JEEP is keen to emphasise its renowned mean streak despite a greater propensity to cater for urbane tastes in recent years.

So the US brand, which emerged early in World War II, is reminding buyers of its darker side via two initiatives.

One is about looking mean, the other about acting mean.

The first strategy is the sale of limited-edition Blackhawk models.

With everything coloured in matte or gloss black, these look like hombres you wouldn’t mess with.

Examples of Blackhawks are the Patriot and Compass, each 2.0-litre petrol auto 4x2s which are $27,500 and $29,000 drive away.

Their features include black badges, a gloss black grille, 17-inch black alloys, heated front seats, voice command and an auto-dimming mirror.

The two and four-door Wrangler Blackhawks, at $45,000 and $49,000 plus on-roads, are based on the Overland spec.

The Grand Cherokee also has Blackhawks, at $50,000 for a petrol Laredo 4WD-based model and $55,000 for a diesel. Add on-roads for both.

The Wrangler and Grand Cherokee Blackhawks have extra features such as deep-tint windows, bigger black alloys and black leather seats.

But let’s now look at the real bad hombres.

The second Jeep move is to award its most extreme off-road models Trail Rated certification based on five measures:

Traction: Measured by what’s called crawl ratio, the vehicle must be able to sustain controlled forward motion in snow, ice, sand and mud as well as on steep grades.

Water fording: Additional electrical and body sealing as well as a higher air intake mean that Trail Rated Jeeps can ford a depth of at least 0.5m.

Manoeuvrability: This is the ability to navigate narrow gaps, dodge emergency situations and avoid vehicle damage via precision steering and a small turning radius.

Articulation: Flexible suspensions with good axle articulation and plenty of wheel travel allow a wheel to stay on the ground longer and therefore provide more traction.

Ground clearance: Vital here is the vehicle’s ability to climb over obstacles such as rocks and logs.

To show what it means, the brand made available for off-road testing four cars that meet these stringent criteria.

All Wrangler variants are Trail Rated.

I drove a two-door variant plus a Cherokee Trailhawk and a Grand Cherokee Trail Rated.

The Grand Cherokee provides a good example of where the brand plans to go with trail rating.

The Trail Rated version is based on the Overland variant but deletes the fancy 20-inch wheel/tyre set-up and replaces it with 18-inch wheels and all-terrain rubber while adding under-body protection plates.

It sells at a $650 premium to the regular model.

Next year Jeep will add a baby SUV, the Renegade, to its line-up and even it will have a Trail Rated version.

I tried the cars out in conditions as extreme as you’d get before starting to damage the vehicles — slippery slopes, deep ruts, rocks, logs and muddy river crossings.

The champ was the little Wrangler followed by the Grand Cherokee with the Cherokee not too far behind.

But, and this is what the adventurer always wants to know, all four vehicles were unstoppable.

Mean machines.

Jeep’s baddest hombres excel in the areas of traction, water fording, manoeuvrability, articulation and ground clearance.


© The West Australian

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