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Jeep Wagoneer S Trailhawk Concept Ushers in Era of Off-Road EVs

by | May 31, 2024

The Jeep Wagoneer S Trailhawk Concept is a more rugged version of the all-electric Wagoneer S the automaker revealed in New York on Thursday. Capable of rock-crawling and deep-water fording, it’s designed to take on the same sort of challenges as gas-powered Trailhawk models do today. A production version is likely, Jeep officials said. But it’s by no means the only automaker exploring a potentially big market for off-road-ready EVs.

2024 Jeep Wagoneer S Trailhawk Concept - front 3-4

The Jeep Wagoneer S Trailhawk Concept gets a Big Apple unveiling.

As has become the norm ahead of major product introductions, reporters got press kits ahead of the reveal of the Jeep Wagoneer S, the brand’s first all-electric vehicle, in New York on Thursday. But Jeep held back on one big surprise: the addition of the Wagoneer S Trailhawk Concept.

The Trailhawk badge is applied to only the brand’s most rugged models, like the Jeep Wrangler Trailhawk, capable of handling the most challenging off-road adventures, like the Rubicon Trail and Moab. For the moment, the Wagoneer S Trailhawk may be a concept, but odds are a production version will follow, several Jeep officials told Headlight.News. And still, other off-road EVs are likely to follow.

“Hopefully, soon, (the Trailhawk Concept) will become a real product,” Jeep CEO Antonio Filosa said during the NY debut of the Wagoneer S line. He subsequently said in an exclusive interview that the automaker is working up a business case that would justify production.

From Wagoneer S to Trailhawk

2024 Jeep Wagoneer S Trailhawk - rear 3-4

Among other things, the Jeep Wagoneer S Trailhawk Concept gets an additional 3 inches of ground clearance.

Filosa said the Wagoneer S Trailhawk is designed to be “the most capable EV in the world.”

Like the more mainstream version of the vehicle just going into production, it will use a twin-motor drivetrain, likely carrying over its full-time all-wheel-drive system. The Wagoneer S Launch Edition delivers 600 horsepower and 617 pound-feet of torque and, drawing from a 100-kWh lithium-ion battery, it’s expected to get “more than” 300 miles range once the EPA issues its formal rating.

Those specifics could change with a production Trailhawk, especially as the drivetrain would be optimized for off-roading. But what’s clear is that electric motors are particularly suited for off-roading, said Ned Curic, the chief engineer for both the Wagoneer S and Trailhawk concept. “They produce maximum torque virtually the moment they start spinning so, when crawling over a log or rock, you don’t have to rev up, as with an internal combustion”.


Antonio Filosa

Jeep CEO Antonio Filosa is working up a business case to put the Wagoneer S Trailhawk into production.

There would still need to be plenty of work done to make the luxurious Wagoneer S stand up to the challenges of serious off-roading. The prototype Trailhawk gets an additional 3 inches of ground clearance, along with substantially beefier tires. The drivetrain and battery pack have been ruggedized to withstand impacts from rocks, stumps, and other debris and the concept model would receive other revisions to allow it to ford deep water, much like a gas-powered Trailhawk.

“It will borrow elements from the (Wrangler) Recon,” another all-electric SUV Jeep is working up, that one also aimed at off-roaders,” said Ralph Gilles, design chief for Jeep’s parent, Stellantis.

The Wagoneer S Trailhawk Concept gets  a broad range of additional updates to the street-ready package, many of them likely to follow into production:

  • An integrated roof rack;
  • A new design for the front tow hooks;
  • Beadlock-style tires;
  • Self-healing paint;
  • “Panic bars;”
  • Additional interior storage nooks; and
  • A new granite interior veneer

More Jeep News

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

A Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk heads out into the hills.

It has to be a real Jeep

Coming up with a good business case for the Wagoneer S Trailhawk will be critical to giving the project the green light, said Bill Peffer, the head of Jeep’s North American operations. But there’s an equally big challenge, he said in an exclusive interview.

“We have to make sure it has the same off-road capabilities and authenticity of (everything else from) the Jeep brand,” he stressed.

Other EV brands get into the off-road game

Jeep is, by no means, the only manufacturer looking to take battery-electric vehicles off-road. Indeed, GMC already has ruggedized versions of the Hummer EV pickup and SUV – as does Rivian with its R1S and R1T models.

2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally - yellow front 3-4 slide

2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally is caught running laps at the Dirtfish Rally Track in Washington.

Ford officially opened its order bank this week for the new Mustang Mach-E Rally. While designed for Rally race conditions, rather than rock-crawling, the automaker is also studying its options and has hinted it could launch a production version of the even more rugged F-150 Lightning Switchgear concept revealed earlier last January.

Ineos, the British start-up targeting serious off-roaders, has confirmed it will have its own, ruggedized EV sport-utility vehicle in production shortly after mid-decade. And there are other start-ups and legacy brands with similar aspirations.

That includes the Meyers Manx. The legendary dune buggy is being brought back to life but will be offered only in all-electric form. And Volkswagen will get into the game when it re-launches Scout, another long-dead brand, in 2026. It also will be reincarnated in all-electric form.


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