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Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Jeep Jamboree with our 4S Wrangler

Jeep 4S WranglerWho says you’ve got to go fast to have fun in an automobile? Last Friday, I drove 11.4 intense miles over the course of nine hours, and by the end of the day, I was completely exhausted.

My loyal steed was Automobile Magazine’s Four Seasons Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, which performed extremely well on the rocky, muddy, river-y, and tree-tight trails of Virginia’s Oak Ridge Estate in the first Jeep Jamboree of 2008. That’s not to say that our Jeep breezed easily through the two-day event: The Wrangler required assistance from winches on three separate occasions—once to help it up a steep, slippery hill of red clay; twice to tug its back end away from trees. Two other times, another Jeep pulled us out of trouble by our front tow hooks. And once, a trail guide helped push us, by hand, up a greasy incline.

Nonetheless, our rescue green Jeep came away with some minor scuffs and scrapes, par for the Patriot Back Countryoff-roading course. Upgraded tires, perhaps from the Rubicon trim level, would have improved off-road grip, but the stock Goodyear Wrangler SR-As on our Sahara model performed OK considering their highway-biased tread pattern. But no rubber could erase the fact that our big, heavy four-door Wrangler is definitely more difficult to maneuver than its smaller predecessors. (At least our tires, extra space, and longer wheelbase—along with the factory navigation system and satellite radio—made the 600-mile-plus sprint from suburban Detroit a lot more comfortable.)

Don’t dismiss the new Wrangler (codenamed JK) as an Jeep Shows Compass Overland off-road failure, though, because it’s certainly not: the rain and the mud made for exponentially more challenging trails overall. In fact, due to the rain-slickened routes, trail guides had to winch more Jeeps—including heavily modified examples—than they’d had to in any of the Oak Ridge Jamboree’s previous eight years. (It’s a good thing that the trail guides drove some sweet modified Jeeps of their own, including a 1981 CJ7 Renegade, a ’51 flat-fender Willys, and a late ’70s Jeep Scrambler.)

For the record, the Oak Ridge event utilizes parts of forty-seven miles of trails threading through a 5000-acre hunk of private property in Lovingston, Virginia. Oak Ridge was the first of thirty-one Jeep Jamborees (www.jeepjamboreeusa.com) scheduled for 2008, most of which also include tasty, home-cooked meals like those we enjoyed in Virginia. (Nothin' like biscuits 'n' gravy and grits to kick off a day of "wheelin'"!).

If you’re still making payments on your Jeep—be it a Wrangler or any other Trail Rated model—you may not want to bang your vehicle against rocks or drive it through rivers. But if you can accept the risks to your Jeep’s well-being, then get your butt out there on the trails! It’s the only place to truly appreciate a Jeep.

Jeep Shows Compass Overland and Patriot Back Country at Paris Motor Show
Jeep Shows Compass Overland 2
We never thought France was extraordinarily fond of the Jeep, but Chrysler has seen fit to bring two Jeep concepts - the Patriot Back Country and the Compass Overland - to the 2008 Paris motor show.

Granted, as both consist mostly of trim and equipment modifications, they're more akin to SEMA vehicles, not the typical one-off concept cars usually found at international auto shows. That said, Jeep hopes both crossovers will call attention to their interiors, which are freshly revamped for 2009.

Of the pair, the Patriot Back Country appears most modified. Jeep says it's supposed to "exude a fresh, youthful appeal," primarily by way of its vibrant green hue. A similar color is found inside, notably on the seat inserts, which also have a tire-tread pattern. If two-toned leather isn't "active" enough for you, the Back Country also has mudflaps and a custom roof rack sourced from the Mopar catalog.

Though Jeep says the Compass Overland is merely a prototype, we're fairly certain it'll see production. Like the Overland-badged Grand Cherokee currently available in the States, the Compass Overland is little more than a nicely-trimmed Compass. Apart from the green paint, Jeep has thrown in embroidered leather seats, and chrome accents on the grille, door sills, and side rub rails.

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