Why concept cars? For obvious reasons - to get a visible, tangible look at a design before production so its feel can be evaluated, possible problems can be foreseen, and, for concept cars shown to the public, so reactions of non-gear heads can be judged.
In testing particular ideas, concepts are best - for example, they could be a test bed for exterior and interior colors and materials, new controls and dashboard layouts, variations on packaging, etc.
Driving concept cars is a wonderful experience knowing you have driven a future car first hand. Designs that you can only see in futuristic movies become suddenly real and many are exaggerated versions of what will actually appear. The Jeep? Gladiator Concept Car features the historic box side-mounted spare of past models as well as an open-air canvas top, an expandable truck bed and a stowaway rear seat cushion, has a rugged functionality only found in Jeep. The engine is a 2.8-liter diesel ideal for off-roading yet environmentally friendly, since gas mileage of diesels is better and do not pollute like those of years past.
It can presumably also be run on biodiesel, which both reduces the amount of energy spent on processing and avoids toxic spills. The engine has an abundant 295 foot-pounds of torque and 163 horsepower. The short rear overhang allows a good departure angle for off-roading. There is a solid front axle, and in the rear, a trailing arm system with coil-within-a-coil. There are a front winch, front and rear locking differentials, and skid plates. On the driver's side, there is a cabin storage access panel, and a lockable storage box in front of the rear wheel where the jack is stowed.
The Gladiator looks like the shape of Wranglers to come, and rumor has it that's exactly what it is: a first try at getting the dimensions and shape of the next-generation Wrangler, due around 2006 (partly to meet new safety standards). We've been told that the Gladiator retains the classic Jeep live axles, with a similar 4x4 system and length, but with more width for better stability and comfort (the Gladiator is ten inches wider, but we suspect the actual increase will be half that). The suspension will be updated for additional capacity and safety, and we suspect some electronics will be thrown into the mix. If the Gladiator is any indication, ground clearance will also be considerably better - which will be helpful given the new competition from Hummers, Porsches, and the like.
The most notable feature for the enthusiast is a new take on the midgate concept. The cab's rear window rolls down into its divider, but, according to credible rumor, the seats then fold and tumble under the pickup bed, so that the bed itself is effectively six feet, eight inches long, extending into the cab. This is rather different from the Avalanche/Sport Trak setup. It was heard that there will be four doors, but the two rear doors will be partial-width - a suicide door on the passenger side for easier entry into the back seats, and, cleverly, a smaller door on the driver's side.
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About the author:
Jenny McLane is a 36 year old native of Iowa and has a knack for research on cars and anything and everything about it. She works full time as a Market Analyst for one of the leading car parts suppliers in the country today.
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