With the Jeep brand celebrating its 75th birthday this week, the company’s head honcho has pledged that the successor to the rugged and iconic Wrangler 4x4 will remain faithful to its heritage - despite pressure from incoming emissions legislation.
Expected to make its showroom debut around this time next year, Jeep boss Mike Manley says the next-generation Jeep Wrangler will retain a body-on-frame construction and solid front and rear axles, along with its universally-recognisable boxy, utilitarian shape.
Manley indicated as much to us in 2012 when we last quizzed him about the Jeep Wrangler’s future, saying then:
“The Wrangler has to be the extreme capable vehicle in our brand, so I think body-on-frame is the way to go with Wrangler. Certainly for the next generation.”
However it was unclear at that point whether the Wrangler would dump its durable twin live-axle suspension arrangement in favour of a more comfortable, road-biased independent set-up. Now, though, it appears certain that the live axles aren’t going anywhere.
Speaking to US outlet Automotive News this week, Manley said the next Wrangler would retain many of the current models’ unique elements and remain focused on its primary mission: off-road capability.
But fuel economy will be improved, not just from a brace of more modern powerplants (though there’s still no word on whether a turbo petrol will be part of the range), but from slightly slipperier aerodynamics and reduced weight.
“You have to be very careful with the aero of Wrangler,” Manley said to Automotive News.
“At the end of the day, it needs to be recognizable as a Wrangler. To some extent that restricts you on some of the aero that you can do.
“But with weight and a number of the changes that we've made, you're going to see that we've really pushed that vehicle forward in terms of its fuel economy."
An all-alloy construction had been considered but rejected, with a more conventional - though lighter - steel ladder frame chassis specced instead. To help keep weight down, the new Wrangler will likely employ a number of aluminium body parts in its construction.
An eight-speed automatic will also be hooked up to the new Wrangler’s 4x4 driveline, further helping fuel economy.
When can we see it? Being such a quintessentially American car means a US motor show debut would seem appropriate, with the next major show on the calendar being in Los Angeles this November.
Failing that, the North American International Motor Show in Detroit is the next best bet, and is scheduled for early January 2017.