Jeep's Best New Concept Vehicle for the Easter Safari is a 1993 Grand Cherokee

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

For over half a century, Jeep has held an annual safari in Moab, Utah, where 4×4 enthusiasts come to tackle the rough terrain in all manner of off-road vehicles. It’s also become an opportunity for Jeep to showcase its modern concept vehicles.

While Jeep has in past years leveraged nostalgia as a theme for its based-on-current-model concepts, the crème de la crème from this year wasn’t even from the current millennium and comes to us — via Craigslist — in the form of a 1993 ZJ Jeep Grand Cherokee.

With the notable exception of the plaid headliner TTAC staff couldn’t quite agree on, Jeep’s ZJ had been tastefully improved. Dirt-friendly enhancements include added clearance and 33-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2 tires. Exterior styling saw the addition of higher-clearance fender flares, an extended wheelbase, new fascias, a muted wood grain treatment beneath the paint, and 18-inch lace-style wheels that wouldn’t have looked terribly out of place in 1993.

With the exception of some new fabrics and materials, most of the Grand Cherokee’s interior remained untouched. There’s durable bed liner applied to replace the carpet and a ’90s-era car phone, but Armor All seemed to be the standout addition. The ZJ is powered by a stock 5.2-liter V8 motor mated to the stock four-speed automatic transmission.

Less tastefully done is the chopped, Wrangler-based Jeep Quicksand concept — which seems to be a take on vintage Ford hotrods crossed with dune buggies. While it is definitely interesting, oil and water don’t mix.

Power comes via a breathed-on 392 Crate HEMI featuring an eight-stack fuel injection system sticking out through the hood. It also has a staggered-tire setup with slightly larger Mud-Terrain KM2s fitted to the rear. Jeep says it’ll do wheelies in the sand and comes with a winch for when you need to inevitably dig yourself out of an inescapable hole.

Jeep’s Safari concept focuses on the family by installing a translucent hardtop and four aluminum-and-clear-vinyl doors, with a special emphasis on giving the backseat passengers a superior view of the great outdoors. It doesn’t offer much in the way of privacy, however.

The Switchback concept is essentially a rolling Mopar and Jeep Performance Parts catalog. The company gave it front and rear Dana 44 axles, a 4-inch lift with remote reservoir Fox shocks, heavy-duty cast differential covers, 10th Anniversary steel bumpers, Rubicon winch, grille, winch guard and cold air intake. The interior is equally kitted out and it has some concept body panels and LED lighting.

However, if you really dig off-road lighting, Jeep went absolutely insane on its Luminator concept. Teaming up with Magneti Marelli, Jeep gave the Wrangler a front-mounted light bar that perpetually scans for obstacles, 7-inch LED projector bi-functional headlamps, unique LED tail lamps, pillar-mounted high-powered spot lights, upper bumper auxiliary lighting with cornering fog lamps controlled by the steering angle, low-profile integrated overhead LED auxiliary spot lights protected behind the windshield, and several underbody rock lights. It even has a roof-mounted light-up landing pad for a remote-controlled illumination drone.

Take it easy, guys. You’re building an ORV, not a second sun.

The least exciting concept on Jeep’s Moab list was the Trailpass. It’s based on the new Compass Trailhawk, but gets a 1.5-inch lift kit, rock rails, and larger wheels wrapped with Continental TerrainContact all-terrain tires. FCA also threw on a roof rack with some traction mats for good measure.

All of the above concepts will be appearing in Moab from April 8-16 for the 51st Annual Easter Jeep Safari, accompanied by the CJ66 concept that appeared at SEMA in 2016.

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Zoomzoomfan Zoomzoomfan on Mar 31, 2017

    This is amazing and I want it. In 1998, my mother bought a 1994 Grand Cherokee Limited with the 5.2 V8. My stepfather still drives it, and it has well over 300k miles. The main thing I remember about it is that it was fast. Not fast for an SUV. But fast. My mom was a crazy driver (helped by the fact that we were ALWAYS running late) and she had that thing at or over 100 MPH several times.

    • See 1 previous
    • Zoomzoomfan Zoomzoomfan on Mar 31, 2017

      @Car Ramrod I remember that! The whole driver information center it had was pretty cool for the time, even when ours started to constantly request that we "service 4WD switch" when there was nothing actually wrong with said switch.

  • Car Ramrod Car Ramrod on Mar 31, 2017

    Its funny that Chevy full sized trucks and SUVs didn't manage to have an interior any better than the 1993-1995 ZJ until 2007.

  • Wolfwagen What I never see when they talk about electric trucks is how much do these things weigh and how much does that detract from the cargo-carrying capacity?
  • Wolfwagen I dont know how good the Triton is but if they could get it over here around the $25K - $30K They would probably sell like hotcakes. Make a stripped down version for fleet sales would also help
  • 3SpeedAutomatic You mentioned that Mitsubishi cars had lost their character. Many brands are losing that that element as well. GM is giving up on the ICE Camaro and Dodge on the ICE Challenger. There goes the Bad Boy image. Might as well get your teeth pulled and dentures put in place. Would like to see a few EVOs with cherry bomb exhaust and true 4 cylinder BIG blower turbos; 4 wheel drift capacity is mandatory!!🚗🚗🚗
  • Tassos Here in my overseas summer palace, I filled up my tank twice in May, at 68 and 52 euros (a full 90+ liter tank fillup has taken 130-135 Euros in the past, and I am 23 miles from downtown here, while only 1-2 miles in the US)Still, diesel here is MUCH cheaper than gas. Yesterday, I paid 1,488 a liter while gas was at least 1,899 (regular).Multiply by almost 4 for gallons AND by an additional 1.1 for $.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic IIRC, both China and the EU use a standardized charger connection. About time the US & Canada to follow.Would take some of the anxiety out of an EU purchase and accelerate adoption. 🚗🚗🚗
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