Posted Jan 11th 2013 11:57AM
These are the guys who bring a M777 howitzer to a knife fight. In terms of overall rugged utility, the all-new 2013 Brute Double Cab from American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) is about as overkill as they come, and we can't seem to get enough of the beasts that this company produces. Unlike most aftermarket firms, always striving to lower cost and increase volume (but at the expense of quality), Michigan-based AEV takes pride in its OEM-quality design, engineering, manufacturing and testing. Everything is as good, or better, than the stuff from the factory, and they have been doing it this way for more than 15 years.
Launched at the recent 2012 SEMA show was the 2013 AEV Brute Double Cab. Its debut marked the company's expansion to a four-door Brute on the newer JK platform (drawing inspiration from the Land Rover Defender 130). I recently spent a few hours with the new truck in sunny Southern California, though unfortunately, due to time constraints, I was limited to pavement-only driving impressions.
- The vehicles are assembled in a facility in Wixom, Michigan. To build the Brute Double Cab, AEV stretches the chassis of a four-door JK Wrangler by 584 mm (23 inches) and extends the rear frame to accommodate its custom composite honeycomb pickup bed. Overall vehicle length grows by 762 mm (30 inches), to bring it to 5,486 mm (216 inches) overall.
- Unlike AEV's first vehicles, designed to appeal to off-road enthusiasts seeking something different, the Double Cab targets those seeking the same capability but with added interior room and more room for cargo, all with the improved capabilities of the JK platform. It is not meant to replace a traditional pickup, but rather serve the overland market with more utility than a Jeep.
- My red test vehicle was a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4x4 (US$35,090) fitted with AEV's DC350 package – basically the same as the JK350 package, but on the Brute chassis (US$39,999). In addition, it was equipped with a snorkel (US$534), splash guards (US$114), Warn winch (US$250), 37-inch tire upgrade (US$400), 4.5-inch suspension upgrade (US$100), beadlock wheel upgrade (US$850) and a rear slider (US$311). Figure about US$77,650 for its as-tested price.
- Upon close scrutiny, it appeared that AEV's craftsmanship and materials were top-notch and the fit and finish of the company's assembly work was impeccable. Note the little details like the fresh water storage tank in the rear bumper and the beautifully integrated engine intake snorkel.
- As expected from a vehicle raised considerably higher than stock, the step-in is a stretch and the driving position is commanding. Despite its high center of gravity, the Double Cab didn't feel tipsy or nervous during maneuvers. Handling is secure, but a wheelbase stretched to 3,531 mm (139 inches) all but destroys the stock Jeep's turning radius.
- The 3.6-litre V6, making about 285 horsepower, was mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The added weight from the conversion and oversized tires do slow acceleration. While still perfectly adequate for on-road performance, those wanting more power for deep sand, snow drifts or more challenging conditions should consider AEV's 6.4-litre Hemi conversion.
- Our spectacular pictures don't do the Double Cab justice – it looks impressive brightly polished, but even better caked in mud. Next time.