The global head of Jeep has given the strongest indication yet that the brand’s iconic Wrangler off-roader will continue to use a body-on frame construction.
Speaking with TMR, Jeep CEO Mike Manley said that off-road capability was paramount for the Wrangler, the ruggedness of a ladder-frame chassis remaining integral to the Wrangler’s mountain-climbing prowess.
“To maintain the capability of that vehicle is fundamental, and as you know it'd be very difficult to create that level of capability if you departed too much from body-on frame,” Manley told TMR.
“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.
“Afterward, we'll see where technology takes us.”
The current JK generation Wrangler has been on sale since 2007, and won’t be replaced until mid-2015 at the earliest.
Currently in its third generation, the Wrangler’s fundamental building blocks have changed little over the past 25 years, and the Wrangler can trace its roots right back to the Jeep CJ - a civilianised version of the WW2-era Jeep.
What may change with the next generation, however, is the Wrangler’s suspension layout.
Since its inception, the Wrangler has persisted with live axles at both front and rear - great for off-roading, but not so hot for on-road refinement.
According to Manley, Jeep’s experience with independent front and rear suspensions in its other models shows that it’s possible to retain a high degree of off-road traction without using live axles.
However, with the Wrangler being Jeep’s off-road flagship, Manley says that no matter what technology is used, the Wrangler must maintain its go-anywhere ability.
The Wrangler will also be made more fuel-efficient, in a bid to meet ever-tightening emissions legislation.
“For me, the biggest area where we have to develop Wrangler next, is that given the capability we want, is how do you improve its fuel efficiency,” Manley said.
“It's loved for what it can do today, but it has to survive in a different world in the future. So that'll be a huge focus for us.
“How can we use technology, how can we save weight. How can we do those things that create more fuel economy in the vehicle.”
Asked whether Jeep would follow in the footsteps of other manufacturers and replace naturally-aspirated petrol engines with smaller-capacity turbocharged engines, Manley hinted at what may come.
“Potentially. As you know, petrol turbo in extreme off-road circumstances doesn't actually help you because the turbo's not with you, so we have to make sure that we have the right torque to deliver the capability," he said.
“That's why diesel is great for something like Wrangler.”
While the Wrangler is currently available in Australia with a VM Motori supplied 147kW/410Nm 2.8 litre turbodiesel, North American Wrangler fans may need to wait until the JK is replaced before they can get their hands on an oil-burner.
Manley confirmed that while Jeep will be reintroducing diesel powertrains for the US market at the start of 2013 with the Grand Cherokee, there are no current plans for a diesel Wrangler in the United States.
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