Magneto 2.0, bobbed Gladiator headline Jeep’s 7 builds for Easter Safari ’22
Every April, pandemic aside, Jeep faithful travel to Moab for nine days of rock-crawling hosted by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers off-road club, ending on Easter Sunday. Each year, Jeep joins—always with a cadre of 4x4s previewing future builds or showcasing the Jeep Performance Parts (JPP) catalog.
On the surface, the Wranglers and Gladiators and even the Grand Cherokees kitted out by Jeep for Easter Jeep Safari (EJS) are designed to help customers brainstorm and visualize their builds. The dirty little secret? Easter Jeep Safari is a golden opportunity for the automaker to get ideas from its customers. Often, the concepts shown at EJS reflect Jeep’s attempt to reverse-engineer an aftermarket idea for the production line—like the short-bed, or “bobbed,” Gladiator below.
Jeep balances diversity and continuity among each set of EJS builds. It needs to showcase the variety of powertrains (and wheelbases and even roof styles) in its off-road armory while providing some unifying focus. In 2019, following the Gladiator’s debut in November of 2017, the EJS were all riffs on an open-bed theme. For 2022, the theme is electrification: The second iteration of last year’s Magneto concept and a slew of “four by e” (stylized 4xe by the manufacturer) hybrid models.
Rubicon 20th Anniversary concept
Per usual, Jeep’s EJS models run the gamut from blue-sky to nearly production-ready. We’ll start with two one-offs that foreshadow models Jeep more or less intends to bring to reality.
It’s an open secret that Jeep nearly refused funding to the band of off-road-obsessed engineers who suggested the idea of a hard-core “Rubicon” off-road package. The team dubbed itself “The Lunatic Fringe,” and its members bought many of the parts for the prototype—bigger tires, front and rear locking differentials, additional body armor, a 4:1 transfer case—with their own credit cards.
The lunatics got the last laugh: 20 years later, Rubicon models now account for 30 percent of Wrangler production.
Sharp-eyed off-roaders will spot that this Jeep boasts more than a heavy dose of nostalgia. That hood scoop and three-digit plaque mark this Wrangler as a 392 Rubicon. The biggest tires Jeep will currently put on the V-8-powered 4×4 are 35-inchers (via the Xtreme Recon package), but the 20th Anniversary sports a 2-inch lift to accomodate a set of beadlock wheels wearing 37-inch BFGs. A Sky Slider hardtop, a Warn winch, and a matte gray wrap that doubles as trail protection only sweeten the deal.
Jeep ’41 concept
The other production-intent vehicle in the EJS 2022 portfolio is the Jeep ’41 Concept, which honors the first year of the original, military-spec jeep, the Willys MB. The civilian (CJ) version marketed by Willys-Overland following WWII lay the tire tracks in which the Wrangler now treads, joined along the way by a host of other cushier, family-oriented offerings.
This four-door Wrangler boasts the hybrid, 4xe powertrain—which makes 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque—paired with all the Rubicon goodies like locking differentials, a disconnecting front sway bar, and a 4:1 t-case. Half-doors lend even more utilitarian vibes to its coat of military-spec olive drab, which is complemented by an interior upholstered in camouflage-accented tan cloth.
Like the 20th-anniversary Rubicon, this retro special also doubles as a fitment test for an as-yet unavailable hardware combination: The 4xe powertrain paired with 35-inch rubber, mounted here on a set of Fifteen52 17-inch wheels. (As of this writing, the biggest tire offered on a hybrid Wrangler is a 33-incher via the Xtreme Recon package, which also adds a 1.5-inch lift.)
Why would Jeep lop a foot off a Gladiator’s bed? Simple: Customers are already doing it. The Gladiator’s longer wheelbase makes it more forgiving on roads that are, erm, roads, but on gnarly inclines and rocky trails, the additional length behind the rear axle decreases the pickup’s departure angle. Translation: When clambering from a level surface onto a sufficiently sharp hill, the rear bumper will drag on the ground. Gladiator owners have developed an elegantly simple solution: Lop a bit off the bed and chuck the spare tire inside. (It normally mounts underneath the bed behind the rear axle.) This process is known as “bobbing” a truck.
The “Bob” concept is the factory’s hat-tip to such customers. Jeep chopped 12 inches off the bed of a diesel-powered, hardtop Gladiator with all the Rubicon kit. . . and then some. Thanks to a 3-inch lift, Bob rolls on 40-inch Maxxis mud-terrains mounted on Raceline wheels, which are bolted to Dynatrac hubs. A set of Dana 60 axles hangs below the truck, located by AEV coilovers with King bypass shocks. Prototype carbon-fiber fenders and an AEV front bumper give this hard-core Wrangliator even more attitude.
D-Coder concept by JPP
Jeep’s D-Coder is a wonderfully transparent illustration of why the automaker travels to Moab: To sell products from its catalog. Each of the 35 JPP parts on this build is painted Maraschino Red and has a QR code stuck to it, which you can scan with your phone. The code will take you straight to the product page for the wheel, door, front bumper, winch, or bed rack. There are a few easter eggs as well, QR codes hidden on non-available components that link out to some fun Jeep trivia.
Grand Cherokee Trailhawk PHEV concept
Before it received its EJS makeover, this Grand Cherokee Trailhawk was a test mule, says Mark Allen, Jeep’s head of exterior design. “It’s gone down the Rubicon. . . and it looked like it.”
Thanks to a set of 33-inch mud-terrains mounted on 20-inch Vossens and a coat of Industrial Blue paint, this hybrid two-row SUV is looking quite fresh. Sharp eyes will spot the matte-black roof and pillars, which are painted in bed liner. Steel rock rails from the JPP catalog complete the look. The interior introduces an eclectic aesthetic with butterscotch leather accented with houndstooth fabric.
Fun fact: Jeep’s designers nicknamed the cloth “Rodney,” since the hatched pattern recalled the type of jacket that American comedian Rodney Dangerfield might wear.
Birdcage concept by JPP
Yet another 4xe model, this four-door Wrangler is another JPP special, whose roofless status earns it the name of Birdcage. The blue accents unique to hybrid models are a strange pairing with the Eagle Brown paint and matching Tobacco leather interior, in your author’s opinion, but the off-road modifications are quite compelling: Jeep shortened the front overhang by just over four inches, improving approach angle by 7 degrees, and modified the grille to accomodate a set of (prototype) steel fenders, which add two extra inches of clearance in addition to the 2-inch JPP lift. The trunk boasts a nifty storage system with struts and tie-downs and there’s even an onboard air compressor.
Wrangler Magneto 2.0 concept
Jeep aficionados will know that, as of 2021, an electric Wrangler is not new. But the second of three promised iterations of the Magneto concept still brings new hardware to the red rocks of Moab, starting with 40-inch Maxxis tires on Vision wheels that replace the 35-inch Falkens of the original. The 4:1 transfer case and the Dana 60 and 80 axles (front/rear) remain, as do the 5:38 gears housed within them. The face is new, however, as are the angular B-pillars and retrotastic decals on its rear quarter panels. Last year’s winch is gone, along with the lower bumper, presumably to accommodate the new, Tonka-sized rubber.
Other changes to Jeep’s all-electric 4×4 are harder to detect. Jeep’s engineers reprogrammed the motor to produce over double the amperage (600A) of the original concept, resulting in a similar increase in output: 625 horsepower and 850 lb-ft of torque. (The 2021 Magneto generated 285 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, figures that roughly match those of the Pentastar V-6.) That motor sucks juice from four Webasto battery packs distributed underneath the vehicle (one under the hood, two between the axles, one in the bed), whose axles are 12 inches further apart than those of a standard Wrangler.
Like the Magneto we drove in 2021, the 2.0 version uses a beefed-up version of the Charger Hellcat’s TR6060 manual transmission. Mark Allen makes it clear, however, that Jeep has no intention of bringing a manual-equipped EV to production. The gearbox is a fun talking point, but “Tranzilla” is only there to allow the Magneto—which started life with a regular ol’ V-6 and was retrofitted with the electric drivetrain—to retain its stick axles, suspension, and transfer case. Though you can use the clutch to switch gears on the go, this unorthodox manual is incapable of stalling and can be started in third gear, if you so choose, with no harm done to its innards.
The most. . . shocking news? Allen says this powertrain is good for an eye-popping 1200 horsepower. Jeep’s engineers are guesstimating a 0-to-60 mph run under 3 seconds—though they haven’t tested it in the real world yet. (On 40-inch tires!) Performance, as you might guess, is the point of the Magneto, not commuting or road-tripping range. As it sits, the battery pack only holds 120 miles of range, but Allen’s quick to point out that a four-door model, which could hold more cells, would improve upon that figure. For now, Magneto is one killer crawler—a silent one, too.
You tell us. Of these seven concepts, which should Jeep press into production? The ’41? The short-bed Wrangler-Gladiator love child? Make some noise—Jeep has proven that it listens.