Just this morning, I was having a conversation with a co-worker about how some topics are more fun to research and write about than others. While it’s inevitable that you’d enjoy writing about the kinds of cars that you love to drive (or aspire to drive someday), it’s very cool when you find yourself captivated by something that you’ve spent less time focused on. For me, AEV Jeeps rate very high on that particular list. Having been (at best) an occasional visitor to Jeep Life, most of my adult life has been spent in blissful ignorance of the existence of American Expedition Vehicles.
(I know. I’m almost ashamed to admit it.) With all due respect to enthusiasts who live and breathe all things Jeep, I get it. Jeep Life is a legitimate lifestyle choice, and I’d rather admit that my life exists outside of it than be easily readable as a poseur.
Living in New England, there is no shortage of off-roading opportunities. On any given weekend, my social media is crammed full with countless photos and videos of overland adventures. That said, only a few of my friends follow an AEV mindset and truly embrace Jeep ownership and everything that it can be. The vast majority are inclined to roll off the lot in a stock Wrangler with an inflated sense of swagger, thinking that they are now unstoppable. Granted, some of their builds are limited only by the amount (or lack) of money they can invest, but inevitably one or two of them will need to be rescued by a better equipped vehicle.
Stuck in mud, partially or fully rolled-over, I think of them often. Mostly when I’m saddled up to a YouTube playlist of “Jeep Fail” montages, expecting that – any day now – I’m bound to see someone that I recognize. Those videos rate among my favorite ways to pass the time, and the relative absence of AEV Jeeps within them speaks volumes as to the extent in which they enhance the Jeep experience.
The Story So Often Told
Write one or two articles, and the story begins to write itself. AEV CEO Dave Harriton inherited his father’s Jeep Wrangler and modified it. Inspired by a class project at the University of Montana, Harriton crafted a business plan based around modifying Jeep builds for superior offroad capabilities. The award-winning plan empowers Harriton to secure financing, he begins his company, and changes the game. Talk about the American dream.
Whether you’re dreaming of an AEV build or painstakingly building your own with licensed parts, the story is instantly relatable. Harriton saw what was missing in many of Jeep and Dodge’s factory builds and recognized that a key demographic was being overlooked.
To Each Their Own
For me, the Brute Double Cab sits confidently as my dream overland vehicle. Not only was it the one exception to my ignorance of AEV vehicles, but it’s just so damn badass.
Drive down the road, peruse dealer inventory, or visit manufacturer websites. There are so few vehicles designed that instantly catch your eye, without any knowledge of what’s under the hood. The Brute is one of the vehicles that will, and yet it does so without the inherent pretentiousness of the Hummer. If the Hummer was the driver’s means of saying “Look at me!” the Brute is their way of saying, “Look at this.” It’s a vehicle deserving of notice, based on design alone.
The 4-door double-cab cuts a completely unique profile. Draped over a 139-inch wheelbase, the fusion of a Jeep Wrangler and a pick-up truck are universally appealing. At 216-inches overall, it is a true beast. A point which is driven home once you remember that it is built of AEV’s signature stamped-steel.
As are the signature front and rear bumpers, offering enhanced protection in extreme driving conditions. In true AEV fashion, the rear bumper doubles as water storage, accommodating seven gallons and serving as a literal life-saver for the most ambitious of adventurers.
The durability of the Brute carries over to the injection-molded composite truck bed. Non-corrosive and stronger than steel, it is more than a pick-up in appearance. It is what some base level pick-ups want to be when they grow up.
And speaking of “up,” the lift options are there (depending on what’s legal in your neck of the woods). From a 2.5-inch on 35” tires and max height of 74,” to a 4.5-inch lift on 37” tires and max height of 78.5,” the versatility AEV’s DualSport Suspension System is unparalleled.
Bringing us to a very balls-y 3.6-liter 24-valve V6. With 285 horses and 260 lbs-ft of torque, the Brute earns its name. Even more so if you opt to upgrade to the V8 Hemi. The 5.7-liter will serve up 360 horsepower with 390 lbs-ft of torque, while the 6.4-liter blows the doors off with 470 horsepower and 465 lbs-ft of torque.
It’s really hard not to love the Brute Double Cab for everything that it is. Called “a refreshingly different way to take in the great outdoors on 4 wheels” by Car and Driver, the claim is not even worth arguing. This is, in so many ways, the most unique realization of the AEV mindset: to innovate, and to enhance. This is what a Jeep could be, and once you’ve seen it, it is nearly impossible to un-see. It’s that kind of distinctive design and engineering that makes it everything that I would want in a offroad vehicle. Its speaks to intent, and does so well enough that you’ll instantly envision the trails and terrains where you would take it – as well as those places that previously, you’d only dreamed of going.
Alas, the AEV Brute Double Cab is no longer in production. Maybe someday I’ll be fortunate enough to stumble across a pre-owned Brute for a reasonable price, but I guess that’s what I get for being late to the game.