THINK YOUR TRICKED OUT UTE WITH MUD TYRES AND MATTE PAINT BRINGS THE ATTITUDE? NO, YOU’RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT. JUST ASK JEEP
Good things come to those who wait. And Jeep fans have been hankering for the beast you see on these pages for some time. It’s the double cab ute version of Jeep’s four-door Wrangler Unlimited; something parent company Fiat Chrysler has been teasing Jeep’s legions of enthusiasts with for a few years now.
It’s finally a reality. Well, sort of. This is actually an American Expedition Vehicle (AEV) developed machine. The Montana-based after-market maestros have been officially sanctioned by the factory to build the Brute, so it comes with all the right accreditation riveted into place.
But it gets even better, as official Jeep-manufactured double cab utes are definitely on the horizon too; the company has decreed a dedicated ute version will be a part of the next-generation Wrangler range, due for release in 2018.
For the time being, the Brute has all the hallmarks of a cult classic. It’s bombastic in some respects but utterly amazing in others.
And practical too; that wellside tray at the back is enormous, offering a 1530mm x 1550mm load bed protected by a tough injection-moulded liner that also features a skid-resistant coating on the interior and integrated tie-down anchor points.
Some of the panel detailing catches your eye immediately, such as the old-school tailgate with its pressed steel partitions echoing the lines of the cab, small horizontal taillights and neatly recessed handles.
The awesome AEV stamped bonnet with its air cooling slots is an improvement on the original Jeep part too.
The Brute is very well-specified with a load of AEV equipment onboard, such as unique front and rear bumper assemblies, under-floor spare tyre mount, front skid plate, an AEV instrument cluster, IPF 901 off-road spotlights, an AEV water pump kit and lots of specialised AEV badge detailing. The winch up front is standard too; a Warn Zeon 10-S.
Needless to say, this is a well-thought out machine and, despite the third party conversion, exhibits excellent attention to detail and finishing.
It’s not all a simple matter of “Yeehaa and head for the hills” though; there are a few compromises with the Wrangler Brute, mainly around its monster dimensions.
Pull out a tape measure and aim it in any direction and you’re reminded just how big this thing is.
That it’s 5.5m long overall is fine (the standard Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is 4.75m), but there are no sensors and no reversing camera here.
An aftermarket reversing camera would have to be carefully mounted if you’re planning on taking your Brute off-road, so for the most part you just have to perform reversing manoeuvres with your eyes wide open and your fingers firmly crossed.
The Brute also offers up excellent ground clearance of 273mm (that’s 53mm more than the standard Wrangler Unlimited) and integrated rocker guards that closely follow the line of the cab. But this means there are no running boards to help ease your way up into the cab.
AEV extends the Wrangler Unlimited chassis by 59cm ahead of the rear axle in order to extend the wheelbase and adds another 41cm to the chassis rails behind the rear axle to help give the Brute its impressive load bed length.
But aside from a few AEV details here and there, the standard passenger compartment from the Wrangler Unlimited remains.
This of course is no bad thing overall, as driving a Wrangler is a lot of fun.
Looking out the steeply raked window, across the AEV bonnet and being eye level with three ton truck drivers is a novelty. The other aspect of driving the Jeep that surprises is its amount of outward visibility; you expect a box with gun sights pierced in it, but you can gauge every corner of the vehicle with relative ease; as welcome a feature in town as it is when halfway up a mud track in a forest.
The ute feels a bit wallowy on-road with all the requisite roar from its standard BF Goodrich 35-inch mud tyres, but as soon as you get it off tarmac, deploy the stubby second leaver to select 4H (no fancy dial controls here) and literally drive it in a straight line up a nearby mountain, it is a marvellous experience indeed.
There are two specifications, both based on the relevant donor Wrangler Unlimited.
The Sport ($114,990) comes with Jeep’s Command Trac four wheel drive system boasting a 2.72:1 low range ratio, while the big daddy Rubicon ($124,990) steps things up with a Dana 44 heavy duty front axle, Tru-Lok front and rear electronic locking differentials, an electronically-disconnectable front anti-roll bar for extra articulation and a super low range ratio of 4.0:1.
AEV fits a DualSport SC suspension system to the Brute, designed to give the best of both worlds whether your truck is on- or off-road.
If you love this vehicle then you were sold the moment you set eyes on it. It’s not a “weigh it up against the competition” sort of ute, simply because there is no competition.
Based on initial feedback to the Jeep Wrangler Brute, those factory versions of this monster ute scheduled for sale in a couple of years time can’t come fast enough.
JEEP WRANGLER BRUTE
|ENGINE:||3604cc Pentastar V6 petrol (209kW/347Nm)|
|PRICE:||$114,990 (Sport), $124,990 (Rubicon)|
|PROS:||Unique looks, go-anywhere 4WD ability|
|CONS:||Dimensions will limit inner city usage|
Thanks to the team at Polaris 4WD Park, Woodhill Forest, for the use of their tracks for this photo shoot.
The Helensville-based park has tracks for beginner, immediate and advanced level of drivers. It is open 9am- 4pm every second Saturday and Sunday. Go to polaris4wdpark.co.nz