The rugged Jeep brand has finally – finally – placed its hat in the ring occupied by modern three-row SUVs. The upcoming Grand Cherokee L will be able to seat more passengers than any other vehicle currently residing in the brand’s portfolio. We’re looking forward to sampling the revamped interior and new unibody platform that uses its share of lightweight materials.
In fact, this morning’s reveal got us thinking big. Real big. What are some of the other notable brutes lurking in Jeep’s history books?
We’ve assembled a neat half-dozen vehicles – a rogue’s gallery of rigs – which explored the outer limits of every measuring tape in Auburn Hills. Some of them tested the bounds of wheelbase while others searches the upper ceiling of horsepower.
Big Power: 2021 Wrangler Rubicon 392
Speaking of horsepower, this factory hot rod will pack a 470-horsepower V8 engine yet still be able to ford nearly three feet of water. With dual pipes and an active valve system in the exhaust, there’s no doubt your buddies on the trail will hear this machine long before you heave into view.
Frame rails, steering knuckles, upper controls arms are but a few of the greasy bit upgraded by Jeep engineers in preparation for handling the 6.4L V8 engine and the performance it will bring. Steroidal body panels and an enormous hood scoop also loudly announce its sporty intentions. With a palette of bright paint shades on tap, this 5000-lb-plus machine isn’t for wallflowers.
Big Mileage: 2021 Wrangler 4xe
From one extreme to the other, we find a Jeep with some the biggest fuel economy numbers ever posted by any machine bearing the seven-slot grille. In fact, there will be times when there technically won’t be any fuel consumption at all. These plug-in hybrid Jeeps will be able to drive up to 40 km solely on battery power when fully charged.
Once that juice is all gone, the 4xe reverts to a conventional hybrid, with its gasoline-powered engine taking care of most propulsion duties and the electric motors chipping in from time to time. There will be Sahara and Rubicon models offered when it goes on sale in the first quarter of this year.
Big Wheelbase: 2004 to 2006 Wrangler TJ Unlimited
Before the brand started shilling four-door versions of its best-seller in an attempt to lure family-minded buyers into the Jeep lifestyle, the name ‘Unlimited’ appeared on a long wheelbase version of the then-current TJ. Affectionately called the ‘LJ’ by Jeep nerds, these things stretched 15 inches longer than the regular two-door Wrangler.
To be clear, this was still a two-door machine, but it was endowed with a couple extra inches of rear legroom and a whopping 13 inches of newfound space in the cargo area. The extra length made for a better ride and higher towing capacity as well. And, only in 2005, you could get it in gnarly Rubicon trim.
Big Capacity: Forward Control (FC) Jeeps
In production for just under a decade, these FC Jeeps were based on the CJ-5 and was big on cargo space. Here’s a fun fact for your next socially-distanced pub quiz: the FC-150 had a six-foot load bed despite being two inches shorter in length than the puny Nash Metropolitan. That’s what placing the driver atop the front axle can do for space allocation, folks.
Other variants came and went, including ones with longer wheelbases and new engine options. There was even a dual-rear-wheeled model like the jumbo dually pickup trucks of today. The military also pressed them into action, serving as troop carriers (ferrying up to a dozen well-fed conscripts) and ambulances.
Big Lifespan: 1962 to 1991 Jeep Wagoneer (SJ)
While the new model bearing this name will surely be a bastion of luxury and capability, it is worth noting that its forbear was in production for nearly three decades with relatively few design changes. Oh sure, they changed the grille and headlights a few times along with some interior details, but that was all window dressing.
The headlights found on late-model SJs, for example, still resided in round buckets. Hard interior points like ventilation and glovebox location stayed fixed for nearly thirty years. Legend has it that one guy in the States snagged one of the very last 1991 models but, at his very first fuel stop, the cashier peered out the window and asked with genuine sincerity “Gee, mister. That’s a nice Jeep. Did you restore it yourself?”
Big Reliability: 4.0L straight-six
Ask any Jeep evangelist fan to name their favourite factory engine and there is a solid chance they’ll name this thing right here. It has roots stretching all the way back to Jeep’s days as a division of American Motors. It showed up in earnest when 1987 models of the Cherokee and Comanche appeared, before finding its way into umpteen Wranglers and even the tony Grand Cherokee.
Production didn’t cease until well into our current millennia. By that time, it was making 190 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque but bean-counters pushed it out the door in favour of a V6 (not the fabulous Pentastar V6; that’d show up later). The 4.0L seems generally immune to most forms of abuse and neglect, which is a good thing since the owners of knackered Jeeps seem to heap plenty of both on their rigs.