“You could drive up to a vertical wall and the 4SPEED will crawl it,” says Chris Piscitelli, Jeep’s exterior design manager and resident mad scientist responsible for pumping out these Frankenstein off-roaders.
The Jeep 4SPEED is one of them and it’s no static show pony. Saying it’s like no other Jeep vehicle in the automaker’s current catalogue is an understatement. That’s because the 4SPEED was conceived as an off-roading design experiment for purist off-roaders with zero compromise on performance.
Based off the brand new 2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon JL, this vehicle is a drivable prototype in every sense with a production count of just one – and we scored the rare chance to get behind the wheel of this lightweight unicorn for a brief enough moment to fall in love.
What happens when you’re given free reigns over design, an unlimited production budget and the task of creating the most capable off-roader ever? The Jeep 4SPEED.
Quick Facts About The Jeep 4SPEED Concept
Official D’Marge Head Turn Rating: 10 out of 10
Model: Jeep 4SPEED
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Price: Estimated US$100,000+
Prototype Extras Fitted:
- ‘Raw Billet’ exterior paint
- Carbon fibre bonnet
- Carbon fibre one-piece rear tub from front seat back
- Carbon fibre front and rear fender flares
- Perforated aluminium rear flooring
- Aggressive raked windshield
- Aggressive swept custom roll cage
- Dana 44 front and rear axles with 4.10 gear ratio
- 18-inch Forgeline lightweight monoblock wheels
- 35-inch mud terrain tyres for cool monster truck aesthetic
- 22-inches removed from car’s total length so that the tyres lead and follow
1. The ‘Raw Billet’ exterior colour can’t be ignored. It looks insanely slick with a dash of retro thrown in thanks to its fluoro blue and green highlights. Its sporty looks is further bolstered with contrasting carbon fibre on the bonnet (hood for you Americans) and fender flares which are not cheap to replace should you kiss a rock or tree.
If F1’s Mercedes-AMG Petronas team ever built an off-roader, it would look like this.
2. 200kW and 400Nm from a stock motor might not sound like much, but this Jeep is hiding a lightweight ace up its sleeve. Piscitelli and his team shaved 408kg from the JL Wrangler donor car to transform the 4SPEED into a serious performer (the name itself indicates that it’s built ‘for speed’ as opposed to running a 4-speed transmission).
Surprisingly, the 2.0-litre engine package of the 4SPEED was left untouched from the latest generation Wrangler. Piscitelli explained that the headers are already aluminium from the factory so a lot of the gains in performance were made from extensive mass reduction elsewhere. With the aforementioned weight lifted, the vehicle was able to naturally lift itself up for even better clearance and agility on serious trails.
3. The rear seats have been replaced by a lightweight cheese grater. Okay, it’s an aluminium plate surrounded by sexy carbon fibre. The point? To strip out anything that wasn’t necessary to drive it.
Piscitelli’s team cut everything rearward of the front seats and did the whole tub as a one-piece carbon layout.
“It was a study in absolute function,” he tells us. “We got rid of the radio, all the HVAC (air conditioning) just in the name of weight saving.”
“There’s was no need for it because it wasn’t linked to the vehicle and driving.”
The goal was simple: “How much weight can we remove from it while maintaining a fun and functional vehicle built for outdoor adventure seekers.”
4. It’s designed to conquer the Nurburgring of the four-wheel-driving world. Exotic hypercars tend to fight for laptime supremacy at the Nurburgring. In the land of 4WDs, the Rubicon Trail is where you earn your stripes and bragging rights. The 4SPEED can demolish the Rubicon Trail with ease.
“It’s more than capable of running at Rubicon” says Piscitelli.
“All the standard Wrangler Rubicons tested at the trail run on stock 33-inch tyres, so you can imagine how easy it is with 35-inch tyres and an increased lift – it just makes it easy.”
5. It’s guaranteed you’ll scratch the wheels if you go off-road.
As sexy as they are, these are not the ideal wheels to go off-roading in. Unforgiving terrain will tear chunks out of these lightweight rollers designed more for sports cars than longevity on the Rubicon Trail.
“You might kerb a few on rocks,” admits Piscitelli. “But capability wise, you feel a little guilty in a sense of how easy the car passes obstacles.”
6. You shalt not see any experimental technology or wild innovations on the 4SPEED. Why? Because the JL model it’s based off is brand new and Jeep didn’t want to dilute that fresh formula with futuristic gimmicks.
“We just want to really embrace the newness of this one and embrace the 2.0-litre turbo. It’s a little rocket ship and the 4SPEED wakes it up,” says Piscitelli.
7. You can’t have one. Millionaires can’t even buy one. And this is the only thing we hate about the 4SPEED.
Sometimes concept cars can manifest a part of itself into production form. Not the 4SPEED. The project was purely an exercise to showcase what was possible in Jeep’s latest JL platform, not what is feasible in the real world. We’re very sad about this. But happy we got to have a spin in a true driver’s car that requires no roads.