When Jeep told us it had a concept car that we could drive, Danny Cobbs almost bit the man’s hands off. Here’s the exclusive review…
Taking a concept car into production is no small undertaking. 3D flights of fantasy have appeared at motorshows around the world, but we all know the shiny exterior and wacky interior are designed for show. These gleaming visions of the future engage our imaginations, but very few have the capability to move from car-transporter to exhibition stand under their own steam, and, even if they did have some type of futuristic running gear, each concept vehicle would cost millions of pounds to produce.
So when Jeep said: “Would you like to drive the Jeep Trailhawk?” it did seem rude not to say “yes”. At this year’s Detroit motorshow, Jeep unveiled its £5million concept-car-with-a-difference. Although it’s still a concept, the Trailhawk has a huge advantage over its compatriots: this concept car is road-legal, and it works. Sitting on an extended Wrangler chassis, it gives a clue to the direction in which Jeep is planning to take future models. Some say the forthcoming new Grand Cherokee will owe much of its styling cues to the Trailhawk. If this is the case, Jeep has a winner on its hands. Jeep’s principal exterior designer, NickVardis, told me: “The key to the look of the Trailhawk is distinctive proportions, based on the 116-inch wheelbase. The dash-to-front-axle dimensions are dramatically extended, giving the vehicle a sense of forward motion, while the front and rear overhangs are tight and abbreviated”.
In short, it looks hot. There’s a sporty profile to the Trailhawk. The signature seven-slot grille has been swept back to an improbable angle, with the resulting illusion of a bonnet much longer than it really is. The interior, which has always been a Jeep weakness, is a catalyst for optimism in the development of other models. Unlike some of the firm’s past concepts, the Trailhawk’s cockpit keeps clutter to a minimum.
A centre dial controls the main cabin functions, not unlike BMW’s iDrive. To fine-tune the sound system and to program the dash-mounted, pop-up SatNav, Jeep gives you the touchpad technology found in laptops. Just behind the fixed-hub steering wheel, there are six brushed aluminium levers, three either side, acting as switchgear for headlamps, foglights, and cruise control. But it’s the detachable speakers in the cargo area, with an iPod docking station, that give an indication of Jeep’s future – Technology. Forget the speakers. Listen to the engine. Being a four-door off-roader with massive amounts of style and off-road heritage is half the story. As we all become more eco-friendly, the 3.0-litre Bluetec diesel engine, developed in part with Mercedes, will undoubtedly shake the foundations of the industry. Huge power, phenomenal torque output – and potentially a reputation in the making of the cleanest diesel in the world today. Hypothetical (guarded) data aside though, the proof of this concept pudding was always going to be in the eating.
Of all the cars I’ve ever driven, this was the most exclusive and expensive. Selecting drive from the column gear-change, I was suddenly conscious of the fact 98 per cent of all the parts used in its construction had been handmade. Not time to scratch or dent it then. But I had other things on my mind. The instant attraction of the Jeep Trailhawk was obvious. Passers-by gawped, and fellow drivers took photos on their camera phones. This is the most impressive Jeep anyone has ever seen.
Every inch of my short test drive was monitored by over-protective Jeep officials. A polite enquiry about trying its AWD system somewhere other than undulating tarmac was met with absolute horror. That said, there isn’t any reason to believe this Jeep wouldn’t have the same off-road DNA of every other. But, after being banned from a gentle après-roading, the only thing to do was test the engine on-road. When none of the Trailhawk’s creators were watching, I blipped the accelerator pedal. Oh yes, this is why Bluetech technology is the way forward. Shedding a statutory amount of rubber from huge 22-inch wheels, with a deep-seated growl, the Bluetech engine catapulted us way beyond the national speed limit in a nose-bleeding rush of torque.
This is not a concept. It will be a crying shame if Jeep doesn’t put the Trailhawk into commercial production. I will be the first customer.
Note: As this is a concept car at present, pricing details and rivals aren’t available.
- Price: £5m (Concept development)
- Engine: 2,987cc V6 24 valves/Bluetech Turbo Diesel turbo/full-time four-wheel drive
- Max Power: 221bhp at 3800rpm
- Max Torque: 376lb ft at 2800 rpm
- Max Towing Weight: n/a
- Combined Consumption: 30.1 mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): n/a
- 0-62mph: 7.4 sec
- Max speed: 150 mph (electronically limited)
Everything in this concept car has been handmade as a one-off. Such impressive looks and engineering – Bluetech engine is superb!
At £5,000,000, concept cars do not come cheap, and are generally not for sale. Untested off-road and it has yet to make it into prodcution. Let’s just hope!!!