The Cars Maniacs

2023 Easter Jeep Safari Roundup: Seven Wild Concepts Driven, Four Electrified

2023 Easter Jeep Safari Roundup: Seven Wild Concepts Driven, Four Electrified
2023 Easter Jeep Safari Concepts
Easter Jeep Safari always showcases the SUV brand’s wildest concepts, and this year’s event included (left to right) the mysterious Tuscadero Pink Wrangler 4xe concept, the fully-electric Wrangler Magneto 3.0 and the Hemi-powered Scrambler 392, among others. All Photos: Mercedes Lilienthal

Thousands of Jeep enthusiasts flocked to Moab, Utah for the yearly Easter Jeep Safari (EJS) event this past weekend. From tried-and-true World War II-era Willys to electrified Jeep 4×4 Wranglers running red-rock trails, EJS brings people from near and far to celebrate all things Jeep. 

For over 80 years, and through half a dozen corporate parents, the famous SUV builder has maintained a top-dog position atop the 4×4 hierarchy. Presently under the Stellantis group, Jeep continues to push its boundaries, marrying proven off-road capability and electrification. 

Every year, EJS serves as a showcase for the brand’s storied past and a laboratory for its future, and 2023 is no different. The company debuted seven stunningly different Jeep concepts at this year’s EJS—each uniquely special. We drove each of them and tested their mettle. 

1978 Jeep Cherokee 4xe Concept

Undoubtedly one of the coolest concepts, we took a trip down memory lane with this electrified restomod build. Designed around a heavily modified 1978 Jeep Cherokee SJ body, the heart of this concept is a 2022 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe powertrain. Burly 17-inch mag-style wheels were paired to 37-inch tires, and the classic chrome grille showcased a WARN winch, making this concept a large, long, and incredibly fun 4×4 to drive.

A 1970s paint scheme adorned the exterior while a graffiti-accented roof highlighted its throwback interior. It was like stepping into our childhood while we sat in it. Gone were plastic handles and thick door cards, present were thin metal adornments and trim pieces. However, the 4xe’s massive dash was prominently placed in front of us as we took its helm.

Our drive time was split between decades-old reminiscing and hearing futuristic noises as the ’78 Cherokee concept wound its way over the slick rock in EV mode, its suspension occasionally creaking as it articulated. However, we longed for the thin-rimmed original steering wheel instead of the modern chunky one to set the mood for total throwback awesomeness. Even so, this rad restomod brought many smiles. 

Jeep Scrambler 392 Concept

This sculpted, high-horsepower concept combines a powerful 6.4-liter HEMI V8 engine with a nod to its original CJ-8 origin: Jeep’s first convertible, compact truck. The brightly painted Sublime green Scrambler 392 generates 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque and originally started life as a four-door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392. 

The Jeep team enhanced this concept’s off-road performance through custom carbon-fiber bodywork, chopping its rear to make it a two-door, giving it a functional truck bed, and laying back its windscreen 12 degrees with a lower roofline. The automaker says the modified look, “gives a nod to chopped-top hotrods.” We totally agree. 

The Scrambler 392 concept is equipped with oversized fender flares, 40-inch Maxxis M/T tires, and a newly released AccuAir adjustable air suspension kit that allows drivers the ability to change the vehicle’s height from 1.5 inches to 5.5 inches, even on the fly, via an in-cockpit module or by a Bluetooth device. The Scrambler 392 concept crawled up and over everything without even wincing, leaving us wishing for more time with it. 

2023 Jeep Magneto 3.0 concept
The Wrangler Magneto 3.0 is, as the name implies, the third version of this fully-electric concept. It’s also the most powerful, with up to 900 pound-feet of torque. All photos: Mercedes Lilienthal

Jeep Wrangler Magneto 3.0 Concept

It’s the third and final time for the all-electric Magneto BEV 4×4, making a final appearance as this year’s concept vehicle. With three years of testing under its belt, Jeep’s Magneto 1.0, 2.0, and current 3.0 have pushed the electrified envelope of Jeep’s performance and technology. The Magneto BEV (each iteration is the same actual vehicle) paved the way for Jeep’s upcoming Recon EV. 

Originally based on a two-door 2020 Wrangler Rubicon, the Magneto features a custom-built axial flux electric motor that operates up to 6,000 rpm and showcases a six-speed manual transmission. The e-motor was originally tuned to produce up to 273 pound-feet of torque and 285 horsepower. However, Magneto 2.0’s peak amperage more than doubled to 600 amps, instantly packing up to 850 lb-ft of peak torque, more than three times the torque and double the horsepower (625) of the original concept. 

This year’s final Magneto 3.0 boasts a new more efficient motor featuring updated programming, resulting in 20% more range. Three driver select modes offer two power settings: standard at 285 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque and maximum at an impressive 650 horsepower and 900 lb-ft. Even with all the power, finesse is the name of the game when going slow speeds with this one-of-a-kind BEV concept. Magneto 3.0 handles rock crawling and slow-speed challenges with precision and confidence. 

2023 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Overland front
2023 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Overland rear

Grand Wagoneer Overland Concept

When you combine a premium SUV with quality-appointed aftermarket upgrades and accessories, you’re in for a very plush overlanding experience. The 2023 Grand Wagoneer Overland concept vehicle boasts the aptly-named and all-new 3.0-liter Hurricane Twin Turbo 510 engine, delivering 510 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque. 

Painted with an upscale Industrial Green scheme with Gunmetal accents, this concept includes larger wheel openings and custom wheel flares. It rides on 18-inch wheels shod in 35-inch BFGoodrich tires and has 1.5 inches of lift for increased ground clearance (which we needed to climb onto the slick rock). Front and rear WARN winches flanked the Grand Wagoneer while a custom RedTail Overland Skyloft rooftop tent adorned the roof. 

The Grand Wagoneer Overland’s interior lent itself to relaxation by showcasing a plush, livable space, storage for overlanding gear and roof access to the tent. This was done by removing the second- and third-row seats and repositioning the rear sunroof to create a water-tight passthrough. The setup was rock solid during our drive time with it, but the tent weighs approximately 300 pounds. Off-camber climbs carrying any rooftop tent (they vary in size and weight) should always be navigated carefully. 

2023 Jeep Sideburn front
2023 Jeep Sideburn rear

Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Sideburn Concept

The eye-popping Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Sideburn concept showcases a wide variety of Jeep Performance Parts (JPP) and is powered by the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. Most visible is the custom fold-down tubular grille guard that protects the seven-slot grille copied from the 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 20th Anniversary edition 4×4. In its up position, it adds protection to the front end. When folded down, it’s the perfect place for two people to sit for trail-side conversations. 

Listening to owner feedback and new on the Sideburn concept, JPP designed a quick-disconnect light fairing that features a pair of removable 11-inch rectangular TYRI LED lights on each side, suspended by custom metalwork. Although not demonstrated during our time with it, Jeep stated the roof-mounted light fairing boasts a quick disconnect system. 

Additional JPP concept products featured are a carbon fiber and steel Gladiator Sport Bar and a heavy-duty vinyl floor system (for the JT Gladiator model). Available JPP half doors, side steps and grab handles made getting into Sideburn a breeze, while JPP stainless-steel pedal covers provided extra traction against dirt-filled hiking boots. Owners can more or less build a replica themselves by ordering the components.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe Departure Concept

Mirroring the same JPP front fold-down grille guard, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe Departure concept steers in a different direction from Sideburn by showcasing a rich Dark Harbor blue paint color with contrasting light Acorn Squash and dark Carnegie Hall brown Nappa leather. JPP showcased several concept products here, too. Most notable was the multi-use rear tube gate that houses the massive full-size spare tire. Additionally, JPP tube doors elevate Jeep’s open-air experience, and custom rock sliders and a two-inch JPP lift kit with 37-inch BFGoodrich KM3 M/T tires add capability.

The Jeep team also gave Departure larger, custom fender flares and wheel fender liners for added clearance to run larger tires. These fender flares have removable, integral daytime running lights (DRL) covers in case every spare inch of space is needed. “This concept is the first 50-state legal fender flare with OEM DRL,” a Jeep spokesperson said, “and meets 50-state tire coverage requirements.”

2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe side
This magenta monster doesn’t have an official concept name, but it will no doubt inspire many similar builds from Jeep owners, dealers and modifiers. All Photos: Mercedes Lilienthal

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe Concept

Coming off the popular limited-edition pink Tuscadero 2021 Jeep Wrangler paint pigment, the automaker turned up the saturation by offering this full bleed electrified magenta 4×4. Arriving to Moab with no name (but rumors of several “non-official” titles have been floating about), this eye-catching pink Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe is complimented by piano-black accents, the same AccuAir air suspension kit the Scrambler 392 concept has, and American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) accoutrements: front and rear bumpers, Borah wheels, and differential covers.

“Every year, more than 20,000 Jeep enthusiasts descend on Moab, Utah, for Easter Jeep Safari to wheel in the most extreme off-road conditions, where our engineers continue to push the capability of our Jeep vehicles to next levels,” said Jim Morrison, senior vice president and head of Jeep brand North America. 

“It’s the perfect place to showcase our seven new Jeep concepts, because it’s with these Jeep enthusiasts that we’ll be able to push the limits even more and get their feedback on where they want to take the Jeep brand into the future.” Indeed, it’s likely many of the pieces seen on these concepts will find their way into future Jeeps, or at least the parts counter at your dealership.