An all-American range of double cab utes has added a new dimension to the light truck market in New Zealand – but at twice and three times the price of traditional offerings from the likes of Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Ford.
It’s the Jeep Wrangler Brute, a four-wheel-drive carry-all based on a stretched version of the four-door Wrangler Unlimited. It dwarfs all other utes in New Zealand, save perhaps for some of the other American stuff running around.
Two Brute models are available, both carrying the Jeep Sport and Rubicon badges. Sport costs $114,990 and Rubicon $124,990.
Brute is made not by the Jeep division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles but by American Expedition Vehicles (AEV), an independent outfit with a reputation for engineering and equipping 4x4s for the toughest terrain.
Jeep importer Fiat Chrysler New Zealand (FCNZ) worked with Montana-based AEV to bring the first Brute utes Downunder and into a growing market segment. “There is no doubt that Kiwis love their utes – the sales figures clearly reveal that,” said David Smitherman, CEO of FCNZ.
“With this vehicle we can offer something no other ute can match. AEV have an exceptional reputation for the quality and integrity of their design and construction, so while Jeep Wrangler Brute may not have come down the production line as a ute, it has everything that would be expected of a Jeep, a fact proven by it earning a Chrysler Design Excellence Award.”
AEV cuts the four-door Wrangler’s chassis behind the rear doors and adds 1000mm to the rails – 590mm ahead of the rear axle for a longer 3530mm wheelbase and 410mm behind it for the ute bed. The entire passenger cabin is retained.
The rear bed box is an injection-moulded composite measuring 1530mm x 1550mm and with four integrated tie-down points. The rear bumper has integrated storage for 25 litres of water; the spare wheel sits underneath Brute between the chassis rails and is released with a hand-operated winch. Wheels are 17-inch alloys equipped with 35-inch BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tyres.
Both Brute models use an 85-litre fuel tank and the standard Jeep petrol engine, a 3.6-litre Pentastar unit delivering 209kW at 6350rpm and 347Nm at 4300rpm.
Kerb weight for Sport is 2449kg. The standard Wrangler Unlimited is 2073kg. Braked towing capacity for Brute Sport is 1588kg; ground clearance is 273mm.
The suspension system is specially built by AEV for the long-wheelbase conversions. Sport uses Jeep’s Command Trac four-wheel-drive system; Rubicon gets the hard-core add-ons, like extra low-ratio Rock-Trac, Dana 44 heavy duty front axle, front and rear locking differentials, and a front anti-roll bar that disconnects for extra axle travel.
Both Sport and Rubicon are covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty.