It’s the end of March and I’m in Moab ahead of the Easter Jeep Safari event. Not only did I get to crawl around and drool on the latest Jeep concepts, but I actually get to drive them off road. What other manufacturer does that?
I drove the 2022 EJS Jeep Concepts last year as well, and they were an impressive bunch. But, for 2023, the all-new concepts step things up a notch on most fronts. Most this year were open-top and/or with little to no doors, which was quite interesting with the wild snow, rain, and wind that Moab dished out during my time with the concepts.
I’ll talk about my experience with all seven of the concepts from this year, but let’s first dive into the ones that really impressed me.
The Best 2023 Easter Jeep Safari Concept Vehicles
Best Overall 2023 EJS Jeep Concept: Scrambler 392
By far, my overall favorite EJS 2023 Jeep concept vehicle is the Scrambler 392. It’s a modern interpretation of the classic ’80s Jeep Scrambler (CJ-8) two-door, short-bed, convertible truck.
This concept was the best put together and produced the most grins from behind the wheel off road. It’s hard to go wrong with less weight (452 pounds less), 40-inch tires, a growly 6.4L HEMI V8 engine, and loads of custom carbon body panels that give it a unique and aggressive look. The raked-back windshield and Gladiator tailgate help further the theme, while looking great.
If I lived in Moab, this is the Jeep I’d want, although I’d probably swap out the 20-inch Vossen wheels for something much smaller. I’d probably also add some rock rails and remove the basket in the back and swap it out for some seats. Granted, all of those mods would add weight, which is the opposite of what this concept is all about.
The fun Easter egg on the Scrambler 392 concept is the “Do Not Press” red button on the front right fender. Of course, I pressed it. It activates an air horn. Fun!
Crowd-Pleaser 2023 EJS Jeep Concept: ’78 Cherokee 4xe
The 1978 Jeep Cherokee 4xe concept is far and away the crowd favorite for its classic lines and ’70s vibes. It has everything from rollup windows to an 8-track player. However, the window handles don’t work when the doors are closed — they hit the dash — and the 8-track player isn’t wired up.
I do absolutely love how the stock Rubicon 4xe winch bumper is integrated into the customized ’78 Cherokee bodywork. I also love how the roof looks chopped, but is actually just thinner, as it’s made of carbon fiber and was slimmed down to give that sleek look. Somehow even the 4xe charge plug is integrated in such a way that it just looks right on this vehicle.
The 37-inch tires wrapped around custom 17-inch wheels make this 2022 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe-based vehicle roll over any obstacle with ease. While the looks all around are amazing, the drive is unremarkable. The steering wheel and seats feel like the 2022 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe, as do all the other driving controls.
Most Interesting to Drive 2023 EJS Jeep Concept: Wrangler Magneto 3.0
The final Electrified Wrangler JL concept is the Magneto 3.0 — we’ll see a Jeep Recon concept next year. This is the third iteration of this truly awesome testbed concept vehicle that has helped teach Jeep about off-road vehicle electrification.
It rolls on 40s, with impressive King suspension, Evo long arms, and super-strong built Dana axels. Of course, for 2023 it also has 625 horsepower and 850 pound-feet of torque.
The six-speed manual transmission — a built Hellcat unit — is what people really talk about with this electrified Jeep. No, you won’t see a production Jeep EV with a manual transmission, but you will probably see one with multiple gears.
Driving the Magneto 3.0 is something that is super easy, but also hard to get your head wrapped around, if you want to change gears at least. When parked, you can select any gear you want without using the clutch — as the electric motor has no idle speed.
When moving you use the clutch as normal, but don’t slip it, just put it in the gear and let off the throttle and then get back into it. Third gear will do everything you want in any situation, but when tackling off-road obstacles, first or second are much more appropriate. When bombing down a sandy two-track, fourth gear feels appropriate, with plenty of power on tap whenever you want it.
Magneto 3.0 also has hill descent control, one-pedal driving mode, and air lockers. I loved how the one-pedal mode made slow-speed rock crawling super smooth, controllable, and just plain easy for any driver.
Best 2023 EJS Jeep Concept Easter Egg: Pink Rubicon 4xe
The official name of this pink-painted concept is the “Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe Concept.” What that means is that some people at Jeep didn’t like the “kink” theme direction the concept was headed but still wanted to show off what will likely be the next shade of pink paint offered on the Wrangler — a follow-up to the super-popular Tuscadero Pink.
I believe some of the original theme pieces, like the leopard print seats, were removed before the Jeep’s public showing. They, however, didn’t remove the black vinyl shifter boots or the surprise in the glove box. Yes, that’s fake pink fur and a bottle of Kink gin in there. Jeep designers do know how to have fun!
The Pink Jeep concept build — as well as the Scrambler 392 concept — also features the AccuAir air suspension kit, which allows for an adjustable on-the-fly lift ranging from 1.5 inches up to 5.5 inches.
In the photo above, you can see the system at max height. At max height, it drives like a lifted SUV with good suspension damping. At mid-height, I found the suspension to be a bit soft and wobbly compared to a standard shock setup.
The Rest of the 2023 Jeep Concepts
Jeep Grand Wagoneer Overland Concept
This is the vehicle that most who know me would think would be my favorite, as I lived out of an overland camper for nearly 8 years.
I wasn’t a fan of how empty the rear of the vehicle was, as it could have been built out with all sorts of cool overland gear in a clean and professional way. Think of a kitchen that slides out one of the rear doors and has an awning over it. Or a 12V fridge that doubles as a seat for watching the TVs and a step stool to get up into the rooftop bed.
I also wasn’t impressed with how high off the roof the 300-ish-pound Redtail Overland Skyloft was mounted — especially as it added noticeable sway to the vehicle when traveling over rough terrain.
The Skyloft composite hardshell camper system did impress though, as it’s built to a truly high caliber of quality and attention to detail. It’s also fully loaded with tons of creature comforts — like heat and AC — and offers up massive living space. Particularly cool is the removal of the third-row sunroof of the Grand Wagoneer to provide interior access to the rooftop camper.
What really impressed me about the Jeep Grand Wagoneer Concept is the clean integration of the front hidden winch and 35-inch tires, both of which look like they belong on the vehicle. The 35s didn’t even require a lift, just a lot of trimming of body panels — which allowed the retention of the original air suspension. They did rub a bit when turning, however.
Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Sideburn Concept
The Jeep Sideburn concept is pretty much just a really well-appointed Gladiator Rubicon with a custom bed, and it drives as such. It has a host of JPP/Mopar parts thrown at it, as well as some 37-inch BFGs wrapped around HRE wheels. The 2-inch Bilstein lift kit offers an impressively smooth ride with great damping.
The big story with this concept is the custom bed that gives it its sideburns, rear parcel shelf, and integrated water/fuel canister holders. The setup looks impressive, offers great usable features, and is something that — at least in concept — might be available to purchase soon.
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Departure Concept
Think of the Jeep Departure concept as a well-appointed Wrangler Rubicon 4xe with the JPP/Mopar parts bin thrown at it. It is a tidy build that would be good fun to have in a warm climate. I particularly like the custom paint color, which also flows into the interior trim.
The custom parts on this build — which are being considered to bring to market — are the flip-down front grille guard, light mount for the top of the windshield, rear quarter MOLLE panels, and the rear tubular tailgate that allows the spare to be mounted inside or outside the vehicle. The spare flipped inside the Jeep is where the concept’s name comes from, as it improves the departure angle.