The Chinese automotive industry has matured rapidly and largely moved away from copycat designs, but there are still exceptions.
One of those is the Ickx K2 that will be sold in Italy by DR Automobiles, an Italian firm established in 2006 that rebadges vehicles from Chery and JAC Motors.
It’s now expanding to include the BJ40 from BAIC Motor’s Beijing brand.
The K2, which will be the first model under the new Ickx brand, was first revealed last year and is now going on sale in Italy.
It’s powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine producing 119kW of power at 4000rpm and 380Nm of torque at 2600rpm, mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Claimed combined cycle fuel economy is 10.3L/100km.
It boasts approach, departure and ramp angles of 37 degrees, 31 degrees and 23 degrees, respectively, with 220mm of ground clearance and a fording depth of 500mm.
There’s double-wishbone front suspension and a solid rear axle with coil springs, with electronic locking front and rear differentials and part-time all-wheel drive with selectable low-range gearing.
It’s smaller than the 4882mm-long Wrangler Unlimited, measuring 4645mm long. The K2 has a kerb weight of 2180kg.
Available in a single variant, it’s priced at €54,500 (A$90,915), around €30,000 less than the Jeep Wrangler which is sold in Italy only in plug-in hybrid 4xe guise.
The K2 comes standard with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power driver’s seat, and 20-inch alloy wheels.
You’ll only find two airbags, however.
In Wrangler fashion, there’s also a removable hardtop, though the carbon-fibre, diamond-patterned front grille steers clear of the Jeep’s classic seven-slot design… and the Beijing BJ40’s pretty obvious copy of it.
DR Automobiles typically employs a considerably different grille design on its rebadges, which often gives them the appearance of Grand Theft Auto cars.
While this isn’t an official licence-built Wrangler, there’s a tenuous connection to the iconic Jeep off-roader.
BAIC Motor and American Motors Corporation established a joint-venture in 1984 called Beijing Jeep, the first such partnership between a Chinese and a Western automaker.
AMC at the time was the owner of Jeep, and Beijing Jeep (later Beijing Benz) produced Jeeps for the Chinese market like the XJ Cherokee.
But BAIC Motor ceased building Jeep vehicles in 2006, with the American brand instead partnering with Guangzhou Automobile Group.
It’s unclear whether Jeep has attempted to stop the sale of the Beijing BJ40/Ickx K2, considering it has successfully sued Mahindra to prevent it from selling its similarly Wrangler-inspired Thar in Australia.