Hands on with the concepts of the Moab Easter Jeep Safari

Jeep has a way of tugging at the heartstrings of its enthusiastic owner base when the annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari rolls around. The 2015 version sees all boxes ticked in the off-road event's 49th year: multiple diesel engines on display, a pickup-truck-like model and more than a few nods to the brand's long and storied history book.

We were able to get a first-hand look at the seven concepts being shown in Utah's Red Desert in the much cooler, cleaner confines of the FCA Technical Center's Design Dome.

2015 Easter Jeep Safari Concepts: Jeep Chief

Jeep Chief Concept

  • We aren't sure if it's that throwback chrome grille or the eye-catching Ocean Blue paint, but even more than the Red Rock Responder, the Chief drew our eye as soon as we walked into the Design Dome.
  • It's a surprisingly tall vehicle, but it's also very wide. We'd also wager it's longer than your typical four-door Wrangler.
  • Jeep may have used a Wrangler as a base for the Chief, but any similarities to the donor vehicle are extremely difficult to spot. The fenders and doors are probably the biggest giveaways, but you're going to need to squint (and have the benefit of a Wrangler to compare with, like we did) to pick out Wrangler bits.
  • As is the recurring theme throughout all seven concepts, the Jeep design team's attention to detail is borderline fanatical. From the "Surf Rated" badge on the fenders, to the tweaked door handles to the bumper stickers in the cargo area and the Tiki-statue-shaped shifter, the little details are truly the stars of the Chief Concept.
  • The rosewood trim in the rear cargo area is stunning and adds to the Beach-Boy-friendly stylings of the Chief.
  • The throwback grille, round headlights and tall, skinny taillights, meanwhile, add a lot of personality to the exterior.
  • The high beltline and lower roof gives the Chief a chop-topped look, but it's arguably the least successful element to the blue concept's otherwise impressive design.
  • All of the vehicles Jeep put together for Moab are 100-percent functional. That's not surprising with some of the vehicles you'll see below, but it somehow is remarkably impressive given the degree of the changes Jeep made in putting together the Chief.

2015 Easter Jeep Safari Concepts: Jeep Wrangler Red Rock Responder

Jeep Wrangler Red Rock Responder

  • The Wrangler-based Red Rock Responder is arguably one of the most capable of these real-world vehicles, both in terms of the way it looks and its actual hardware.
  • We mentioned the special rescue equipment fitted to the bright-red, truck-like Jeep – a compressor and air gun, sockets, tow straps, etc. – but what's most remarkable is the way that Jeep has concealed the extra equipment.
  • From the passenger compartment back, there are an array of cubbies and compartments, including vertically oriented cubbies not unlike the horizontal RamBox offered on FCA's pickups. A large drawer even slides out from beneath the Rhino-lined cargo bed.
  • For some reason, though, the bed doesn't have an actual tailgate. It's just kind of there. It's a strange omission, although with the pop-out drawer, fitting one might not have been super practical.
  • The Vibrance Responder Red exterior paint was the second most eye-catching thing in the FCA Design Dome, and we must say, along with the steel front and rear bumpers (donated from the 10th Anniversary Rubicon), the black beadlocked wheels and black grille, the contrasting looks are attractive here.
  • That black-and-red theme is also found in the cabin, where Katzkin leather seats and contrast stitching represent the biggest upgrades.

2015 Easter Jeep Safari Concepts: Jeep Staff Car

Jeep Wrangler JK2A Staff Car

  • Believe it or not, just a few weeks ago, this car rolled out of Jeep's Toledo, OH factory as a brand new Rubicon. The transformation, particularly when you see it in person, is absolutely staggering.
  • Remember what we were saying about attention to detail? The most exacting work was done on this, the Wrangler JK2A Staff Car. From nearly any angle, you're going to see some interesting Easter eggs or fascinating design features, whether it's the "MOGAS" marking above the fuel cap, the SpecOps-like badge on the front fender or the tire-pressure markings on the wheel arches.
  • The overall impression with the Staff Car is that Jeep designers really took their time, more so than even vehicles like the Chief, in modding this Wrangler. Hell, they used a hand grenade as a shift knob.
  • But it's not just the little things – this is a remarkably complete vehicle. Everything, and we mean everything, is finished in the military-style Sandstorm exterior paint.
  • The canvas roof and steel wheels – both also finished in the desert-camo-friendly shade – look outstanding, and the fabric seats look like updates of something you'd find on an old Willys MB.

2015 Easter Jeep Safari Concepts: Jeep Wrangler Africa

Jeep Wrangler Africa Concept

  • No, that's not a Land Rover Defender you're seeing, Jeep just modded out a Wrangler with safari-spec Desert Tan paint and a white roof.
  • It's really, really big. Like, really big. Jeep took the four-door Unlimited and added at least a foot behind the rear axle. The result is the most versatile version of the most versatile Jeep.
  • The rear door swings out 90 degrees to the passenger's side, allowing easy access to the Rhino-lined ample rear cargo area, even with the two-inch lift.
  • We're digging the vented hood, which is borrowed from the higher-end production Wranglers, although at this point, Jeep has kind of overdone it with the auxiliary jerry cans. The Africa has a pair strapped strapped to the front fenders.
  • Jeep engineered a cool pop-out rock rail/side step, which opens in conjunction with the front door.
  • As for parts you can actually add, we're willing to bet that handsome steel front bumper can be found in a parts catalog. Same goes for the hefty Warn winch and auxiliary lights.
  • Once again, body-color steel wheels are the order of the day. And yes, we agree, Jeep needs to offer these stylish steelies ASAP.

2015 Easter Jeep Safari Concepts: Jeep Grand Cherokee Overlander

Jeep Grand Cherokee Overlander Concept

  • If you're going to take a Jeep into the brush, having camping gear is a big help. That's what makes this Grand Cherokee exciting. Aside from the visual updates, which we'll get to in a minute, it adds a nifty roof-mounted camper that can be accessed via ladder.
  • That pop-up accommodate two people, and folds down to a size that's slimmer than most roof-mounted cargo carriers.
  • In terms of realistic updates that a typical Jeep owner could make to their vehicle, the Overlander is probably our favorite Moab vehicle. The upgrades are purposeful and subdued.
  • The vented SRT hood is the most obvious body mod, but Jeep designers also flared the wheel arches to accommodate the larger tires. It's a subtle tweak that really gives the Overlander more presence.
  • This is also, Jeep told us, the first Moab vehicle to use an air suspension. It's been lifted an inch over the standard Grand Cherokee, but retains its full range of adjustability. Again, this is a smaller change that has a big effect on the Overlander's appearance and personality.

2015 Easter Jeep Safari Concepts: Jeep Cherokee Canyon Trail

Jeep Cherokee Canyon Trail Concept

  • Along with the Renegade Desert Hawk Concept, the Cherokee Canyon Trail Concept reps the lighter side of the Moab fleet.
  • Exterior changes are kept to a minimum on this modified Trailhawk, with a new Moab-inspired hood decal and Jeep Performance Parts decal being slapped on over the Desert Tan paint.
  • Underbody skid plates, nice 17-inch wheels and a Thule bike rack are the biggest functional changes to this lightly modded Cherokee.
  • The changes in the cabin are similarly light, with Katzkin leather and tan contrast stitching and accents marking the biggest changes.
  • We're liking the Jeep Performance Parts logos that are stitched into the headrest, as well.

2015 Easter Jeep Safari Concepts: Jeep Renegade Desert Hawk

Jeep Renegade Desert Hawk Concept

  • The lightly tweaked Renegade Desert Hawk Concept might disappoint you, if you were hoping that Jeep would go wild with its adorable compact in its first Moab outing (and there were a few of you, judging by last year's Safari post).
  • Based on what we saw (and your author's personal experiences), the light upgrades to this Trailhawk model represent the most that the typical off-roading Renegade owner will need.
  • Underbody protection is the order of the day, meaning the compact is probably the least exciting vehicle we saw during our tour of the Moab fleet.
  • Like the Cherokee Canyon Trail, the Renegade sports a topographical map on its hood, and Katzkin leather in the cabin, complete with tan contrast stitching.
  • The anodized-look accents found on the standard Renegade, meanwhile, have also been replaced with tan accents.

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