camp-jeep-lead
 Modern society has found ways of bringing the outdoors inside.  We no longer have to be around a campfire to make s’mores.  Clean water is only as far as your sink faucet. And Christmas finds families bringing (formerly) live trees into their homes. But Jeep has reached new heights in transplanting the outer world into the indoors – 18 feet, to be exact. The company put its own “mountain” in the Reliant Center for the Camp Jeep Four-Wheel Drive Adventure at the Houston Auto Show.

Too bad a place like this didn’t exist during my childhood summers. It gave attendees “a first-hand look at the capability standards of Jeep vehicles for Ground Clearance, Traction, Stability, Articulation and Suspension”:

A Jeep representative gave me such a glimpse as I rode shotgun in the company’s Grand Cherokee.  The course started with a 30-degree wedge which tested the GC’s suspension articulation. A screen in the middle of the instrument panel displays the flex in the off-road hardware so you don’t have to open your door and look under your rig to see what’s going on.

After a little tripod action, we rumbled over a stretch of small stumps, each of a different height. The Grand Cherokee tackled it with aplomb. I was more shaken up than the vehicle.

The peaked section we traversed next paled in comparison to what awaited us: Jeep Mountain.

Thirty-five degree grade.  18-foot summit.

Luckily, the Grand Cherokee I was in had 360 horsepower from a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 to help us defeat gravity…and Hill Descent Control to keep us from shooting down the peak and into the crowd.

We made the ascent.

Then, I got two eyefuls of ceiling.

We might as well have been perpendicular to the floor.  Nothing an automaker bundles into its vehicles can help you deal with that mixture of alarm and excitement.

Aside from a lot of bouncing around inside the Grand Cherokee, we made it down without incident.  The SUV’s suspension, tires and electronic aids allowed us to make our way down a frighteningly angled slope, as you’ll see in this video:

A little more shaking and shimmying over 18-inch-diameter “fallen logs” followed.  Then I graduated from Camp Jeep.  I wasn’t given a certificate of completion, but I did walk away with the knowledge that Jeep’s trucks are so capable and well-engineered that the only weaknesses that are likely to be rattled out are those of the people inside them.  I’m lucky I didn’t hit myself in the face with my phone as I filmed my bumpy trek to and up Jeep Mountain.

Bravo, Jeep.  You gave me an unforgettable experience in one hell of an off-roader.